I had joined a Europe tour with a group of my childhood friends. It was an express tour in which we would stay in one city for a day or two at most before traveling on a coach (or ferry) to our next destination, our next hostel. On this day, we arrived in Florence and I unfortunately experienced the absolute worst case of cramping. It was horrendous… but, I knew it would pass in a matter of hours if I pop some pain meds and curl up in bed. And, it did – except I missed breakfast, and I missed my chance to tag along on the scheduled tour around the city that I had already paid for too.
Our guide had warned us about traveling alone and of pickpocketers, but feeling adventurous and determined to not let my only day in Florence go to waste – I messaged my friends to let them know I’m feeling much better, and headed to the front desk to get a map and some help with directions. The receptionist, with little English and a lot of pointing, sent me on my way. I spoke zero Italian, and do not always have the best sense of direction. Sure enough, about 15 minutes in… I was lost and rather confused. I decided to turn into a little boutique shop , and I kid you not… the owner was a Chinese lady! She seemed pleasantly surprised that I also spoke Chinese – We had a little chat, and this time, she gave me full verbal directions. I managed to find my way to the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore where I climbed many flights of stairs up Giotto’s Bell Tower to capture this view. I also made my way to Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Santa Croce, and a Gelateria for some hot chocolate. I loved roaming the streets, browsing the souvenir stands, listening to the street performers play, and admiring all the foreign and historical structures while soaking in the Florentine sunshine. Needless to say, a painful morning took a turn for one of the best solo adventures in Europe!
Image: City of Florence from Giotto’s Bell Tower, Florence, Italy | Spring 2016