Travel Journal

Florence, Italy, Week 1, 10/18-10/25

(Monday 25 October 2010) by Joanne Chang
I arrive in Florence on Monday, 10/18, and find the apartment on foot. I am staying in a 2 BR flat on the Arno river just south of Santa Maria Novella. It's the perfect location in a beautiful old building but the apartment itself is a little odd...like your old Italian grandmother's house, damp and musty with a long cavernous hallway, disjointed rooms and no sunlight. I've invited Catherine, who I met in Manarola, and Lisa, living in Vienna, to share the place with me, but I'm there the first night alone and it's kind of....lonely...but I need to rest my foot so I'm not going anywhere. I choose the least musty blanket from the closet and try to get cozy, eating grocery store soup out of the saucepan with a wooden spoon (can't find the utensils), and try to learn Italian by watching subtitles of Jersey Shore on MTV. I've never seen this show before, it's kind of disgusting and kind of entertaining.
Arno RIver and Rower, Florence
Arno RIver and Rower, Florence


Catherine arrives the next day and there begins a friendship that I am already deeply cherishing. I knew when I met her in Manarola, if only for a couple hours, that we were connected somehow. Naturally and effortlessly we begin sharing our lives and our stories, our intentions and dreams, creating a beautiful exchange of ideas and insight. We are very much alike in the way we communicate and receive each other. We spend one rainy morning talking and drinking hot water in the damp, dark kitchen for 4 hours, two happy giddy girls, grateful to be in each others' company. The apartment seems cozier now that we've spread our things around, added lilies and sunflowers, and bowls of fruit, and have the teapot constantly boiling. Yay! A new friend. This is going to be a good one, I can feel it. :-)

Lisa & Catherine at Santa Maria Piazza, Florence
Lisa & Catherine at Santa Maria Piazza, Florence
Lisa arrives a couple days later and it's the first time in ages that we've had this kind of time together. The three of us get along perfectly! One evening Catherine goes to the store and prepares a delicious homemade dinner - a trio of fresh pastas - spinach and ricotta ravioli with fresh mushrooms, black ink spaghetti with zucchini & spinach in arrabiata sauce, and gnocchi with fresh pesto. We drink a '99 Chianti, which opens up after a couple hours into a beautiful wine, and have a lovely girls evening in. The place is feeling cozier and cozier. And the girls are taking care of me with my foot, reminding me (in some cases scolding me, which is good and necessary) to stay off of it, elevate and take ibuprofen. Catherine buys clay and makes me a foot mask and gives me massages to improve circulation and reduce the swelling. Lisa makes me hot milk and apples with yogurt and honey. I can't remember the last time I was taken care of like this. Mmmm...cozy.

But I'm feeling restless, unable to get out and about and run around the city like I want to. I've been here a week and still haven't gone to the Uffizi or the Boboli gardens. The few outings I've had, have been rewarded with more swelling, bruising and discomfort, and Catherine says I need to stay off of it completely for three days. That's insane, how do I do that?

Catherine's Goodbye Letter, Florence
Catherine's Goodbye Letter, Florence
Good or bad, the restless energy is feeding into a reevaluation of my trip, and I'm starting to wonder whether Italy, or being a tourist in Italy, is what I need right now. My divorce is almost final, and soon I will be able to fully let go. I realize that I've been going nonstop since well before I left San Francisco, and I need to rest. Perhaps my foot is forcing me to do this, forcing me to step back and step inside, and understand my intention. I am now contemplating a 10-day Vipassana (silent mediation retreat) in Crete in December, followed by a 6-day yoga retreat in Spain over Christmas. It's a lot, but I think I need it. And I finally have the time to do this for myself. Lucky girl.

  • 3 days of rest by Virg
    • Rest... by Joanne
  • Lucky girl by George schnakenberg
  • Friends, feet, fun by Judy Chang


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