Erica Husting is a journalism junior and a Mustang Daily study abroad columnist.
My train departed for Rome at 11:40 on Sunday morning.
But at 7:30 a.m., there was still one thing I had to do before I left the city of Florence.
With the newly awakened sun breaking its way through the cloudy morning sky and the city still asleep, I departed on my final Florentine journey.
Because of the early hours, I was one of the only occupants of the tiny, quiet cobblestone streets that neighbored my hotel. As I continued up the same street, I passed under the Christmas light garlands, stretched tall between the walls of the high buildings, still twinkling from the night before.
My map guided me to the river, and after passing three bridges, I veered off the main road, turning down a tiny, quiet, tree-lined street.
With every step I took, I began to fall deeper in my thoughts. I was enjoying the peaceful atmosphere so much I almost missed the sign that marked my destination.
To my left, behind a gothic-style iron fence covered with growing ivy, stood a church.
With its remote location and simple crème exterior, this little church would not be a typical destination for travelers. However, this place held a special place in my heart.
The church was Saint James American Church, and it was in this very church that my grandparents were married 60 years before.
It was like I had opened a time capsule. For that moment, I was in 1952, looking at a piece of my family’s history.
My trip to Florence was now officially complete.
This Thanksgiving holiday, I spent the weekend traveling through the Italian region of Toscana. Since I could not go home for Thanksgiving, my family came to me instead. After spending a week together exploring Italy’s capital city, the four of us visited Florence, paying a short, day-long visit to the little hillside towns of Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti.
Thanksgiving day marked the start of our journey, and instead of preparing our traditional Husting family Thanksgiving feast, we boarded a fast train headed for Florence.
When we stepped out of the Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station, found a taxi and started out toward our hotel, I was taken aback.
Florence was very different from Rome.
As I found myself relaxing into the backseat of the taxi, I noticed the first difference between the two cities: I felt safe in the taxi. The driver was not cutting in front of cars or dodging buses. There was no traffic. In fact, there were hardly any cars fighting for the same cobblestone streets as the cab, and the pedestrians were spilling out of the sidewalks and into the street.
When I stepped out of the taxi, I noticed the second major difference: Florence was clean. The fall air was fresh and crisp, and the streets were absent of litter and bottles left over from the previous night’s festivities.
Florence was a haven.
And the sights did not disappoint either.
On Thursday, before delving into all the art culture, monuments and museums Florence had to offer, we crossed the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge into the less touristy part of the city and climbed to the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo. I had seen many great views of the city of Rome, but the skyline views from atop this hill shadowed all up to this point.
Dominating the panoramic skyline loomed the Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore, to the left was the Arno River and the series of bridges connecting the two separate sides of the city.
I did not know much about of the layout of this unfamiliar city, but this view helped me put the city in perspective.
On Saturday, we awoke early and beat the crowds to the Galleria degli Uffizi, where I was able to admire “The Birth of Venus,” the famous painting created by Botticelli Alessandro Filippi depicting the goddess Venus being born from the sea. With the expectations of seeing Michelangelo’s “David,” I wandered through each gallery eagerly hoping I would be met by the infamous statue. However, when I found myself at the end of the exhibits, there was still no sign of the statue.
Apparently, my family and I missed the important memo that “David” was not in the Galleria degli Uffizi after all, but in the Galleria dell’Accademia. Determined to set our eyes on the statue, we trekked to the neighboring museum, getting a little lost along the way.
After entering the museum and strolling through The Museum of Musical Instruments, which displayed the beloved instrument of the Grand Prince Ferdinand, and the Modernist exhibit, I turned the corner and found him.
Standing at the end of the open gallery stood “David” in all his glory.
This was the perfect ending to a perfect, sight-filled day in Florence.
All in all, this weekend spent with my family traveling the Toscana region was one for the books.