From the second we stepped off the train and into Florence, we were already on the move. All eighteen of us were not so gracefully maneuvering our luggage through the narrow sidewalks that line the city as we walked towards our hotel. The way of life in this city was a sharp contrast in comparison to the overall sense of calmness present in Riomaggiore. Everything moved at a much faster pace, including the scooters and smart cars that we quickly realized don’t believe in a gradual stop as they approach crosswalks and pedestrians along them.
This city was filled with remarkable monuments. Climbing up all 436 steps within The Duormo was well worth the extraordinary view from above. Something that intrigued me about this specific spot was the huge 24 hour clock on the wall. According to our tour guide, the purpose of this clock was not to look up and know the exact time of day, but instead the number of daylight hours left. I thought this was unique because it really forced people to slow down mentally. How cool is it to simply go through the day only knowing how much longer the sun will be up? No cramming meetings into forty five minute time blocks or dreading the fact that you spent over two hours waiting in the DMV or fifteen minutes for a cup of coffee. The only thing to focus on is day and night. How would your life change? What would you prioritize? How differently would you feel about how you get things done? Would our sense of worth often found in productivity change? Would I become more patient in nature? These questions among many others are the first that popped into my head.
The Italian markets were full of people, food, and leather of all kinds. More than anything, this is what reminded me of back home. Seeing crowds of people converse within what is similar to a food hall and classic cases of bargaining for hair scarves and leather bags was oddly a nice sense of familiarity within a city filled with so much uncommon art and history such as Florence. An interesting dichotomy to the uproar of crowds during the day was the serene glow Florence seemed to take on at night. Walking through the many open plazas found across the city, there seemed to be street performers playing captivating music on nearly every corner. Stars lined the sky, and beneath them were famous sculptures and content faces all around. In a place with gelato in hand, an acoustic version of “Hallelujah” being played in the background, and full of people in the midst of their own happy little moments, it was bound to be special.
Florence wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our day trip to Venice. From our 6:30a.m. start time that consisted of successfully getting a group of 16 students on a train with Dr. P nowhere in sight, we all knew this day would be a little different from the rest. As we walked the tourist-filled streets of Venice two hours later, we were mesmerized by the ease in which locals steered their gondolas up and down the waterways. We saw mail being delivered, furniture being unloaded, and even travelers being dropped off at their hotel via gondola. It was all so different, but equally as exciting to watch take place.
It wasn’t long until we realized its rather hard to travel as an entire group of sixteen while managing to keep everyone happy, so we eventually agreed upon a meeting time and broke off into smaller groups. A few of my favorite parts of the day included watching Sarah and Claire join in on a giant circle filled with birds (don’t ask questions,) as well as enjoying a private gondola ride with the beautiful voice of Madelyn Jane Hicks (to be heard later along with Griffin as we floated down yet another river while saying our goodbyes to Florence.)
Something that really clicked for me in this city is the fact that we don’t all see things in the same light. Although this is a phrase that is repeatedly said throughout our lifetime, I still don’t believe most people take it into account on a daily basis. In our head, our way of thinking makes perfect sense. Because of this, what we deem as logical seems superior to another individual’s reasonable rationale. There’s been so many times on this experience specifically, and in life in general, where people have responded with “I never thought of it like that” and that’s the thing: how will people ever even have the possibility to agree with you if they don’t understand where you’re coming from? It’s not only up to them to attempt to comprehend, but it’s your own job to lay out why you think the way you do. I believe effective communication makes people more tolerant and life a little easier. The first step in effective communication is beginning to understand yourself.
Take it easy,