Sunday, November 14, 2010

Day 1: Ciao Italia!

What a crazy day I've had. Not only did 16 hours of travel take its toll but there's some serious culture shock going on. I've never traveled out of the United States before, I find myself in a strange new world. While the differences are unquantifiable, I am discovering a handful of comforting similarities.

...He's outta here!

Given the craziness of my morning, I'm surprised I remembered to pack everything I did. Waking up from a night of heavy drinking, I gave Lola a hungover kiss, had a good cry with mom, and shoved a few more odds and ends into my bag.

Most 'people' cared when I left.

Dad whisked me off to the airport. When we separated at the security gate, that was the first time I'd been on my own since DC. A sudden calm came over me as I took off my shoes and emptied my pockets.
Headed to the Philadelphia airport.


No snakes on this plane. Fingers crossed.

Originally my seat was nestled in the back of the plane, conveniently located by the lavatories. Grazie to US Airways for changing me to to a pleasant location in the middle of the plane. Thanks to Apple's airplane power adapter, I got mountains of work done. Despite the lack of flushing, and the open seat to my left, I failed in the sleep department. Though I did chat up the friendly Italian couple to my right. After a long night, the sunrise above the clouds was bittersweet. As if by magic, when the captain announced that in 30 minutes we would be touching down in Rome, I felt refreshed.

The Italian couple to my right was friendly.

The Alps?
The train to Florence left from a station in the center of Rome. Since the airport was on the outskirts, I took a train into the heart of the beast. By some crazy coincidence (The Magician), I sat next to this chap who was from Allentown, PA. He was going to stay with his basketball star brother, who was living in Rimini.

Woohoo... welcome to Europe... blort

Straight from Allentown.

Believe it or not, I planned this first part of my trip. Since my plane got in at 8:30 and the train to Florence left at 10:45, I was excited to spend two hours in Rome. The train from the airport pulled into Roma Termini at 10:35. True to Connard style, I had to run from track 27 to track 1. As I got on the train, the doors closed right behind me. Given my train experience in the 'States, there's usually a surcharge for buying a ticket on the train. I assumed it would be similar in Europe. I was right, but when the conductor said €67,50 I nearly lost it (the original price was €16,75). Cheers to the learning curve! The rest of the train ride to Firenze Santa Maria Novella was magnificent. I've never seen anything like the Italian countryside. My camera and I wished the train window wasn't scratched and dirty. We passed beautiful rolling hills, sprinkled with cozy towns, rustic houses with private vineyards, and I saw my second rainbow of the day, as the universe shone upon me. Bella!

Green fields.

Old towns.

Hill towns.


Despite everything that could have gone awry, Abby was waiting for me in the biglietteria (ticket room). Whew! The train ride was beautiful, but as soon as we got out of the train station, I felt like I was on a different planet. Narrow streets, ornate architecture, rich history, and small chattering Italian men swirled around me. Maybe it was my lack of sleep but I couldn't seem to absorb anything.

Abby lives in a charming apartment with one other girl, and two guys, the three of which are college students from California State University. After shimmying a sofa back into her room, I crashed, though I was barely able to sleep. It was the same feeling I had on the plane, too much excitement. Thankfully my mind eventually gave up and I passed out.

The Arno river.


At least they knew where they were going.

Later that night we headed out to Volume, a local bar which has a jam session every Thursday. Abby is a budding musician who sings and plays banjo. She grabbed the stage by the horns and let out a musical fury that got the attention of all the Italian men (except the bartender who she's crushing on who wasn't there). After Abby finished a few killer songs, we enjoyed the rest of the night listening to others who were drunk enough to get up on stage (there were plenty) as I tried my best to soak it all in.

That night I laid down, still too excited to sleep. There is so much going on here, so much that is new and different. After what seemed one of the longest days of my life, I fell asleep unaware of what lies ahead, yet fully comfortable in my discomfort. Ciao Italia!

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