It is getting close to the one year mark of when I first set off on this life- altering trip abroad; as such, I’ve been feeling quite nostalgic and have started reminiscing over some of the treasures I brought home with me and remembering aspects of my trip I had forgotten. Since I had gone to Europe back in 2010, some places on this visit were for other purposes. Florence is one of these places and I spent just a few hours there to go shopping! Before you go all crazy, my first visit was with an art history major and we spent a great deal of time seeing all the sites Florence has to offer. It is a truly gorgeous city just filled to the brim with art and history. We saw the Uffizi Gallery, Santa Croce, Duomo di Firenze, Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and of course Michelangelo’s David! Those are just the places I can remember specifically seeing but she pointed out many more and I’m sure I’ve missed some (I am bad with names unless I write it down immediately). It was on that visit in 2010, while inside Santa Croce, that we stumbled upon a leather school hidden in the back of the monastery. I happen to love leather, so this little gem of a place was right up my alley. It’s adorable too, quaint and old, just filled with traditions and history. I bought a bracelet for myself and an eyeglass case for my mother and we were on our way. Three years later, the bracelet had tarnished and rusted and so I decided to stop on my way from Verona to Rome to see if I could replace it. I arrived very early into Florence at a smaller train station with no open shops anywhere in sight. I wandered for a bit before finally giving in and calling my mother to get directions. It was in the beginning before I discovered CityMaps and without any stores open I could not get a map or use WiFi. She “googled” where I had to go and it turns out I was very close by. I found the side entrance (you do not have to go into Santa Croce to get to the leather school) and I was so happy I could hardly contain myself. The school is called Scuola del Cuoio and it was exactly as I remembered. It is just off of a court yard and has a larger shop in the front where you walk in, followed by a long hallway lined with individual shops where they make the goods. The most surprising thing was they still made the exact same bracelets! This time I bought three; two for me and one for my mom and a little change purse printed with the Florence (or Firenze) Fleur-de-lis.
This brings up two travel tips I have for you:
1. In Europe, the names of cities will be spelt differently than they are in North America. Know this ahead of time so there are no surprises.
2. Many cities have multiple train stations, check the name prior or look at your ticket to make sure you don’t jump off at the first stop.
In 2010, we also went to Ponte Vecchio, which is where I discovered the amazing jewellery that fills the shops that line either side of the bridge. Among all the gold and diamonds that Italy is famous for, are beautiful cameo pieces. Cameo jewellery is made of stone or shell and has a side profile of a woman’s head. I fell in love with these rings, but at the time was unable to purchase anything. This time I did. It was a bit of a splurge and I couldn’t afford the gold, but I now have my very own Italian cameo ring from Ponte Vecchio in Florence and it is among my prized possessions. Some might say it’s just things, consumerism, objects, etc. But this isn’t just stuff to me, they are tangible memories. They are beautiful, special items that I can pass down through generations. They are not extravagant by any means and I include other souvenirs from my trips here too; but they are special and they mean something to me. I have items from family members that are no longer with me, including a magnet my grandmother got from Arizona and a Caribbean man in a tire my dad got from Dominican Republic; I cherish them and display them because they meant something to them. It is important to pass down things from previous generations. We travel the world to see what others left behind for future generations. It is important to know what came before. Family is important. I finished my time in Florence with a glass of wine in front of the Duomo di Firenze, where I got a free glass because my server’s girlfriend was also Canadian. My suitcase made is difficult to get around and since I was leaving from a different train station, lockers were out of the question. I ended up leaving a couple hours earlier then I had intended and headed off to Rome. Florence is a spectacular city and I highly recommend it.
June 24, 2013