Day 11: Finale

Here we are folks. The very last leap of the trip. Journey’s End. It feels as though an entire month has passed since we arrived in our small B&B in Rome, with no idea of what to do first except walking from one souvenir store to the next. We were in high spirits, ready to conquer each sight. Now as we bought our last breakfast cappuccino in Italy, I felt well versed in my broken Italian. I could practice and I was garnered with appreciation by the local population for my efforts. And here I was. Boarding a plane to a country that wanted nothing more than perfect American English out of its visitors.

Yet, the idea of returning home felt refreshing. I love Italy. It will always be like a second home to me as I had stated before in my Florence posts. But Home is home. Lancaster Pa is my home. And I can return with more stories to tell, an enlightened mind, and ignited inspiration.

Thank you all for joining me on this adventure. This was a great experiment, and hopefully, I can make more blog entries like this for future adventures. Again, thank you all, and I hope you stick around for what the future holds.

Day 3: Homecoming

On the train

Leaving Rome this morning was bitter sweet. I had gained a better appreciation for the city than I did four years ago. To be honest, we considered staying in Rome to see the Pope speak in St Peter’s Square, but we had places to be. That place being Florence.

The train ride over

As I mentioned in previous posts, I spent a month studying in Florence. By the time it was time for us to leave, Florence felt like a second home. My only issue when returning was how much of it I would remember?

I’m home

I immediately grasped my bearings of the train station, meeting our driver at the Pharmacy, the perfect meeting point for every traveler in Florence. On the drive over, I almost recognized where my old apartment was, but we were driven to an unfamiliar part of town. Where were we? Upon arriving to our B&B, which is on the Fifth floor, we could get a better view of Florence, and I knew where we were. Behind me, in the photo above, you can spot the tallest tower of Palazzo Vecchio and the shorter tower is the Bargello. What the photograph does not show is the spire of Santa Croce. I recognized the landmarks, and while we waited for our room to be available for us, we embarked to said landmarks.

Dante Alighieri statue by Santa Croce

Santa Croce was just as I remembered it from the outside, and I could only imagine the inside was about the same. Of course, we didn’t have the time to tour the great cathedral, as we had other appointments to attend to. But I had time to show my mother, who loves purses, something that would blow her mind.

“Look Mom! Purses!”

The School of Leather was something I certainly remembered from my time here. I just knew it was a special place that needed to be scene by someone who appreciates a top quality purse. The process of the leather making was something I took with great intrigue. I wasn’t one for purses of leather accessories, but I have a hard time turning down a leather bound journal, or a well crafted leather jacket (until the price is noted, which most thing were beyond my price range).

Student polishing leather

After the School of Leather, there was one more thing in the proximity of Santa Croce that I needed to see if it was still there. Something to satisfy my nostalgia. After cutting through a street or two we found it. The Lion’s Fountain. A place where my roommates and I would wind down with special drinks, and make merry conversations with classmates we happened to run into. Yes. It was still there. And maybe, before we leave Florence, we may grab a drink there.

Lion’s Fountain

Upon returning to our B&B, we were welcomed to our room, which not only has the appeal of a modern look, but a perfect balcony view of the city and Tuscan hills beyond. As I wound down, I took the time to study those hills beyond, and pondered what could be there.

Hill view from our room

Next, we were back at the train station. But why? Didn’t we just arrive to Florence? Yes. But we had something important that every tourist must do…

Go to Pisa and take pictures tilting or propping the tower!

I did it. I’m holding it up

Every time I see the leaning tower in person, it is a surreal experience. Not because it’s a big tower that is tilted due to the soil, but all photos including the one above don’t do these monuments justice. The Leaning Tower is actually a bell tower for the cathedral that is right next to it. As seen in the gesture sketches below, there is also a large baptistery included in the square, which is the largest in Europe.

Gesture of the top of the baptistery in Pisa

However, I didn’t just come to Pisa to take some silly photos of myself holding a tower. No. I came for this:

Did someone say Leaning Tower of Pizza?

Alright, alright. All puns aside, I came to learn something new. And I had the opportunity to do something I hadn’t done before. We entered the Cathedral.

The Altar in Pisa’s Cathedral

There is something truly fascinating about the work and effort put into this place of worship, both on the inside and outside. Just from the first look at the image of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and John the Baptist, I could feel the power and sovereignty of humanity’s savior, staring down at me. Yet I couldn’t help but feel peace and righteous emanating from Christ himself. I hadn’t the time to sketch much inside, but I did manage to capture for from the outside.

Sketches of Animals within the architecture

The ride back from Pisa was relaxing, but our biggest issue was getting a taxi from the train station. Apparently, we arrived during a fashion week here in Florence, and taxis were very limited. But then we saw the line for claiming a taxi and opted to walk. It was here that I realized this was my chance to revisit old places from four years ago.

18 Via Poggi on my last day – 2015
18 Via Poggi today – 2019

I could only assume by the open windows that a student similar to myself occupied the space now on the second level (1st floor). The walk back to that place brought back memories of that commute to and from class on the open field. Not much had changed. All my favorite restaurants were there. My host school was there. The best gelateria in Florence was there. And of course, the Duomo was there.

Duomo – North face
Duomo – Western face facade

The first time I had ever seen the Duomo was not only breathtaking, but out of a dream. The power of the church and God’s might reflected throughout hundreds of years of preserved architecture. The glory of religion and art combined bared down in a glorious triumph for the eyes and heart. This is the heart of Florence. At least to me it is. And now it was complete to my senses this time with one addition.

Duomo and tarp-covered Baptistery – 2015
Restored Baptistery- 2019

Just like the Trevi Fountain, I got to see the outside of the Baptistery as it was meant to be seen. And tomorrow, we will have the privilege of stepping foot into these great works of art and religious history.

John the Baptist baptizing Jesus