I can barely register where I am as I peer out the window of my Airbnb. Rolling out in front of me there are layers of off-red terracotta roofs all slanted towards a domed building.
“Yes, that right there is the Duomo, so as you can see the Airbnb is pretty close to it,” explains my Airbnb host. I nod emphatically, still in awe of the fact that I am in the cradle of the Renaissance — Firenze, Italia.
After my friends and I had dropped off our bags and received a generous Airbnb tour from our host, we began our trek out into the city. Instantly, the cobblestone streets lined with familiar-looking buildings grabbed my attention, and for a split-second, I felt like I was walking in the streets of Rome. However, the narrowing sidewalks that barely allowed for two people to walk side-by-side quickly reminded me that this was not quite Roma.
The first place we visited in Florence was the Marcato di San Lorenzo. The first floor of this infamous indoor market reminded me of the Reading Terminal Market in Philly. There were shops selling everything from fresh meat and cheese to vegetables, pastries, and wine. My senses were overwhelmed as I tried to take in the sites of hanging meats I couldn’t recognize and people zooming past me in all directions.
My friend and I then moved to the second floor, where food is sold in a more traditional “food court” style. As I climbed up the stairs and onto the second floor, I felt like I had found food heaven. Lining the rectangular shape of the building are all different types of food shops, each with infographics placed along the shop’s wall to visually explain what food is sold there. The mix of the wall art, wooden tables, and diverse food options made me feel as though I had stepped into a food fusion of IKEA, Whole Foods, and the Reading Terminal Market. And I was beyond happy.
Rome has provided me with incredible dishes of pasta and pastries, but it is not a city that is known to provide dishes that are not Italian. I had missed the various food options that I could easily get from back home, and my mouth was already salivating thinking about the new foods I could eat. My friend and I split fried vegetables and vegetarian and pork dumplings that were freshly prepared in front of us (and for the reasonable price of €10!!).
After our satisfying lunch, we met up with other friends to hike up the steep staircases of the Duomo. Climbing 47 flights of stairs to reach the top of the Duomo resulted in an incomparable view, with the city stretching out before us and our gaze ending at the mountains in the distance.
The rest of our stay in Florence consisted of exploring the city. We visited the museum that holds the Pieta in it, an experience during which I experienced chills — my inner tenth-grade AP Euro student died a little. I had the best gelato since arriving in Italy, a soothing lavender flavor that came right across from the Ponte Vecchio bridge. There was so much to see and take in in Florence that I felt like I could spend days on end exploring.
Although I fell in love hard and fast for Florence, I was still excited to return home to the familiar streets of Rome and to climb into my bed after a long weekend of travel. It amazed me that even though Rome and Florence are only an hour-and-a-half train ride apart, the cultures in each city are tangibly distinct. Florence may offer an exceptional taste of Renaissance art and charming streets, but I am grateful for the global and bustling streets of Rome.