When Isaac came to visit.

A few weeks ago was my fall break: no class, extra sunshine, and a week-long visit from my great boyfriend. The week topped every birthday bash thrown on My Super Sweet 16.

Isaac and Zach flew over from Des Moines on Sunday, and Emily and I deprived them of sleep right away. We jumped right into walks around Florence, good food/gelato, exploring new parks, shopping in the markets, cribbage games, making coffee, and ended the week with a trip to Cinque Terre.

Florence seemed just a little more alive and beautiful when I had someone to show around. Plus, it was Isaac. So even sitting on a bench seemed like a European-blast-and-a-half. Showing him my favorite places and introducing him to the friends I’ve made was so exciting, but we were able to explore and find so many new things together as well.

If YOU find yourself with a boyfriend/friend/mother/neighbor/dental assistant visiting you in Italy, here are some suggestions from me to you:

-Central Market. It is full of fresh fruits, veggies, breads, and treats. There are also packaged pastas, sauces, and limoncello for gifts. I always have fun grabbing some coffee and walking around.

-The Duomo. Yes, it’s pretty touristy, but the view is pretty ideal. We climbed 460 steps to get to the top, so if I’m still suggesting it, you know it’s worth it.

-Boboli Gardens. YOU MUST, OKAY? The huge gardens are complete with lemon trees, amazing views, trails through the woods, fountains, and benches for days. It was my favorite part of our week.

-Gusta Pizza. The best and cheapest pizza I’ve found. Plus it can come in the shape of a heart. So just try to debate me now.

-Cinque Terre. It’s the best day trip to take. The trip is easy**, and the views are unreal. We hiked from Monterosso to Vernazza, and the world’s greatest pesto pizza is in Vernazza. This may be my opinion but it’s the right one.

-Cascine Park. It’s the biggest park we’ve found and it is a treat from the crazy city center. There are trails and beautiful trees everywhere. On Tuesday mornings, there is a market that lines the path along the Arno. Cheap, cheap, cheap. Yes, of course that bag is not real leather, but it is 5 euro. Soooooooooo, whose side are you on anyway. Isaac and I bought some cappuccinos and walked through the whole market. It was one of my favorite mornings! He was a champ too; he oooed and aahhed at all the right necklaces and sunglasses.

-Take a breather. There are a million things to see and it’s so fun to get up early and have a full day, but I definitely loved the time we just chilled out for a bit too. The four of us always had a good homemade breakfast in the morning to sit and enjoy each other. And we took one rainy morning to watch Pitch Perfect and play some cards, and it was just as enjoyable as running through the streets of Flo like a couple’a’kids.

**I mean, sure, we maybe missed our transfer and got stuck in Pisa for 3 hours, but USUALLY it’s a breeze. We camped out at a coffee shop and played some cribbage and then got milkshakes for the train ride. Dried those tears right up.

 

The week was an absolute blessing. It is still a little surreal we were able to hang out in Italy. Very thankful. Here are some pictures to prove I’m not lying about this whole thing.

Our first Florence adventure: getting Chai from friends at Chiaro Scuro and sitting on the river.

Our first Florence adventure: getting Chai from friends at Chiaro Scuro and sitting on the river.

Entrance of Boboli Gardens.

Entrance of Boboli Gardens.

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View from the Duomo.

View from the Duomo.

 

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Em and Zach, casually posing in the mountains.

Em and Zach, casually posing in the mountains.

Zach in his Kammok!

Zach in his Kammok!

Naps after the hike.

Naps after the hike.

The money shot. Photo cred: Isaac.

The money shot. Photo cred: Isaac.

Last morning before saying bye to my man. We took a long walk around the city and through Cascine Park.

Last morning before saying bye to my man. We took a long walk around the city and through Cascine Park.

Flo Week 2.

We’re living dog days here in Florence…each day feels like 7. This past week has been another full but good one, and I’m starting to feel like Florence is home. Last week I started classes. Which feels only half real, considering I only have class 3 days a week, and many of them are jam packed with field trips to museums, palaces, and factories.

I’m taking 5 classes:

1. Italian. My professor, Irene, is the bomb. She’s a Florence-native and full of tips for places to check out and things to see. Italian is really confusing though. My mind always translates things to Spanish…not Italian. I’ve almost said Hola many a time.

2. History of Italian Fashion. Very lecture-based, buuuutttt it’s interesting to learn about the brands that I see everyday walking to class. Whenever I’m navigating my way to that side of the city I have to remember “turn right at Max Mara,” “left at Louis Vuitton,” “across the street from Armani here.” It’s basically just like Ames.

3. Visual Merchandising. We had to build this paper box thing the first day of class, and it was so hard??!!! I don’t want to talk about it.

4. Fashion Consumer Behavior. The material is things I’ve heard a million times, but my professor rules and we always get a break in the middle of lecture to go buy a cappuccino or candy bar. So…

5. Lifestyles in Renaissance Florence. This is the best. My professor, Marcello Bellini, is the happiest most adorable old man I’ver ever met. He loves Florence and loves teaching us things. Today we had an hour of lecture about 3 influential Florentine families and then an hour of walking around to each of those families palaces. It’s amazing being in a class where all the things I’m learning are out the window and down the street.

Ok so there was class last week. And lots of running around buying books and getting lost and getting found and buying groceries and getting lost and getting found.

On Thursday my roommates and I hopped on a train to Rome to visit friends studying there. We wandered the city, seeing the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, and gelato shops. Plus the “cat sanctuary.” Unsettling. We went to the beach on Saturday. I felt like the beach would be just a skip and a hop away, but it was a little more of a trek. It took two tram rides, two subway rides, two train rides, and 80 minutes of walking in this semi-sketchy scorching hot town. And we almost missed our train back from Anzzio to Roma because we were washing the sand and sweat off our faces in this ghetto bathroom/outhouse thing behind the “train station.” But the water was amazing, laying out felt too good, and it was a million percent with it. On the train ride home as I was dirty and sandy, drinking a Peroni beer, and blasting Yeezy’s “The College Dropout” I simultaneously felt like I had hit a new low point and also that I was fulfilling a long lost high school dream I never knew I had and felt hella good.

We went to Rome Baptist Church on Sunday, which ended up being AMAZING and teaching me about generosity. Which just haaaappened to be what I had been praying over last week. Imagine that.

Visiting Rome was so much fun and made the weekend a blast and a half. But I have to admit I’m happy to be back in Florence and settled in my apartment. It’s currently thunder storming outside, I have a french press full of coffee, and I have a free day tomorrow. So very content. This weekend I’ll be staying in Florence, but have fun things to look forward to. Updates next week. Thanks for your prayers and messages and being so fly. Miss all you friends so much.

Reunion!!

Reunion!!

Paige in the Iowa State Design School in Roma.

Paige in the Iowa State Design School in Roma.

Trevi Fountain. We literally fell asleep to the Lizzie McGuire movie every night in Rome and this picture is just SO Lizzie.

Trevi Fountain. We literally fell asleep to the Lizzie McGuire movie every night in Rome and this picture is just SO Lizzie.

Vodka crans at Scholars. Or Skull-hairs as Delaney calls it.

Vodka crans at Scholars. Or Skull-hairs as Delaney calls it.

Beach day with my model friends.

Beach day with my model friends.

Florence Week One.

We got to Italy last Wednesday and it’s been a whirlwind since. Emily and I flew into Rome, took a bus to the train station, took a train to Florence, walked 60+ pounds of luggage up and down windy streets and FINALLY got our housing assignment. We met up with Delaney and Eileen and got to our apartment that night. It is small but has wonderful perks including a cozy patio off the bedrooms, mosquito screens, and a toaster? Everyday I get a little more comfortable here.

Florence is extremely confusing to me, since every street looks the same BUT today I wandered around mapless and found my way home, so progress is on its way?

We have pretty much spent our days exploring the city. Highlights include::

-Trip to the central market (basically a giant indoor farmers market) for fresh fruit, biscottis, and olive oil.

-More than one trip for gelato. One shop has an employee with the most ridiculous rat tail in all the world. We like to get gelato and sit on the steps of the Duomo (you can see it from our apartment…it’s about a 5 minute walk!) and people watch. People are really weird and watching them and making up back stories for their lives is one of my all time favorite hobbies.

-Morning run around Florence. The city is most beautiful in the morning I think. It was cool outside, so quiet, and really peaceful.

-Quiet times out on our patio.

-Dinner with friends out on the patio. Mostly anything on the patio is great.

-Mass at San Miniato al Monte and enjoying the incredible view afterwards.

-Roommate dinners.

-Skype dates with Isaac.

I’m not sure if Florence is exactly what I pictured, but I’ve loved a lot of moments since being here. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned so far has been trusting in the provision and protection of the Lord. I think it will be a daily decision to choose trust and peace, and it’s good. Once again, I feel like a year has passed in a week. It’s wild to think it hasn’t even been a week in Italy yet. So excited to make Florence my home for a while and see all that unfolds this semester.

 

Da Duomo. It really has not gotten any less beautiful. Every time I see it, I appreciate it so much.

Da Duomo. It really has not gotten any less beautiful. Every time I see it, I appreciate it so much.

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Overwhelming cheese options at the market. Beautiful, I knowwww.

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My front door. There are about 6 deadbolts to get into my actual apartment. Don’t know if that’s comforting or unsettling. Both I think.

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Two of my cute roommates.

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Dinner party set up.

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Our view after church. Breathtaking. I needed that hike to see the beauty in Florence. When you get away from the tourist sections, the town is gorgeous and peaceful and at its best.

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I get to live with the greatest girls. This is San Miniato al Monte. It sits on top of the hill with the view above.

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America’s Next Top Model. I think I just got eliminated.

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Even the Lorenzo de Medici cafeteria is beautiful.

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Dinner party with friends 🙂

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Making the trek back home.

 

The last few pictures were stolen from Emily and Eileen. Check out all my roommates blogs/pictures because they are all so beautiful and hip and real in, okay.

Emily.

Eileen.

Delaney.