First of all, I'm surprised we made it to Italy alive. This is not an exaggeration; the turbulence during the descent into Bologna was a nightmare. It felt like we were on a roller coaster, the way it was dropping so fast and tilting from side to side. One girl actually had a panic attack. Kristen and I were grabbing our armrests, staring at each other, terrified, thinking we might actually die. Once we landed on the ground (and I resisted the urge to drop to my knees, sobbing, and kiss the grimy airport floor), we took a bus to the Bologna train station, took a train to Porto, ran like crazy to catch the connecting train to Florence, and finally reached our hostel around 7:30. It's pretty nice; small, but comfortable, and the Romanian girl who works at the front desk is really sweet.
Once we had settled in, we headed out to find somewhere for dinner (pizza, of course). The place the receptionist recommended to us was packed, and we stood there for an hour, squashed against the walls by masses of rushed, loud Italians (not exactly helpful considering my combination of agoraphobia and jet lag). It was well-worth the wait, though. Holly and I split a prosciutto and mushroom pizza. I had forgotten how incredible authentic Italian pizza was until last night. It will take every ounce of my self-control not to eat it for every meal this week. After dinner, we returned to the hostel and crashed.
We woke up about an hour after Holly's alarm went off on Saturday. I would have loved to sleep in until noon, but we had a lot of sightseeing to do as we're only in Florence for two full days. We stopped at a grocery store for breakfast (pastries and fruit) and made our way to the Santa Maria del Fiori Duomo. Just seeing it brought memories flooding back; standing between the Duomo and the Battistero, it didn't feel like five years had passed. After pausing for some photos, we continued walking toward the Arno. I don't remember going to Ponte Vecchio during the high school trip; at least, I hadn't heard "O, Mio Babbino Caro" (which was stuck in my head for most of the day-EVOC's version, of course) so the name wouldn't have rung any bells at that point. It was pretty sunny, and the Arno was beautiful, deep and green and glittering; nothing like the muddy trickle running through Granada.
After a little more exploring and sightseeing we went up to this lookout (the stairs reminded me of how disgustingly out of shape I am) where we had lunch. After that, we went to the Galleria degli Uffizi, which is enormous. It made me regret not paying better attention in western civ in high school, because I recognized a lot of names but couldn't remember much about them. After that we explored a little more, tried to buy tickets for the Accademia (but the office was closed), then finally returned to our hostel to rest before dinner. We ended up getting pizza again (well, five of us did). I have no regrets in my decision making regarding food...OH! I got NON-CHOCOLATE gelato today! When I was here last time all I got was chocolate, so I decided I'd fight my addiction and branch out a bit this time. I chose mixed berry and it was amazing. I might have to go back to my usual tomorrow, though.
When we got back to the hostel, most of the group went upstairs to hang out/drink, but I gave in to my not-so-inner nerd and stayed in the room and read. I started my book yesterday on the plane, and now I only have three chapters left. I'm not trying to brag. Honestly, it's a bad habit, because I don't enjoy the book as much as I should and I run out of reading material too quickly.
Anyway, I'm falling asleep on my notebook and we're getting up at 7:30 so I will wrap this up. Buona sera (or is it notte? I forget)!