It's been 21 years since my visit trip to Florence.
That's wild to me.
I remember my first solo plane ride over the Atlantic ocean. It was January 2002.
I had two other students on my flight with me. That was it.
I remember us coming out of the very small Florence airport and hailing a taxi to take us to Fiesole.
Our home for 3 months was at a little hotel called, Hotel Villa Bonelli. It had only about 20 rooms. Our university filled up the hotel from January-April.
I remember my first glass of red wine. In Italy. It changed my taste buds.
We had a 3 course meal every night at a restaurant in the main piazza called Perseus. One night a week we had a pizza at the neighboring restaurant, Etrusca. Those meals made an impression on me.
My first Italian pizza. It was HUGE in my American eyes. And I ate it all. I proudly gain a few extra pounds those 3 months in Florence.
My very first phrase I remember repeating over and over again.
"Vorrei un bicchiere di vino rosso."
"I'd like a glass of red wine."
Max at the local pub JJ Hill made me pronounce it correctly in order to obtain the glass of wine.
I remember the first time I rode the number 7 bus down to Florence on my own. Gosh, that feeling of stepping off the bus in the Piazza del Duomo and looking at this amazing site.
I couldn't believe that i got to live here for 3 months. ON MY OWN. Mingling with people from all over the world and learning the language that became my second language.
I can't not plug how important studying aboard is for any young person.
My eyes were open WIDE to a world you can not find in books or school.
You must live among the people that exude a culture that you have no way of understanding unless you ask questions, learn their dialect, and become friends with Italians who love to share their history and way of life.
I've kept many friendships from my days as a "live in the moment, try everything once, make mistakes" woman.
One friendship in particular has stood the test of time with many visits, stays and my future residence in my beloved Florence.
Simone has been a part of my life since 2002. He used to own the famous pub ( in my eyes) Joshua Tree.
In 2002, I was a frequent patron of this pub. I enjoyed hanging out there, speaking with Italians and meeting Simone. A special soul, quiet at first and quite pensive, from what I remember.
He's been a special constant in my life. And because he has been by my side thru thick and thin, I asked him to be a part of our wedding. And he actually surprised me and said he'd love to be there for me.
I'm a true believer that life presents you with challenges, and those challenges are met with friends that are by your side no matter what. They are there to challenge you and root for you. They are there to make you think and to open your mind.
I would have never met Simone if I chose not to participate in my study abroad program. I would've never learned Italian. I would've never fell in love with Italy. I would've never wanted to live in Florence. I would've never made Florence my home for so many years.
This experience changed the trajectory of my life for the better. Always go towards things that challenge you, that is how you grow.
Little fact about me: I've lived in 10 different apartments in Florence before moving in with Stefano in 2012.
11 apartments over the course of 20 years. Crazy, right!
My first pictures of Florence, January 2002
My last day at Villa Bonelli, April 2002
Back in 2002, these photo looked amazing by photography standards. :)