When I went on this trip there were only a few things that I for sure cared about.... caprese salad, gelato, The Pieta, and the David. (In that respective order.) We booked our excursion off the ship to see the best of Rome months ago. It cost like $200 bucks. I felt like it was kinda a rip off but I figured at least I knew I'd get to see the Pieta and I also knew there was NO way to see as much of Rome as possible in 12 hours without some type of tour guide. As for caprese salad and gelato... I knew that wouldn't be a problem. But when it came to seeing the David... I hesitated a little. $160 for the excursion into Florence seemed a bit steep to me. I figured I could find a way into Florence and stand in line all day if necessary to just see the David. So that was my plan..... until last night. Last night around 8 pm after every single excursion was sold out I found out that if you hadn't made reservations through the museum by 12 pm that day, there was no possible way you were getting into the museum to see the David. My heart just sank. I almost cried. But it was my own fault. $160... seriously? I couldn't fork out $160 bucks to see a statue I have wanted to see for years? I was so mad at myself. But part of me blames it on the fact that it was 8 pm, we had spent the entire day walking around Mareiselles and then I ran.... and I hadn't eat since breakfast. Extremely odd for me. I can't decide if I am not hungry on this trip because of the jet lag or the motion sickness.... either way food just doesn't sound good. (Kinda frustrating when half the reason you came was for the food but at the same time I am always thrilled when I am not constantly starving.)
Well I just hung my head low as I walked away from the excursion desk and went to dinner. Danielle was over a half hour late for dinner, which kinda made me frustrated because I was STARVING by that point, and our server wouldn't take our order until she got there. When she finally came she said, “I just begged, flirted, pleaded... for our names to be put on a waiting list in case anyone drops out of the excursion.” Honestly. I was blown away. It was possibly the nicest thing ever. She didn't care about the David. She didn't care about Florence. She had just done that for me. I almost cried. (FYI:Lots of crying will be mentioned in this post)
So this morning we woke up at 6 am to get ready, eat breakfast, and go beg our way onto the excursion.(Another FYI: getting up early in Europe is a KILLER, you feel like you have literally been run over by a train and it takes every bit of motivation just to get out of bed) (Because of the jet lag) But back to our fight to get onto the excursion titled, “The Best of Florence.” It's crazy how human nature works. The more I thought about not being able to go see the David, the more I wanted to. We sat next to the table as they distributed the tickets for the excursion... almost like beggars. As I saw young kids getting tickets to go I felt like walking up to the kid, with their parent not watching, and saying, “Hey, let's be honest... this is going to be the most boring day of your life. All there will be are a bunch of old statues and paintings. How about you sell me your ticket for $200 and you can spend the day eating candy, playing arcades and swimming at the pool.” I mean... I was getting that desperate to go.
Luckily of course we got on the tour. I am convinced the day was absolutely blissful because I wanted it so bad and had to work so hard just to get on the tour!
The drive from the port to Florence was everything I ever dreamed Tuscany would look like. (Even if it isn't exactly technically Tuscany.) Rolling hills of vineyards, villas on every hillside, and greenery everywhere. I felt like saying, “Leave me here and let me die.” It was that beautiful. Although I am probably only 1/132 Italian.... I am convinced that I was returning to my homeland.
The first stop we made was a high point overlooking all of the city. Insert the most beautiful picture here. Words can not even describe the beauty of the cathedral with the dome, the river, the bridges and of course the greenery. At once point I turned to Danielle giggling, “Is this for real????”
Our next stop was at the Academy, the museum of the David. Yes, we did not mess around. We went straight for the good stuff. Now before I go on any further, I get it. I completely recognized there was a chance that I was going to be extremely disappointed. I have experienced that disappointment many times as the art snob that I have become. I remember standing in line for hours, wandering around the huge building and finally getting to the Mona Lisa and saying, “Are you kidding me? That is it? It's so small! You can't even get close to it! It looks so much better in the pictures.” So as we were entering the Academy I tried to brace myself. I mean I pretty much was willing to sell my kidney in the end just to see this statue.... am I making it too big of a deal? And then I turned the corner and there he was. Now you can argue that it was because I built it up so much in my mind... but when I saw it, tears came flowing down my cheeks. (Don't worry I hurried away from my group and even Danielle because clearly this was kinda pathetic) I'm sitting here trying to think of how I could put into words what I saw and felt. Majesty. It was so much more spectacular that I even imagined. I just sat in a chair and stared.
I was reminded of the essay The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis. (I am going straight from memory since I can not look it up) But he talks about different things that God gives us to remind us of heaven. He talks about beauty and particularly art. When I saw the David today it made me long for heaven.
Our tour guide told us all sorts of things I already knew but one thing I had forgotten was how most other statues of David have Goliath's head under his foot or in his hand or something. Where this David is before he went to kill Goliath. I just sat and thought of how scary that would be. Going to slay a giant. But what faith David had. How often we have Goliath's we know we are supposed to slay... we need faith like David. If only we all had his rockin' body too! ;)
We went to have an authentic Italian meal together as a group at a restaurant. The bread was amazing. The balsamic was so-so, the olive oil was delicious. Then they served the pasta. It was exactly like the pasta Shane had made me numerous times. (P.S. I never eat pasta, but I figure when in Rome...) So I ate the whole plate. When our server, who I guess had been eyeing me the whole time, came over to get my plate, he said, “Keep your knife.” I was like, “Why?” THAT WAS ONLY THE FIRST COURES! I was so so so disappointed because I was already completely full. But this began the banter with the waiter. I don't know remember why but he wouldn't give me my food, which I really didn't care about because I was already full, and super bummed that I filled up on pasta! Who would have known that in Italy the pasta is always the second course behind the bread! So I asked the server, oh is name was Lorenzo what we were having for desesrt, because clearly there is always room for dessert! Terimasu! I was so stinkin' excited! But of coures he wouldn't give me my dessert.... but eventually I got it, and then he even brought fruit for me and Danielle kinda as a peace offering I guess. Don't worry we gave him a kiss on the cheek (for the camera of course) and went on our way.
A couple more of my highlights of the day was when I was talking to a sweet 70 year old woman in our group when she interrupted me and said, “Wait are you a model?” I laughed, “No.” She said, “Well you are just so beautiful you should be.” You better believe we became great friends with Rita, from Toronto but originally from England, who used to be a professional cyclist. So so funny. Another highlight was searching the streets of Florence trying to find wi-fi so I could facetime (it's like skype for iPhones) the BF. It always makes me smile when he doesn't mind that I am waking him up at all hours of the night to talk to him.
On the trip back to the port we were in the back of the bus which made me terribly sick on the winedy road... so I turned on Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong and just dreamed as I watched the most beautiful scenery pass before my eyes. As I sat there looking out the window I tried to think of a time in my life when I've ever been happier. Honestly, I could not think of a better time. Maybe it was the beauty, maybe it was the motion sickness drugs, maybe it was the tiramusu... the lady fingers possibly were laced with some type of rum. :) but either way I am so happy. Thoughts of the future, worries about school.... seemed like minuscule mirages in the distance that has no affect on me. All that is glaring before me is the most amazing experiences a girl could ever dream of.