After flying for eighteen hours and going through security checks in two countries (Germany and Italy), I finally landed in Florence. I was terrified my luggage would get lost but it arrived on schedule. Yay!
During the short flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Florence, Italy, I met a woman named Vickie. She was from Pretoria, Africa and was traveling to Certaldo (Cher-tahl-doh)which is one train stop before Siena. So, we agreed to travel together since we were both alone, a little unsure, and going the same direction. However, I have to share my first impression of Italy with you…When I first stepped outside the Florence airport, what did I notice first? Roadsigns…everywhere! No joke, they pointed in every direction you could imagine. And some were just plain confusing.
Luckily Vickie and I took a bus. After a quick bus ride that could have been from an amusment park (I thought it was fun), we arrived at the Ferenze Santa Maria Novella Station. Or, Saint Maria Station in Florence. I have one word to describe my first trip through it. Chaos. There were so many people trying to get tickets using automated ticket machines and rushing about to board trains. The architecture of the building was beautiful but with everyone pressing from all angles I could not stop to admire it for long.
When getting my ticket, I did not have the exact amount needed (8.50 Euro) and the machines don’t give change. With that, I pulled out my credit card. Only there was one problem no one told me about. Italian credit cards have pin numbers just like debit cards. American credit cards do not require pin numbers to use. Vickie was kind enough to try her credit card for my ticket but she had the same problem. We tried asking station employees what to do but none of them seemed to know how to help. One man even said he had no clue.
Eventually, we found a newspaper stand outside the station that sold train tickets. We purchased them and boogied to our train where we could finally relax a bit. Two hours later, after Vickie let me read a newspaper she had brought with her from her home (I have to admit, it was a singular and unique experience to be in Italy reading about gazells jumping into moving vehicles to escape cheetahs) we parted ways at the station in Certaldo and I continued on to the Siena station.
Once there, I met up with representatives of the Siena School for Liberal Arts along with most of the other students in the program from the U.S. We were given information packets and divided into small groups to be taken to our different apartments. (I found out later everyone in the program lived in differently styled apartments all around Siena.)
That night, after everyone had arrived, the whole group went to a ristorante named Due Porte where you could get pizza with almost any kind of topping and many other famous Italian dishes. I had the plate of Cinghiale (boar, pronounced cheen-ghah-lay) and it was deliscous! Yes, those are fries.
Afterwards, everyone was exhausted from traveling so we all went back to our apartments and fell asleep to the sounds of an Italian midsummer night.
My bedroom on the second floor Me and my roomates