Tuesday, 1 April 2014

8th March, 2014. Hi Mom! I'm in Florence.

With a snotty nose I grabbed the 10 o'clock train to Florence. The last few days I spent sick with the blinds down, playing soothing video games in Adrian's living room to escape from the hell storm the headaches were giving me. This morning I was dizzily swaying from the weight of my backpack but my determination to act the tough traveller won. I am in Italy after all and I would curse on this silly cold if I didn't get to see beautiful Florence! Without booking a hostel or sending last minute couch requests, I drew a makeshift map of where I needed to go, said my good-byes to Adrian and off I went, buzzing with energy.

This suspicious character sat opposite of me on the train.
A serendipitous wander around Florence at the mercy of my map and soon I was at the reception desk of the youth hostel where I booked the last remaining free bed. Impromptu, I ended up exploring Florence with three Canadian girls. Let me just make it clear: They were crazy! From our walk starting at the Cattedrale di Santa Maria di Fiore to the Ponte Vecchio and beyond, there weren't three minutes Alex, Kristie and Megan could hold in their laughter. Everything was an excuse to throw your head back in glee.

Florence is a city of backpackers, great student fashion and the most gorgeous men and women of both Italian and foreign origin. Behind a church we came across an agglomeration of students and travellers speaking in spanish, english, italian. Cars and one or two horse-pulled carts had to honk their way through the masses. The mob was queueing up to a petite wooden door messy mediterranean style. Bakers nudged through the crowd raising trays of mozzarella, fresh rucola and finely chopped tomatoes above their heads. Students nudged their way out raising sandwiches stuffed with fresh ham and fine herbs. We joined the ranks and after a long wait, squeezed our way through the quaint doors to order our own lunch. Sitting on a curb with other students, we gobbled down our cheap italian delicacy. The wait was definitely worth it.

I had never stayed at a hostel before but after this night I am surely going to be searching for them more often. Maybe it was the carefree Californian girl, maybe the Singaporean with the great laugh, maybe the two Italian officers who tried to teach me their language, maybe the three Brighton drama students whose accents felt strangely like home, or maybe it was the free bowls of sangria the hostel provided.

I have the bad tendency to make strangers a part of my life. It is how I end up sleeping on stranger's couches, a passenger in stranger's cars, sharing drinks with strangers and overall opening up often and passionately. It is an addictive joy I can never give up. The tragedy is, in its transitory instant, I often wish they could be permanent characters to the story.

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