Our sweet, homemade-wine-connoisseur, charming lisp-having AirBnB host, Antonio, said, “I have been to New York. It was almost like being in a fictional place, since everywhere you turn there is something to be recognized from a movie or TV show or famous picture.” What he didn’t know was that staying in his countryside Villa––decorated with rolling hills, lush vines and distant castles––was a lot like living in every European summer movie you’ve ever seen. And now I need to come back in the summer.

Some might say that Florence is “a day trip,” which is American traveler speak for, “Not worth spending one of your precious weekends on.” I’m proud to announce that those particular travelers are very, very wrong. To me, Florence is romance––even more than Rome. It’s the kind of happiness that you’re able to recognize and relish in while it’s happening.

Traveling into the city.
Traveling into the city.

And I’m not proud to announce that my first bout of that happiness within the city walls of Florence was from a cute little restaurant that served American breakfast and, more importantly, sweet American iced coffee. I’m even less proud to admit that we went twice in our short, three day stay. But hey, at least night number one in the Florentine surrounding areas was spent with a piercing full moon, homemade wine from Antonio, and the cheese and crackers that we snagged before hailing a taxi. 

(Let it be noted that my admittance of … anti-proudness… toward that restaurant is more of a formality. Florence made me so happy that indulging in all of the little pleasures like a silly American caffe latte was worth every decadent second. And also the second trip.)

My Florence suggestions are as follows: climb The Duomo; visit The Uffizi Gallery; and, above all, visit the countryside (ideally in a flowy skirt that you can feel like a little fairy in). But beyond that, my suggestions––that ring true for any explorative weekend trip––are to let loose and open yourself up to learning any lesson that the universe might be trying to teach you.

That lesson for me, perhaps, was to appreciate the romantic, at large, more. In simpler terms, maybe it was to shed my cynical shell and let beauty and happiness in just a touch more. 

Maybe it was the Venus (the Roman goddess of love) iconography littering the town, or maybe it was my serendipitous discovery that the romance novel I bought on a whim, “Beach Read,” was written by a Hope alum. (Huge shoutout to Emily Henry, whose inclusion of an alternate universe version of Good Time Donuts made me scream in a crowded train station McDonald’s, and then, scream even louder after we all scrambled to Google and uncovered the truth of the book’s location and the author’s identity.) 

Sometimes I think about how grade-obsessed I am, and how I’m certainly not alone in that among many of the other women students at Hope. We’re famously known for working too hard and caring too much and while that mutual suffering can be just a little comforting on bad days, it hurts just a little each time I think about it. 

My parting wisdom from this week is light and not concrete because my rose-tinted-lenses type lesson isn’t the lesson that everyone else needs to learn. I really just encourage you, especially when abroad, to loosen that tight grip on your books and homework. Look around. Love the world. Love yourself. Loosen up. Life is more than getting perfect grades and constantly thinking ahead. 

This week, I guess I’m just asking that wherever you are––Barcelona, London, or Holland, Michigan––to go find your Florence.

Published by kathrynsmith

Class of 2023 Communications Major, Writing and Theatre Double Minor IES Rome, Italy

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