Two years ago I stood beside the Santa Maria Novella train station, distressed against my luggage, crying into my cup of stracciatella gelato. It was my last hour in Florence after four months of living in utopia. While my short-lived roommates looked forward to this day, I refused to believe our European departure would arrive. Every night leading up to this day my circle of soul sisters and I had been holding onto each other between drinks and dancing, struggling to imagine life beyond study abroad.
Fast forward to the present. Where study abroad is a gleeful memory, much like every stage of life. It wouldn’t be healthy to stand still in the mindset of a student, regardless the experience. And while that day waiting alone at the train station pained me, I realized that this wouldn’t be my last commute from Firenze.
The young women I consider my “soul sisters” continue to grow and travel. When my beautiful Kaleigh grabbed the opportunity to return to Florence for work, I promised a visit. I picked a date in coordination with Julie, an independent I met during a day trip to Venice. Since that semester we met we continued to make money, spend money, but mostly let serendipity pave the wild road of the 20s.
Our carefree mentality has treated us well this week. Occupied by decadent meals, foreign acquaintances, and sequential nights of ruthless behavior. Within the past 24 hours, we’ve kept in mind this is our last time in Italy for now, but not necessarily forever. Last night’s motto was “No Dying”, deemed by Kaleigh around 3:00AM. After a glutinous kebab, the three of us kicked off our dancing shoes and changed into more flexible attire. We roamed the lonely streets, laughing in bliss. For good luck, we rubbed the bronze boar statue in the Piazza Mercado before stopping midway on the Santa Trinita Bridge. A couple of elevated pyramids line the bridge, providing ample seating for us tired girls to finish the bottle of vino we started hours ago. We nearly woke up on the filthy platform, covered in dust and cigarettes. Though the grime never bothered us, as we selected the first class seats overlooking the city reflections in the Arno River and a moonlit view of the Ponte Vecchio.
We didn’t stay up until sunrise, but we did utilize the after hours. By noon the next day Julie and I met Kaleigh for lunch at my beloved panineria, La Proscuitteria. I doused the salty focaccia in gorgonzola truffle cream, layering the base with Tuscan ham, making everything right in the world. A distant thought reminded me this would be one of my last meals in Italy for a while, so Julie and I continued touring and eating throughout the city. We stopped at a few Florentine favorites: Piazza Santa Croce, Il Duomo, the San Lorenzo Markets, and entered the grandiose Centrale Mercado. Above the plentiful grocers hoovers a cornucopia of culinary delight. From a quick pick-me-up to countertop seating, you can satisfy whatever craving generates during your visit. For Julie, this meant buffalo mozzarella. While letting the milk drip from her lips she whispered “this is everything I want from a ball right now”. With a bite for myself, I sympathized. She then suggested a glass of wine, so we sat at Il Ristorante Tosca, on high risers just meters from the steaming kitchen. I ordered Prosecco with bruschetta for a chance to slip in fresh produce to the week’s carb and cheese filled diet.
Satisfied and slightly buzzed, we strolled down Via Faenza, stopping at Dragon Tattoo. For decades my family imprinted negative connotations towards tattoos into my head. It was here in Florence when I met a girl in my program with an infinity tattoo between her fingers. Within a year, the symbol had faded drastically, giving the impression that scribing ink in such a spot possibly was finite, after all. With a few ideas circling my mind, I asked the petite Italian girl for a quote.
“80 Euro” she explained.
“Let me think about it” I said bashfully.
Julie and I took but fifty steps away from the parlor before I yelled, “screw it” and returned for an appointment.
“Can you come in tomorrow?” Asked the young receptionist. I explained it was my last day in Florence, assuming the ink was not meant to be.
“Un momento”. She escaped behind the glass doors for a moment and replied, “half past four?”
One hour. I had one hour before my delicate hands would be stripped of their purity. The porcelain coating over my right ring finger was minutes away from exposing my inner badass through a scared emblem.
Ninety minutes later, my tattoo virginity was lost. It’s no sleeve, but the two arrows directing me forward will forever remind me to surpass the obstacles and continue thriving. The thin lines subtly describe my achievements and goals without a major lifetime commitment. I carry them with me like a memory, bound to fade but never to forget.
I couldn’t have asked for a better Eurotrip.
Let me rephrase that:
I couldn’t have executed a better Eurotrip.
We all dream of locations and long to reunite with loved ones. The only way to fulfill that internal lust is to take action.
A special thanks to Kaleigh, Julie, and any friend who has made the effort to spend time with me when it was not convenient.
Those who travel together stay together.