Do you ever go back to visit somewhere you’ve been before? Aside from London there aren’t that many places that I’ve double-dip traveled to in my adult life. I’ve been so busy constantly adding new locations that I simply haven’t had time for repeat stops. Until Florence.
Last time I visited Italy was in 2006. Six years ago. Might as well be a lifetime in terms of my travel and life experience. I knew I’d be looking at the city with the vastly different lens of an experienced traveler, and I was curious what I would find. How has Florence, or more likely my observations of it, changed?
Then: I was 22 and had barely been anywhere. In fact, my trip to Italy- a kind of postscript to my semester studying abroad in London, was the first trip I’d successfully planned on my own without the help of STA Travel agents or my parents. I was quite proud of myself as I remember.
Now: I’m almost 28 and have spent the last six years either traveling or obsessively planning to travel. I’ve backpacked around multiple continents, sometimes solo, and lived abroad in quite a few places. I’m definitely more experienced and maybe a bit more jaded. (I actually wanted to go back and snap a shot at this exact same spot, but it was raining and I was lazy- I guess maybe I’ve gotten lazier too?).
Then: I remember being impressed by Florence, the absurd amount of history and beauty and art. Still, I didn’t like it as much as I loved Rome, or even Venice. I put Florence on my “neutral” list- I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it, I just appreciated it.
Now: Florence is still not my favorite. I always seem to get lost for some reason, and the sheer amount of people (not Italians, mostly tourists) is overwhelming. Visiting again I was reminded how much I love Italy, and would desperately love to live there, but not Florence. Mike agreed.
Then: I wandered around Italy in a state of pretty much constant amazement. Everything is so beautiful! So old! I can’t believe all of this was here, just waiting for me to discover it. I spend a lot of time wandering and staring at things.
Now: Ugh, this is depressing. I still think Italy is amazing, but it’s lost a little bit of it’s sheen, the sprinkle of fairy dust that pretty much everything had back when I was 22. Now I’m noticing the massive crowds of tourists, the scammers, the pollution. I’m more away now, which is good but also honestly kind of sucks.
Then: I took this picture
Now: I took this picture. At least my photography skills have improved, slightly.
Then: I wasn’t too into food. I was still shaking off the being a picky eater, and my two friends I traveled with weren’t that interested in local food either (Or wine- never visit Italy with a teetotaler). I can’t find any pictures of anything I ate back in 2006.
Now: Now food is pretty much my passion. Mike and I ate our way through Florence with gusto. We had boozy pasta dinners and mouth watering pizza. We hunted out local specialties at the Central Market and drank booze out of plastic cups on the steps of the Basilica San Croce with Randy and Bethany from Beers and Beans. We at a LOT of gelato. This was definitely an improvement.
Then: I bulldozed my way through Florence, Lonely Planet in hand. I toured the Uffizi, the Galleria d’Accademica, the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and all the major piazzas like a woman who might never travel again. I remember being absolutely exhausted after that week in Italy.
Now: I did do a few of these things over, mainly for Mike’s benefit. And I had to see The David again, I just couldn’t help myself. Mostly though, I opted for less strenuous activities: dinners with friends, wandering the Central Market, day trips to the countryside.
We only wandered onto the Ponte Vecchio once, late at night. The tourists had all but disappeared and the shops were all closed. It was peaceful and beautiful and a sight that most tourists probably never see. But I did, because now at least I kind of know what I’m doing.
Have you ever re-visited a city with a new lens?
Special Thanks to Eurail.Com for sponsoring our train travel through Italy.