SO Lauren and I had a perfect week. Now I don’t mean perfect by societal standards, I mean perfect in the way that everything we did and saw, the incidents we got ourselves into and laughs we shared all added up to a weekend of epic proportions. I picked Lauren up at the airport and in typical space case fashion missed her coming out of the arrivals gate because I had ran half way across Florence to catch the bus to the airport which started moving the second I boarded and then waited for her for 20 minutes and with all that excitement built up, I had to pee. So in the 2.5 minutes it took me to rush to the bathroom and out again I saw Lauren standing alone waving sheepishly at me through the sea of loved ones and taxi drivers. So I ran to her tackled her in a hug and continued to hug her all the way back to my apartment. Her being here felt normal, felt right and I was so happy. So that night we went to one of my favorite, family owned restaurants, drank wine and dined and caught each other up on our lives. After dinner we made her what we would refer to as a “dog bed” for the rest of her stay (the compilation of all the couch cushions laid out on the floor, comfortable surprisingly) on which she slept.
The next morning we woke up and caught our train (after much confusion) at 8 am for Milan. After we arrived in Milan we went to print our tickets for our next train to Colico, but mine wouldn’t print… so we went and found the office of my ticket’s provider, I took a number, 325 just as they called to serve number 309. Lauren went to get food, we hadn’t eaten and I waited impatiently. We had 20 minutes. So I went over to the electronic ticketing machine (which is what wasn’t working for me) and after several more attempts to figure this out for myself, I turned on my “confused/concerned foreigner face” not 15 seconds later a nice woman who worked for the company came to try and help. I explained my problem and she helped me budge the line, which still hadn’t moved, I had 10 minutes until the train departed. The woman and man working the desk conversed in Italian for a moment and she laughed, looked at me and said “he will only help you if you smile.” I bared my teeth ear to ear, the man behind the desk laughed and printed me a ticket. “Grazie a mille!!!!” I said and dashed for the door, seeing Lauren at the top of the escalator with a huge McDonalds bag. We caught our train and breath, laughed and ate. Lauren’s family is Italian and much of her dad’s side still lives here, so one of her cousins and fiancé was going to meet us at the train station and spend the weekend with us. We arrived at Colico station about an hour later and as we were debarking the train I asked Lauren how much English her cousin spoke, “none” she said, “but Laura (his fiancé) speaks it decently!”
She was right, Francesco spoke zero English and Laura’s English was decent at best. But it made the trip a little more exciting as we got in their car and took off for Gravedona, a small city on Lake Como. The conversation was lacking, but attempted and it is safe to say that much of that conversation and, our whole weekend in general, was lost in translation, but in the most wonderful way. We got settled in our studio apartment, just Lauren and I, and then met up for a walk with her cousins. Our view from our apartment was amazing (see pictures below) and all of Gravedona, though tiny, was perfect. I love little towns with the quaint feel of a slower pace and where everything has meaning. That evening we drove to another town over from Gravedona for dinner and explored the city’s government building and quiet streets. We finally settled on a restaurant and sat down. The owners of the restaurant were brother and sister and I estimate around 78 years old. They were very sweet, but also so very strange. They would pop up at random points while we were eating to converse with us and the brother touched Lauren’s face and patted her head with his other hand on my shoulder. A customary friendliness that I found endearing although slightly odd. After attempting to explain that Australia was not in United States, we settled on the idea that I was from Chicago. Once we returned back to our apartment we fell right asleep.
The next day, determined to further bond with us, Lauren’s cousins wanted to take us on a hike. Lauren and I has told them before that we wanted to go hiking, but that they didn’t need to come, to no avail. We were happy to have their company as they drove us to the next town over and we spent the next half hour on a road that snaked up a mountain that we really should have been hiking. Once we parked we found snow and a path with a family of hikers. We were very ill equipped compared to the family with hiking boots, poles and packs, but it didn’t phase us and we began our trek up the mountain, which was actually the Southern Alps. I love hiking, the feeling of fresh air and your heart beating quicker with each step you take on nature’s body. With each step we saw a new, clearer view of what lay ahead. We ultimately determined our goal was a refuge, lodge for hikers, we could see it from our trail. The last challenge before we reached it was a piece of the trail that has been covered by an avalanche. There were some semi formed snow steps for us so we kept marching and even though our Nike tennis shoes slipped and slid, we made it to our goal.
We had an incredible view of Lake Como and the mountain range around was. It was so great to see the tiny dots that were the houses we had driven past earlier. Another reason I love hiking, the sense of accomplishment and pride once you are literally standing on top of the mountain. We ate polenta and beef, drank some wine and headed back down the mountain, quicker and a little more slippery than the path up. After getting turned around only once, we reached our car and started the drive back to Gravedona. Lauren’s cousins dropped us off and hugged up goodbye. We showered and wandered down to the town for dinner, finding ourselves at a small bar with good pizza and perfect company. On our walk home from dinner, the town was silent. We bought a carton of gelato and followed the dark cobblestone road back up the hill to our apartment. I felt peaceful and so happy walking those steps with gelato in one hand and my friend.
Our return to Florence was less eventful with only one train mixup and our wonderful new (elderly) friend Claudio driving us to our train station. The next few day we spent exploring Florence. I brought Lauren to dinner with my friends, we went to an overlook of Florence called Piazza Michelangelo to watch the sunset, we went to Boboli Gardens (Lauren believes it to be the most romantic place on earth, so if that is any hint to how beautiful it was there). We also climbed the Duomo to observe all of Florence and get our exercise in, 468 steps in a spiral rotation is tiring, no matter how many monuments ive climbed by this point the climb always gets me. Lauren really loved being a part of The Last Judgment, the mural pained on the inside of the cathedral which at one point in our ascent we came upon to look down over the people, or should I say ants below us. Many more laughs, meals, wine and some shopping later it was time for Lauren to go back to the land of corn. I miss her all the time, but it was an incredible thing to have someone so close to me be able to share in these experiences with me so that when I return to school I can reminisce about memories that I not only had alone but created with someone who will be in my life forever.
PS I am so sorry about my delay and lack of updates. My time here has been speeding up while simultaneously winding down. It is so strange to think I only have 1 month left in this foreign place I have come to call my temporary home. I think part of me doesn’t want to think about how its all ending, pushing off writing my blogs because “oh I have all the time in the world” when really I have barely time at all. It will be sad to leave, but I am ecstatic to be with my family again and see my friends and creatures (the ones with 4 legs and my brothers). I am trying to soak up every detail that I can in these last 30 days. I will update as much as possible!
I will post about the amazing and love filled week of having my parents here and the beautiful place of Venice as soon as I can.
Ciao for now,