Home away from home

Today, my parents are safely home in Columbus, Ohio, after spending a week with me in my new home.

When they left, they thanked me for giving them the “best gift they’ve ever received.” Of course, I’m pretty proud of this gift (and I’m not sure how I’ll ever top it), but it almost felt wrong to say “you’re welcome” because this trip was my way of thanking them for so many of the best gifts they’ve given me.

When I first began researching study abroad programs, I had the idea to bring my parents along for part of the ride. I knew they wanted to travel — especially to visit me overseas — but they were putting their dreams on hold to give my brother and me everything they could. They had sent Adam and me to a combined four different countries before we each turned 18, and they had only been out of the States once — to the Bahamas for their honeymoon almost 27 years ago. Adam and I wanted to send our parents somewhere for their 25th anniversary, but we didn’t have much of our own money at the time. So when I decided to study abroad in Florence, we started saving our pennies and kept quiet for more than a year. We revealed the big surprise on Christmas, and it was a family moment I’ll never forget. Dad was excited, Mom was sobbing in utter disbelief, and Adam and I were so happy to be able to give back and thank them for, well, everything.

Anyways, we had an amazing week. I wish Adam could have joined us, but he’s done Italy, so I don’t feel TOO terrible. 😉

White family minus one, at the top of the Duomo

Day 2

My roommate Kate and I set up a little Italian bistro in our apartment, complete with Pandora’s “Mambo Italiano” radio. We cooked pancetta, and Mom said it was better than Day 1’s dinner at Il Gatto e La Volpe (a real Italian restaurant)!

We didn’t have time to make tiramisu, but we were pretty excited about our Jenga tower of cookies.

Day 3

Playing tour guide was fun because I finally got to do some of the major touristy things I hadn’t done yet. My mom and I are standing in the courtyard of the Basilica of Santa Croce in the photo above. (We’re pointing to little daisies we picked.) Santa Croce is less than 100 feet from my apartment, and I still hadn’t been inside. It holds the graves of Michelangelo, Galileo, Dante, Machiavelli and Rossini.

Dad wanted to stop for coffee every other hour. Wasn’t surprised.

Day 3

I also finally climbed the Duomo! I think I was the only one left in our group who hadn’t done it, but I wanted to wait for my parents so I wouldn’t have to pay the fee twice. The Duomo of Florence is one of the largest churches/domes in the world, and historians still can’t figure out how it was built. It has been the biggest mystery in Florence for hundreds of years, and it remains one of the biggest unsolved architecture mysteries in the world.

I thought the winding stairs and narrow passageways were fun, and not nearly as difficult and uncomfortable as everyone hyped them to be. Toward the end, you even get to climb between the inner and outer domes (pictured above). Mom and Dad, however, seemed to think it was quite a trek. But the treks are always well worth the views:

Home sweet home

Day 3, bistecca alla Fiorentina

Fun fact: Every city in Italy has a famous dish. Florence has huge cuts of very rare, expensive steak. I prefer my steak cooked medium to medium-well, but I figured I had to try it Florence’s way. It wasn’t bad!

We ordered the dish at a small restaurant outside the city center that one of my teachers recommended, and the staff spoke almost no English. I made these two try some Italian.

Day 4

I spent the morning rafting down the Arno with some friends while Mom and Dad toured the Uffizi Gallery. Afterwards, we ran into each other on the street (what are the odds?), and went to the Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David. In person, it really is breathtaking.

Then we stopped for coffee (of course), gelato, and rested our feet on the banks of the river.

Day 4, Gusta Pizza

 I’d never had it, but I’d heard amazing things about Gusta Pizza near that spot on the river. We planned for an early dinner, but the restaurant closed for a four-hour siesta about 30 minutes before we arrived. I decided it was worth the wait (and my parents hadn’t tried Italian pizza yet), so we wandered around the area to kill time. We popped in and by a few small churches, but I mostly just led us in circles over and over because I don’t know that side of town very well. We were all VERY ready to sit and chow down by the time 7 p.m. rolled around.

On Saturday, we took a day trip to Assisi. If my parents were in Italy, they needed to get a taste of the countryside. And I knew my dad would appreciate the historical landmarks of Saint Francis. (It was my second time in the town; to read about my first, click here: https://followjesswhite.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/past-city-limits/.)

Day 5, Assisi

I think the sky is bluer in Italy.

It’s hard to tell in this picture, but it was SO windy. We were afraid to stand at the top of this tower at Rocca Maggiore fortress because we honestly thought we might blow away. The wind made it kind of miserable, but also kind of fun. Attitude is everything!

After all our adventures in Florence, Assisi and their following trip to Rome, I’d say my parents got a pretty good picture of Italy. It means so much that they shared some of this with me and got a taste of my life here.

More than anything, I hope traveling changed their lives the way it’s changing mine.

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