Erinn Diaz: Entrepreneur, Performer, Author, Optimist
Myself, my husband Nelson and my business partner Lisa have been living and working in Italy since the beginning of the year, and so far, every day has included a different unexpected and wonderful experience.
This is my first time to the “boot” of the world, and when our friend Kyla came to visit this week, we decided to take a trip to Florence overnight. Nelson and Lisa had already been several times, so it was just us “newbies”.
We left our apartment in Perugia and took the mini-metro (an adorable space-like looking car that takes passengers down the mountain) and arrived at the train station. When we were waiting for our train at the bottom of the mountain, we had an interesting incident with two young men who followed us from the station café through the station, to the broken down ATM, across the street and around the grocery store, but thankfully we separated and lost them before getting on the train.
Two hours later, we arrived in Florence which is one of the most gorgeous cities I have ever seen in my entire lifetime. We checked into our Air B&B which was lovely and walked through the door to the city (yes, an ACTUAL door that leads to the city!) and arrived at Gusta Pizza where we had a beautiful bottle of local wine and THE most incredible pizza. It was so good in fact, we went back to that very same restaurant for the very same thing the next day.
The first thing we thought we saw was the Duomo, but it was actually the Santa Maria Del Carmine. Once we noticed the difference we were in AWE. We made it to the Duomo just before sunset and our jaws dropped as we marveled at the beauty, size and detail of the cathedral. The Santa Maria Del Carmine is lovely, but goodness…. There’s NOTHING like the Duomo. I feel like that’s the way much of life is… looking at one marvel thinking it is the most incredible only to look in the other direction to witness something even more stunning. We enjoyed drinks at a rooftop that overlooked the dome at sunset.
There were so many amazing sights to take in… we strolled along the lovely Arno River and across the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, window shopped down Via de’ Tornabuoni, and enjoyed gelato and cappuccino in a small café in the city. Traveling with Kyla was lovely, especially since we had both never seen the city before and wanted to check out everything. It was a bit chilly, so we got some lovely scarves in the San Lorenzo Market that kept us toasty as we explored. I was surprised at the number of dogs that just jaunted down the street by themselves as if they were hurrying off to their work or families.
As we were walking just after dark down a quiet street, we saw a garden on the opposite side of the small road, and decided to peek in. The second I stepped into the street, I heard an incredibly loud scream and turned my head just in time to see a giant head of curly brown hair and a woman going at full speed on her bike CRASH right into me! The entire left side of my body was throbbing and her face was full of rage at this tourist who just walked in front of her on her way home. But then as I looked in her eyes she immediately looked at me and smiled, held my hand and we asked each other if we were ok for what seemed like 5 minutes, wished each other well and she rode off. The bruises on my arm will fade soon, but the look of that Italian woman crashing into me will always remain and make me laugh out loud each time I think of it!
We walked to the Gate of St Nicholas, and then to the incredible Piazza della Signoria where we saw amazing beautiful statues and sculptures, including Michalangelo’s David! Though it wasn’t the real one as we found out later. We had the most incredible experience eating dinner at Il Cantastorie, with a view of the Imbrattata statue di Fischer and the new Gucci museum. We indulged on amazing bruschetta, mouthwatering pasta and enjoyed a bottle of Modus, a beautiful deep Tuscan wine. We met some new friends who took us to The Red Garter, a karaoke bar that was definitely not my usual kind of hangout. I went onstage to sing, and the room that had started up just a loud party changed completely…. The balcony was filled with young men who were screaming and reaching out, the entire crowd was staring at me, singing along and screaming and taking pictures… one guy even reached up to the stage holding out his fingers and got so excited when I bent down to touch his hand. When I got off the stage, Kyla took a picture of me with some random Italians who wanted one…little did I know I was being mistaken for the famous Dianna Argon! So I just owned it, made everyone a little happier, and it was a BLAST.
We walked through the gardens all the way to the top of the Piazzale Michelangelo where we saw the most beautiful panoramic view of Florence. We also thought once again that we saw the real David, but it was just a larger, greener one. We also had delectable Gnocchi at a quiet restaurant made of glass overlooking the Piazza della Repubblica and on the way out, we made a grand exit as Kyla set off her personal alarm system!
Outside the Leonardo da Vinci museum, there was a stunning statue of Leonardo sitting on the steps of the museum. As I went to take a selfie with the statue, I put my hand on it and it moved and looked at me! I had NO idea it was a living statue and screamed at the top of my little lungs.
So far, public restrooms have been my only personal challenge in Italy. With rare exceptions, they range from inadequate to disgusting. In one ladies restroom in Florence, there was a two-way mirror with a man watching on the other side! But the worst thing of all is that in many of the public restrooms there are NO toilet seats. There’s also generally no soap and broken hand-dryers as well. The reason for this is that apparently, Italian people stand on top of the public toilet seats and break them. It reminded me how important it is to appreciate everything in your life, even the little things. I can tell you that this American woman will never take another toilet seat for granted. xo