fun fact of the day:  the city called Firenze by Italians is what Americans call Florence. I definitely did not know that before coming to Italy.

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Well, I’ve officially been in Italy for six days which absolutely blows my mind. I feel like I’ve been here forever, but also like I’ve not been here for very long at all. Arezzo is slowly becoming my home base, the place I feel most safe and comfortable in, which I would not have believed three or four days ago when I kept getting lost on the short walk from our classroom center to the monastery where we live.

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Yesterday a small group decided to take a spontaneous day trip to Florence because we had heard about a church there that had services in English (thank you, Mrs. Hall!). Around 8:45 am, we boarded our first Italian train. I’m sure this will become old hat to us in no time, but right now it’s sort of an adrenaline rush every time I hop on. The train ride from Arezzo to Florence is a little less than an hour long, but seems much shorter because looking out the window is such a beautiful experience.

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Upon arrival in Florence, we spent about 45 minutes trying to find a café that should have been only 20 minutes away, but it’s difficult to navigate a foreign city on foot with only a cellphone that has pretty spotty coverage. Somehow we managed to take a detour by Saint Mark’s; it wasn’t a bad thing, though, because it’s really a magnificent building.

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We made it, though, and sat down to enjoy a cappuccino and some brioche before church started. Oh, I forgot to mention that the church we were going to was in a café. How cool is that? Jesus and coffee, two of the best things, in one room. While we were seated, a girl named Hannah approached us and asked us a question about the church, saying that she was a study abroad student and this was her first time to visit. We laughed at the coincidence and told her that this was our first time, too, and soon she was a part of our group. The church service was amazing and just what I needed that day, and everyone was so welcoming to us there. They recommended restaurants to eat at, which we quickly set after with Hannah as our guide.

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On the way to lunch, Hannah led us past the Duomo in Florence, which is absolutely the most breathtaking building I’ve ever seen. We learned about the Duomo in art class in elementary school, and here I was looking at it in real life–it was a very surreal moment and if I was a crier, I definitely would have been sobbing right then.

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We had to keep moving, though, and walked over to a carousel in the middle of one of the piazzas to take some pictures.

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We walked through the leather markets and wove our way through the streets, eventually arriving at Il Mercado Centrale di Firenze, basically a huge Italian food court. I ordered a margherita pizza and it was most definitely the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten: I watched them hand-toss the dough, put the toppings on, and place it in a stone oven before putting it on a plate and handing it to me. SO GOOD.

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After lunch we headed to the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence. It was stunning, as everything else in Florence is, and I could’ve spent hours looking out at the water and the old city. There was a couple making out behind us, though, so we thought it best to leave.

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We continued walking through the city until around 4 p.m., taking pictures with street art and random buildings before finally saying goodbye to Hannah and heading back to Arezzo. The sun was setting over the hills as we rode the return train, and it was almost completely dark when we arrived in Arezzo. The rest of the night was spent eating dinner and getting ready for bed, trying to catch sleep to be ready for another day in the Bel Paese di Italia. Cíao for now!

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