The days and weeks leading up to my Florentine experience felt like a daydream. I had been looking forward to this experience for the past years to come and excited to push myself out of my comfort zones. Florence truly was all I could have asked for and more. The moment I had arrived in Florence, I was truly starstruck. Despite all the hardships I had to go through to get there: my luggage being lost, trying to find my apartment on foot, jetlag, and learning to properly order a taxi, I was beyond excited to just be there in that moment.
Every day was like an adventure and a mission to try/find something new in the city. Finding the best cappuccino, hidden street art, vintage shops, and all the gelato one could ask for; there was never a day to “rest”, but I never got tired of it (how could somebody in a city like Florence?). Planning out day and weekend trips with my roommates, excited to learn the subway system, and travel to unexpected destinations, making unforgettable memories along the way. I was so engrossed in my European adventures that I did not what to think about what uncertainty was coming my way, but the fairytale eventually had to come crashing down.
No one could have imagined that our study abroad experiences would end so abruptly; we just did not think that the virus was as much as an issue as it was being made out to be, we chucked it up to people “overreacting”. None of us meant any harm thinking this way: we all made it this far and we did not want to lose this once in a lifetime experience. Things rapidly changed overnight, and Florence became a ghost of its once lively self and for good reason, but it was strange times. I felt polarizing emotions in rapid succession; sadness, determination, frustration, and anxiety all at once. I wanted to stay so bad but even with the support of my family and university, it was inevitable that I could not stay and that was heartbreaking. Being the last person left in my very empty seven-person apartment was isolating. I was in a daze the day I had to leave my keys behind indefinitely and lug my suitcases outside. I unapologetically cried in three airports; I was a mess and I did not want to talk about Italy until I was ready. I was supposed to spend my twenty-first birthday cruising through Paris, eating macaroons, and going to Disney for the first time in my life. I had so much planned and it slipped away from me in a matter of days. So much changed in a matter of a month and I wanted to be in disbelief, denial, whatever you want to call it. But I knew deep down, it had to be done and my time abroad met a bittersweet end.
Even though my study abroad experience came to an abrupt end, I experienced so much in a little over a month. I was able to visit cities like that of Prato and Bologna, explore Prague and all its bohemian quirks, climb the Duomo (in heeled boots might I add), see masterworks in the flesh, and so much more. I was able to meet and become close to five beautiful, badass, and kind women that I had the pleasure to call my roommates and friends. I made the best of the time I had left in Florence, spending days just exploring and taking in what I could not get back home. Impulsively buying Florentine leather, sipping as much espresso as I could get my hands on, and enjoying authentic margarita pizza and pistachio gelato; I indulged and had no regrets. I even got a permanent memento of my beloved city; a decorative skeleton key reminiscent of my own to my apartment. I try to look back at my time in a positive light, though difficult at the time. I miss having the beautiful Duomo just a few blocks from my apartment, the unique liveliness of the city, and my adventures. I told my parents that they would have to drag me out of Florence kicking and screaming, though my determination was not enough to stay put. But I know Italy will always be there for me to come back and pick up where I left off. I am not letting this unfortunate situation stop me from seeing beautiful Florence again and I can only hope that the city will come back to its flair again.
Madeleine was a spring 2020 Florence student from Bradley University.