10 Jul Four unlikely friends in Italy
Venice, Florence, Tuscany, and Rome with four virtual strangers! Who would do that? Me, and three other people – Mimi, Vikki, and John. The four of us did not know each other that well, but we all signed up to take a trip through Italy together. We all knew Mimi and that was about it.
Last year, when I told Mimi I was selling my house to travel, she said I’m going to come meet you! A few days before I left, Mimi insisted we all sit down and plan everything out, and we settled on Italy. I met John at Mimi’s house that day and didn’t see him again or meet Vikki until arrival in Venice.
I arrived in Venice from Kathmandu via Qatar exhausted and the thought of spending nearly two weeks with two complete strangers and a very hyper friend seemed, well, daunting. But, by the end of the trip my spirits were high and I was sad to leave them.
Mimi is like a real life rainbow unicorn, she’s always happy, gets excited about everything, and wants to do every activity. If I had 1/4 of her energy I would either be president or running an NGO in Africa.
Additionally, she met every single expectation of American stereotypes abroad and brought our group endless loud American laughs. We dubbed this trip Mimi’s miniseries in Italy, because every new day with Mimi brought a new adventure. To start, Mimi wasn’t sure if there was going to be coffee … In Italy … so she brought her own coffee, sugar, dunkin’ donuts creamer, and snacks. She also overpacked two suitcases, and thought the best way to get euro was to go to the post office to exchange her USD.
We stayed in a luxury hotel on the sleepy island of Murano, and while it’s a 30 minute water taxi ride from San Marco square, it’s the perfect place to get a real taste of Venice without the incessant tourist crowds. Vikki was the only of us four to realize our hotel had direct taxi service from the airport, the rest of us hauled our luggage over multiple bridges from the nearest airport drop-off.
It was a sunny day when we all arrived, but Air France lost one of Mimi’s bags, which really rained on the parade. With lost luggage and nothing but a pair of high heels, she borrowed my weathered, two sizes too small flip flops to go explore.On the second day, Vikki and Mimi spent time touring Murano while John and I hit up the tourist spots of the Rialto Bridge and the cathedral in San Marco’s square. The cathedral is one of my favorite sites in the world so I had to see it. We fought the crowds and the frigid rain to see them. I forgot how cold April in Venice can be.
Just as the cathedral was closing Mimi and Vikki met up with us, got a peek, snapped a few photos, grabbed a sandwich and were on our way back to Murano to head to Florence.
As luck would have it, not only did one of Mimi’s bags get lost by Air France, but her other oversized Jessica Simpson luggage broke. John had to carry it to the train station. If you don’t know Venice, everything is by water taxi so he had to huff the broken suitcase all the way from Venice to Florence. As we all stood on the dock ready to depart to the train station, John said the first quote of the trip: well we are ready to go, we have everything but Mimi, including her luggage.
That night we arrived at the Hilton where we were upgraded to the executive level courtesy of my status (humble brag). Click here to read how you too, can get status easily.
In the elevator Mimi grabbed this photo of John that would haunt him the rest of the trip.
On day two in Florence, we signed up with Tuscany bike tours to visit the serene, tranquil Tuscany. This also happened to be the coldest day of our trip. Just in case there wasn’t food, Mimi brought tuna, and later asked if we could stop to buy gloves.The bike tour was unanimously the best day of the trip, it was full of rolling hills and felt like a scene from the movie Under The Tuscan Sun. Our guides were awesome, funny, and one of our guides convinced Mimi that in fact, going to the post office to exchange money, was not worth her time. He also said the second quote of the trip in regards to his wife: she’s Italian so she has to learn for herself. The three of us promptly applied that to Mimi since she, too, is Sicilian by birth. The 23km bike ride was challenging, but the beauty of a mostly vacant Tuscan countryside was breathtaking. It was definitely cold, but spring was in the air with green grass and bright flowers sprouting along street sides. Along the way, Vikki and I took a break. Vikki lost her young daughter and to honor her memory she hung one of her daughters’ ornaments on a tree overlooking a quiet pasture. I was moved to be part of this moment, we hugged for a long time and I shared her grief in this moment.We ended this fabulous day at the Piazzale Michelangelo eating gelato and taking in the views of the duomo.
I had said once you’ve seen a European cathedral you’ve seen them all. Not the duomo! Suddenly I knew why everyone fell so in love with Florence! It was absolutely remarkable in stature and decor. I have never seen a cathedral as impressively decorated as this one. I wanted to spend hours looking at it.
I thought seeing the David would be overrated, but it was impressive. I highly recommend getting the skip the line tickets if you are going to the Uffuzi. It is a circus and those tickets saved us valuable time.
Later that night, we took the bullet train to Rome and moved into our AirBnB like a real family.
I had already seen Rome from the top to the bottom with my dad a few years ago so I took this time to recharge while they played tourists. Mimi randomly found a 5k race and ran around the Colluseum, John and I enjoyed lunch together, and the four of them traversed Vatican City.
Our last night on the town we ubered our way to the Trevi Fountain, threw some change in, and ate a fantastic Italian dinner.
When we drunkly went home, everyone participated in a terrible singalong recorded here. The picture on John’s face accurately reflects his sentiments about being with three women for two weeks.
As our trip wrapped up, we all had fitting nicknames. Mimi was Diva, well you don’t need an explanation. Vikki was Brava because she is strong, brave, and carries herself with a general strength, however she is literally the only person I have ever met that didn’t like the Sistine Chapel. I was named Adventurer, and John was named Dad. Dad had it together, he was always first in the lobby, had everything printed and organized, made sure Mimi was with us, and was the most prepared. John was a trooper because yes, we all cried at one point and he just held it together – and our purses.
The next day after departure I missed all of them, and decided I would repeat that whole trip in a heartbeat!
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