FLORENCE, Italy — The Fourth of July abroad is much like Thanksgiving abroad – in other words, just another day to most people.
But mine turned out to be pretty special.
Months and months ago, one of my best friends, Emily Edwards, told me that she and her family would be spending some vacation time in Italy this summer. We decided that, of course, we’d meet up and spend some time together.
Back then, it seemed far away, especially because I knew her visit was going to be the week before I left, which at that point felt incredibly distant. On the Fourth of July, though, the time for my visit with Emily and her family popped right up.
It seemed perfect to spend Independence Day with fellow Americans, so it was really lucky that that was when the Edwards family happened to be in Florence – the closest town to me that they were visiting.
I got up early to take a train Milan, where I had about 20 minutes before hopping on another train to Florence, which would arrive at noon. I was seriously excited.
Emily and I have been close friends since kindergarten, maybe earlier. Our friendship has lasted through many years of different schools and long stretches of not seeing each other, and I’m always impressed by how quickly it feels like we’ve never been apart.
Emily’s friendship is one that I know I can always count on to last. I hadn’t seen her since a lunch at Red Bowl the week before I left for Italy, so I was super happy and enthusiastic.
The map and directions I’d printed out to get me to our meeting point were confusing. The directions started me off from the wrong place and only a select few of the streets had names printed, so it was a bit hard to get on the right route.
When I finally did, I found Emily waiting for me outside, and I ran for a big hug and it was really sweet like all the reunited friends you see in movies. I went inside where I saw the whole Edwards family (who I love SO much!) and their friends the Greens.
We were all hungry, so we decided to go to lunch together. It was weird switching back into speaking English, but I did better this time than when my mom visited. I didn’t accidentally start any sentences that were supposed to be in English in Italian this time.
It was good practice for being home, I guess. I did accidently ask the waiter something in English when I meant to ask in Italian, but it was fine. I understood – probably because Florence has so much tourism that practically everybody speaks basic English.
After lunch, we looked around in a market and then went to the Uffizi, Florence’s most famous art museum. It was huge. I saw many of the works I’d studied in History of Art class this year.
It’s so strange and wonderful to know you’re looking at the real thing – to stand right in front of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus or Primavera and know that he stood there in front of that very canvas more than 500 years ago and painstakingly made every brush mark you’re looking at.
It amazes me.
In the gift shop of the museum, I saw my friend Sasha from Russia, which totally took me by surprise. She was there with her host dad and host sister, and we just happened to run into each other. I was happy that I got to (however briefly) introduce her to Emily. I love when my friends from different places get to meet each other.
After the museum, I said goodbye to the Greens and Emily’s dad, brother and sister. Emily, her mom and I went off to do some more wandering, sight-seeing, chatting and hanging out.
When the time for my train home grew nearer, I got a Subway sandwich to eat on the train – American food in honor of the Fourth of July! I ordered the “Spicy Italian” sandwich, though.
We took a taxi to the station and did our hugs there on Platform 3 before I got on the train to Brescia, with tired feet from the long day of walking around.
And, to make my Fourth of July even better, when I got home it was dark and there was a beautiful thunderstorm off in the distance brewing over Lake Garda. There was lightning flickering continuously to the east, illuminating the whole sky in such a pretty way.
I thought, “I’m even getting a fireworks show.”
Chandler West is a Rock Hill High School student who is spending her senior year in Italy. She writes about her adventures abroad each week in The Herald and heraldonline.com