The Monday after my mom’s visit, Javier and I decided to resume our Italian lessons. My sisters and my Finnish friend Kristiina would be arriving for their visit in 2 short weeks, which gave us the perfect amount of time to rededicate ourselves to our lessons. After being away from class Javier and I were a bit worried that we would not remember anything we had learned. We were relieved to find that it was quite the opposite. Somehow, what we had previously picked up had settled in our brains and we were able to continue to move forward.
The first day back in class we met a roomful of new and interesting people, each from a different country. Two of our classmates also happened to be full time residents of Italy. We were excited to make some new friends that also shared the expat experience here in Florence. It was interesting to learn what brought them to Italy and what their overall goals were. Rachel, from New Zealand, for example plans to open a winery down the road after establishing herself here in Italy. Having a classmate and potential new friend with a winery is not bad at all.
To end our 3rd week back in school right, we decided to invite this group of classmates over to the castle for an afternoon filled with authentic Mexican food. Javier made fresh Carnitas for street style tacos and even made the corn tortillas from scratch. Javier and I scoured all the ethnic food stores and stalls in Florence we could find, looking for masa harina to make tortillas. Thankfully we found two places that sold both the white and yellow corn masa. Lucky for us, one of the goodies that my mom lugged over here from the states was a cast-iron tortilla press.
The lunch that Javier prepared for was delicious as always. There were no tortillas left at the end of it, and I have a feeling that people would have kept eating if there had been more. We found that time was flying between lessons, studying, and spending time with some new friends from school. Before we knew it my sisters and Kristiina arrived.
Kristiina would only be able to stay for a few days, but my sisters were staying for about 2 weeks. We were in for some serious fun and adventures! It took some time to solidify a plan for the visit, but we were able to cover a lot of ground. We of course brought the group to all the main sites in Florence, visited Venice, and Terme San Fillipo. My sisters loved every minute of Italy, especially the gelato. It meant a lot to me to be able to see their reactions to new sights, tastes and our new lives in Italy.
Our dear friend Kristiina left Florence only 4-days after she arrived. On the same day she left, my sisters, Javier and I continued the adventures by taking a brief 3-night trip to Amsterdam. We proceeded to spend those days wandering through museums, taking trips on the canals, and eating all the delicacies Amsterdam has to offer (chocolate waffles, stroop waffels, bitterballen, fries, hutspots, chocolate, etc, etc). Being in Amsterdam has always felt like being in one of the storybooks that I read as a child. It is a beautiful and magic place that I will always enjoy every time I visit.
When we got back to Florence we made plans with Rachel to watch Calcio Storico, a unique and brutal game held once a year, in Piazza Santa Croce. We lucked out in a major way. Rachel just happened to be living in an apartment above Santa Croce, so we were able to view the historical and brutal sport from her windows free of charge. That was an experience I will not soon forget.
My sister’s and I wrapped up their trip by exploring Rome. We were now in mid June by this time, and Rome was boiling hot. We managed to see most of the major sites on their lists, and enjoyed taking it slow wandering the streets of Rome. Our time together had really passed too quickly. I am incredibly blessed and lucky to have two bright and loving younger sisters in my life. It felt especially wonderful being their guide during their first trip to Europe.