Being sick in winter while living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world is not my idea of fun. Nevertheless, the bug finally caught me and I was bogged down by a terrible cold that had me more than out of sorts. The medicine supply I had brought with me from Manila for such eventualities had been consumed by my family over the Christmas holidays, leaving me with a meager ration that was in no way enough to see me through the rough patch. So down I marched to the Farmacia, which lucky for me is just a few meters down the road from my apartment. The friendly pharmacist looked upon me with pity and kindness, seeing that I was in such a pathetic state. The first thing I asked was whether he spoke English, to which he shook his head apologetically. I explained what I wanted, and emphasized what I didn’t want, then he scurried off to the back to fetch something, returning with two bottles. I accepted one, asked more questions, and he took the other one away to replace it with something I was familiar with from Germany. After I paid, he smiled broadly and said my Italian was pretty good, no need to speak English anymore.
Between pots of ginger tea and mountains of tissue, we’ve settled down nicely in the little flat. It is such a beautiful gift to have my daughter all to myself now, even though it will a very short-lived period. We started going on exploratory walks of the area to better orient ourselves with the city. The Santa Croce zone is superbly equipped with everything you need within a few meters walk. One thing is for sure, you will never go hungry here (or anywhere in Florence for that matter) because there is a snack bar, bakery, cafe, restaurant, bars, and more pizzerias than you can count. The real treasures are the places that are tucked away in alleys of the old city further away from the river, the small restaurants that offer the local tuscan fare for non-touristy prices cooked in the traditional way.
It was during one of these forages that we stumbled on a real estate agency on our way home. I stopped to read the ads posted on the window and told my daughter to go in an inquire about student accommodation within her budget. I waited outside and within minutes a very excited daughter called me in to sit down with her and the agent. I had barely finished my sentence explaining what we were looking for and for how long when the young man smiled and said he had just the place to show us, a few meters away from the office. We zipped up our coats, stepped back out into the cold and followed excitedly as we wove our way down these beloved cobblestone alleys.
Five minutes later, feeling very much like Prof. McGonagall, I stood in front of a 1000-year old building in a small street that resembled Diagon Alley and runs perpendicular to where we currently live, literally around the corner! He said third floor, but as we trudged up the stairs (these old places have no elevators) I muttered that it felt more like the fourth floor. As it turns out, the apartment is lodged between the third and fourth floor, very much like Platform 9 3/4! Because it was already dark, the little studio apartment did indeed seem to belong in Hogwarts… The size is perfect, semi-furnished, the terms are agreeable and we decided to grab it.
One thing is for sure, I am certainly learning my way around apartment rentals in Florence. For example, in the old city there are very few long-term rentals. Most contracts are for 12 months and then you simply renew. Prices have risen significantly in the last 18 months, making it more and more difficult to find low-cost housing in this part of Florence. Many Real Estate agencies do not handle room rentals for shared flats, for that you have to try your luck with the available websites online, which I found out are not always up to date.
The day after we found the apartment, my daughter went off to enroll in her university (a 20-minute walk from her new place). I was getting ready to walk with her but she preferred to do it on her own. This catapulted me 30 years back to the time when I was about to start my own university studies, my parents didn’t come along for registration either, and that was part of the fun. The Florence Institute of Design International (FIDI) is a small university affiliated to the University of Chester (UK), Escuela de Arte Granada (Spain), and Institut Cread (France), and will be home to my daughter for the next three years.
Indeed, in spite of the bitter cold weather, the nasty cough, and assorted limitations, we have had a very successful week thus far. Once again, my daughter will be moving out and this time it will be into her first independent home. Thresholds and new beginnings at the start of a new year. Could anything be more auspicious than this?