This was not only my first trip to Italy, but to Europe as well, and as my colleagues were quick to point out, it’s humbling to spend time in a place with such a long history. My home country is a baby compared to this place, and we as individuals are a blip on time’s vast radar.
There were a few panicky moments — I missed my first connection due to a weather delay, the airline couldn’t honor the upgrade I’d purchased, which made for a sleepless red-eye flight seated smack-dab in the middle of the plane, then had to sprint through the Frankfurt airport to catch a late connection (my C25K training came in handy — I was barely out of breath when I finally arrived at my gate). I realized as I was trying to find my way through the foreign airport (and on the verge of hyperventilating) that I had no way to call anyone should I be delayed, no way to contact my coworkers in the event I needed help, and I forgot to notify my bank that I’d be out of the country, so I effectively had no money. Model International Traveler, I am not.
But thankfully everything worked out, and those were small glitches in an otherwise amazing experience. I think I was quieter and more reserved than usual for a team meet-up, partly because of the many distractions I’d left (but not completely left) at home, but also because I wanted to take everything in and soak it up. My photos don’t do it justice, but it seemed there was a postcard-quality vista to behold in every direction. The villa we stayed at was charming and rustic, but comfortable; its only major drawback being the remote location, which made it difficult to find, and the internet, which was spotty.
Florence itself was surreal — the arches, the stone, the art, the intricate details. Standing in front of the actual Statue of David was awe-inspiring. The food was authentic and fresh, although I wasn’t very daring (I’ll pass on the horse steak and cow brains, thanks!) and stuck to pasta and pizza. And wine. So much wine.
And, of course, exploring the place with some of my favorite people was the best part. It’s amazing to work at a company where you consider your teammates not only colleagues but friends, and even after a year with Automattic, I still find it hard to believe that experiences like this are part of my job.