My summer in Croatia left me with a new group of friends that are scattered across the globe; one of them being a wonderful Aussie named Mick. After the first few days in paradise we knew that we would be friends for a very long time.
Our connection was instant and our bond grew over the summer. Being like-minded, our thoughts were always on the same page: we need to work hard to play hard. Our first day off together cemented our friendship. Mick, Jason, Michael and I rented a boat and island hopped along the Adriatic. We swam with dolphins, basked in the sun in the middle of the sea, stumbled across playful donkeys, and hiked to the top of an Island to explore some ruins – it was perfect.
The rest of the summer followed in a similar fashion. We both appreciated the sea, nature, travel, and the direction our lives were headed. The ease of each other’s company allowed us to be one another’s rock and person to turn to.
Once camp neared its end, it did not seem appropriate to part ways just yet. So seven other amazing people, including Mick, and I backpacked South-Eastern Europe where we not only explored the beauty of several countries but also discovered new territory within our own souls. At the end of our travels in Budapest we said goodbye with heavy hearts and all promised to reunite in the upcoming months somewhere in Europe.
Mick followed through and arrived at Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence in mid-November.
His visit to Italy represented a silent vow to uphold our friendship and allowed me to fall in love with Florence all over again. Over the course of a week we discovered the beauty of Florence together and recharged each other’s batteries. Shortly after his arrival we were sharing a bottle of wine and reminiscing over the escapades of the summer.
The following day, I took him on a mini-tour of Florence showing off the historical sights and great works of art. Later on we climbed the 463 steps of the Duomo where we had a birds-eye view of the stunning interior and then a panoramic view of the city outside.
Standing there on top of this gloriously massive Cathedral we digested the beauty of rolling Tuscan hills and winding city streets. For some strange reason I felt tremendously proud of Florence: this is my city and it is perfect.
The week continued and we spent a lazy afternoon in the Boboli Garden’s sharing stories from our childhood and hopes for the future. Our days were never hurried and our nights lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
We decided to go on an adventure over the weekend to explore a new place together. We chose the Republic of San Marino, the oldest Republic and the third-smallest country in the world. This country is seated atop a mountain 10km from the Adriatic at Rimini. Dating back to 301, the country remains a hidden gem of the world.
The city center, which is pretty much the entire country, is enclosed within giant stone walls and has three large towers marking its skyline. Old stone streets weave and wind their way up the mountain. Once you enter the fortress you might as well discard your map because the intersecting streets cross with hidden alleys and passageways. It is much easier to wander since you really cannot become lost in this small country.
This medieval city has a quiet and eerie feeling to it. The massive towers no longer serve as a means of protection for the city from intruders; but rather appear to keep vigil and silently acknowledge the history of this country. The weather was cold, rainy, and foggy all weekend; however, the conditions seemed to perfectly match the landscape. Since it was the off-season, we had this special world to ourselves to explore without masses of tourists. The old town overlooks Italy from 750 meters above; yet due to incredibly thick fog, Mick and I were unable to enjoy the assumedly breathtaking view. Nevertheless, with every corner turned and every peak climbed, we were consistently shocked by the rugged beauty. San Marino is a place I know Mick and I will return to.
We arrived back in Florence well –rested and pleased with our weekend getaway. Unfortunately, it was time for Mick to continue onto the next leg of his own journey and head to Ireland. His departure was bittersweet; I was extremely excited for him to carry on traveling yet sad to say goodbye to my dear friend. This time, our farewell would be more permanent since he was headed to the states the following month.
Our next reunion will be in Croatia when we once again return to our paradise and immerse ourselves into this separate world of play, laughter, sun, and the sea. I know our paths crossed for a reason and I am eternally grateful for having such a positive and honest person in my life that protects, supports and cares for me. He is the best Aussie I know.