Taming Firenze: Much Ado About London

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London, England. So much to say about this city. From the art to the food to the sights, we fell fast and hard for the United Kingdom’s beautiful capital.

The most refreshing part of our trip was the thrill of understanding locals. While Italy is a beautiful country with an equally beautiful language, there is something incredibly alienating about living in a country where you cannot easily communicate.

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Overhearing conversation is such an integral part of city life – of life in general. It is a quick and fast way to make a connection – as brief and fleeting as it may be –  with a stranger.

As a journalist I am a natural communicator. Without the ability to speak to others, I find myself lost and lonely. I have spent hours scouring Florentine streets starving for little crumbs of English to fill my empty stomach. In London, I was finally able to feast.

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After our initial shock and excitement of understanding the crowds of people around us, we took to the streets to take on our London bucket list.

Item number one: Abbey Road.

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My roommate, born to a family of hardcore Beatles fans, was named after the famous album. So naturally, we risked death multiple times, dashing frantically across the busy Abbey Road intersection, struggling to capture the perfect re-creation of the album cover.

This photo is not as easy to shoot as most would believe. The famous intersection lies on what seems to be the busiest street in this district of London. Commuters don’t care about your Instagram shot, they care about getting home as fast as they can. So they honk, they yell and they do not stop.

We were lucky enough to happen across the world’s most dedicated Beatles fan who was also willing to risk life and limb to help us get the shot we were looking for. He was so prepared he had printed out a picture of the album cover to use for reference.

After my roommate Abbey tried nearly 100 times to take his perfect photo (barefooted and all) he returned the favor.

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Note my roommate Abbey’s bare feet. We were not messing around.

Later that night, I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite Shakespeare plays in the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Not many people can say that they saw their first live Shakespeare production in London. But I can. And it was as amazing as it sounds.

“Much Ado About Nothing,” a brilliant comedy packed with wit, strong women and Shakespeare’s signature foolishness, never fails to make me smile. This particular production was reimagined in the context of World War I. Jazzy, flashy and glamorous, this interpretation brought out the best in the characters and the plot.

I laughed, I cried and I ate ice cream (intermission ice cream is definitely a trend America needs to adopt). A perfect end to day one in London.

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Florentine street artist Clet made an appearance in London.

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We spent the next morning rushing through the galleries of the Tate Modern.

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Inside the walls of this beautifully curated and wonderfully inclusive museum, I found my old favorites and discovered new ones. I found inspiration from the stunning, mammoth-sized Rothko pieces, the tranquil Monet, the clean and crisp Mondrian, the colorful Matisse, the spirited Guerrilla Girls and so many more.

The Tate reminded me how diverse and impactful art can be. Artists from all over the world found their places along the gallery walls. I saw documentaries about public protest, photo stories about the fight for women’s rights in India and colorful portraits celebrating women in history who spoke out for equality.

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Through the shouts of the artists I encountered, through their bold movements and their loud cries, I began to find my voice as a photographer again. I was reminded that art and journalism are not always separate – in fact they work better in tandem, each one complementing the other.

I am incredibly grateful to the Tate Museum for reminding me that I am an artist, and that in my field “art” is not a dirty word.

After the Tate we took a break from reality and embraced our inner-children at a vintage tea party.

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In the basement of Betty Blythe Vintage Tea Room, a quiet cafe nestled on a street corner in the outskirts of London, we spent two hours swapping hats, throwing on dresses and drinking obscene amounts of tea.

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An aesthetic diptych shot in the quaint neighborhood where Betty Blythe  Vintage Tea Room was located.

The pink flowery china, the steaming hot earl grey tea, the crystalline sugar cubes and the closet of clothes and accessories at my disposal took me back to tea parties with my grandmother. Sipping imaginary tea out of plastic cups believing I would one day be royalty – or that I already was.

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Portraits at tea by my talented roommate Gina DeSimone.

It wasn’t exactly tea with the Queen, but it certainly felt like it.

From tea we made our way back to the theatre to see “The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Nighttime.” A phenomenal play with an interactive and breathtaking set, this play follows a boy with autism as he tries to uncover the mysterious details behind the death of his neighbor’s dog.

The play invited the audience into the mind of Christopher, the main character. Through beautifully designed sound, lights and other effects, viewers began to see the world the way Christopher did.

If you ever get the chance to see this incredible play, do not pass it up.

With only one day left, we knew we had to continue the trend of embracing our inner-children at King’s Cross Station.

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Waiting in a line for an hour to get a picture in front of a wall may not sound appealing, but when everyone else in line has shining smiles, Harry Potter costumes and the giddy excitement only found in first-years about to get sorted, it is absolutely a necessary experience while in London.

After watching people of all ages run through the wall to the magical world of Harry Potter, I finally took my turn. Slytherin scarf wrapped around my neck, I grabbed my cart and my wand and prepared for Hogwarts.

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London was a long, deep breath. Like stepping off the tube (be sure to “mind the gap”) onto the solid, stable platform in the Paddington Underground Station. Our weekend in London felt like a refreshing pause.

I managed to escape the pressures of internship applications and resume writing with dress-up games and day trips to Hogwarts. I found inspiration again from the beautifully crafted plays and the breathtaking Tate Modern.

London reminded me that communication is easy and people are nothing to be afraid of.

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I have often used the Italian language barrier as an excuse to not do good work. In reality, I was just scared. Scared that Italians hated Americans. Scared that I would bother everyone I met. Scared to make my voice heard.

I learned from the Irish woman next to me at the theatre, from the college boy who stopped to talk to us near Big Ben and from the  friendly German girl in our hostel that we all want to listen and to be heard.

Sharing a language might make this easier, but language barriers do not make it impossible.

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