The first time travelling without parents is a beautiful, formative experience. The endless possibilities of the world stretch out in front of you like the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River. You can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone without the familial restrictions of a minutely planned holiday itinerary.
So why then, with all this freedom, did a friend and I end up watching the entire box set of Breaking Bad over a two-week stay in Florence?
We had it planned so well: take a few weeks to learn the basics of Italian; read some classic Florentine authors such as Dante and Machiavelli; and prepare our bodies for the daily intake of flatbreaded tomato sauce and cheese.
Only the latter proved in any way fruitful, and that was because we had spent our whole lives leading to the moment when pizza was a delicacy and not a habit.
We turned up with a few hundred euros and the phrase “parli inglese?” tattooed onto our brains. For the first few days we tentatively explored this new city, sampling the delights of the Duomo, the art of the Uffizi, and the knock off fashion items of street vendors.
When this got boring we walked around conversing in English accents hoping girls would hear and talk to us. They didn’t. This only works in Love Actually. At the end of the first week we were confident we had seen everything and rewarded ourselves with a day off to relax in the flat.
The next day it rained so we granted another. By the middle of the second week these were so frequent they became classified as “chill days.”
With the baking Florentine sun hidden behind floral curtains we wasted hours upon hours building the greatest FIFA manager team Florence and the world had ever seen. We watched Breaking Bad to completion. We started using phrases from the show in everyday conversation. One day my friend turned to me and said, “I’m not in the FIFA business, I’m in the empire business.” At this point I realized we had gone insane.
We had to shake ourselves from this sloth-like malaise, but how? It hurt, but our families were the only option. They correctly guessed the ‘empire business’ we referred to didn’t involve the historical Medici family.
Before we knew it they had booked us to see an open-air orchestra, an idyllic botanical garden, and a climb up the 414 steps of Giotto’s Campanile. “But my knee is injured, I can’t handle that many steps,” I cried. “I don’t care if you fall all the way from the top, you’re not wasting another second out there.” My grandma could really be savage. The last few days raced by and before we knew it we were being flown back to sorry old Blighty.
Without our parents we couldn’t even afford a flight where the passengers don’t clap when the pilot lands. There is only one conclusion that can be drawn from this sorry tale. Parental guidance is sometimes a necessary evil.