My first holiday without my parents was to Florence, Italy on an A-Level History trip. Though I had been on year 6 and year 8 camp, going on a plane, to a new, foreign country seemed like a whole different ballgame. I am very scared of planes so was anxious to go. However, I was also really excited at the prospect of going on holiday, with my friends (and the history teachers, of course) to a city I’ve always wanted to go to and do nothing but look at history. (FYI I’m doing a history degree and although I specialize in America not Italy, I think this trip had a pretty big influence on why I’m here studying the past.)
We were supposed to be doing our coursework on the Italian Renaissance, hence the location, but I had deviated slightly to study the Black Death, which occurred in the same period. Despite efforts to go to medical museums and more, they were all closed, so I had to rely on paintings instead. However, I gained much more than historical knowledge on that trip. As cheesy as it sounds, I gained loads of confidence, real-life experience and got a bit more comfortable with planes.
As well as visiting some fascinating places like the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery, the highlight for me was The Duomo. Not just because it was beautiful and interesting, but because my experience there taught me that anything is possible. I was most excited to visit The Duomo and was really looking forward to climbing to the top with my friends, but one thing was stopping me. Fear. I am terrified of both heights and confined spaces, so the thought of climbing up around 500 steps, which were tight and spiral-staircase-like, to stand high above Florence filled me with dread. But I knew I wanted to do it; I had to do it. And all of this was without the safety net of my parents.
I got about halfway when I had a panic attack. It was hot outside but even hotter inside the narrow, brick tunnels, and I was scared. When you enter the inner dome, you have to walk around the outside and, though there is a railing, I was terrified of falling, especially since it is almost impossible not to look down. There were about ten points where I said I’d turn around. Sometimes I physically couldn’t, the stairs were one way. I was trapped. Other times, with the help of friends, I was determined to get to the top. I eventually got to a little set of stairs with a trapdoor. I had made it. I opened the door and my friends let me go first. The sun and fresh air hit me and I felt amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had such an intense sense of self-belief, accomplishment and pride.
Thinking about my experience in The Duomo reminds me that I really can do anything I put my mind to. I carry this experience with me everywhere, so much so I’m hoping to get the Cathedral tattooed onto my wrist. Whenever I’m feeling doubtful or unconfident, I remember how scared I was, how many times I tried to turn around, but how I kept going and had one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Overall, my trip to Florence was one of the best I’ve ever been on. Everything I looked at was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the attractions were fascinating. I learned a lot about history, about independence, about bravery, but most importantly, I learned to believe in myself.