Google maps. A blessing and a curse. If it and I had a Facebook relationship status it would be “it’s complicated.” Yes, I just went there.
I rely heavily on Google Maps; I did when I first moved to NYC and maybe even moreso here in Florence where the whole world is not just a grid with numbered streets. Here, we get fun names starting with Via and ending in Death. Well not actually, but you know what I mean. The streets are narrow and, keyword, winding. This basically means that you could follow one road and potentially do a huge circle without realizing it, which is super fun, especially when you have a place to be at a strict time.
Take the other night. A few classmates and I were lucky enough to win free tickets to see “La Boheme” at the Opera di Firenze. Luckily, the theater is a pretty straight shot down the river from my homestay. When I looked at the directions, the little arrow told me that I would walk along the river, through the park, take a sharp right to cross it, then another right to get to the front doors. It reminded me of getting to the Met from the west side of the park. I’ve done that plenty of times successfully, so I wasn’t particularly worried for this. I probably should have been.
It all started fine; I took a nice blinding walk by sunset along the river (never forget your sunglasses, kids) and reached the park. I walked up and then drew out my Google Maps. I probably should have taken a screenshot of the route; service was nearly nonexistent, but luckily I could see the beautiful opera house above the trees, so I figured I’d just follow it. This took me on a grand adventure.
First I had to seek out paths upon which to actually walk, since I myself am not a vehicle. The easiest route there had no sidewalks and again, was way too narrow for me to even entertain the idea of just squeezing to the side of the road. So I took a left down a beaten path behind a large field. I seemed to be walking next to the guarded premises of a town pool; the smell of pee was strong. Finally I got to the end of the building and saw no other choice than to take a right down an even sketchier path; the kind you walk down in the middle of the night during summer camp. I felt pretty ridiculous considering my fancy outfit. Thank God I wasn’t wearing heels.
As I walked, I crossed my fingers that this path would actually lead me back to the real world. As I approached what looked like the back of the opera house, I saw high fences but no entrance yet. To be honest, I was barely nervous. I was ready to jump a fence if I had to. Again, so glad I was not wearing heels (or a dress for that matter.) I saw in the distance an end point, but I had no clue if I’d be met with a large fence there as well. Fingers crossed. Circulation in fingers lost. Damn you, Google Maps.
Luckily I made it with time to spare, and the opera was beautiful. Though I wasn’t pleased with how I got there, it was the destination that mattered this time around. But on the way home, Google conveniently gave me a LEGITIMATE route home; no backfield walking necessary. It’s a love hate relationship to say the least.