Wow, since my arrival in Florence time has flown by so fast! Being reintroduced to the Tuscan lifestyle is so sweet! My three short days spent in Florence last summer were but a glimpse of all of the amazing virtues of this glorious city. It’s like watching a preview of a really great film as opposed to enjoying the tradition of venturing to a theater to savor in the experience on the silver screen. Here is a look at what study abroad in Florence is like!
After a long and exhausting voyage to Florence, I was given keys to my apartment and put in a cab alone to sweep me off to my homestead. When I arrived at my apartment I lugged my large suitcase and bags down the corridor to the foot of the staircase. I was told my apartment was on the third floor, but in Italy the ground floor is 0, not 1. So with my luggage in tow, up the 4 flights I went! After about a week of climbing these stairs, I’m starting to feel less the impending threat of death upon reaching the top. The best thing about these stairs are that they help to combat the excessive gastronomical indulgence. After battling with the key to the door for about 10 minutes my roommate let me in. I was extremely jet-lagged and hungry but ecstatic to be in my new home! What followed the next day was an excellent walking tour of Florence and an introduction to my school, ACCENT, which is located in the Oltrarno district in Santo Spirito across the river. My apartment is wonderfully located in the center of Florence right by the magnificent Duomo. Its about a 20 minute walk to school every morning which I love because its early and I get to see the city wake up without the haze of crowds.
The day after the walking tour and orientation at school we had to meet at the train station at 8am to embark on our excursion through Chianti to the medieval town of Siena. So, Florence gets all the hype in Tuscany, and it’s naturally understood that it’s amazing, but Siena… Siena is other-worldly amazing. It’s like being put into a time machine and sent back the middle ages! I had no idea that Siena would be so incredibly gorgeous!
The streets vary in elevation taking you steeply up and then down while winding you in different directions throughout the small city. There is a quaint majesty in the air at all times. The town is tucked behind giant walls at the entrance from where the view of Tuscany is absolutely stunning. Rolling hills, crops and fields… the expansive landscape is truly magnificent. Once you breach the city’s border its just one breathtaking building after another. Everything is very clean and quiet and overall an absolute treasure. I would try to describe the Cathedral but my words, no matter how articulate or vivid, would simply hinder the scale of such beautiful construction. The school arranged a tour of the city as well as a tour of the Publico, both of which were informational and interesting. Following the tour, my roommates Sandra and Kylie and I tucked down a tiny little street just off of Piazza del Campo and ate at an adorable little patio cafe where I tried the traditional dish of Siena: Pici Pasta. Pici pasta is a fat spaghetti and this place made it fresh daily. I ordered Pici Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper) and it was hands down the best pasta dish I have ever had. Accompanied with Tuscan white wine and freshly baked bread, the meal was one I will never forget! Following Siena we headed to San Gimignano, a tiny hill town surrounded by 13th century medieval architecture. This was a sweet little gem with sky scraping towers that remain from the middle ages when people used to build their homes upwards to escape to higher ground in the event of oncoming threats. This creates a very unique vision as San Gimignano is a place where you can see the preserved towers that once were prevalent throughout Italy but have been torn down due to wars and conflict.
The following day we had to meet at the Duomo at 8:15am! I think my school was trying to wear us out so we’d be too tired to do anything but go to school on Monday. We climbed the 463 steps to the cupola of the cathedral where we feasted our eyes on the view of Florence which, even the second time around was magnificent. One of my professors illustrated the lay of the land which helped us students get acquainted with the city.
On Monday I officially started school. I think because we hit the ground running and had been in vacation mode, it was hard to start school. That said, when your school is in a gorgeous Palazzo featuring ornate ceiling frescoes and historical architecture, it’s not too shabby! I began my studies of Dante’s Inferno and Architectural Graphing. I’m enjoying both subjects very much as they pertain very evidently to the world around me. On Tuesday after class my professors led us on an intense walk up to San Miniato al Monte, a church situated even higher than the popular views from Piazzale Michelangelo, to see Monk’s singing the beautiful Gregorian chant. After such an exciting but exhausting week this experience was truly rejuvenating and serene and just what I needed to propel me into my second week in Florence.
What a whirlwind this has been, I can’t believe a week has already flown by! I’m truly savoring every moment of this educational, emotional and spiritual journey. The Tuscan sun has intensified and the tourists have flocked to Florence so tomorrow my friends and I are escaping to the coast of Italy to bask in the pastel paradise of Cinque Terre, on the Italian Riviera!
Til next time, Arrivaderci!
For more on my trip to Italy, check out Cinque Terre, the Italian Riviera’s Colorful Paradise!