Photos by Emmet Battenberg, (University of Wisconsin-Madison) CET Florence, Spring 2017
In every city, there is the touristy, clean and almost fake part that most people want to see but there is also the other side that is where the cities citizens’ hangout and allows a much different side of the city to come through. In every city there is the dark, smoky, grimy underbelly that has its own feel and amazing things to offer and embracing street art and graffiti is essentially the embracing of that.
I have stated before in this blog that one of the things I love to do in Florence is run around the hills just outside of the city as it allows for a release from the hectic city and some great views. This is just another example of something that can happen while you run into the countryside without an idea of where you’re going. This can be kind of scary and unnerving but isn’t that what traveling is all about anyways?
Study abroad is special because it allows you to live in another country for a semester and that time really allows you to feel like you become a part of the city and not just be a tourist however every once and a while you have to indulge in those touristy activities like going on a five hour Vespa tour through the chianti countryside.
You also cannot forget that those very touristy spots are that way for a reason. Michelangelo’s David is one of if not the most recognized sculptures in the world and for good reason. Maybe it’s just the hype built up around it but when you turn the corner to see him, your stomach drops just a bit and even if you have no sense of or taste for art, masterpieces like David are a must see.
One of my favorite things about Florence is the architecture of the city itself. It is unlike anything I have seen before and unlike anything in the United States. The many arches and layers of buildings, nearly on top of one another, allow for some amazing sights when the lighting is just right. And the most magical thing about them is that they can happen just as you turn the corner of a street you’ve walked many times before, all you have to do is keep your eyes open.
At the end of March our program had Spring Break which allows for some amazing adventures and about a week and a half of uninterrupted exploration. For my break, I traveled to Spain and Morocco. As we moved south towards our destinations, you could almost see the culture change and mix and that is evident here with the architecture of Spain; the buildings look similar to that of Italy but with just a bit of Spanish flair and color.
One of the best ways to travel in my opinion is through the use of Airbnb. It allows you to get a feel of the city and culture that you are staying in, not to mention meeting actual residents who have great tips on where to eat and what to do. We stayed in an apartment in the middle of a small town near the southern tip of Spain and on the top of the building we were subject to this spectacular view of the city rising up behind us.
To reach the second stop of our journey, Morocco, we needed to board a ferry and travel across the strait of Gibraltar. The boat across was filled with families returning to their homes in Africa and others like us simply exploring. To get across the strait, we needed to be checked through immigration and it was an exhaustive ordeal as you can see from the body language of this elderly woman awaiting her family to get passed through.
Traveling to Morocco was one of the most interesting experiences of my life because it was the farthest from American culture that I had ever ventured. The country is Islamic and this is evident in almost everything you see, hear and do there. It isn’t strange then, that one of the most beautiful things in the cities we traveled to were their mosques as seen here.