Photos by Isabella Verga, (George Washington University), Student Correspondent for CET Florence, Fall 2022
I spent the entire taxi ride from the Florence airport to my apartment staring out the window in disbelief and having to say to myself, “You’re finally here. You are actually in Florence” . The surreal feeling of being here was amplified by the beauty of the city around me—driving through the cobblestone streets to my apartment and seeing the Duomo in the distance. I had looked forward to this moment for so long.
However, after I got past the initial shock, I noticed that it did not yet fully feel like I was there because I had not had my “living experiences” just yet. Within the first few days, my roommates and I discussed how we felt like we had been seeing more college students than local residents. Even on our first morning on our way to orientation, two Americans who worked for travel companies stopped us in the street to advertise their free coffee event for study abroad students (I guess we stuck out).
Pictured is the view from the edge of the farmer’s market at Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. As you can see, it is down the street from the Duomo so it is a bit more separated from the crowds.
These first few days have been a whirlwind of orientation events, socializing with my peers in CET, and taking pictures of every step. At the beginning of the semester, it is natural that students abroad wants to meet other students like them. In an environment that is new, exciting, overwhelming, and an ocean away from home, it is comforting to have fellow American students to experience these eye-opening times with. We are there for each other to help decipher the menus in Italian and to navigate the maze of small streets. At the same time, however, I have found myself craving further Italian immersion.
Florence is an extremely popular city for tourists and students, but that also means that the city knows how to cater to foreigners and what they are used to. There are even places to go out that are “American-themed” and are filled to the brim with students.
However, my favorite moments so far have been when my roommates and I have stumbled upon a bar or restaurant where everyone around us is speaking Italian. Not only does it advance my learning experience, but it also makes me feel like I am living in Florence and not just vacationing here. It is more exciting to find somewhere the residents of Florence actually go versus where all of the vacationing foreigners flock to.
A delicious panino from Pino’s Sandwiches! I look forward to trying out different sandwich shops and finding my favorite spot.
I am quite far from feeling like a resident just yet. Even after three and a half months, I might still stick out like a sore thumb. Nonetheless, part of the reason I am so ecstatic to study abroad in Florence is because it is more than just a whirlwind, grandiose vacation that goes by in a flash. I get to have a life here with my favorite hole-in-the-wall spots and an apartment with an old, beautiful door knocker. I love our apartment with its unique characteristics like the elegant, winding staircase up to our door and the clothesline to hang laundry out the window. I love the small bakery on our secluded side street with not a lot of people around, and I love the produce market that is open every weekday behind our apartment.
This is a glimpse at Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio which is the market around the corner from my apartment. The market is open every day of the week except for Sundays.
After my trip to the grocery store this weekend, I wanted to explore a bit and get lost on my own to find somewhere new. The store was right near the Duomo so I walked in the opposite direction away from the crowds, and I stumbled upon a farmers’ market in Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. I strolled around past the stands of ripe figs and samples of baked goods, and I saw small Italian children begging their moms for their favorite biscotti. It reminded me of my home in a way, because it was a scene of families doing their weekly Sunday trip to their favorite local spot to buy goods for the week.
On my first day of class I visited a bakery recommended to me by a friend (Forno Top Bakery). I wanted to try a pastry I had not had before, so I got this “Pan di Ramerino” which I later found out is a traditional Florentine rosemary bread flavored with rosemary and raisins (it was delicious).
These moments of everyday life in Italy are what make a program like CET special. Attending school in Florence provides more than just a glimpse at the famous sites to see. I actually had similar feelings in my first-year of college going to school in Washington DC—another tourist city. While I of course enjoy the monuments and museums that DC has to offer, living in DC has helped me to find more niche and authentic experiences that go beyond the tourists’ eye. As I slowly start to learn my way around this city without a map, I look forward to documenting my favorite insider encounters and sharing it with you!
My first sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo where I enjoyed the street performers and people dancing around them!