Even after a month in Florence, I am still amazed by the city’s inherent beauty and timeless landscape (visible from Piazzale Michelangelo). Looking around the city, I not only see the material of history and art textbooks, but I am also reminded of the memories I have made thus far. I am grateful to have lived through certain experiences, albeit tainted with spontaneity and chaos, which will one day morph into nostalgic anecdotes.
One of the best ways to immerse oneself in a city is to simply explore. In each lesson of my sketching course, we visit a different Florentine landmark and practice on-site drawing. We recently visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, where the symmetrical arches served as the perfect blueprint for our respective drawings.
In all honesty, Italy’s renowned cuisine is one of the main reasons why I chose to study in Florence. So naturally, I enrolled in a “Food and Culture” elective. This course consists of weekly tastings in which we traverse outside of the classroom. We have visited Mercato Centrale, as well as Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, Gelateria Ermini, and Pasticceria Nencioni (my personal favorite).
Because of my role as a Student Correspondent, I have tried to sign up for most of the activities that CET organizes (even if it is out of my comfort zone). One such activity was a 5-mile sunset hike to the hilltop Castello Nipozzano on a random Tuesday. The idealistic setting and accompanying aperitivo made me forget the mileage we accumulated, as well as the fact that I had an Italian language quiz the next morning.
Funnily enough, my roommates and I often get Asian food when we go out to eat. Pictured below is a rare instance in which we dined at a local Italian bisteccheria. The restaurant’s ambience and pici alla carbonara were unmatched. Its quintessential slow approach, candlelight, and late-night atmosphere urged us to savor dolce far niente (sweetness of doing nothing).
On the topic of late-night eats, you can often find my roommates and I perched on the curb below Vivoli’s neon pink light. Vivoli, Florence’s oldest gelateria, lies at a dangerous proximity to our apartment (in the sense that it has become our go-to spot to satiate our sweet tooth). Vivoli’s wine window and affogato, supposedly the best in the city, are also a point of attraction for many tour groups.
Staying within the Tuscan border, CET organized a day-long excursion to Grotta del Vento and Lucca. We started the morning walking through the stalactites of the “wind cave.” This was followed by more sight-seeing in the charming city of Lucca and free gelato to end the day!
CET also organized a day trip to Perugia in the central Umbria region. We split into two groups and toured the Etruscan ruins that trace the city’s foundation. Once the tour concluded, my roommates and I embarked on a mini photoshoot in the picturesque cloisters (middle image). We later joined the other students for sandwiches at Antica Salumeria Granieri Amato in the city center.
We had some free time to independently explore Perugia before heading to Casa del Cioccolato Perugina. It felt like a scene out of Willy Wonka to watch the factory’s assembly lines and even get the chance to dabble as chocolatiers for an afternoon. We learned the rich history of Perugia as the city of chocolate, more specifically, as the city of Baci. Every piece of Baci, or chocolate kisses, are packaged with a sweet love note!
My apartment is a mere walking distance from the iconic Piazza Santa Croce. I still find it hard to believe that this is the view I pass on my daily route to school. The basilica is truly stunning at all times of the day, and even more so during golden hour. Adjusting to life in Florence has been difficult at times, but going out of my comfort zone to immerse myself in the culture and activities has proven to be rewarding.