Looking back. As I am writing this, I am literally looking back at Florence, a view from my plane that just took off. Wow. What a semester. I can recall back to the first day that my mom said goodbye to be in front of I’Ghibellini. As I walked away, wiping away tears from my eyes, I could only imagine what this semester would be. And what happened in Florence exceeded my expectations. My first day seemed like yesterday, but everything that happened this semester feels like years ago (a feeling which I cannot explain). Everyone told me to be in the moment and enjoy everything because it flies by. I was like yeah yeah, I know, okay. But it is so true; everything flew by.
I cannot believe I am currently on the plane to CGD, then to JFK. I’m so excited to go to my home, friends, and family. But I’m so sad to leave my new home, new friends, and new family behind. I have enjoyed every sad, happy, scared, anxious, feeling I have ever felt on this journey, because it was all part of the experience. I have always wanted to study abroad and I can so proud of myself for doing it and accomplishing it. I can check if off my bucket list.
This experience was so worth it. The things I’ve learned about other people and myself, the things I’ve went through, and the things that I have seen, you will never learn from a classroom or textbook. It’s a journey that you, yourself has to go on.
I grew into a new Emily. I grew into a new person. I will take this new person, everything I have learned, and live it out in New York City. I will notice the new adventures that home has to offer. I will cherish my relationships with those I have missed so much. I will always remember that people I encountered, the places I have traveled, and the cultures I have learned about.
As I am moving forward by looking back, life never seemed so good. Returning to everyday life will be hard, especially after my semester, which seemed like a four-month vacation. I feel as though I have changed but college has stayed the same. Going back to college should be easy. You are back on campus with your friends and adjusting back to everyday life. But something might hold you back from these precious moments. Friends back home might not understand the transformation I went through. I know it will feel nostalgic for Florence many nights or when I am stressed but I will embrace it with an open mind.
NYU prepared me and made my experience amazing. They school was beautiful, the resources helpful, and the events they planned were fun. I am especially grateful for putting me into an apartment with people I now call my closest friends.
What happens when you leave your heart and mind on your study abroad trip? Europe is everything the United States is not. I know I will miss the Italian language as the background music to my days, and I will miss my jet-setting days on Ryanair throughout Europe. My heart is currently in Europe, in Florence to be exact. The memories with the country I fell in love with will always be mine to keep, and no one can take that away from me.
So I want to say a final bye Florence, bye friends, bye Florence family, I will be back one day to get you.
Getting advice from friends, family, acquaintances, etc. about things to do and see in Florence was very helpful, but you will never fully be able to appreciate those things unless you experience them yourself. So here is my list, of things to see, do, eat, and appreciate while you’re in Florence. Feel free to listen to the advice, experience my experiences or just throw this post away and make your own list.
Lets start with food because food is the most important aspect of Italy.
- Italians never, ever, ever, rarely, do take out. They believe the food is to be freshly made and eaten on the spot. They also judge you a little when you ask if you can take the left overs home.
- Eat at I’Ghibellini. I went here at least once a week to get the Inverno Pizza and Spinach. The Inverno pizza is cheese, prosciutto, and truffle creama (best pizza I have ever eaten!) The spinach is filled with garlic, butter, olive oil, salt, and love. It is like a warm blanket covering you in goodness.
- Gusta Pizza is another yummy pizza place across the Arno River; if you are lucky your pizza is made into a heart, which means you will find love.
- Eat during aperitivo (like happy hour but with a food buffet and drinks) Italian style.
- Eduardo’s has the best gelato. Always eat gelato from places where it is covered, never from where you can see the gelato in an open case.
- Try Magdem, where you can create your own magdem bar
- Eat at La Giostra for the best steak in the world, it is very expensive though and make a reservation ahead of time.
- Climb to Piazza Michelangelo for the best views of Florence and to enjoy some drinks.
- Go to Noe, Pino’s or All’Antico for the best 4 euro Panini’s, I ate at least two a week.
Things to see (in no specific order)
- Piazza Michelangelo
- Acadamia (David Statue)
- Duomo + Tower
- Mercato Central
- Leather Markets
- Shop at Conad for food and toiletries.
- Shop at the 99 cent store, you can literally buy anything for 99 cents (food, snacks, drinks, toiletries, dishes, knickknacks, etc.)
- Always go to the leather market and bargain for a lower price than they tell you.
- Always look out for pick-pocketers; they are the most prevalent in all of Europe. The statistic is that 1 out of every 3 students will get something stolen (phone, wallet, money, passport, etc. I have seen it all).
- If you are homesick, I promise you will make it through; it is an extremely short four months. It flew by in a blink of an eye. You might not think so at first but on your flight home you are going to wonder where the time went. And make sure you do everything you want to, because you do not want to regret anything.
The months and weeks leading up to your abroad experience, I suggest you research the things you want to do, the places you want to travel, and what you want to accomplish. Make a budget plan because you will spend a lot more than you anticipated. Always use Ryanair or EasyJet to fly in and out of Pisa or Bologna for cheap prices. Always remember that things may not go as you planned, but that is all part of the experience, something you signed up for. And finally remember to let go of your old self, prepare for a new self, relax, study hard and most importantly have fun. Enjoy and take every opportunity thrown at you with a smile. It is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity!
To say I have been transformed is an under-statement. Florence has done me well; I have learned so much about myself, my thoughts, my feelings, my relationships. I have grown to be thankful for what I have left back home. Studying abroad is just like its name; you attend class, write papers, and cram for exams. But the truth is, it is so much more. What happens outside of the classroom changes what happens inside of you.
Leaving your parents, home, friends, and your security net transforms your independence. I have always been an independent person, but it has grown in ways I never knew existed. Yes, technology has eliminated those barriers of needing that home feeling but time zone differences and cultural differences take that security away. It is up to the person to find a new routine, in a new place. The encounters with the local Panini places, trying to order in Italian, or having to use an actual map to find the subway because your data doesn’t work, are skills that my parents and professors have instilled in me throughout the past twenty years. My parents have let go and have trusted that my wisdom and intelligence will get me through my problems.
Not only has my independence grown, but also I have gained confidence. I have gained confidence in myself as a person, friend, and student. I have learned my strengths, which have thrown my insecurities aside. I have gained confidence in myself as a person and have learned what I need to succeed in life. The friends I have made, the memories I have made, will forever last me a lifetime, but it also makes me appreciate my relationships back home. The friends I have constantly Facetimed and texted, it is not the same as being with them in person, and now I will forever treasure those moments.
Studying abroad is like an addiction, buying those plane tickets, train tickets, and the gaining the stamps in your passport has made me unapologetically addicted to travel. Learning the different ways of doing things, like hang drying my clothes or walking everywhere, expanded my horizons to see things through a new lens. I have seen America, for the good and the bad, as the rest of the world has always looked at it.
Home is a state of mind, don’t get me wrong I miss my big queen bed back in New York, but to make memories and accomplish things with my friends, Florence became my home (a reason why our group chat is called FlorenceFam). I have transformed and made a home, thousands of miles away, with people I never thought I would meet.
I have always known how to do this, but I have learned how to do it more: living life that way it was meant to be lived. My days are full of enjoyment with a new adventure every day. When I go home I want to continue this lifestyle. I learned a new language, discovered a new personality within myself. I will take this new perspective, new way of living, and what I have learned about myself and apply it to every corner of my life back home. Studying abroad has definitely changed my life, in more ways then one.
To go off of my last blog post, continuing with the journey of my fall break to Amsterdam (Netherlands), Krakow (Poland), Athens and Santorini (Greece), I want to talk about my experience in Athens. I’ve never really had a bad experience while studying abroad, except the few times I have encountered rude Italians/people or felt homesick, but this one experience is a memorable one.
After two and a half days in Poland, my friends and I flew to Rome, spent the night, and left early the next day for Athens. I had a horrible/amazing time in Athens, let me explain. Athens is beautiful, the old city, the modern city, everything about it. But you can definitely see that Greece is going through a hard economic time.
I usually don’t post about where I stay, unless it was an amazing or horrible experience
My boyfriend and I picked out an Airbnb, which was extremely close to the Acropolis and all of the sites in Athens. It looked pretty good in the pictures and the reviews were decent. It was a really cheap place, about $38 for the night, and we really only need a place to stay. Well…
The location is great, the rooms are okay, and do not really look like the pictures (it’s more run down). When I got there Dimitris (the owner?) made me wait about 30 minutes for his friend to come and check me in, which in hindsight wasn’t a big deal but we were in a rush because we only had one day in Athens. When we were given our room it was still dirty from the people before, they hadn’t changed or washed the sheets. And the previous guests bags were still in the room with their clothes in the bathroom. They told us to leave our bags in this room with other people’s bags but we didn’t feel comfortable leaving our bags knowing that other people have access to them. Also the chair was broken and there was no light bulb or shade on the lamp. They moved us to another room and we were told we would have to pay 10 more euros (for their mistake). After talking/arguing they decided to give us the room for the original price. The chair was broken as well. The floor was dirty in all of the rooms; it turned our feet grey (even after a shower). As we were getting ready for dinner we found cockroaches in our shoes and bags (multiple). That was the last straw and we decided to stay in a hotel instead. The wifi didn’t work so we had to find a nearby place with working wifi to find a new hotel. I will never come back to this place again. This is his link on Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/20560417
Out of the 11 Airbnbs I have stayed at, I have never had a problem except for this one.
On the bright side, we booked a room with the Best Western, in which they upgraded us to the penthouse room for free, for no reason. It was like someone was watching over us! We got to the room, walked out onto the deck, which had an incredible view of The Acropolis, lit up at night. It will definitely be a forever lasting memory in my mind. We got a bottle of wine, some take out, brought the couch outside and stared at the view. It was definitely worth getting cockroaches in our clothes and shoes for that view!
Traveling to other places have good and bad aspects. You just have to learn to make good happen out of bad no matter where you are or what happens. Remember to stay calm and relax and things will fall into place.
During my fall break, I had an amazing opportunity to spend a little over two weeks traveling the world. My friends and I traveled to Amsterdam (Netherlands), Krakow (Poland), Athens and Santorini (Greece). But for this blog post I want to write about my experience at Auschwitz. The first place I traveled to was Amsterdam, to see the Anne Frank House amongst other things, which was a very moving experience. The second place was Poland to see Auschwitz, which was a haunting experience but well worth the visit.
Krakow was a very sombering trip. The city was amazing, the food incredible, and the prices cheap. But we traveled to Auschwitz-Birkenau for the day, which was an easy bus ride away. That was an incredible, humbling, tearful trip, one which I do not know honestly if I would ever do again. But I am grateful I did it, and I believe everyone should have the opportunity to go and see a time, which was part of our history. Going to Auschwitz-Birkenau is a tribute to those who passed away. We are honoring them, how the millions upon millions of people were treated and forced to live for years. It is a tribute to their lives, to continue to share their stories and let no one forget them and the horrors they suffered.
I traveled to Auschwitz in October, thinking it would be a quiet time but it was very busy. The cold weather matched the moods of everyone around us. Auschwitz is divided into three sections. Auschwitz I is filled with red brick buildings, lots of foliage and is the original concentration camp. Auschwitz II- Birkenau is a combination of the concentration and extermination camp, it is mostly grasslands and ruins, with a few wooden buildings standing. These are the only two parts of Auschwitz that you can visit. Auschwitz III-Monowitz is a labor camp to staff an IG Farben Factory, which is no longer in existence.
Auschwitz I was a shocking experience, which once held about 11,000 prisoners. To see the floor to ceiling windows of rooms filled with human hair, shoes, suitcases, clothing, baby clothes, glasses, and more was almost unbearable. Many people understandably started to cry. Many people left the tour feeling upset, and empty. The cruelty and sadism that went on in this prison is incomprehensible. Personally I used to blame Hitler for all of this, because in school when we learned about World War II, Hitler was always named as the bad guy; but there are many other people involved. Hitler and all of his associates/doctors knew what was happening. They had to plan every detail of this camp to make it happen, and the fact that it was multiple people who contributed to this, disgusts me.
Birkenau is huge and desolate, a very different experience than Auschwitz I, once housing 540,000, with 500,000 of them dying in the gas chambers. The size of suffering and murder that happened in that place was beyond comprehension, a very sobering and quiet experience to see it.
The day I visited the camp with my friends, the sun was shining, the birds were flying, the leaves a beautiful fall color, and the buildings a beautiful red brick color. I am almost ashamed to say that the outside was beautiful, because of all the horrors that went on the inside. But Hitler made it this way because he did not want the surrounding town to know what was happening on the inside, even though everyone eventually found out. I thought it was interesting to learn that Hitler took over this little polish town, to build the concentration camp. He made the citizens of this Polish town, Oswiecim (he did not want any evidence in Germany) relocate unless they worked in the food or mechanical industry. People in the town eventually found out the horrors that were occurring and they tried to help the prisoners escape, except if they were caught they were punished to the camp.
I definitely recommend everyone should visit, but be prepared to be deeply affected by it. We can take this disgusting historic event as an opportunity to recognize humankind’s capacity for cruelty and to make sure something similar never happens again.
The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga is an interesting read. This novel is filled with art and self-discovery, two topics I have grown to know since living in Italy. The protagonist is a 29 year old woman, who decides to live in Italy. Margot Harrington is originally from Chicago, a major city, and therefore reminded me of myself.
Coming from New York, I prepared myself for my study abroad experience. I wanted to learn everything there is about Italy, see everything there is, and I wanted to learn about myself. Margot learns about love, religion and comes to terms with harsh memories of her mother.
I identify with Margot because not only have we both learned about ourselves while in Italy, but we have both been involved academically here. Margot works with Harvard students, professors, and leaders, teaching others about her book restoration knowledge. I am taking classes, learning about Italy and furthering my knowledge. Margot also meets a man, who changes her life. This man restores paintings and through him Margo finds a convent to stay in long term. Similarly, I have meet many people in Florence, who have helped to shape the person I am becoming.
While Margot is not religious, she develops relationships with the nuns and grows to respect and admire them. Margot finds a pornographic book from a famous artist, which was banned. Because this is the last copy, Margot is having the best time of her life restoring it while trying to protect the book. While her adventures are happening, Margot is growing as a person and learning about love.
While I don’t have the same experiences as Margot, my other experiences are helping me grow as a person. When I explore Florence, and meet other people, I learn about them and a little something about myself. Italy and its culture has taught me patience and relaxation. Their lifestyle told me to slow down in life, and enjoy each moment, instead of rushing from point A to B.
Coming to Italy at first was not easy. Leaving my friends, family, lifestyle and routine behind was hard. I embraced the new adventures that were about to unfold, but that did not change the fact I was extremely sad at first being here. But my adventures and Italy helped to turn that around, and shed light into my life. Just like Margot, after many years was starting to enjoy her life again.
Even though bad things in life happen, like when Margot was betrayed, or when I am feeling extremely homesick, we have both found the will inside of ourselves to go on with life. Instead of staying in bed and crying about it, we stick to our original goals, for me that is having the adventure of a life time and taking part in every experience I can. For Margot that is getting the rare book to the auction and using that money to help the nuns at the convent.
We both, as strong, independent women, find a way to accomplish our goals. For me, my story is still happening. For Margot, her story ends with the book. But, with the help of Margot’s story, I have learned to appreciate my family, friends, and home on an entirely different level, because Margot has learned to appreciate that as well. Seeing as she had a good ending, I am hoping I too, will have a great next five weeks, with a great ending.
The excerpt for The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg states “The Great Good Place argues that “third places” – where people can gather, put aside the concerns of work and home, and hang out simply for the pleasures of good company and lively conversation – are the heart of a community’s social vitality and the grassroots of democracy.”
Most people find their place. Whether it be a cafe, bar, park, etc. they all have a place they can escape to and think. Mine is different, it would either be my favorite machine at the gym, or the loft in my apartment. My apartment is very different from all of my friend’s apartment here in Italy. They all have a one story place with bathrooms, bedrooms, and a kitchen somewhere mixed in. My suitemates and I were fortunate to get an upstairs room.
This room includes two dining room tables with four chairs each, three couches and a TV (that doesn’t work). I escape to this place. I do homework in this place. I FaceTime in this place. This place has become a sacred place to me outside of my bed. When I come home from class at 1pm, if I am not napping I am in this place. One of the walls is lined with all windows, staring outside into the Florence sky and Florence buildings. When it is a beautiful sunny day, the room is lit and warmed up by the suns rays, so no lights are needed. I open the windows for the slight, cool breeze, and now that it is fall and getting colder, the mosquitos are almost bearable.
This is the place where I gather with my friends at night to relax and talk about our days. This is the place where we invite all of our friends over to hang out and socialize. This place can be a peaceful sanctuary or a loud, fun gathering place.
I love going out and exploring the city, I find new places to go to and new things to see. I have always dreamed about going to a cafe, making friends with the barista who will remember my coffee order and make it every time I walk in. But that’s has never happened to me. I believe it’s because of my indecisiveness. I change up my coffee order based on my mood. I change up my favorite food, based on the day or my craving. I could never just have one drink every day. I guess places are the same for me.
Despite always retreating to my apartment, I always change up where I want to be based on what I’m feeling. Sometimes I want to sit by the Arno and read a good book, or fall asleep in the sun. Sometimes I want to drink a cappuccino and eat a croissant at the local cafe. Sometimes I want to sit on the steps of the Duomo and people watch. It all depends on my mood, but you can most likely find me in the loft.
There is no certain rule as to what your “place” can and should be. It is up to the person, up to how they feel and it’s their own personal special niche. It can be as random and unique as you want it. So I challenge you to go out and find your place, and don’t make it a cliché coffee-shop, let it be a random spot in the sun, a changing room in a clothing store, or a towel lying on the beach.
Ever since I can remember I have always been interested in fashion. I can tell where a person is from based on what they are wearing – my friends and family call that a gift. So naturally being near Milan, one of the fashion capitals in the world, I was fascinated by Italian clothing. I shopped to fit into the style here, and I embraced my new transformation. Anywhere I walk, I look at people – from head to toe – (they definitely think I’m checking them out) but I am just curious to see what they are wearing. These are the things I have noticed.
Uniforms are designed by Armani – just kidding, but maybe actually?
Women take dressing very seriously, a sense of pride in putting themselves together, one feature that I definitely possess. To blend in here, is to stand out. Everyone is dressed very well with perfectly coordinated outfits, usually wearing soft, earth tones, black, white and no loud bright colors. Recently as fall has started the beige and cream have gone away, yet grey and white are starting to appear.
The stylish men wear suits, or some variation. No baggy and flamboyant print is ever seen by locals. The women wear jeans, very classy jeans. The bottom of the jeans are a little wide and taper near the calf and feature a trendy, aged color. We cannot forget the jean jackets and skirts as well!
After talking with some tourist I learned that nailpolish is only worn for special occasions. Italian women love to look sexy but this does not mean with less clothing. Its about keeping their bodies fit, wearing slim-cut clothing with a classy finish. When in doubt go with elegance. Many Italian women dress with an outfit that can take them from office to a nice dinner.
We also cannot forget about the seasons. Having lived through summer and fall here, I have noticed a difference. Many people, male and female, pull out their scarves during the fall. One can be purchased at San Lorenzo outdoor or the Procellino markets. You can also use these to cover shoulders while going into a church and they make fantastic gifts! One thing to remember is to refrain from wearing tank tops for the churches or other sacred places. This is seen as an act of disrespect. And always pack an umbrella! It might look sunny but start pouring.
Shoe of choice here in the summer and fall are Stan Smiths for the younger generation. Either white and black, the orignials, or white and green. For the older generation, the woman wear heels, about two inches (due to the cobblestone), or boots with heels. Nice sandals are also worn in the summer while it is all about boots in the fall.
Style and elegance is translated by the overall outfit, not the individual pieces. But the indivudal pieces make the overall outfit.
Italian women almost always wear make-up but it is a very natural look, they have their hair down and eyebrows groomed, with a dash of perfume, that adds to the smell of Florence.
Sunglasses – not only are they stylish and everyone wears them, but they are practical because the sun is shining every season, blinding you.
Eyeitalia states “Bella figura goes well beyond image, visual beauty and presentation…it also is defined by behavior: knowing how to properly and graciously interact with others in any social or public situation. Exhibiting good manners, tact and gentility is an essential component of “cutting a beautiful figure”. This is true with the whole classy/elegance theme of dressing in Italy.
Avoid flip-flops, fanny packs, visors, really really short shorts and skirts. It is not too difficult to fit in and honestly just wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. They will not judge you, just wear something within reason.
Vogue actually came out with an article that I read last week about Florence possibly becoming the fifth fashion capital of the world. It is an interesting read that those interested in fashion might also enjoy http://www.vogue.com/13273909/florence-fashion-capital/.
Through different media outlets, Internet, GPS on the phone, international data plans, online travel agencies and selfie sticks, technology has definitely changed the way we travel today.
Instead of meeting in-person with your travel agent, one now goes online, searches for the best ticket deal, purchases the ticket, and books the rest of the trip online. Itineraries and tickets are now electronic, as well as airline check-in and boarding passes.
Once the traveler has arrived to their destination, they can use their phones as a GPS-guided map and also act as a digital tour guide based on social-network recommendations. When I went to Madrid and Barcelona for a few days, I did not have data, yet I was able to navigate the cities easily. I was able to find a Starbucks or other public place with Wi-Fi and search for my next destination on my GPS. In Madrid I did use a hand-held map to find my destinations because the city was walk-able, but in Barcelona I definitely used my GPS to help with the metro.
Is this the new technology for traveling such an awful thing? I always wonder why people criticize that traveling is now easier. So what if we have it easier, isn’t that a good thing? That means we can spend more time enjoying the sites rather than being lost and figuring out where to go. Converting a piece of paper to a document on the phone is not changing how the document is used. It is just making it more convenient for travelers.
People say that social media has lead to a focus on only oneself, which makes travelers not experience places like they once did, but I believe this is not true. When I post on Facebook that I am in Spain, friends comment with recommendations on places to eat, see, and party (shout out to Opium “# 1 club in Europe”…). And because of their recommendations, I had an amazing time on my trip.
The article “How Will Technology Change the Way We Travel in 2015” on Virgin.com, explains the various changes in different categories. Besides apps, Internet, and social media, technology is about to change majorly in 2015. Bluesmart created a carry-on suitcase with a built-in digit scale that weighs itself, and can be locked by an app on your smartphone. As well as being able to track your luggage via GPS and it will lock if you are separated from your luggage.
We also now receive push notifications on our smartphones that learn our preferences and offer us suggestions. We no longer have to post to Facebook to ask for suggestions.
There are also now apps that have interactive maps with guides, stories, information, and audio tours. No more do we have to pay for the in ear audio guides we rent from the various sites.
In the end traveling is a physical experience. No matter what you use to get around, plan your trip or how you experience it, you are still physically at the place looking at the sites and learning. We are in a different environment and no matter how you traveled it (via technology or non); you will never get the full experience of one living in that place. In the end, this new digital age has brought differences to traveling, but does not make the experience of seeing something new that much different from our ancestors.
Ironically I am sitting on a nine-hour bus to Germany, while reading the novel, A Room With A View, by E. M. Forster, about a Florentine murder. As I have evolved from being immersed into the Florentine life, this novel delivers a different demeanor.
The beginning of this novel, on pages four, five and eight, opens with a cultural difference that all of us who study abroad have to learn, understand, and accept. A man is trying to be polite and give his room to the British woman (Lucy Honeychurch and her cousin Charlotte Bartlett) yet they take it as offensively. They are shocked because strangers trading a room, especially two men to two women, is unheard of. Lucy and Charlotte both act narrow-minded and suspicious (thinking these men wanted to take advantage of them) yet when one is in a new country they need to be open (within safety restrictions).
“Miss Bartlett was started. Generally at a pension people looked them over for a day or two before speaking, and often did not find out that they would “do” till they had gone. She knew that the intruder was ill-bred, even before she glanced t him. He was an old man, of heavy build, with a fair, shaven face and large eyes. There was something childish in those eyes, though it was not the childishness of senility. What exactly it was Miss Bartlett did not stop to consider, for her glance passed on to his clothes. These did not attract her.”
Mr. Emerson continues to shock everyone throughout the rest of the novel with his cultural differences, and acting advanced for his time period.
Page seven also delivers a glimpse into what life in Florence is like “And, indeed, a perfect torrent of information bust on them. People told them what to see, when to see it, how to stop the electric trams, how to get id of the beggars, how much to give for a vellum blotter, how much the place would grow upon them.” The people in Florence are very open to tell you what they recommend you to see. Florentines are very proud of their history, and sites, and they want others to love their culture as much as they do. In the beginning of chapter two, Lucy opens her window to hear chatter, smell fresh air, and see the Arno, hills, sunshine, trees and marble churches. This is typical behavior of Florentines and their tourists. Florence has beautiful sites, smells, and fresh air, many know to take advantage of that. The Italians are depicted as disorderly but good-nature people. Those who have just arrived to Florence are equally confused and mesmerized by the city’s strangeness and beauty.
Later in the novel, Lucy and Miss Lavish get lost, which is a typical touristy experience. They both take the moment to experience an adventure, rather than be saddened by their misgiving. They decided to not ask for directions, or look at their map, and to just drift. This is one of the best ways to experience a new country, which the characters understood.
By the end of the novel, Foster illustrates his own love for the Italian culture given that this novel is mostly about repressed culture and the contrast of different societies. The characters in this novel take on the Tuscan city with the promise of love, happiness, adventure, passion, and fear which are the correct mix of emotions while visiting a new country.
7:15am my alarm goes off, I swing my hand over to smack the thing off. I hear the noise again, its 7:45am, which means I now only have 15 minutes to get ready for class. I jump out of bed, throw my books in my bag, throw my clothes on, and if it’s a good day I brush my hair. I hate Mondays (like the rest of the world); they are the absolute worst. Yes it is the start of a fresh, new week, but it means I have to get up early, turn my brain on, and go to class.
I walk out of my apartment, making sure to close and lock the door behind me. I walk down the million stairs, and walk the 20 minutes to San Marco to catch the bus. It is now 8:31am; the 8:20am bus is late again… what a shocker… We all squeeze into the bus like sardines, and take the ten-minute bus ride to campus.
All the NYU students pile off the bus and walk the two minutes to campus, single file, because the sidewalks are about a foot wide. Once we are at the front gates we show our ids’ to enter the campus. I walk across campus, down and up a steep hill, to get my morning coffee from Villa Ulivi. I sit and talk with friends waiting until my 9am class starts.
After listening to Money & Banking for three hours, yes I pinch myself to stay awake (even with the 15 minute coffee break), I walk back across campus, up and down the hill, to learn Italian for an hour. Once classes are done for the day at 1pm, I head back onto the bus, and arrive back at my apartment. Now I feel like I am free because I have the rest of the day to do what ever and I also have no classes on Tuesday. I quickly make myself breakfast/lunch because I am starving and I watch an episode of Bates Motel. I do homework for a few hours; study for midterms, which are in two weeks, and I take an hour nap. Next I hit the gym for an hour, do my cardio machine and listen to music.
At 6pm I arrive back home, shower, then FaceTime my family, friends, or whoever from back home is willing to talk to me. At 8pm my suitemates (also my friends) and I decide what we want to do for the night. We like to explore and try new dinner places in the city, even though we all agree I’Ghibellini is our favorite restaurant. We always like to try a new dinner, drink, and dessert place. Depending on the day, and the homework situation, we either come back to the apartment and do homework for a few hours, or decide to go out for the night. I fall asleep around 1-2am and drift off into dreamland.
Tuesdays are more or less the same thing, I wake up whenever my body decides too, I work out, shower, make breakfast/lunch and do homework for a while. Once the homework is done, I head out into the city to explore by myself or with friends. Wednesday and Thursday are the same as Monday, except most Thursday nights I leave for the weekend to explore another town in Italy or another country.
Many get bored with a routine but I am the opposite. I need routine to feel normal. When I first came to Florence I was looking forward to developing a routine because that makes me feel most calm. Change is good and often needed, and I get to experience change and break my routine when I leave for the weekend to explore a new place. But it is always comforting knowing I am coming back home to Florence, where I have established a routine and home for myself.
I could feel myself getting anxious and stressed, not about school but my mind was not in a good place. I thought a little stroll might help, so I put on my shoes, put my phone in my purse, said bye to my suitemates and took off. I walked down my three (really six) steep flights of stairs, open the heavy wooden door, and step into the busy streets of Florence, with the sun slowly starting to set. With no destination in mind I headed towards the water.
No matter where you travel each city has a smell. Florence smells like a waft of perfumes, drifting from the stores piled on each side of the street. The busy streets are filled with people casually strolling, not like the hustle bustle sprint/walk of NYC. Florence is telling its residents to take their time, drink a coffee, eat a pastry, go home, take their shoes off and relax.
Besides the smell of perfume, the oily, freshly baked bread for pizza plays with your nose. It entices you, calling your name, making you want to take one little bite, then shovel the whole pizza into your mouth in one gulp; rinsing down the pizza with the fruity delicious wine is just a bonus. If only you could taste my words, taste the truffle oil, prosciutto, cheesy pizza.
The beautiful old buildings radiating with handcrafted details can almost make one feel the presence of those from centuries ago, a short glimpse of the past.
I walk past the Arno, to the Uffizi, a gorgeous jewel of the Renaissance filled with artwork. My next stop the Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore), evidence to the sagacity of the Renaissance. I look at this Cathedral everyday on my way to and from school, and it never stops blowing my mind. The vast gothic structure took two centuries to be finished, many of the architects dying before they could see their completed project. This building is a short journey into the religious and architectural Florentine heritage.
Mercato Centrale is my next destination. An immense indoor market full of Italian cheeses, spices, fruits, veggies, meats and more. I piled into the market with the locals doing their daily grocery shopping, whereas I was just opening my eyes and nose to take in everything it has to offer. I also might have picked up a few gifts for my friends back home, hoping they too can enjoy what I eat everyday.
My stroll has almost turned into a two-hour walk, my mind and body endlessly walking through Florence. As I start to head home, I stop for a cappuccino and gelato of course. My last stop, The Basilica of Santa Croce, in my opinion is one of the most beautiful churches in Florence (and there are over 200 churches). I toured this basilica in my first few days here. This wonderful Franciscan basilica was built at the end of the 13th century, and is a great example of Italian Gothic architecture. The inside holds two chapels painted by Giotto, decorated with frescoes depicting St. Francis. The famous Cappaella de’ Pazzi by Brunelleschi lives here. This basilica is nicknamed The Temple of Italy’s Glory due to the remains of famous artists and thinkers including Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei, Luigi Cherubini, Ugo Foscolo, and many more.
I place my key into my apartment lock and my mind rejuvenated. I feel at peace and relaxed again, all thanks to beautiful Florence and everything this city has to offer. I look forward to falling asleep, waking up the next day, and walking the streets of my new home, Florence.
Learning a language appears on everyone’s bucket list, and I have the opportunity to check off that task. Here is how the daydream goes: strolling through a market filled with fresh fruits and pastries, easily talking with the locals (while also picturing yourself 10 pounds lighter) but that is not how it plays out. This past summer I downloaded Duolingo to help jumpstart my knowledge for this new language but it didn’t help too much.
I don’t know what is worse, not knowing Italian (which is my heritage), or mixing up the language with Spanish every time I talk. I know my ancestors are rolling in their graves and my relatives will be disappointed to know their lineage of Italian culture is dying out with me.
Me, personally, I am trying my hardest to learn the language. I am fascinated with the idea that I can learn a whole new set of words, speak a foreign language, and communicate with those who do not know English. After only nine classes of Italian, I can speak very basic, very broken Italian, and hand gestures do help a lot. The goal is to be able to hold a conversation, and I have three more months to learn how.
It is helpful that most people here speak English, but it also hinders my ability to learn. It is comforting knowing that I can speak my language, instead of being made fun of for my basic knowledge of Italian. Yet I wish I didn’t have that comfort so I’d be forced into the language.
A few weeks ago I drove an hour on a winding road, up to the town of Bertone. This is a very small town, about 40 houses and 100 people, but they are all my relatives. We got out of the car to look at the one small church, which has been around since 1700s. Someone noticed us peeking around and offered us food, wine, and more food. She spoke only Italian, and unfortunately we only spoke English, but after an hour of hand gestures, slowly more people came to chat with us and slowly more people spoke English. After spending three hours on this mountain, my Dad was able to meet four of his second cousins who have lived in Italy on this mountain their whole lives. Yes they have Internet and Facebook, but it wasn’t like that a few years ago. We were shown birth certificates, marriage certificates and the history of our family. And let me tell you, I have some pretty cool relatives. This was a moving experience, for the mere fact that one family, from two different continents, were able to come together, not speaking the same language, but talk for three hours and have an amazing time. After exchanging contact information, we will definitely keep and touch and hopefully I will get to go back and actually communicate with them in Italian; and hopefully some of our relatives will visit America so I can continue to use Italian.
Here are some of my challenges: mixing up fragoles with fragol (look those up), losing people because they talk too fast, trying to wing it and pretend like I know what’s happening (don’t try it, it doesn’t work), and using an expression that is seen as offensive here. But, no matter how much I mess up and look like a fool, I will continue to try because learning a new language and culture is one of the best tasks to complete on your bucket list.
My three friends and I started to plan for our weekend to Pompeii, Capri, and Naples since the Monday before. My roommate and I had difficulties at first buying a ticket… this should have been our warning sign. We tried to use four different cards to purchase tickets on Trenitalia and each time we would get a message reading “Error. Your card has not been charged. Try again.” After giving up and using another site we later checked our bank accounts only to discover we were charged for two tickets, but the train company had no record of us on file for having a ticket. After that was sorted out, the weekend was starting and we boarded our train early Friday morning excited to set off on our adventure.
Once we all arrived to Napoli, we debated whether or not to drop off out bags at the Airbnb we rented, or to just head to Pompeii. We saw a train leaving within the next 20 minutes to Pompeii and decided to just buy our tickets and hop on it. Napoli Centrale station is huge, with many different train companies and terminals. We spent the next 20 minutes trying to find our terminal, asking a few people for directions, none, which were helpful. After missing the train we decided to head to the Airbnb drop off our bags, and rest a little until the next train departure. This was just the start of our troubles.
Arriving back at the train station, tickets in hand, we searched another thirty minutes looking for our terminal. We asked a policeman what to do and he told us to go over to the other train company and talk to them. The other train company told us that we have to go upstairs to get to our train, so we headed upstairs. We asked the information desk where to go, and they told us to go downstairs and talk to the company we had previously talked to. After running around in circles, walking up and down more stairs than we wished too, missed the next train departure, we finally discovered (on our own, with the help of no one) that our train terminal was closed and no trains would be leaving our of that station. Why the machine had sold us a ticket for that terminal blows my mind, and after asking about ten different people for help with no one helping us really made me start to rethink this culture and the people in it.
Fortunately we were able to get a refund for our unusable tickets, buy new usable tickets, find the new terminal and be on our way to Pompeii four hours later than we originally planned.
One of the reasons I choose study abroad in Italy was to experience a new culture. In no way do I compare it to America because they are two very different places, yet I have a hard time understanding the people here. Yes I am Italian; yes I am an Americanized Italian, and I have only had bad experiences with the people here. I find them rude, lazy and unhelpful. I don’t mean to sound harsh, and I know not all Italians are like that, but that is what I have encountered so far. I know they do not do it to be malicious, this is just their culture and I am a visitor in it, therefore I am trying to accept, learn, and understand them. I have never felt more of a foreigner in a new country than I did that weekend.
The rest of the weekend was filled with beautiful views, relaxing afternoons, and interesting tours. But the whole time I had an odd feeling, I was homesick. Not for New York but for Florence; a place where I can get lost but look up in the sky, spot the Duomo and know where I am. Sunday night I was happy to be back in my bed, happy to be back with my suitemates, who have become my new family, and happy to be back in a place that felt the most familiar since I’ve come to Italy.
Hello Florence, old friends, new friends, family, and who ever else has time to read my blog. My whole life my parents have encouraged me to try new experiences and venture beyond Greenwich, CT. Whether it be asking a stranger for the time at age five, or traveling on a three hour plan ride to visit my grandma on my own at age ten. These experiences have turned me into the person I am today. I am the up-most happiest when I am traveling. I crave for adventure because it has made me, me. When I am in a new place it opens my eyes to new cultures; how very different each person is from one another. Every time I have traveled with my family/friends or by myself, I have learned something new about myself. Traveling with all the challenges it presents and opportunities lets one discover who you are in a way that nothing else can.
When I traveled to Croatia with my family we met a family from France and from Germany. To this day we are still in touch and have seen each other a few times. They give me a glimpse outside of my hometown bubble, forcing a new and refreshing perspective on things. Hearing their issues in their country, or their outside perspective on America, shows me that I need to care for issues bigger than just myself. It’s not all about me. It’s about how I can leave an impact on the world and how I can change it for the better. There is pain and suffering that half the world takes for granted, I am hoping to understand and help those suffering when I am in another country.
That is why I have chosen to continue studying for my Economics degree abroad. I am taking Money & Banking, and International Economics, both which present economics in a new way besides learning just about America.
Why travel? Because why not? NYU gives me this amazing experience and I want to take advantage of it, to change myself and hopefully use that to change the world for the better. I have chosen to travel to Florence in the fall of 2015, because I am Italian. I can speak a little of the language, but I hope living in Florence will help me perfect it and develop deeper relationships with my relatives who live in Italy. Living in Florence will also enable me to travel to the surrounding counties to enhance my education.
When I arrived, I was excited and homesick at the same time. I was excited for this new adventure, and homesick for my routine, my daily way of life back home. After being here for almost three weeks now, (I traveled a week with my family beforehand) I am struggling between the person I was back in America, and the person I am becoming here. It is a not a bad change, one that I should embrace, but one that will need adjusting to. I have always dwelled on what has yet to come and I’m slowly learning to live in the present.
Seeing the world provides a source of education that I could not learn in school. Traveling challenges me to be an independent person. Finding a train station, or a restaurant on my own will give me a sense of fulfillment when I overcome the challenge myself. Secretly I am also excited for the new food; the flavors the world has to offer. I am young and I want to be as cultured as I can. Studying abroad through NYU is a lifetime chance that I excited to be a part of. This is the time to figure out who I am, to figure out what I am supposed to be in this world, and to figure out what I need to do to help change the world. This is my moment, my one shot, and I need to take it now because I may never have the opportunity again. I am ready to represent NYU as a global ambassador, to educate my peers about my experiences so they hopefully too can travel and make a difference in the world, and to learn who Emily Molinelli truly is.