ROME-ing Around

One of the best parts of studying abroad has been the encouragement that FIT provides to be sure that you are seeing everything and traveling as much as possible. This encouragement exists in a few aspects while studying in New York, but in Florence, it’s  pushing you every single day to get out and see all that you can. For example the school set up a trip this past Friday and Saturday to Rome. During this short stay, we fit as much sight seeing into 36 hours as you could possibly imagine.

 

BLOG

The Vatican at twilight.

We hopped on an 8:50 am train on Friday morning and arrived in Rome just a short hour and a half later. After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we began a day filled with walking and sight seeing. The Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica proved to be as amazing as one could imagine. Religious or not, I have found that the sense of magic found among beautiful places of worship is astounding. While in Rome, this magic was felt often. After viewing the Vatican from the outside and sending a few postcards specifically from Vatican City (it is it’s own entity) on our own, we went through a tour guided by our own Renaissance art teachers through the Vatican Museum, ending at the one and only Sistine Chapel. As we traveled through the immense Vatican Museum, the rooms got more interesting and more incredible as we went. Raphael’s four rooms, decorated top to bottom in meticulous, famous frescoes, were incredible. Despite being jam-packed with tourists led by guides holding flags above their heads, the rooms were astounding to look at. As we learned about images we had seen previously in classrooms, they loomed in front of our faces, massive and colorful.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

As if a picture would do it justice…

The final destination of the Vatican Museum was the Sistine Chapel. As we entered, I felt anticipation in my belly. This is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel. To say that the room was mind-blowing is an understatement. How in the world did an artist lie flat on his back and paint a ceiling of that size?! Did his arm not hurt?! I just could not understand it. A priest came in to remind us that the chapel is, in fact, a holy area and that we should take note and keep our voices down. He then gathered us in a short prayer, first in Italian and then in English. I was prayed to while in the Sistine Chapel, in Rome, under one of the most famous and jaw dropping works of art in the world… when did my life become this unreal?!

 

colo

Kissing the Colosseum

In the evening, my friends and I visited the lit-up Colosseum and stood looking at it entranced. Construction for the Colosseum started in 70 AD… that’s over 2000 years ago. I can barely imagine being 30, yet I was standing in front of a building older than anything I have ever seen or could have ever imagined.

 

On Saturday, we visited multiple museums, saw a ton of art, and trekked around Rome. I was lucky enough to light a candle in the Santa Maria Maggiore, the oldest church in Rome, see some of Caravaggio’s works in La Galleria Doria Pamphilij, and learn about ancient Roman ruins, left to be viewed, despite Rome modernizing a city around them. Though construction made my Lizzie McGuire moment at the Trevi Fountain impossible, I was still extremely content with Rome and all it’s ancient wonders and treasures that I am fortunate enough to have seen.

Adventuring Through Firenze

Five weeks of hanging out in Florence and relaxing has been an amazing reprieve from the crazy traveling I did at the beginning of the semester and that I am picking back up on this weekend as the semester comes to a close. Florence holds hundreds of treasures that can easily be overlooked when you are eager to travel to other countries and cities. Similar to New York City, if you get used to living there and into the routine of every day life, you forget sometimes to go out and see what is offered. One would think that being in Florence would alter that mindset, but there’s still schoolwork that needs to be done, days when you oversleep, or rainy weather to keep you inside, rather than out and discovering. Even living in a foreign country, life still becomes semi-routined.

 

Blog boboli

The view overlooking Firenze from the top of The Boboli Gardens

A few weeks ago I trekked over to Palazzo Pitti to go to the Boboli Gardens. We have been to the costume gallery in Palazzo Pitti in class, but I had yet to travel into the expanse of lands beyond the palace that was once occupied by a wealthy family living there many years ago. It was a sunny day and a burst of extra warm weather, so I went with friends to see what the Boboli Gardens had to offer. We get in for free with our museum cards, which makes it easy to pop into places for just an hour or two if you don’t have the full day. The Boboli Gardens astounded me in just a few hours.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

My T-Swift Moment

The expanse of well-manicured land complete with fountains, statues, and trails is gorgeous. Along the more traveled paths, it is elegant and incredibly maintained. It’s easy to imagine the Renaissance wealth that this family had who occupied this space. As you wander to the left or right, you come across small dirt paths, shielded by branches creating an awning over your head and shading you from the sun. It seems like a setting that you would find in a Taylor Swift music video as she treks through wooded areas with a gorgeous boy in tow—I mean I can imagine the guy will pop up, right? As we winded through the trails, simply picking left or right to determine which we direction we would go, I wish we had come a bit more prepared. Couples, friends, and families were laying on blankets, enjoying picnic lunches or reading while they relaxed in patches of sun or shade depending on preference. It was a setting you can barely come up with in your imagination, with views of Florence’s city center in one direction and the rolling hills beyond the city in another direction. A gem that’s well-known to tourists, yet amazingly hidden and not crowded even on a sunny Saturday, it was the perfect place to let my wanderlust ridden self explore.

 

IMG_0035 copy

Woven Balenciaga Bags in Progress

IMG_0039 copy

Hat Selfies with Lauren Vinciguerra and Kelsey Oglesby

Since setting foot in the Boboli Gardens, there has been about a week of rain and cloudy  skies to keep me from heading back. Last weekend, we made the most of a cloudy day by first attended a tour of a hat factory set up by the school. For only ten euro, we met at the tram stop and traveled to a factory that has been family owned for four generations. We toured the factory and then made out own hats. An adorable man and business owner informed us that designers such as Chanel, Pucci, and Stella McCartney contact them first to inquire about high-end hats. He even told us that they created the well-known and now famous hat worn by the singer whose name he couldn’t remember… as we guessed who it might be with no luck, he finally pointed to a picture. Ohhhh. They made the Pharrell hat and this little Italian man didn’t even know Pharrell’s name. Only in Florence.

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

Biker Gang takes Lucca (Kelsey, Olivia, Lauren and I)

As we sat on the tram donning our newly made hats, we tried to come up with what we should do with the rest of our day, since the rain was holding up. With spontaneity that my usual, planned self didn’t even know existed, we headed to the train station and bought tickets for the next train to Lucca, a city within walls, just an hour and fifteen minutes outside of Florence.  We missed the first train, had to wait in an exceptionally long line for train tickets, and then got fined for not validating the ticket prior to getting on the train (I thought you only had to validate bus tickets… talk about the feeling of misinformed American). By the time we pulled into Lucca we were literally running away from the train in relief that we actually made it to the destination. We rented bikes from the first shop we saw for just four euro and then rode on top of the city walls that enclose Lucca. The sun was setting and the sky was pink as we pedaled through yellow leaves that had fallen from the fall-colored trees. Florence has so few trees that we reveled in a fall atmosphere that reminded us of home. It was a beautiful evening with just the slightest chill in the air.

We biked and then spent a few hours walking around, before getting gelato, and enjoying a much more relaxed ride home (validation of tickets = no fine). It was a perfect day spent making perfect memories, similar to many of my days here in Italy. You don’t have to travel far, or at all, to see beauty here. As long as you’re open to looking, you’ll find it everywhere you go.

I Guess The Saying Is True, Time Flies When You’re Having Fun…

Cooking Class

Cooking Class

The crisp fall air finally fell over Florence early one October morning, and it wasn’t until then that I realized that this won’t be my home for much longer. The rocky cobblestone streets, the scenic views of the Arno river, and the “out of a movie scene” musicians playing their accordions outside of my apartment will soon become memories, but great memories at that. The opportunities and experiences that I have had since that day I stepped off the plane in late August have been anything but unreal. With learning a new culture, traveling over 4,000 miles away from home and experiencing something you only get once has been an experience words can’t describe.

Being here in Italy, or in Europe for that matter, has taught me a lot of things I never thought possible (but really). You are faced with certain situations you never really thought about. Whether it be as simple as communicating with a native or dealing with something at home that you have no control over. Things get tough and thats when you realize that you are forced to be independent and learn how to handle things. When coming to Italy for longer than a vacations stay of time you have to be prepared to expect the worst. Whether it be your computer hard-drive crashing, your credit card being stolen or coping with a lost one at home it is never easy, but with the help of good friends and professors by your side everyday gets easier with whatever challenge you may face.

Perugia EuroChocolate Festival

Perugia EuroChocolate Festival

Fiorentina Soccer Game

Fiorentina Soccer Game

Enjoying the time I have left, I have attended some great school events since the last time I wrote. I attended a cooking class that was phenomenal, the EuroChocolate festival that was delicious (and I probably ate more chocolate than I should have) and a very exciting Fiorentina soccer game. More recently, we went to the Gucci factory and never in a million years would I have pictured myself witnessing a multitude of Gucci artisans hard at work constructing an iconic pair of Gucci Loafers. From the very first step of cutting the leather to the final phase of shining the shoes was an unbelievable experience. I now of course want my own pair of $600 Gucci Loafers, but that’s another story.

Before my trips ends, in sadly less than two months, I am trying to take in as much of the European beauty as I can. I have plans to travel to Paris, Rome, and Switzerland before I leave for America come December 20th. So unfortunately, I guess time does fly when you’re having fun, but I know I will be back soon especially since I touched the Il Porcellino (a statue/fountain of a bronze boar) here in Florence as it is an old tradition that if you touch it you will find your way back to the city. Until next time!

Il Porcellino

Il Porcellino

Gucci Factory

Gucci Factory

In Italy We Eat… And Cook

It is approaching the two-month mark of when my feet first stepped onto Italian soil and I can’t believe I have been here for that long. It feels like I started my time in this city just two weeks ago, let alone two months ago. I have become more and more sure that the full year abroad was the right decision for me. I can’t even imagine if I was leaving in just two months to head back to New York. I can tell that the fall semester students are amazed at how much less time they have than they originally thought and I’m so happy I chose nine months here, even though that was such a scary decision to make at first. Of course, moments arise when I miss the city, my hometown, and above all, my friends and family, but my time here is nowhere near finished. I’m starting to wonder if even nine months is enough in this beautiful place, but if I expressed that thought to my dad, he would surely kill me, so I’ll stick with the time I’ve got!

After two months of learning my way around Florence, just to pick up and travel on the weekends, I finally have a solid month in which my feet (and wallet, thank goodness) are staying firmly planted in Florence. I have been to Venice, done a wine tour through Tuscany, seen Milan at the peak of fashion week, attended Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, and enjoyed the beautiful beaches of Capri and Positano. It’s been a whirlwind of bus rides and train trips and I’m enjoying my time here at home base, until I pick up on my travels again.

IMG_9520

Cheffing it up and adding the filling to my ravioli!

Fall has finally seemed to peek into Florence and today is the first day the weather has not hit 70 and reminded me that at home it’s been cool for awhile and the leaves have all changed into shades of red, yellow, and brown. This fall weather is a treat compared to the last few weeks. Its sunny and breezy, the perfect autumn weather and it feels absolutely beautiful to be walking around. The amazement at living in a place like this has struck me over and over on a day like today. Having finished midterms yesterday, this is a gorgeous reward to enjoy my free time. Midterms in Florence are just like midterms in New York and I have studied my sleep deprived self into insanity the last few days. To break up the studying my friends and I attended the most amazing cooking class last weekend. Fuel for midterms came in the form of three courses and wow, did it taste amazing.

IMG_9491 copy 2

My friend Lauren showing off her ravioli dough

IMG_9502 copy

Pork, potatoes, and apples cooked to perfection

Giglio Cooking School is about a 40-minute walk out of the center of the city. As my friends and I trekked through parts of Florence we had yet to see, we discussed the upcoming week of studying as our stomachs growled. We entered the cooking school, an adorable kitchen with a sweet chef who helped us through the steps of making three courses: spinach ravioli in a butter sage sauce, prune stuffed pork braised in honey and red wine that was served with potatoes and apples baked together, and chocolate cake for dessert. One of the best meals I have had in Florence was cooked by myself and I enjoyed so much of it, I undid my the button on my jeans for the walk home. We did everything from creating the dough and flattening it into long, thin sheets to make the ravioli, to melting the bar of chocolate over the stove for the cake, to chopping apples and potatoes onto trays to be placed into the oven. It was a frenzy of cooking and quite a few chefs for one kitchen, but we ended up with the most amazing meal shared among friends. Just another one of my perfect Italia days that seem endless here. Can you tell how lucky I am?

Two Months Of Life Abroad

Almost closing in on my two month stay here in Florence, I can’t even believe time has gone by this fast. It definitely is not an easy adjustment with all the cultural differences, but slowly but surely I have been finding my way. Since my last post (where I wrote about Milan), I have have traveled to many amazing cities in Italy, as well as countries outside of Italy. It is crazy how long you anticipate something to happen and then in a blink of an eye it’s over.

Piazza Michelangelo

Piazza Michelangelo

This past week at school was health and wellness week to help students relieve stress. There were free counseling and free doctor visits all week long, which happens to be perfect timing since everyone I know, as well as myself, somehow all got sick (wonderful, I know). Classes have been going very well and the week days seem to fly by. All of the professors my friends and I have are all wonderful, very understanding and easy to talk to. This up coming week are midterms and we are all preparing for our exams and midterm presentations. It is funny, because through all of the excitement and traveling you forget that you are actually here for school and not on a four-month long vacation. So, this weekend, we are all staying in and finally taking a break and opening up our books.

10411085_10204927869305458_5327195282647008900_n

School Trip To Milan

FASA is a great program we have here at FIT in Florence. It stands for Florence Abroad Student Association and allows students to participate in events that are pre-paid for or paid for in half. They have had soccer game trips to see the Florence team play, cooking classes (which I will be going to one later today), an upcoming trip to Perugia Chocolate Festival (I will be sure to bring extra euro for that one) and many more fun and exciting trips. They also put together and event for the Corri la Vita run that was occurring, here in Florence, on September 28th. I have to say, I don’t think I have ever been to a walk/run that had as many people as the Corri la Vita event. It was nice to see that many people interested in the awareness, which was for Breast Cancer, and to see everyone come together.

10606475_10204852685302614_2728409202422603050_n

Corri la Vita

It is crazy to think how so much has happened in barely two months. Just to already look back on everything that I have experienced and learned is almost mind blowing. I have been trying to keep a journal of everywhere that I have been and all of the places that I have seen, but it is a lot harder than I thought with just trying to find the time to sit down and write everything down. For the most part, I have something planned for every weekend I am here, but if I were to give any advice (that i’m sure many people would agree with), is that you have to remember to slow down and take in the beauty and opportunity that Florence itself has to offer. With that said, I will be writing again in a few short weeks and I am sure that I will have even more stories to share. Until then, arrivederci!