The past couple weeks have been busy with classes and traveling, so I haven’t been able to update this as often as I hoped. My classes are beginning to pick up, and between papers, presentations, and midterms, I’ve barely had any time for myself. My classes are all interesting so I don’t mind doing the work, but it is hard to focus in a city as beautiful as Florence. Thankfully I’ve found a couple cafes where I can get work done during the week, but on the weekends the city gets so crowded I usually just study in my apartment. My classes are stimulating and give me opportunities to get to know Florence through my academic interests of women’s studies and political science. One of my favorite experiences of the past week has been visiting the Florence Synagogue with my Women in Religion class. After learning about women’s role in Judaism, we were able to have a tour of the synagogue by the former Rabbi’s wife. I have never been to a synagogue, so it was really interesting to see how everything was set up and learn about the different rituals performed. Our guide, Shulamit, was so welcoming to us and eager to discuss how women participate in Judaism. The synagogue was absolutely stunning inside and out, and I was surprised that I hadn’t known about it before taking this class. There are churches and crosses everywhere you turn in Florence and I wish that other religions had a place here to showcase their art. I’m thankful that my classes allow me to see sides of Florence I would have never seen if I was a normal tourist.
My time here has been sprinkled with other unique outings and experiences. If you know me, you know I have a really eclectic music taste, veering from showtunes to folk to 70s pop. One of the greatest loves of my life is Abba, with their upbeat music and funky outfits. I was first introduced to the Mamma Mia movie by my friends, and from there on out I was hooked. Their music always manages to put me in a good mood and I’ve made amazing memories with my friends watching Mamma Mia and singing Dancing Queen at the top of our lungs. One day when I was getting lunch in Florence with a friend, I noticed a poster advertising an Abba cover band concert during my time here! I convinced my friend to go with me, and after some mishaps with the bus, we made it to our seats just as the band was taking the stage. Thankfully an old Italian women was nice enough to help two lost American girls, or else we would have missed the show. The performance was everything I hoped it would be: upbeat, tacky, and completely over the top. This was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
Another highlight was having a friend from my home university come and visit for her spring break. I was worried about her visiting because the week before she came it was absolutely freezing here and it even snowed. One thursday the Italian government closed all of the schools because we were supposed to get an inch of snow. It was crazy to see the whole city practically shutdown over a tiny bit of snow, but it gives me a fun story to tell about my stay in Florence! The morning that classes were cancelled I was supposed to meet my friend in Rome, but all of the trains were delayed by an hour or more. Even though I was late, we were still able to have an amazing weekend in Rome. Our airbnb was right by the Colosseum, so we were in the center of the action. While wandering the neighborhood looking for a place to eat lunch, we had one of those moments where we couldn’t believe this was actually our life. Walking down a boulevard, we suddenly realized that the Colosseum was right in front of us. It was crazy to see such an ancient monument surrounded by a bustling modern city, but it was beautiful nonetheless. We also went to the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain, and the Vatican. I loved seeing all of the ancient ruins, but after a couple of days in Rome I was ready to go back to Florence.
I loved having the chance to show my friend my favorite parts of Florence. I had the chance to look at the city with fresh eyes and realize how familiar it had become. I took her to some of my favorite restaurants, cafes, and museums, but the best part of the week was the Chianti wine tour. One day, we woke up early to drive through the hills of tuscany to an organic vineyard and farm. It was a little scary on the way there because it started pouring and hailing, but by the time we got to the vineyard the weather was perfect. The views were absolutely stunning, with fields of grapes and endless rolling hills. Everything was quiet and the air was fresh, reminding me of my family’s lakehouse. We were able to tour the wine production facility and parts of the farm, and I even got to pet some cows. Before the second vineyard, we stopped at a medieval town close by where we could look at more beautiful views and even had the chance to sample award winning gelato. San Gimignano was once a bustling city on the road to Rome, but now it is a charming town with reminders of its ancient past everywhere you turned. I could feel the history while walked under stone archways and gazing up at the famous towers. While eating lunch, we tasted even more wine and learned more about wine production. The food was delicious and our hosts were all welcoming, teaching us how to maximise the flavor of our wine. For our final stop, we went to Piazzale Michelangelo on the way back to Florence. The weather was perfect and we were able to see all of Florence from up above. It was the perfect day!
I’ve been trying to familiarize myself more with the city by going to different cafes and events. One of my favorites was the monthly antique market in Piazza Santo Spirito this past Sunday. This is one of my favorite areas in Florence because the Piazza is tucked in to a nice neighborhood on the other side of the river and surrounded by delicious restaurants and cafes. One Sunday a month, dealers set up stalls in the square, selling everything from antique door knobs to handmade soap to Gucci scarves. It was fun to take a chance to explore the other side of the river more and interact with locals. I’m excited to continue exploring Florence and make the most out of my final months here!