Spring break has come and gone, and with it came a lot of fun travels and activities for Fairfield University students. Having never traveled for spring break during my almost three years of college, I knew it was time for me to pack my bags and head somewhere fun this year. The destination I chose was Florence, Italy!
This may seem like an ambitious trip for just a one-week break from school, but for me, this trip has been a long time coming. As my senior year of high school ended abruptly due to the start of the pandemic, I missed out on a lot of opportunities, one of them being a senior trip to Europe. Though I did not choose to study abroad in college myself, I am fortunate to have some friends who are currently studying abroad in Florence, presenting me with the perfect opportunity to visit!
Being my first time overseas and first time traveling completely alone, I was quite nervous. However, I found that my excitement to see my friends and explore a new city and culture greatly outweighed my nerves. Passing over the Swiss Alps on my connecting flight, and watching the skyline of the city and the Duomo come into view as the plane landed in Florence only heightened my excitement.
The first thing I noticed when I set foot in the city was the difference in architecture. I can definitely say that the buildings in Florence look a lot different from the skyscrapers I am used to in a lot of cities in the United States. With colorful buildings, beautiful alleyways and cobblestone streets, it is safe to say that the architecture of Florence is beautiful and unlike anything I have ever seen before.
Upon meeting up with my friend, I was given the grand tour of the city (it didn’t matter that I was completely sleep-deprived from my overnight flight–I was far too excited to sleep!) I saw the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio (a bridge that stretched across the Arno River) and the basilica of Santa Croce.
I was fascinated by the fast-paced bustle of the city–people working in cafes, rushing to class, riding vespas around the streets–and I have to admit, I found myself a bit jealous of my friends whose daily commute to school includes passing the Duomo.
The nightlife in Florence was just as entertaining as the daytime bustle. My friends and I tried a variety of restaurants, ate delicious food, went out for gelato many times and even found ourselves dancing with strangers as a street performer played a tune on the accordion one night. The beauty of being in a city such as Florence is stumbling upon all sorts of opportunities. Whether it is live performers, artists or unique stores filled with hand-crafted goods, there is always something to see or experience.
With only a week to take in the sights and cultural experiences that other students have months to take in, I knew I had to take in as much as I could. One of the first activities we had planned was a tour of multiple wineries in the countryside of Tuscany. With beautiful sweeping hills and vineyards and, of course, the delicious meats, cheeses and olive oils provided for us to try, I felt like I was living out a scene in a movie. Another sightseeing activity we knew we had to do was climb to the top of the Duomo. It was close to 500 steps and took a lot of effort, but the reward was worth it. To see the city from the top of the Duomo was an incredible take-in. I will admit that I am still amazed that we made it up all those stairs.
One of the highlights of the trip was watching the sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo, a spot in which the entire city can be overlooked. We opted to rent the electric Bird scooters and ride them to the Piazzale Michelangelo rather than walk all the way up the large hill, which was a really fun experience. Once at the top, the view was incredible. The view of the mountains looming in the distance against the backdrop of the pink sky was breathtaking and watching the sun sink below the distant city to the music of a live guitarist was incredible.
On my last day before I had to return home for school, my friends and I took a day trip to Rome, a city I have always wanted to see. Though the sights of the city such as the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel were incredible, I will admit that it was a hectic day filled with a lot of walking. If you are planning a trip to Rome in the near future, I would suggest splitting it into two days if you really want time to see all the sights. Nevertheless, it was a great experience and I was excited to explore another city other than Florence during my time in Italy.
Though it was a short trip, I feel that I really got the full experience of Florence. I even picked up a few words in Italian: “Ciao” and “Grazie.” Okay, so I am nowhere near fluent, but it was still a cool experience to try and communicate in a country where people speak a different language.
I am grateful to my friends studying abroad for hosting me and showing me around the city that they now call their second home. It was an experience I will never forget and one that makes me want to travel more in the future!