Ciao! Buongiorno dalla bellissima città di Firenze, Italia! I am currently writing to you all from a new location instead of my Fairfield University dorm room this semester because I am currently enrolled in the fall semester study abroad program here in Florence!
Since I was a little girl, my dream has always been to spend a semester in Italy and have the amazing opportunity to travel Europe along with some of my best friends and new friends. When the applications came out in the spring of my sophomore year at Fairfield, my best friend Jenna and I immediately applied, and decided we would be a part of the Florence University of the Arts Program.
When we were finally accepted and the program was given the OK despite some COVID regulations, the feeling was indescribable and still to this day, almost four weeks into the program, I almost can not wrap my mind around the fact that I am living in Florence.
Flash forward to Sept. 24, 2021, 10:00 p.m., about 35 Fairfield students are all huddled in JFK airport, wide awake and shaking with excitement as we are about to board our nine-hour flight to Zurich, Switzerland. The thought of nine hours on a plane was definitely intimidating, however knowing our final destination of Florence was so close, was enough to calm our nerves.
We landed in Switzerland at approximately noon and already, the cultural differences were very apparent walking around the airport. One of the first things my friends and I noticed was the way the travelers were dressed, extremely fancy with blazers and heels on, compared to the “lazy” American culture of flying.
Next, to much surprise, there was a smoking lounge in the airport! I think this was the most shocking concept because of the strict laws back home.
Landing in Florence and finally stepping off the plane finally smelling Italian air was breathtaking. Compared to the dirty and smelly area that surrounds New York City airports, the scenery was already magnificent, as I could already spot the red roofs and brightly colored buildings filling the streets.
So far living in Florence has been a dream come true. Our apartment sits directly outside of the Duomo, so as I open the windows in my room I have a birds eye view of one of the most stunning churches in all of Italy. Every night musicians line the streets singing local Italian music and groups of tourists circle around singing and clapping.
One of the more cultural differences my friends and I have noticed is the deep appreciation for the more simple things in life here. At home the constant hustle and bustle, always focusing on what’s next in life and how to make the most money the quickest, consume daily thoughts. Yet here, locals sit in local cafes sipping cappuccinos, eating sweet croissants and appreciating the scenery.
Of course, the food has been one of the highlights of the experience so far. I’ve had the creamiest burrata I have ever tasted, every pasta you could ever imagine with the freshest of ingredients, homemade Chianti wine and cheese plates filled with cheese from every region in Italy. My roommate Jenna and I consider ourselves to be quite the food fanatics, so this has been a dream come true. So far our favorite restaurant has been La Giostra, which is one of the most famous restaurants in Florence.
There, we received five-star service. The ceiling of the restaurant was filled with lights and the overall ambiance was incredible. This spot is definitely a must-visit if you are spending the weekend and want quality food, away from the tourist attractions!
Because our apartment is located directly in the center of the city, all the famous monuments in Florence are within close walking distance. The famous David statue is less than a mile down the road from the building I have classes in. The Ponte Vecchio is the closest bridge and is only about a ten-minute walk away. The Tuscany countryside, which is filled with rolling hills and quaint wineries, is a short thirty-minute drive.
So far we have toured two different wineries which are famously owned by two prominent families who have been creating wine for hundreds of years. There, we toured the cellars where the wine is created in giant barrels, learned about the process of making Chianti wine and finally was able to taste the various types. Chianti wine is created in the Tuscany region and is one of the best red wines produced in Italy.
Overall, the Florence experience so far has definitely been one for the books. Being a student in one of the most beautiful cities in Italy with two of my best friends has taught me so much about what I am capable of, what in life truly matters and excited for what adventures are next!
Stay tuned for my next travel journals to the cities of Milan and Rome!