When I applied, I didn't really know what to expect of Florence except to see the statue of David, to visit the Ponte Vecchio at night, to enjoy a cup of coffee at a café. To me, Florence was a dream, something I would only read about in history books and travel brochures. Now that I'm here, I'm learning the language, attending the L'Accademia di Belli Arti di Firenze (one of Europe's oldest art academies), visiting art galleries, teaching English, and traveling across Europe. In this picture I'm at Palazzo Strozzi viewing the Sir Francis Bacon exhibit in Florence. I get to see works by artists from all over the world!
Florence is a small city, but no matter where you are, there's always something to do. Whether it's museums, cafés, restaurants, bookstores, street performers, or historic monuments, everything is within a short walking distance. The apartment we live in is on a street called Via Degli Alfani which is a couple blocks away from the Duomo, the heart of Florence. I'm always amazed at how I can access all these historical monuments and works of art in a short, five-minute walk from home!
I love the bustling streets of Florence: pedestrians walking by, Vespas whizzing down alleyways, and businessmen bicycling to work. Yet, on many corners you will find statues and frescoes, except on those corners with pharmacies, electronics stores and cafés. So as you walk the streets of Florence, you're always bumping into remnants of Florence's long history. At its core, Florence is a slow-paced city; a unique blend of a relaxed urban lifestyle coinciding with its rich history of Florentine architecture and works of art.
Cafés are everywhere in Florence and are at the center of Italian everyday life. Italians come here to hang out, chat, drink a quick espresso, and enjoy a few minutes of leisure. In this picture, I'm sitting at a café near my apartment called the "Cadillac Bar," enjoying a warm caffé latte as I surf the internet with my laptop!
During my stay here, I quickly discovered that one of my favorite things to do in Italy is to bargain. In Florence, there are many outdoor markets that sell second-hand vintage clothes, fresh meat, fruits, in addition to many other undiscovered treasures. In the St. Ambroggio Market, many people come six days a week to see what daily bargains they can find.
Again, there's always something interesting going on in Florence. I was walking back home from the grocery store one day and passed by a group of street performers. Keeping a camera with you at all times to document daily oddities such as these is a must!
In the Campo di Marte area rests Florence's soccer stadium. During the soccer season, many Florentines come to watch and cheer for their city's home team. Because cities in Italy are so competitive with each other, every match is always exciting and exhilarating to watch. The official Florentine city color is violet, and from seeing a stadium filled with violet, one gains a sense of how overwhelmingly passionate watching an Italian soccer match can be!
Another wonderful thing about living in Florence is experiencing all of its unique holidays. Here in this photo is the Rificolona Festival, also known as the Festival of the Lanterns. Every year on the night of September 7, people light paper lanterns and follow a parading marching band around the city until they reach Piazza S.S. Annunziata. From there, everyone celebrates together all night long with food and live concert music.
The transportation system in Florence is one of the most convenient features of the city. Tickets to take a quick bus across town are sold for a euro at bars or tabacchi, found at every street corner. You can even walk to the train station and buy a train ticket to ride to the next city over. Transportation in Florence is cheap, fast, and simple, and you can travel around the city or even around the country with relative ease.
Once you're in Europe, it's always good to take advantage of seeing all the unique events in neighboring cities and countries. In this case, I took a train to Perugia — a city a couple of hours away from Florence — to check out the famous Eurochocolate Festival. The city was filled with endless rows of stands on every street, each selling their own unique specialty chocolates.
Not only do I recommend traveling to see entirely new things, but to also go to places that pertain to your everyday hobbies and interests. We went to a city called Lucca to check out the annual comics and games festival - the largest comic book convention in Italy. Many people come to walk around, buy fan merchandise, attend industry panels, and even dress up as their favorite comic book characters. It was interesting to see how such a contemporary, entertainment-media culture took hold in Lucca's uniquely historical setting.
CSU IP Italy also does a great job in coordinating monthly field trips to cities across Italy! My favorite one was the trip to Venice, seeing the romantic waterways and the famous St. Mark's Square.
Learn more about the study abroad program in Italy.