Greetings from the land of pasta and Nutella!
This is my third month in Florence, Italy and I cannot believe my semester abroad is nearly over. I really have had the time of my life here.
The moment I stepped out of the Santa Maria Novella Station, I knew that I had made the right decision for me. Florence is so drenched in art, music, fashion, and Tuscan cuisine that I could barely contain myself.
At the center of Florence is the Duomo. Every major city in Italy has one, but the Florence Duomo is widely considered to be the most important; it’s breathtakingly beautiful and enormous. Florence also has the Ponto Vecchio, a bridge that spans across the Arno River. On the bridge, only jewelry is sold and you can see many luxury brands such as Rolex. The best view of the city is from Piazzale Michelangelo. Hundreds of people crowd the place at sunset so see the Tuscan sun seep behind the city’s horizon. It’s definitely something that should be on your bucket list.
Florence also has endless amount of delicious Italian restaurants here. You could probably go to a new one each day. My favorite so far is a place called Trattoria Marione. They have the BEST roasted chicken and potatoes I have ever had in my life. Also, a very popular pizza place for study abroad students, Gusta Pizza, is the greatest pizza I have ever had. If you come, you must try the Calabrese. It will blow your mind!
Italy has many other amazing sights to offer, so the first trip I took outside of Florence was to Cinque Terre. I went with six of my suitemates and joined a tour group for study abroad students. Cinque Terre is a compilation of five small towns by the beach. The scenery was an insta-photographer’s paradise. Everything was colorful and lively. This trip was also exhausting, however, due to the two-hour hike from one of the towns to the next. I had no idea just how many stairs we would have to climb. In addition, while I was swimming at the beach, I got stung twice by a jellyfish on the same arm (I have scars now). Despite these two things, the trip was totally worth it.
The following weekend I went to Rome with five different suitemates. We rented an Air B&B by the Vatican City which was hosted by the sweetest Italian grandma. We saw everything we could in our weekend stay (Rome is ENORMOUS). On the first day we saw the Vatican Museums and the Spanish steps. The Vatican Museums took up almost the entire day, but who wouldn’t want to see the Sistine Chapel?? The day after we saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. On the third day we only had time to see one thing because our train left mid-afternoon and we decided to bear the two-mile-long line to see St. Peter’s Basilica. We went on a good day because we got to watch Pope Francis give a speech!
Later, I went to the 2015 EXPO. The EU hosts one annually and this year just happened to be hosted in Milan. NYU brought all the Florence students to the EXPO for an academic field trip and it was really an educational experience. This year’s theme was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” So 117 countries came to teach the world about the food grown and produced in their nations and their efforts towards sustainable agriculture. While most of the students returned to Florence with NYU, my friends and I stayed for two nights in Milan to see the sights. One word to describe it: fabulous.
Outside of Italy, I have also gone on weekend trips to Geneva, Zurich, and London. Over fall break I spent and entire six days in Stockholm. It was unbelievably beautiful and is definitely my favorite vacation I have taken so far. Even though I was having a great time, I was missing Florence. Everywhere I have been to in Europe has been fun and unique but Florence is still my favorite. I may be a little biased, but Florence remains to be, culturally, the richest European city. It has the sights and the tourists, but is still small and is starting to feel like a second home to me.