Hello! It’s definitely been a while since I’ve managed to scrape aside time from life here to blog — I’ve been using every spare moment to get extra sleep, and I’ve also been enjoying the company of the friends I’ve made here.
It feels like a lifetime ago that I lived in California, ignorant of the everyday bits of life that make Florence special. I love living in Florence. I love Italy. I’ve made friends and good acquaintances here, American and Italian.
I’ve been locked away indoors the past two weeks scrambling to work on final projects for all of my classes. I don’t think I’ll be able to see much of Florence these remaining few days; it’s the sacrifice I make to salvage my academics this semester — it’s been tough balancing this adventure with schoolwork when the outside world is fascinating.
I won’t make this blog post my final good bye to Italy.
I’ve just had so many thoughts go through my head these past many days. In some ways it’s a pity I’ll be leaving just as I feel I’ve gotten the hang of things here, but there are also things I’m excited for when I return home — seeing friends, my boyfriend, and dogs. Getting to mountain bike again, and take the liberty of sleeping in. I’m excited to have access to certain foods too, like good Mexican food and all the gluten-free things that await me at home.
However, I’m also aware of the things I’ll lose; I’ll lose the freedom of stepping out my front door and entering a city of adventure. I’ll miss being able to take a stroll around the city and stopping by my friends’ apartments to say hello or have some tea. I’ll miss seeing my Italian buddies around the city in restaurants and my neighborhood Tabacchi (a small store that sells stamps, loto tickets, cigarettes, candy, water and the like), from which I’d manically buy stamps and water bottles.
I drew on a postcard and gave it to the Via dei Macci Tabbachi store owners yesterday. Buona Pasqua = Happy Easter. I’ll be trying to draw little things for my Florentine buddies before I go.
I’ll miss laughing at the creeper Italian men with my friends, and maybe even the gypsies (only a little).
What I’m counting on is that I’ll take with me the things that matter. I’ll keep the moments, stories and the things I’ve seen.
I’ve been wildly busy; my days are filled with schoolwork, friends, food, some sleep, skyping my mom and boyfriend, photography and blogging, weekend trips, and Florence. I’ve finished blogging about Rome! I have Switzerland left, Vinci, Bologna and Prague, as well as the second soccer game, San Gimignano and Siena. I pour my heart and hours of time into my blog, which is why the posts are flowing s l o w and steady.
Anyway, today I had my second cooking class! So much fun!! Here’s the link to my first cooking class.
- Definitely take one!
- Don’t wear black/clothes you’re worried about getting dirty. It’s unlikely, but it could happen.
- Don’t walk home alone afterward if it ends late in the evening!!! Have someone walk you. I walked with some AIFS girls that live near my house this time.
- Bring a jacket for when it gets cold on the way home.
AIFS (my study abroad program) organised a cool photo challenge for this week among all the student ambassadors/bloggers. This is my entry 🙂
1. One photo of yourself with something famous in Florence (taken by someone else or a self-portrait).
2. A landscape/background/building with personal significance.
2. “The call to adventure.”
One of the statues by Pio Fedi in the Loggia dei Lanzi in the Piazza Signoria.
[Warning: A particularly long story follows. Feel free to skim. -Fiona]
This statue is so emotionally gripping and drastic. The twisting figures and the image of a girl being grabbed and about to be taken away (even though in this case it’s not a positive departure; the piece is called The Rape of Polyxena ).
Putting aside the statues mythological content, I can interpret this statue as a call to adventure, which is the beckoning of an adventure to a “hero.”
Joseph Campbell writes:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man”
I’m a 19-year-old student living away from home for the first time. I’ve ventured from my common day into what feels like a supernatural wonder. I feel like I’ve been stolen into an adventure, and can sometimes feel a secret burst of exhilaration that I’m living in Florence; I’m living an adventure.
But, once in a while, I feel a twinge of homesickness. A few months before I had any notion of studying abroad, I was curled up on the sofa in California watching a movie with my mom, as we often do. We were watching the 1985 version of A Room with a View, which is based on a novel by E.M. Forester (you can read the novel for free here, at Project Gutenberg).
A young English girl living during the Edwardian Era in England, Lucy Honeychurch, comes to visit Florence with an overbearing cousin/chaperone to experience foreign culture. It is, perhaps, an overly optimistic and romantic movie, and not something I’d typically take any interest in, but I like relaxing with a cup of tea and my mom. The old views of Italy seemed distant and exotic.
Lucy actually ends up walking about some of Florence’s streets, witnesses a murder (she faints) in the Piazza della Signoria (which is right by the Palazzo Vecchio and the statue pictured above), and visits the Santa Croce church (which is only a few blocks from my apartment)!
To me, this movie is symbolic of the huge shift in my perspective since having lived here for 2 months. It’s hard to describe the feeling of re-watching snippets of this movie. The scenes that recently seemed foreign and exotic and now feel familiar and are easily identifiable, as I walked through them nearly daily. It’s a feeling of pride, like I’m on the in on a special secret. I can give directions to central piazzas, Churches, and can recommend gelaterias. I enter stores/restaurants and am greeted by name by the locals I’ve made friends with. I no longer feel lost and tiny in an intimidating city; Florence feels like a new home.
This also sparked some curiosity about how much living here has really changed me. I suppose I’ll have to wait for the culture shock of returning home,and feedback from my friends and family back home, to really grasp this. I think that living here has, of course, been an amazing travel experience. My perspective of the world has grown. I’m pretty young, and I know I’ve had something of a growing-up experience. I know that I will walk away from Italy — in one short month — a more worldly person that has been changed by what she’s seen.
This may sound cliché, but I can hope that I can return a more mature person, and a better sister, daughter and friend.
And I can only wish (and plot) my return to Florence, whenever that may be. I know that this won’t be my last visit. I suppose this one of those moments where I have to tell you to take any opportunity to travel you can get. The point of travel is that you cannot anticipate what you will experience and (more importantly) how you will change. You can leave a place, that place will never truly leave you.
No matter your age or economic status, there is always some way to travel. “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” When pondering the difficulties of life, I often think to myself “is there really no way I could accomplish this? I have the rest of my life to figure it out.” Somehow feeling the abundance of life still left to me inspires me to do my best.
Thank you for reading/skimming,
[I will later link the blog posts of my fellow AIFS student bloggers so that you can take a look and decide on who you think won the photo challenge!]
I decided to wander off and have lunch on my own, and went to Trattoria La Casalinga. They’re actually quite familiar with gluten-free things, and have some nice options.
They serve pretty large portions (I could barely finish my first course of gluten-free tomato spaghetti), although I prefer the taste of Golden View’s food (that’s my favourite place to go, partly because I’m fond of the staff there).
Spring break, finally! For my first weekend on spring break I left for Interlaken, Switzerland through the Florence for Fun travel group. This post is about a village I visited called Grindelwald.
I departed on Thursday evening by bus. It was a 5 hour ride through the night.
South-eastern view of the mountains– I stayed up from 4:30 am when we arrived, and watched the sun rise. I ran out for a walk immediately and walked through some rural area, and saw the sun peaking over the snowy mountains. It was beautiful.
- Visit Grindelwald!
- Bring sunglasses — the glare from the sunlight reflecting off of the snow is uncomfortable and bad for your eyes.
- Pack light for hiking about.
- Make a snowman.
- Don’t eat any kangaroo.
- Consider visiting Lauterbrunnen and Jungfraujoch (although Jungfraujoch train tickets are expensive).
- Send some postcards from Switzerland
- Buy a Swiss army knife.
On this Saturday, I went to visit the Vatican City with my group.
The flag of the Vatican City.
The Vatican City is a land-locked, sovereign country; it is the smallest country in the world, spanning a mere 0.2 square miles.
(Unfortunately, I forgot to slot my memory card back into my camera this morning, so I couldn’t take any pictures. Honestly, it was a bit of relief to take a step out from behind the lens. I think photographers need to be wary of living life documenting events and instances in time — there are moments you can’t capture with a camera.)
I got to see the Sistine Chapel, which was cool — it’s just difficult to comprehend the fact that the frescos were painted by Michelangelo. Michelangelo was known for his bad temper, and in fact his nose was broken at least once due to all the fist-fights he got himself into. He was nicknamed “la Terribilità,” or “The Terrible One.”
That back wall depicts The Last Judgement, painted by Michelangelo (between 1536-1541). All of the figures in The Last Judgement were originally painted nude. Biagio da Cesena, the Pope’s master of ceremonies (basically his right-hand man) was quite opposed to all of the nudity and insisted on the figures being clothed (loincloths were painted on years later after Michelangelo’s death).
Michelangelo didn’t appreciate being hounded and told what to do, so in response Michelangelo painted his depiction of Minos, the mythological king of Hell, in the likeness of Biagio da Cesena. Minos has large donkey ears and is wrapped in snakes, one of which is biting him in a sensitive place, if you see what I mean.
To put it in colloquial terms, Biagio da Cesena freaks out, and goes directly to the Pope asking for the portrait to be altered at once.
The Pope (who is very fond of Michelangelo) humorously states that he holds no power over the realms of Hell, and so the portrait remained.
After the Vatican City visit, I walked to the Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Spanish Steps (more on all of these in my next post) along with some staff members from my program. Anyway, I ended up on the metro and stumbled home with a pounding headache that I started developing early in the morning. I slept for a few hours, waking at 9 pm / 21:00.
I decided to take a stroll to the Trevi Fountain a few blocks from my house at 10 pm/22:00.
- Photographers, don’t forget to step out from behind the lens and live in the moment. Step into the action and don’t be afraid of the moments slipping by you. Living life means stepping through time with joy in your heart and
- Vatican City security: you need to go through security and check in any umbrellas that don’t fold up, so don’t bring your large umbrella if you can help it.
- It’s easiest to get into the Vatican City with a tour group — the lines are often a few hours to get in.
- Mail a postcard from the Vatican City! They have their own postal service 🙂
- Take a map with you everywhere.
- Travel around with a buddy if you can help it.