Love Letters to Europe: Florence

Love Letters to Europe, Travel

Ah Firenze. I’ve probably been putting off this post for some time because the memory of Florence is still too much at times. Just thinking back to eating fresh pesto on the steps of San Lorenzo brings tears to my eyes.

And you would think I’m just employing typical emotional rhetoric to illustrate a point, but trust me I’m not exaggerating by any stretch of the imagination. Florence was my home for four months that were constantly full of adventure, beauty, laughter, exploration, fashion, food, and fun. But most of all Firenze was mia amore. There’s not a day that goes by where a part of me wishes I could go back to my apartment at Via Ricasoli 51 and venture out onto the street where hundreds of tourists line up to see Micheangelo’s David, but turn the other way and grab a caffe con panna from Alex, my favorite barista, or go to Un Caffe where I was given a free shot on my first visit and a shot of limoncello on my last.

Via Ricasoli 51

What I miss about my love is how I felt when I lived there. Free to explore. Uninhibited. Gorgeous, inside and out.

I don’t miss the language barrier. Although for the most part it’s never a problem in Florence because their tourism ensures that most shopkeepers know English enough to haggle their way through a deal on a leather bag in the market. But I miss the people who I had to communicate with hand gestures and my limited amount of Italian. The sense of unknowing when I explored dell’Arno for the first time on my own. Discovering what I felt like were hidden gems, but were probably still tourist traps waiting to happen. The times where I would take a day to myself and go anywhere and every where. My favorite day spent going to the different museums across the city, big and small, well known and obscure. Feeling cultured just for walking across a bridge that wasn’t the Ponte Vecchio. Meeting people and making connections with strangers that will always impact me when I look back over my time there.

Every time I look back at photos, it’s like emotional cutting. Reminiscent Russian roulette. It takes me back to all the little things I don’t have the chance to experience in good ole’ Fort Worth, Texas. Going to the Boboli Gardens for an afternoon. Shopping at a fresh food market where the produce hasn’t been doused heavily in pesticides – and not having to pay extra for that organic guarantee. Apertivo. Writing in my journal or reading a book in sunny Piazza Santo Spirito. Catching the bus in Piazza San Marco to Monica’s lovely apartment with her stolen Wifi. Drinking coffee in between classes at News Cafe. Being called bella on a daily basis by strangers. Walking across the city with Somebody I Used to Know blaring on repeat as my soundtrack to my footsteps. Going out with Stephanie and always waking up the next morning with a hangover and a good story. Throwing up from too much wine (actually this still happens quite often). Going out with the girls and laughing my ass off at literally anything we did. Every weekend a new festival, something new to try and do and see and people to meet.

It makes me heart literally hurt when I think about you Florence. You will always hold a special place within me, even though it was only for a short time, you’ll always be there.

Firenze, there’s something else you committed when you stole my heart, you murdered by American dream. As I’ve detailed extensively throughout this semester, you killed my ambitions that America had so lovingly instilled in me since birth. I’ve seen you. I’ve seen what’s out there. There’s so much more to life than getting a job title you can boast about or living in a big house with nice furniture. When you’ve seen your beauty, you set your sights past things like that. The smell of espresso and the thumping bass of your bars fog my senses when I think about post-grad plans. The throngs of people flooding your cobble stone streets. Staring up at the Duomo every single day. Seeing works of art day in and day out, just on the streets of the city. Gagging when I saw a pair of Nike shorts.

My professors. Noel, Paolo, and even Roberto who hated the way I attempted to speak Italian. Their encouragement, their humor, their knowledge, their understanding of Americans and the issues we face as study abroad students. I grew as a student, despite my lack of focus on my classes. I learned that graphic design may not be for me, but that if I wanted to pursue it – I have what it takes. I delved into how fashion corresponds to a culture and functions as both an indicator and a product of society. I learned so much about Catholicism and was forced to reflect on my upbringing in a church that’s had (and still has) a tremendous impact on the lives of Catholics everywhere, especially Italians.

THERE IS SO MUCH I WANT TO SAY. There’s so much I miss every day here. I wonder how others adjust after studying abroad. If they become the same as they were before, with just an added dash of Italian seasoning to their typical lives? Do they simply have an increased affinity for wine? Or do they still lust after the cultural immersion as I do?

Florence, you will always be missed. The sheer joy that filled my heart each and every day will be missed. Little things can satisfy me here – like my Italian coffee maker, my leather jacket, bottles of Chianti from Kroger – but ultimately my memories will have to suffice.

And that’s possibly the saddest thing I’ve realized this semester.

May Florence Be With You

Inspiration, Personal

This weekend was essentially my last weekend in Florence because I’ll be traveling to Cinque Terra, Sicily, Prague, and Budapest during my last three weeks abroad. It’s becoming harder every day knowing that I won’t be able to walk these streets anymore. I’ve made so many memories in this city that it’s going to be hard to remember them once I don’t have visual reminders like landmarks and streets to reminiscence on. I started to make a list of things\goals that I want to bring back with me when I get home and it’s been a good way to reflect on my experiences here.

1. Take time for yourself. In Italy, I’ll wake up and make breakfast, coffee, and listen to music while I take my time enjoying the morning. Why can’t I do this when I’m home?

2. Everything works out, don’t stress about all the little things. 

3. Take the time to appreciate people, things, and places. Enjoy making memories and sharing moments with any body and everyone, especially good friends.

4. Yoga, yoga, yoga. I’m so excited to get back into it when I get home!

5. Stay positive and open-minded about life and the people in it. 

6. Always travel. Some places I know I want to come back to in Europe are Germany, the UK, and Paris again. Then there’s a whole mess of continents that I wanna get over to as well.

I am really excited to go back to Fort Worth this summer and move in to a new home with one of my best friends. I’ll be starting a new internship and returning back to a former one as well. I miss my friends and family more than ever so I’m quite excited to see them as well. But I just can’t let Florence and my experiences slip away from me. Sounds of a baristas singing while they get my cappuccino ready in the morning and the way the Italian language sounds in general. The smell of Florence after rain and wine corks. The way the sun looks shining into a piazza and the reflection of the Ponte Vechhio on the Arno. The way I feel here, no stress and filled with a kind of detached happiness, I don’t want to ever forget these things.

It’s a Wonderful Life – Italian Remake

Travel

It’s been far too long since I’ve updated my blog and while I want to apologize profusely..sorry I’m not sorry. I’ve been so incredibly busy in Florence with weekend trips to Viareggio, Rome, Nice, Monaco, and Cannes it’s been non-stop for the past few weeks. Regardless, I’d like to let everyone know some of my favorite things I’ve been doing lately in Europe, some things I’m looking forward to, and of course, some things I wasn’t too fond of. 

Florence

I love living here. As I detailed in my last post, I’m starting to feel like Florence is a second home and I know I’ll leave part of my heart here when I leave. It’s upsetting but beautiful at the same time. I love visiting the cafes here and drinking coffee and just listening to the locals talk and sing as they work and catch up over an espresso. I’ve also enjoyed walking around and hanging out in various piazzas and reading. It’s a very relaxing way to spend my Thursday mornings when I don’t have class. It’s especially nice to go and read outside with midterms quickly approaching I am finally getting around to studying. 

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Rome

Rome was great and an amazing testament to humanity and the ancient world. However, its like New York collided with ancient Roman ruins, throw in some Italians who hate American tourists with a passion and pack the weekend full of walking and touring and lines and information being thrown at you every day. Just reading that was probably stressful so imagine how living it felt. I’m excited to visit Rome for another 2 days with my mom and my sister because I want to see a different side of Rome. My favorite part of the trip was definitely seeing the ancient ruins and the Vatican. The Sistine Chapel was gorgeous but my favorite part is the enormous wall where Micheangelo painted the The Last Judgement. It’s a magnificent piece of artwork that matches the magnitude of the chapel ceiling. 

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French Rivera

The beaches, the food, and the views along the mountainous coast were FANTASTIC! I love the French language, although I couldn’t say anything besides merci but it’s really beautiful to listen to. I’ve always wanted to visit Monaco after researching Grace Kelly who was an actress that married the Prince of Monaco and became a princess. I got to see her tomb which was really cool and I was able to see a lot of yachts and a gorgeous city in general. Nice, France was where we enjoyed dinner and our last taste of Carnivale! The nightlife is BOMB in Nice! My favorite places were Ghost Bar, Master Home, and Wayne’s Bar. The food was the most incredible part and if you go to Nice you MUST MUST MUST go to L’Coure which has an amazing fish, salmon, and patate. 

Viareggio

EVERY SINGLE PERSON SHOULD GO TO VIAREGGIO FOR CARNIVALE. It was one of the best days I’ve had in Italy. We saw an incredible parade, had a great time interacting with the people, and ended the day watching the sunset on the beach. Image

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Livin’ La Vida Local

Travel

I’m approaching my fourth week in Florence and after spending the weekend without my roommates and on my  own, I feel a little more at home here. I’ve cleaned my apartment, done the laundry, bought groceries, found a general idea of my bearings, and I’ve started getting into the routine of going to classes and unfortunately doing my homework.

Now I’m at the point where I feel like I’ve done the touristy Florentine things to do and I’ve ready to start seeing what Florence is truly about. There are thousands of study abroad students in Florence and most of them will stick to the normal agenda for study abroad students. Pregaming at Lions Fountain (an English type bar with Greek letters scrawled on the walls), then going out to Red Garder (the American Karaoke bar equipped with beer pong tables) and ending the night at the club Twice. I’ve been to all these places and while fun, they are also littered with study abroad students and the skeevy Italians who are trying to sleep with the pretty blonde American girls.

As I’ve already said, I came to Florence to get away from the typical TCU scene and in itself the typical college lifestyle of partying. This Friday I drank a little too much vino and ended up spending my entire Saturday afternoon hungover in my apartment instead of exploring the city. Now maybe that sounds like an excellent Friday night at TCU but here I just felt embarrassed and upset that I missed out on a wonderful day in Florence.

On my Friday afternoon though I went to my new favorite coffee shop on the other side of the river and then took a different way back to my apartment exploring the side streets and all the different and unique shops.

On my way back I went to the Pitti Palace which is one of the Medici’s homes that has been converted into not one, not two, but TEN museums. If you could see the inside of it, you would understand how it’s possible. It was room after room after room of hundreds of paintings and statues. The decor of the palace itself was sometimes more interesting than the portraits of aristocratic families! My favorite part was the costume museum…or course.

I guess I’m ready to find more things to do in Florence besides the typical things. Don’t get me wrong, the Uffizi gallery was incredible it almost brought my to tears. Going to the Academia and seeing the David was an experience I will never forget because the sheer magnitude of the statue is literally breath-taking. I just want to see more of Florence and experience everything it has to offer.

Some things I would like to do:

-Go see the Duffy Photographic Genius Exhibit*

-Go bars outside of Santa Croce

-Go to the Leather School

-Visit the Antique Market

*Addendum: The Duffy exhibit was incredible. Very inspiring portraits of the 1960s and 70s that included models, actors, and celebrities. Below are a few photos I grabbed from the web.

 

 

 

Florentine Fashion

Personal, Shopping, Travel

Italians have a reputation for being fashionable and let me tell you that they have not let me down. They are always well-groomed and prepared to look good for the day when they venture out into the Italian streets. I agree with the sentiments I’ve heard that Italians are partial to black and neutrals because almost every single jacket I see here is black. However, as I see the spring trends creep into the beautiful windows along the major shopping streets, I see bursts of spring colors like teal, peach, and yellow and I have an inkling that Italians style may begin to bloom when it warms up.

After being in Italy for a week I’m already worn just about everything I’ve brought, save for a few dresses just aren’t warm enough for the chilly weather we have been having the past few days. I’m beginning to analyze the things that I’ve brought and wondering if they accurately reflect who I am. I’ve brought with me one of my favorite dresses which is full of bright colors, but after seeing all of the black here I feel like the dress screams “HELLO I AM AMERICAN!” rather than my usual,  “Hello! I am quite wonderful and fun!” But in reality, this dress really does represent me, but I feel like if I want to fit in with the Italian fashion, I’ll need to sacrifice a part of me (the loud, outrageous part) that often is shown in my clothing choices.

When I bought this dress I immediately knew that I wanted to wear it when I went out because it’s a very lively dress and I wanted to tell people that I’m fun. But here I feel like it would seem like I’m screaming for attention in a negative way. I’ve always dressed in a way that reflects who I am or who I want people to think I am. I’ve always chosen clothes that I’m drawn to which are usually bright colors, fun patterns, or basic pieces that I can mix and match with my loud accessories. These clothes, in addition to my outgoing personality, create a persona which many people describe as colorful. Even in middle school, I would dress in different themes every day depending on my inspiration, which could range from ballet to hippie to punk rock. In 7th grade, I even made my own pair of jeans and planned an entire outfit around my two favorite colors, black and hot pink .

Ignoring my horrible haircut, this outfit was pretty in style at the time for my middle school. Even though looking back makes me cringe, I remember feeling so confident and in charge of my style that I didn’t care. I’ve always identified myself through my clothing so I often believe that others practice the same thing and therefore I often judge a person based on their wardrobe. However, through my new experience with a limited wardrobe, I understand that there are limitations people face with their closets. Budget, practicality issues, and environment are all issues that people face when they get dressed in the morning. Clothing choices are simply about choosing which persona you want to exhibit that day, sometimes you are dressing to fit into a certain environment or layering on several shirts that may not match because its so incredibly cold outside you don’t care. Every fashion choice we make reflects more than just our personality, it reflects the choices we make for our day. I still believe in the idea of communicating through our fashion choices but I also believe that clothing was created for a purpose and for most people they still function with a purpose of clothing our bodies. But I’ll still live my life wearing adorable clothes that fulfill the same purpose.

Also, for girls who are dying to know about the shopping scene in Florence, it’s incredible! The stores range from cheap to affordable to expensive. H&M and Zara are always crazy busy, but I bought a ton of great clothes for a reasonable price including a trench coat for only 20 euro! There are also a lot of cute boutique stores that are a little pricier but have different unique clothes.

*TIP: In the middle of February, almost every store in Florence has MASSIVE MARKDOWN SALES where almost everything is 50% off so you can get great deals on early spring merchandise and winter wear. I’m planning on hitting the stores tomorrow during my break tomorrow. I’ll post later about the best stores to hit when in Florence.

La Bella Vida

Personal, Travel

So here I finally am…Florence. Italy. This semester is here and happening and I am loving absolutely every minute of it!

Florence really and truly is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen! I honestly find myself catching my breath every time I see the Duomo or the Ponte Vecchio…and everywhere else for that matter. How can you look at a structure that is over 2000 years old and not be impressed by the sheer beauty, magnitude and detail that was put into it!

So far I understand the hardships that I’ll face abroad. Like losing my luggage for the first two days I was in Florence and having to accept it and move on with my travels. I did pretty well with handling the situation with a positive attitude, but by the end of day two I really needed a shower. ASAP.

Italian language is definitely something I didn’t prepare myself for. Everyone here knows basic words in English mostly and a lot know enough to talk with customers (think waitresses and store clerks). Their knowledge of English matches my knowledge of Italian…which is piccolo, unfortunately. However, ciao, gratzia, scusi, and bene get you fairly far in the main areas of Florence. I can’t wait to start my Italian class on Monday so that I can start to learn more vocabulary..and how to form sentences.

So far I’ve had an apertivo (wine and something to munch on…think happy hour Italian style), gone shopping at the San Lorenzo leather market, bought my groceries at the Central Market, gone on a walking tour of the city center, gotten very lost multiple times, and eaten some of the best pizza of my life. We also had a delicious seafood brushette last night at dinner that was pure heaven!

As I reflect on my first few days here, it’s starting to set in that I have the choice of what my study abroad semester will be like for me. I see others who are trying to grasp very tightly onto their American customs and mindset while I am trying to push myself to delve into the Italian culture…even if it just one cobblestoned step at a time. It’s not going to be easy by any means but I think that the more people are fighting it, the worse the culture shock can be.

I am really keeping my positive attitude though and I’m proud of that and I’m trying really hard to be open and talk with everyone I meet. I know I still have some time to adjust but I guess it’s just more exciting to settle in. My apartment is finally all set up with my clothes hung up and I will be cooking dinner tonight with my roommates. Then it’s out for another night of bar hopping. Tomorrow we are going to a vintage market I read about here. I am hoping to visit some museums on Sunday and explore the city by myself a little bit. I also need to keep reminding myself to actually use my camera a little more!!

I was so worried about making friends and having someone to confide in here and while I do have Monica here as someone I really know very well – I am starting to understand that I want to be alone when I am here. There is nothing wrong with going out by myself during the day and exploring a piazza or reading a book while drinking my caffe latte con panna. I wanted to get away from the TCU scene and I think for me it really just meant I wanted to get away by myself.