I’ve officially been in Italy for almost a week! It seems like I’ve been here so much longer than just 6 days. So far Italy is everything I hoped for and more! I’m a history buff and enjoy architecture so it’s awesome to see such beautiful monuments on a daily basis. I live roughly two blocks from the Duomo, the city center, so it’s super convenient to get anywhere. Florence is a very walkable city and only takes roughly 20 minutes to get to the farthest side of town. I live in a flat with 6 other girls who are all from Iowa State. It’s a three bedroom-two bathroom flat with a loft as well. We all share a room with one other person except for one girl who lives in the loft. Luckily, my roommate and I got there first and were able to claim the biggest bedroom with an attached bathroom. Our apartment is brand new and we’re one of the very few tenants in the building. When we walked in after getting our keys workers were literally still inside hammering away. All of the girls I live with are very easy to get along with and want to travel often like I do. The very first night in our flat we spent the night hanging out and going to the market to get groceries. Afterwards we all went out for dinner and had delicious wine and pasta. I’m not really a wine lover so we’ll see if this stuff will grow on me. Until then I’ll suffer thru each sip.
From Tuesday to Friday we had mandatory orientation sessions that went over healthy, safety, getting around the city, a welcome dinner, permits of stay, and course information. We only had one session a day that lasted about and hour and a half so we still had plenty of time to explore the city on our own. Our flat is only a 5 minute walk from a bar called The Lion’s Fountain that several study abroad students have been coming too. My roommates and I have gone there a few times and met quite a few students from all over the U.S who are studying at various colleges in Florence. We have yet to go out on a weekend night but the nightlife was still very busy. Our flat is also a 5-10 minute walk from the grocery store. Grocery shopping has been a major struggle for me. Everything is obviously in Italian, which makes it difficult to figure out what things are. The aisles are extremely narrow and people are constantly weaving in and out of them. I’m catching onto how it works so hopefully things get better in the next week or so.
My roommates and I booked a trip through ‘Florence For Fun’ for a day trip to Venice that we went to yesterday. ‘Florence For Fun’ is one of the many travel organizations throughout Europe for college-aged students. For day trips they provide you with transportation and some guided events to see while weekend trips provide transportation, accommodations, guided tours, and one meal a day. Venice was absolutely beautiful! They have a big carnival every year that celebrates the arrival of Lent called Carnival of Venice. People dress up in elaborate costumes and masks to walk around the city. Some of the costumes were very pretty and others creeped me out. It was extremely busy because it was one of the last days so it was hard to get around the mass amounts of people.
We saw a glass blowing tour that was very cool. The glassmaker was able to make a wine vase and horse in the 20 minutes we watched him. Our tour guide told us it takes over 20 years for them to be considered professionals. The amount of detail that goes into crafty each piece is insane! Next, we rode a gondola that took us through the many canals of Venice. A cool fact I learned was that Venice is actually composed of 118 small islands that are linked together by bridges. After our gondola ride we went to the Basilica di San Marco. The Basilica is a HUGE cathedral that was built in 1084. It blew my mind with the amount of detail that was put into each aspect of it. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed. I highly recommend taking a look if you are ever in Venice. Afterwards we went to the San Marco Campanile that gave us a 365-degree view of the city. The view was absolutely worth the wait. We left for Venice at 7 am and arrived back in Florence by 11:30 pm. I had never been so happy to see my bed.