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Florence - Spring 2012

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S: An American in Florence - Gloria Scribner's Semester Abroad | ITALY | FLORENCE | ARRIVED 24 JANUARY 2012 | For the spring semester of my senior year in college, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy. What was supposed to be a rigorous academic program turned into a magical four-month-long vacation.



1: ITALY | ARRIVED FLORENCE | 24 JANUARY 2012 | It has always been my dream to study abroad at least once during my college career. I seized the opportunity in my senior year by electing to spend the 2012 spring semester in Florence, Italy. I studied the Italian language exclusively, and I completed a 40-hour internship at the school's library. I shared a huge, seventh-floor apartment with five other American girls, each from a different corner of the country. My time abroad was truly a grand experience that I will never forget. For four months, I lived in a fairytale world that was rich with art, history, and culture - not to mention the best gelato and cappuccino on the planet! | BUON VIAGGIO

2: Left: Views from my bedroom in Piazza Santa Felicita - we were on the top floor! Right: Apartment interiors.

3: "I have often walked down this street before; but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before. All at once am I several stories high, knowing I'm on the street where you live. - My Fair Lady (1964)

5: Florence is such a magical city. On the left are images of the Duomo, which I walked by everyday on my way to class. On the right are pictures of my daily life, including my class (yes, my entire class and professor) and the location of my internship, the school's library. On the next few pages are various adventures within Florence, including key sites in the city, events in Florence, and the most Italian thing of all: food.

6: Piazzale Michelangelo is a plaza built on a hill that overlooks the city. It is quite a hike to get there, but the payoff is incredible. And during sunset, the view is even more phenomenal. Both locals and tourists will often bring a bottle of wine and a blanket, sit on the steps, and watch the sun disappear behind the mountains.

8: BOBOLI & BARDINI GARDENS | These lavish gardens are part of the Pitti Palace, located a mere block from my apartment. I could not believe how much city life made me miss and appreciate nature. The gardens became a favorite place and heavenly oasis for myself and friends once spring arrived. A blanket and a book is all that was needed for a blissful afternoon.

10: Left top: Focaccia in Cinque Terre; wine tasting buffet in Siena; mango and strawberry gelato during Notte Bianca in Florence; a variety of pizza slices in Siena. Left middle: First grocery haul. Left bottom: Melting blood orange gelato at Piazzale Michaelangelo in Florence; cappuccino and pound cake in Rome; spinach and ricotta pizza from Gusta Pizza in Florence; homemade spaghetti with garlic bread. | Right top: Vegetable stand at the local fresh market in Florence. Right bottom: Caprese pizza (cheese, spinach, and tomatoes) in Capri; clementine lunch at the Venice Carnival; half-eaten pizza on the beach in Positano.

13: Left: ACF Fiorentina vs. Inter Milan, April 22. Score: 0-0. Yup. A riveting game. Right: Chocolate Festival, February 10-19. Yes, everything you see is chocolate... well, except the chocolatier.

15: CORTONA, on February 2, was a city on a hill buried in snow. The first weekend of the semester, Italy woke up with an identity crisis and thought that she was Narnia. We were just in time for the worst winter in over 30 years. Despite the bitter cold and total desertion of the streets, it was a beautiful city. Pay particular attention to the red car.

16: VERONA | was the first formal excursion that we went on with my program, Study Abroad Italy (SAI). We were scheduled to spend a day each in Verona, Lake Garda, and Padua. Unfortunately, the Padua leg got canceled due to country-wide blizzards. Our first few weeks in Italy were spent in a mild state of hypothermia as Europe battled its worst winter in 37 years. Despite the weather, we were able to experience Verona and Lake Garda, which were both beautiful. So it is in fair Verona where we lay our scene... | February 3-5

17: Left: Bronze Juliet - rub her breast to find your next love! Left bottom: Love letters to Juliet (from myself and a friend). Right, clockwise from the top left: Locks of love, which are locks that are hooked to gates and bridges to signify a couple "locking their love" by throwing away the key; Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine; Bridges over the Adige River; Sirmione Castle on Lake Garda; a well-to-do person's tomb.

18: VENICE | Carnevale di Venezia | FEBRUARY 18 | VENICE CARNIVAL is an annual forty-day festival leading up to Easter. The event is most notable for its elaborate masks as everyone wonders who's who. Who do you see?

20: VENICE | Venice is known as one of the most romantic cities in the world. The streets are narrow alleys, connected by tiny bridges, and blue canals weave throughout the city. The island cannot support automobiles, so it instead relies on taxiing pontoon boats. Some friends and I visited during Carnevale, and the six of us split a gondola ride through the ocean lanes and drank amazing wine from a fountain.

22: CARNEVALE di VIAREGGIO is one of the biggest carnivals in Europe. Other carnivals are known for their masks and traditions, but Viareggio is characterized by parade floats, which take months to make by hand. The floats are often political or religious in theme, and they are constructed with a distinctly satirical message. The city of Viareggio is located directly on the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea. February 19.

23: NOTTE BIANCA is a giant street party in Florence. Every shop, café, and bar stays open all night, and every piazza hosts some sort of music or event. There is no sleeping during Notte Bianca, so if you can't beat 'em, you may as well join 'em! On the far right is a view of the street from my window, and on the bottom you can see how packed the streets were. The climax of the night was the release of paper lanterns on the Ponte Vecchio. April 13.

25: is my mother's favorite city on the planet. As the harshness of winter waned into springtime, my parents decided to come pay me a visit! The goal was two-fold: see me and also finally get my dad to Europe. We met for three wonderful days. The stay was very relaxed and slow-paced. We visited the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's, and Trevi Fountain at night. Mom and I also explored Piazza Navona and Castel Sant'Angelo. March 1-4. | ROME

26: March 9 | BOLOGNA | is a sort of "college town" in Italy. It is the location of the first European university, est. 1088. Bologna is a very youthful and vibrant city. While the art and architecture are naturally amazing, there are also lots of shops and wonderful eateries. My roommate and I made acquaintances with some other people in our group and set out to find a place raved to be one of the best gelato joints in Italy (and rightly so!). After the euphoria-inducing ice cream, we explored until we found a gigantic flea market.

27: Left, clockwise: Statue of Pope Gregory XIII; random walkway, autopsy room, city streets Right, clockwise: Fountain with Neptune, best gelato ever, city streets.

28: Coincidentally, my brother, Jeff, had been planning a trip to Italy at the same time that I would be studying there. Him and a friend whom he was traveling with popped by Florence for a couple days, and we spent one of those days visiting Pisa together! It was surreal to be in Italy with my brother, but such a fun surprise! His friend, Matt, and I both climbed the crooked and bowed steps to the top of the Torre di Pisa. Later, we three lunched on pizza and drank in the view of the famous leaning tower behind us. March 27. | PISA

30: CORTONA | We gave Cortona another try in the springtime because the views were so incredible in February that we had to see this tiny Tuscan hill town in its rightful, sunny glory. Such a different world! | March 31

31: Far left: Views in Cortona. Left bottom: Remember the car? It hasn't moved! Right, clockwise from the top left: View of valley; the main piazza; myself and the view; sunset; after sunset; friend (Dalia) on a Vespa.

32: SIENA The first six weeks of my Italian experience seemed to take years due to homesickness and the intolerable cold. However, once spring hit, the remaining six weeks were a whirlwind of adventure! I managed to visit Siena twice in a matter of days. The first experience was with my study abroad program. We went wine tasting in the hills as well as quickly dashed through the city. Siena is extremely hilly -- so much so that in some alleys it's more of a hands-and-feet climb to go up a slope. My second visit was when my wonderful cousin, Meg, came to Italy for her spring break. She was studying in Spain for the semester. Accompanied by two of her friends, her and I took our leisurely time to explore the city. We climbed the 88-meter clock tower in the city square as well as ate amazing pizza.

33: Left: Entrance to winery, herb garden, winery store, vineyard, Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral). March 30. Right: View from clock tower; fountain; Torre del Mangia and government building; Siena streets and views. April 2.

34: LIVORNO & CASTIGLIONCELLO For a roommate's birthday, we traveled to the region of Livorno after hearing rave reviews about its beaches. The namesake city turned out to be a simple port town whose only claim to fame was "Little Venice," a series of canals modeled after its namesake, and its rocky beaches a train ride away. April 28.

36: CINQUE TERRE For a friend's birthday we visited Cinque Terre, a series of cities built into the seaside mountains. The area is typically overcast and dreary, but the rain stayed mostly in the clouds. We hiked or trained through the five cities (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore), and each was more splendid than the last. April 29.

38: AMALFI COAST Sorrento, Positano, Capri, and Pompeii | Left: Isle of Capri; "sidewalks" in Pompeii; fields of poppies in Pompeii ruins; Left bottom: Sorrento; Dalia and I in Positano; Capri cliffs; Blue Grotto in Capri. Right: Positano and its beach; me cliff jumping in Positano. | The last hurrah of my study abroad traveling came in the form of a weekend trip to the Amalfi Coast. We stayed in Sorrento and traveled with a tour group to the surrounding cities of Positano, Capri, and Pompeii. We explored the sadly commercialized Isle of Capri and the ancient city of Pompeii. How great of a way to climax the experience of a lifetime than tossing fear to the wind and jumping off a rocky cliff into the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea. May 3-5.

40: ROME Mom flew over to help me pack up my apartment and carry my life back home. It was great to show her my routine in Florence, but it was equally exciting to finally fulfill a lifelong dream: visit the Spanish Steps in Rome when the azaleas are in bloom!! We walked the city during our half-day stay in Rome, from Piazza del Popolo to the Spanish Steps to the Wedding Cake. We also visited Santa Susanna, the home church of her family when they lived in Italy. May 9.

42: Farewell Italy, until next time....

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  • By: Gloria S.
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  • Title: Florence - Spring 2012
  • Spring semester in Florence, Italy. (Travel Magazine theme.)
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  • Published: almost 6 years ago