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Family Fun

My family came to visit me last week! Two members, my mother and brother, made the long, transatlantic journey to spend a week in Italy. Honestly, I didn’t realize how much I missed them until they got here. My missing someone isn’t an active, mournful missing in which I am full of grief. There isn’t this homesickness invading my thoughts or miserable wishfulness. Instead, my missing someone is wanting to share these experiences with that person and wishing he or she were here to enjoy these experiences together. This goes for my boyfriend, my family, and my friends from home. I love sharing what I am doing in Florence, but would love to have them here to do them with me!

To have family here and share in this Italian experience, for however brief, was wonderful. It did feel strange, I admit, when they left and I didn’t go home with them. It felt wrong, almost, for me to say and them to leave. This isn’t a vacation for me, like it was for them… I live here. They were just visiting. It was surreal that one week ago we were exploring churches and watching the sunset together from a picturesque view. Although I am sad they left, I truly want to make the most of the one month I have left. I am going to make this city my own. It finally feels like it now as I’ve grown accustomed to Italian and navigation, right in the last thirty days. This is a short post, but I just wanted to say how happy and thankful I am for my family and how eager I am to be reunited with loved ones at home!

Below are pictures from what we did together!

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We climbed to the top of the bell tower and the cupola of the dome of the main cathedral of Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore. This picture is from the top of the bell tower.
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View from Piazzale Michelangelo
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Pompeii ruins
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The Isle of Capri is easily the most beautiful place I’ve been to in Italy.
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Capri waters

Kate (the Great) Date

My roommate, Kate, and I get along very well. We love the television and book series Outlander, are are enamored with Downton Abbey, and are major art history nerds. That being said, we are in an art history class together on Thursdays at 9:00 am. Our courses are 2.5 hours long, but only occur once a week. In these classes, we learn about various works and then go on-site to see them firsthand. Last week, for example, we went to the Bargello museum and viewed some of Michelangelo’s early sculptures we discussed not thirty minutes previous.

After class is over, Kate and I are both hungry. A shared look passes between us and we know that we’re about to hunt for something good. Two or three weeks ago, we ventured across the Arno river, about thirty minutes away, to get legendary American bagels. I feel so un-Italian when I admit that I get American food once a week, but then I remember the variety available back in the States. It isn’t uncommon to eat Mexican food one night for dinner, but feast on Chinese food the next. This fact makes me feel better, and also a little spoiled in the way we get such a mish-mash of cultures at home. Anyway, we chose different bagel sandwiches and cried a little inside.

Last week, we went to another American place and got ourselves some brunch at a local cafe specializing in American breakfast foods. Although it is American food, Italians frequent here, too. Our waiter, therefore, knew both Italian and English. Most shops in Florence employ people who know basic English as this city is filled with tourists and study abroad students. English is generally the common language for transactions, unless, of course, you are Italian. It is nice to be in a restaurant where Italian is the predominant language, and this little cafe is just like that. It is called La Vespa and is charming and quaint; similar to local brunch places in Kansas City. I had a breakfast burrito and Kate had a traditional egg, bacon, and toast combination platter. Again, we cried inside at the taste of home. It was absolutely delicious.

Afterwards, we went to a cafe called La Menagere. Again, this place is frequented by many locals and visitors alike. It is a cafe, bistrot, restaurant, flower shop, and even has a space for live music. Needless to say, it is large and beautiful. It faintly reminds me of Anthropologie from home. There are colorful couches interspersed with real tables and chairs for seating, and there is a lower level in addition to an heated patio outside. Although laptops and homework set us apart as Americans, we brought both to cross some schoolwork off our agendas. At normal bars (in Italy, a cafe/coffeeshop is a bar), one goes to the front to order and generally takes the espresso or drink there, if by yourself, but this cafe has waitresses milling around to take your order. We both ordered cappuccinos and settled in to work on our assignments.

That’s just a taste of what my Thursdays are like with Kate. She’s a marvelous lady, enjoys alone time just as much as I do, and is one of the kindest, most understanding humans I’ve ever met. Abby and Kate Dates on Thursdays are something I look forward to every week. Making friends in Florence was something I was nervous about, but having a roommate turn into a dear friend is a relief. I am grateful for this experience and for Kate!

Garden Teacher

No, I am not taking a horticulture class as I study abroad. The title of this post comes from my art history professor. She introduced herself by having us repeat her name back to her and then asking if anyone knew what her name meant. Only one student in this class is fluent in Italian, so he was the lone soul who answered for us. As it turns out, her last name means “garden.” She told us if we ever forget her name or how to pronounce it, we can simply call her Ms. Garden. Something as basic as this introduction shows me that I will enjoy my time in her class. All three of my art history classes are taught by her and I can honestly say I am eager to be in the lectures.

Every art history professor I’ve had the fortune of taking a course with is passionate about what he or she studies. Each is obviously an expert in the period that he or she has chosen, but all of them desire for this expertise to be worn off on his or her students. My professors teach me to look critically at a work of art, to go past the aesthetics and examine the work from a social, political, etc. context. She has this passion, but it means even more abroad because she is from and continues to reside in the city housing the art she is passionate about.

In my second class with her last week, she told us that she has learned so much more about the world through the lenses of art history. She told us she is not a wonderful historian, but has understood history by reading the images, the art. She has understood science and politics through the context of art history. She told us that this subject is a vehicle to understand the past.

Yesterday, in my first class of the week with her, we took a field trip to the church we were just discussing in the classroom. Our classes are two and a half hours, so we have the time to take excursions into the city. What other experience is like this? My professors at home lecture over images of works of art or architecture projected over a screen, but here, my professor highlights the frescoes by Giotto as we walk through the church, points out the wooden beams as we wander underneath them, and has us pay attention to the stones used in the columns as we touch them when we pass. I feel so fortunate to be here.

In the second class of the week with her yesterday, we continued to discuss Giotto. She told us that her professor gave her a 29 out of 30 for some project, and when she asked the professor why she was marked down, she was told it was because she was too passionate. She then told us that she does not like to say she deserves anything, but she felt that she deserved the 30 out of 30 because to be passionate about what you do and learn is good. She said she was angry and believes her professor is wrong. She said that we, as art historians, do not need to be passionate about what she is passionate about, or cool with what she is cool about, but to be passionate about something. That, she said, is what marks a good art historian.

And then she proceeded to tell us about one of her favorite frescoes and explain what makes her passionate about it, jokingly, with hopes of making us passionate about it, too.

Ciao!

First Four in Firenze

Phew! I’ve made it to my new Florentine home. Here’s how things have gone down in the past four days. First of all, it is Saturday around 6:30 pm as I type this, and I got here Wednesday morning, and this is the first I’ve been alone. As an introvert, it is nice to decompress with this time and write.

Tuesday:

  • Woke up and drove to MCI to catch the 7:30 am flight to Atlanta
  • 5 hour layover for international flight, drank too sweet of an iced latte, prepared for take-off
  • 8.5 hour flight to Paris, sat next to a Moroccan student going home from his study abroad experience

Wednesday:

  • Landed in Paris at 5:40 am, navigated around the MASSIVE airport (this sucker is gigantic)
  • Flight from Paris to Florence, landed around 9 am Florence time
  • Transported back to the apartment and climbed the 88 stairs (with my luggage) to my new home for the next 3.5 months
  • Took a shower, unpacked, and napped before orientation in the evening, realized I had been up for almost 22 hours
  • Began to navigate and withdrew Euros from the local bank, in awe of casually walking by the Duomo everyday (teared up)
  • Orientation and dinner in the evening, first Margherita pizza and it was so good
  • GELATO
  • Sleep, finally
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This is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as Il Duomo di Firenze, also known as the Duomo. I walk by this every single day.

 

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My first meal in Florence, Margherita pizza.

Thursday:

  • Tried out my Italian to order in a coffeeshop, mine is poor, thankful for people who understand minor bits of English
  • Espresso and chocolate croissants may be my new favorite things
  • Orientation with ISA
  • Explored the Mercato Centrale by San Lorenzo for fresh fruit and bread and meat
  • Ate fresh mozzarella and pesto open-faced sandwiches
  • Walking tour of Florence, fan-girled over the art and architecture everywhere
  • Dinner at a heavily trafficked American restaurant, must branch out to the non-American places
  • GELATO
  • Wandered Florence at night, slowly getting my bearings
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My delicious and beautiful breakfast.

Friday:

  • Walked to the Arno and ate a delicious chocolate croissant for breakfast, along with an espresso (new classic)
  • Orientation at the university, fan-girled over the school and my classes
  • Ate lunch at a panino shop for €5, absolutely delicious, will frequent here twice a week, can save other half for later
  • Hike to Piazzale Michelangelo, walked into my first basilica of the semester, San Miniato al Monte (cried here)
  • Wandered around Florence, walked into boutiques, found a gelato place that was filled with locals, good sign
  • GELATO
  • Planned weekend trips with roommates
  • Welcome reception in the evening in a Renaissance palazzo
  • Wandered to find a little dinner place, ate delicious tiramisu, went promptly home to sleep
  • Didn’t fall asleep until 2 am
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Here’s a beautiful view of Tuscany from the mini hike.

Saturday:

  • Woke up at noon, got ready to meet a friend for wandering/shopping
  • Walked Florence alone and got to where I needed all by myself, proud big girl moment
  • Bought a Florentine leather bag from the market by San Lorenzo
  • Met some girls to plan the weekend trips
  • Ate other half of panino in bed to decompress and listened to American music
  • Typed up this post and will now peruse the Italian Netflix selection

Ciao!

One Week (Left) in America

In precisely one week from now I will be on a transatlantic flight to study abroad in Florence, Italy. Considering it is rather late in the USA right now, I will be closer to landing in Paris than I was to taking off. Who would have thought I’d be typing that, huh?! In all honesty, this opportunity doesn’t feel real; despite the fact my Four Year Plan prominently labeled this semester “ABROAD” since the second week of my freshman year of college. Again, it does not feel real despite the fact I started packing last week. It is also regardless of the notebook in my purse filled with lists ranging from photocopies I need to make, varying packing lists, to-do lists, and a rough schedule of weekends abroad. It does not feel real, although it probably does to the friends who I have pestered with questions for the past month. Even though my Pinterest has been accumulating articles such as, “The Top 15 Things You Need to Bring (or something to that measure) to XYZ” for months, I am in disbelief that this is about to happen.

(Can you tell I’m a planner?)

Before I leave, there are plenty of tasks I need to complete, such as finishing a few loads of laundry, make those pesky photocopies, finish packing/cutting down the wardrobe I want to, but don’t need to, lug with me, and even take the MCAT. “Oh, wait,” you may be thinking, “The MCAT, doesn’t that make you a person wanting to become a doctor?” Well, yes, you are right, in fact it does. Although I will graduate with a B.S. in Biology, Pre-Med emphasis, one of my minors is Art History. Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the famous Renaissance period, only seems logical.

In high school, I enrolled in a humanities course to fulfill a graduation requirement, and had little to no perception of the world around me in terms of art. Little did I know it would revolutionize not only the way I view the world, but myself. The class was taught from an interdisciplinary approach as a Debate/Speech/Art History/English teacher co-taught with a history teacher. Humanities combined sociology, anthropology, art, and world history. It was in this class that I began to examine the relationship between humanity and the creation of art.

Art is not merely an aesthetically appealing painting by Van Gogh (whom I dearly love) or a soaring cathedral, although this provides a good deal of value to our modern sensibilities. Rather, art is a response to and even a reflection of a society’s culture. We can examine the surviving art from different periods to catch a glimpse into the past and learn more about a particular society’s values, norms, religion, politics, etc. Many do not realize art has this intrinsic, revealing power, but the three semester survey course challenged me to dig past the visual and apparent What? and search for answers to the question Why? After this course, I finally saw myself as a person who was more than science or math, but someone who was, and still is, after the answers to Why? 

I truly don’t think it will be real to me until I walk down the Florentine streets and see the daily life intertwined with art with each step. History will come alive and I don’t think I will get over it. My studies for the past 5 years will culminate with this experience. Then, then I will know this is real.

But first, I have to get through this one week in America and really finish packing.

Ciao!