25 cities, 5 countries, several walking tours, countless memories and a new place I was able to call home for four months. What once was a distant possibility became reality. I had always wanted to study abroad and thought about studying in Ireland or Australia because let’s be honest, speaking English would have made things a lot easier, but I am happy to have chosen Florence, Italy as my host city.
Florence is a unique city in that every day you are walking the same cobblestone streets that artists like Michelangelo, Donatello, and Galileo had once walked before you. Walking to class you are able to pass medieval palaces, churches, and museums filled with masterpieces. As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is filled with history around every corner, and through all its history from the Medici family to the contemporary street artist, Clet Abraham; Florence is still thriving with its local artisans, food, and culture.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I would never be able to fit in as an Italian with my blonde hair and blue eyes but I didn’t let that stop me from trying. I bought myself a leather jacket, some weird chunky shoes and tried my best not to trip on the cobblestone (only fell once). I acted like I wasn’t lost, pretended I knew things about wine, and tried my best to pronounce ever consonant in the Italian language.
Over time I really did begin to know my way around and was even able to give people directions in Italian. I started to sneer at the tourists that were walking too slow and stopping to take pictures every second completely denying the fact that I too am a tourist. I began to enjoy meals lasting several hours with friends and even felt a little rushed if our food came out too quickly. For anyone that knows me, that may sound a bit shocking considering at home I often choose a seat with a clear view of the kitchen doors.
It’s easy to take things for granted while walking through the streets of Florence. After awhile, you forget how amazing it is that someone is playing music in every piazza you walk through. You forget how fun it is to walk through the Mercato Centrale for fresh groceries, as it becomes something to check off your to-do-list. The cathedral bells that ring at the worst hours end up being something you will miss, and the street vendors…well, no one is going to miss them.
What I will miss the most is the lifestyle of studying abroad. It’s not often that you can travel to another country every weekend, or order a five star meal for just 12 euro. I’m going to miss all the friends I’ve made, my roommates, and all the fresh food you can eat. Living in Italy allowed me to fully experience another culture and that can’t be done in just a few weeks.
So thank you Italy for teaching me to stop and smell the cigarettes and salute to the semester of a lifetime.