Tag Archives: Florence

Finding Friends and Family in Firenze


This past weekend, I finally made it to the gorgeous city of Firenze (a.k.a. Florence)! Traveling to Florence was almost too easy. Take just a short hour and a half train ride from Rome and you will find yourself in this beautiful center of the Renaissance. I was especially excited to explore Florence because I would get to do it with my mom and step dad who are visiting me in Italy for the week. While I love showing them my favorite spots in my temporary home city, taking a weekend trip to Florence gave us the opportunity to discover a new city together and Firenze did not disappoint!

After we arrived on the train, we grabbed the typical Italian breakfast of a caffe and cornetto and then headed straight to see the famous Duomo. It was even bigger than I imagined! Everyone was gathering in the main piazza to take a look at the incredible structure. Once we were able to stop staring at the Duomo, we went to check out Florence’s famous leather market and buy some genuine Italian leather products. With some time to spare before lunch, we went to the Galleria Dell’Accademia, where we saw Michelangelo’s David statue. I was anticipating a life-sized David and was surprised to discover that he was much larger!


As if my time in Florence could not get any better, I got to meet up with a group of my best friends from Temple main campus. A group of my fellow musical theatre majors are studying abroad in London for the semester and we knew we had to see each other while we are in Europe. As it turns out, we all planned a trip to Florence for the same weekend without even trying! It was the perfect happy accident. As my family and I went to meet my friends for a delicious pizza lunch, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Walking through the door of that restaurant was like walking into Philly style to meet up with friends back at home (and yet, it wasn’t like that at all). I felt like my worlds were colliding. I was still in Italy, the country I have grown to love over the past two and a half months, but I was completely surrounded by my closest family and friends from the States. I only had one day to spend with my friends before they had to head back to London, which wasn’t nearly enough time to catch up on all of our experiences abroad, but we made the most out of every second of our time.


Of course, we had to get some gelato together. Then we went to the Piazzale Michelangelo, where there are breathtaking views of all of Florence. We bought some wine at a nearby stand, cracked it open, and sat on the steps to fill each other in on our lives while soaking up Firenze. Finally, we went to grab some classic Italian cuisine together for dinner, explored some of the local bars, and even had drinks made by an Albert Einstein look alike. I can’t even express how happy I was to be reunited with my friends and show them a piece of Italy. I was glad I could show them some Italian culture and give them a bit of an inside scoop, even though I may not be the expert on Florence. I was sad to say goodbye to them, but I knew that we would see each other again in a few weeks and we both had so much more left to experience in our own study abroad programs.


As I spent the rest of my time with my mom and step dad, we climbed 414 steps to the top of the bell tower where we could get 360 degree panoramic views of the city. Then we went to wander through the enormous and scenic Boboli Gardens. Finally, we topped it off with a mouth watering pasta meal before heading back to Rome.

I could not have asked for a more perfect weekend: a stunning city, family, and the friend reunion of a lifetime. My heart is full.


Falling for Florence


I’ll admit it- my first impression of Rome was not the greatest.

I  was fresh off of a flight, tired, and cranky. The first thing I saw was not the beautiful cobblestone streets and architecture of my dreams, it was a man almost getting hit by a bus. Our taxi to the residence pulled up next to a dumpster, and our driver opened the door into oncoming traffic. I felt tricked. This is the city I’ve been dying to come to? It’s….gross! I felt a bit ashamed for being so quick to judge, but in my defense, long-haul flights are not fun. I probably would have said a private beach in Hawaii was ugly if it meant getting to my room and to sleep any faster.


Yeah, I was too tired to appreciate this. Crazy.

Me and Rome have been getting along much better lately. The graffiti is interesting, the traffic is manageable, even the trash just begins to remind me of home. (To clarify- I don’t live in a dumpster. I live near New York, another city lots of people think is gross and dirty. It is, but I still love it.) I figured, if I could like it at home, I could like it here. But it’s taken me a while to get to this point.

Me and Florence, however, is a different story. From the first second-I loved Florence. There was something so vibrant about it, even at 10am on a weekday. There weren’t mobs of people, just light crowds, the faint smell of pastries (and leather. so much leather), and gorgeous open squares.


Being a dork in front of the Cathedral di Santa Maria. Hey, when in….Florence?

The first thing we did was take a quick walk around the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore- yes, the one with Brunelleschi’s Duomo. Just from the outside, it is stunning. The patterns of alternating green and white marble are striking, and it makes for quite the sight when you catch a glimpse down the street. Our tickets to climb the dome were not until the next morning, however, so we had to find something else to do.

We headed over to the Uffizi Gallery, where we happened to meet up with some other Temple students we knew- we’re literally everywhere. We decided to head in together, and we spent the day looking at all the incredible art the Uffizi has to offer. Botticelli, DaVinci, Caravaggio, Gentileschi, Bosch, Titian, Raphael.

It was so crazy to see some of this work that I remember learning about in high school right in front of me. It makes me want to send a postcard to my high school art history teacher- Hey! Remember me? I’m seeing all that stuff you told us about! It was also fun to put some of my new knowledge of Greek statues from my Mythology class to good use, pointing out how to tell which gods statues are of. Like, if there’s a snake, its probably Apollo. And upper arm bracelets symbolized beauty, so if the statue is wearing one, it’s probably of Aphrodite.

We spent the rest of the evening around the Ponte Vecchio, and then took a walk through the Boboli Gardens, which offer a beautiful view of the city.

The next day, both me and my friend woke up super early to go climb Il Duomo. It’s four hundred steps to the top, and every single one is torture. I’m sure if you exercise regularly, each stair is like a marshmallow cloud pillow, but I do not, and it sucked. I did fine until about halfway up, then it started feeling like I would be climbing stairs for the rest of my life, because they did not end. Only after two breaks and countless complaints of “these stairs are actually going to kill me.”, did we reach this sight:


Giotto’s Bell Tower! We were going to climb this too, but decided not too after nearly dying halfway up the Duomo.

There’s not really words for it, but it was incredible. I could have stayed up there all day, and that’s not just because the spiral staircase was terrifying and my legs hurt.


This is the face of someone whose legs are ready to abandon their body and just leave forever. Also of someone realizing how high up off the ground she is.

We took one last pit stop before leaving to go see Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria Accademia. It’s huge. Seriously, the thing is massive. I’ve been told it’s big, but I’m 4’11”. Everything is huge to me. But I couldn’t get over the size of it, and how something so large can still seem so life like. It seemed like the perfect way to wrap up our trip.


So weird to see this in real life- it never actually seemed like something I would be able to do.

One thing I love about Temple Rome so far is how they encourage us to explore on our weekends, and how easy it is to do so. Our trip was very last minute, we only decided a day before leaving to actually go. But it was still an easy trip, and we were in Florence in a few hours. If you travel a few hours outside of Philadelphia, all you’ll end up in is a cornfield in the middle of Amish Country. Here, we were able to get to the center of the Renaissance in a morning. And it felt so incredible to be able to apply the stuff from my courses to my museum trips, it makes it feel so much more real. I’ve been really excited to get around, and my professors have only been encouraging about it. They ask us about our plans and give us advice and recommendations. It’s nice to have a system at school that understands our desires to travel, and supports it rather than ignoring it. I feel like I’m in an environment that really fosters curiosity, and it makes my studies easier. It’s something that compliments my travelling, rather than impeding it. Temple has been fantastic so far for stressing the fact that we are global students, rather than just temporary Italian ones.


We are incredible together“- me and Florence, me and Temple Rome


Art History in Florence



This past weekend, my High Renaissance Art in Italy class traveled to Florence for two days of immersion into the Renaissance architecture, painting, and sculpture that fills the city. Upon getting off the train from Rome and arriving at our hotel, most of the class headed to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David, about which we had a written assignment to complete for the course. Seeing this ubiquitous icon in person for the first time was quite a similar experience to visiting the Sistine Chapel (also for my art history class). It is imagery I have seen dozens of times throughout my life; however, actually coming face to face with it, you are for the first time actually confronted by the marvel and grandeur of it.

This feeling continued for the rest of the trip, and I quickly found Florence to be a heaven for art and architecture. Visiting the Uffizi Gallery, I was enchanted by the Botticelli room in particular, and could have spent hours examining the intricate details of the Allegory of Spring. As a class we also took a Renaissance walk through the city, stopping to analyze and learn about the palazzo’s and squares we’ve seen in our textbook. This was yet another reminder of the wonder of studying art and art history in Italy – it is a uniquely privileged experience to be able to study the material from life rather than from text, and immerses you in the subject matter in a much more personal and intimate way.


In the free time of our trip, I walked up to see the panoramic views of the city, the Duomo, and the surrounding water and hillsides from the Piazzale Michelangelo. I wandered through the quiet streets, and discovered how picturesque and idyllic of a place it is. The serene morning hours were especially atmospheric: walking through gardens of dew and raindrop covered roses, with a golden glow from the sun reflecting in the windows, smelling smoke drift out of chimneys and imagining the warm and cozy residents huddled inside.

These moments are some of my favorites of the semester, and evoke the idyllic Italian environment I have loved getting to know. While I think that Rome provides perhaps the most authentic, immersive, and stimulating environment to live in in Italy, it is amazing to be surrounded by so many interesting cities rich in culture and beauty throughout the country, just a short train ride away.



Class Trip to Florence!


One of the greatest aspects of Temple Rome is that the courses include plenty of site visits and class trips. Every week I have two site visits for different classes so I get to see a new part of Rome all the time. For my High Renaissance Art class, we recently took a weekend trip to Florence. It was amazing! Florence was so gorgeous. I wish I could have stayed there longer, but I was still able to see a lot in such a short time.

We got there Friday morning and then that afternoon we went to the Uffizi gallery. Being that close to so many masterpieces was incredible, especially since my professor was able to explain some to the paintings, which made me appreciate it even more. Later that night, we got to go out to dinner with my professor. We went to this amazing place called the Yellow Bar, where they make their own pasta. It was probably one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to. I already wish I could go back.

The next day, our professor took us on a walking tour of Rome in the morning, and then we went to the Duomo in the afternoon. I never expected it to be so huge! I can’t think of any cathedral that is bigger. We also had a surprising amount of free time while in Florence. We got to explore a lot of the city own our own. For lunch, my friends and I ate at a Chinese restaurant. I know, its practically criminal to eat Chinese food while I have such a short amount of time in Italy, but I couldn’t help myself! Getting Chinese food reminded me of home, plus it was so delicious. That night, we had to complete a class assignment, which I didn’t mind, because we got to see Michelangelo’s David. It was completely magnificent. It was so huge and incredibly awe-inspiring just to even gaze upon it. It was clearly the central piece in the Accademia Gallery. After going there, I can see why the David is such an important sculpture in art history. I could go on for hours, but I digress.


My final day in Florence concluded with free time in the morning, where I was able to walk around Florence some more. I found the leather market, which was pretty cool, and then I found the farmer’s market, where I went completely nuts. They had free samples of cheese, pastries, meats, olive oil and wine. Needless to say, I bought A LOT of food there. In the afternoon before our train back, we explored the Medici Chapel. I was no so surprised at this point to find out that it was also incredibly massive. Everything in Florence was huge, and I just wasn’t expecting that.


I was surprised at how touristy Florence was. I’m pretty sure that I have heard more people speak English in Florence than my entire time being in Rome. I still can’t believe that my class trips are this fabulous, I never thought that I would be able to have such a casual weekend class trip to Florence. Temple Rome definitely has an invigorating learning environment.

Everything in Florence was beautiful, it was just like a more compact version of Rome. Rome definitely has my heart, but I definitely gave a little bit of it away to Florence too.


Not Your Typical Fall Break: Paris, Florence, Siena


In the United States, at any typical university, a fall break is given to students right after midterms. This fall break is usually spent by taking a few days off of classes and heading home to relax with family. Here for students at Temple Rome, fall break is spent by taking week long trips across Europe to all of the places you’ve only dreamed of seeing in your lifetime. I was lucky enough to have family come visit me for 2 weeks, arriving a week before fall break and staying for the duration of my break.  First off, seeing my mom after a month and a half was much needed, it gave me that little piece of home that i had been searching for here in Italy. Also, my mom and three cousins had planned a trip to Paris, Florence, and Siena during my break and I was more than ready to be done with midterms and off to see more of the world! While I still had school, I got to spend time with my family in between classes showing them parts of Rome and enjoying delicious and relaxing meals with them. Then finally, the Friday night after my tests were finished, I headed to their hotel and after enjoying a meal at a German restaurant across the street, I headed to bed to prepare for our early flight to Paris. Paris is a place I had dreamed of going since I was a little girl, always fantasizing about what it would be like and hoping it would be like what I saw in the movies. I must say I truly fell in love with Paris. My top 4 highlights of my days spent there were:

1. The Eiffel Tower


Not only was the Eiffel tower the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, but it sparkled every hour! It was truly breathtaking and exceeded my expectations of what Paris would look like at night. It was almost as if the city had its own sun, the way it illuminated everything. It took me a long time to truly believe that I was standing in front of it (and eventually right underneath it!)

2. Notre Dame

This cathedral was MASSIVE and taking in the little details of the building was eye-opening and incredible. I had always heard stories of the gargoyles that topped it, but seeing them for myself was something I’ll never forget. When we went inside Notre Dame, there was a mass that was beginning and that only added to the beauty of the place.



3. Putting a lock on the Pont Des-Artes Bridge

When my parents came to Paris in 2011, they put a lock on the famous Pont Des-Artes bridge and said whoever in our family came to Paris after them had to also put a lock on the bridge. My mother and I never thought our chance would come so soon! We had a fun time writing on our lock and picking our special spot on the bridge. Hopefully I’ll get to return to see my lock soon!


4. Shakespeare and Company

The place where some of my favorite writers frequented during what I consider the golden age of Paris, during the lost generation. Knowing that I was walking inside walls that Ernest Hemingway also walked through, and wrote about, gave me an even greater picture of what Paris was like for writers and artists during that time. It also had me wishing I could take a time machine back to the early 20th century to experience Paris. Kinda sounds like a recent movie doesn’t it? (cough cough MIDNIGHT IN PARIS). Of course, I had to buy a Hemingway book A Moveable Feast at the quaint little shop, which featured the writer on the cover standing in front of the store itself. (too cool!)



After our amazing trip to Paris, i reluctantly boarded to plane to Florence, where we would be renting an apartment for the rest of our trip. We spent our days in Florence strolling the streets by the water and looking at the gems on the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. We also ate delicious meals at adorable Italian restaurants and even enjoy some fun drinks at the new Hard Rock in the main area of Florence. We watched an Italian band perform on our last night and enjoyed bonding time as a family. Florence was full of artists and musicians roaming the streets and performing and selling their work to everyone. We really enjoyed our time in Florence and were very sad to have to say goodbye.


During our stay in Florence we took a day trip to the town of Siena. Siena was only a short train ride away and it was well worth it! It was a gorgeous medieval looking place that offered delicious Tuscan wines and authentic Italian meals. There were also many local shops that we had fun exploring. The Piazza Del Campo was beautiful and it was a nice little quiet escape from the busy places we had been visiting throughout the break.


Now that my family is back in the United States and I’m back in school, it’s time to finish my last half of the semester. I can’t believe so much time has gone by and we have less than 50 days left!