Through all the big things you feel like you have to do while abroad… here are 5 small things you should do…
Going abroad is a big deal and can be stressful as well as fun. When I first arrived in Florence, Italy, I had all these grand ideas of all the things I was going to do: go to the Uffizi, see the David, go to the Boboli Gardens, eat pizza, go dancing, climb up the Duomo, see the Rape of the Sabine… You get the picture. These were all the things I had been told to do by the tour books and the websites that I had foraged through before taking the flight across the sea and landing in the beautiful incredible city I had never been to before.
After arriving, it took me a while before I realized that although these things were important and fun to do, there were other things that were just as significant. By the end of my trip, I came to cherish these “small” moments even more than the tour-guide instructions of what to do in Florence.
Here are my top 5 “small” things you should do in Florence:
Take a walk (or many) by yourself
After a few weeks, I began to get stuck in a certain pattern: wake up, go to class, get some lunch, hang out with friends, go out for drinks, go to sleep; or something along those lines. I was almost always with friends while going around the city and one day I decided to break my normal schedule and take a walk after class by myself.
I had no plans that day so I just wandered. I went down streets I’d never been down before, got a little lost, found my way, and was soon discovering beautiful tiny streets and little stores I would have never noticed if I hadn’t been alone and choosing exactly which ways I wanted to go. It was a beautiful, albeit a little chilly afternoon but it was the first of many walks I took by myself which made me begin to feel as though the city was mine.
Appreciate all of the art- graffiti included
I am both an artist and art lover, which is good considering Florence is home to some of the most exquisite works of art in the world. It’s where the Italian Renaissance was born and where many of the most famous artists in history made their homes. The David, The Birth of Venus, The Rape of the Sabine, The Slaves, The Annunciation, The Gates of Paradise, and I haven’t even started on the fantastic architecture you walk by every single day. But there is even more art within the city if you care enough to pay attention. Besides the paintings, sculptures, architecture, and drawings, there are the local street artists who give a different vibrant energy to the city.
There are three artists who are the most prominent around the city of Florence: Clet Abraham who decorates street signs in creative and unique ways; an artist who goes by “Blub” who makes famous works of art scuba dive;; and “Exit/Enter” an artist who paints funny little men in simple scenes, some floating away holding onto balloons while others just sit looking at flowers. Each artist has a unique style and although the art is frowned upon by many, you can’t help but marvel at their creativity. They’re definitely different from the old masters but their work is no less important in making Florence one of the art capitals of the world.
Try a new food at least once
In my childhood years, I was the typical picky-eater who couldn’t have her food touch let alone try something new. As I grew older, I began to have a bit more variety and in my college years have found I love trying new foods, whether they turn out to be good or bad. In Florence, it was no different. Florence is known for delicious foods and my experience proved that to be right. I had pizzas and pastas of all variety and made many dishes myself. SAI even offered a cooking class which I took with friends and tried new foods that I had cooked myself!
Trying something new doesn’t have to be limited to full meals though. I snacked on spinach and ricotta sandwiches all the time (having initially thought that I didn’t like spinach). Even if it’s just a taste test of a new flavor of gelato, that counts! You can get your favorite flavor; just try something new while you have the chance. Exploring with your taste buds is just as important as exploring with your feet.
Don’t underestimate the power of a night in with new friends
Florence is a city rich with culture, art, history, and food, but also a city rich with people and a nightlife to die for. There are clubs and bars and small music venues on practically every street and you can easily find the hopping places to be each night of the week. Florentine’s definitely know how to have a good time but sometimes, a night in is what you really need. When I was abroad, I lived with four other girls; two of which I knew previously from our home school and the other two quickly became close friends. We went out dancing often, but found ourselves enjoying having wine and movie nights after a long week of classes and full days of activities.
These nights were some of my favorites. We would share stories while sipping on our favorite wines and sharing our favorite movies with one another. Although getting all dolled up and going out on the town is fun, staying in your pajamas and laughing with friends can be a great way to spend a night no matter where you are in the world.
If you find something beautiful, don’t just take a picture and move on. Actually look at it.
There are plenty of things to see in Florence and more likely than not, you’ll return home with thousands of pictures of all of them. Photographs are hugely important to me in helping preserve memories and be able to appreciate, after the fact, what amazing adventures and things you saw.
The only thing wrong with cameras and photographs is sometimes you start only seeing the world through the lens of your camera. You snap a picture of something and then move on, without taking the time to really look at the thing you photographed, meaning you only really saw it through the lens. Sure, you’ll have the picture the rest of your life, but if you pause and put down the camera, you’ll be able to see and appreciate what you are looking at and have a true memory of it, rather than just a fading picture of a passing thought of beauty.
Sarah Kauzmann, Muhlenberg College
During the spring semester of 2015, I had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy at the Florence University of the Arts. Along with taking classes in the Italian language, the Italian Renaissance, art, and the history of chocolate, I was able to travel, meet new people, try many diverse cuisines, and encounter different cultures in many different regions throughout Europe. It was truly an experience I will never forget and it taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be. I can only hope my stories help other students have the very best time they possibly can while abroad.