It’s already been about two weeks since I arrived in Florence and a lot has happened. I’ve met new roommates; I’ve changed my diet (quite a bit of pasta and pizza); I’ve walked more than I ever imagined; and I’ve started new classes to name a few things. Throughout, there have been the ups and the downs. In writing you, I figure I should explain the downs before the ups, just so you can finish knowing how truly happy I am and how honestly insignificant the downs really are.
So first, apparently there are mosquitos in Florence… in February… I’ve gotten bit a few times, which has been annoying. Secondly, my apartment sits right on Piazza della Signoria – the plaza adjacent to the Uffizi museum, feet from the Ponte Vecchio, and minutes from the Duomo. In many respects, it’s a fantastic location. Unfortunately though, it’s a fantastic location, which means people always seem to be here, including 2 AM, 4 AM, and 6 AM. They can be pretty loud… Additionally, every hour, on the hour, church bells resound through the city. At 5 PM, walking home from class, the bells are nice. They remind me of my perceived idea of earlier, simpler days, when bells were used to signify and alert people of the time; days before the advent of the cell phone. Lastly, I’m not a fan of the washing machines. Yes, it’s a new country, so I should appreciate the differences, but c’mon. The washing machines hold barely half of a “normal” load and they take literally three hours per cycle. All-in-all, those are really the only negative things I can think of.
So let’s get to the fun things. I live on one of the most popular plazas in Florence! Waking up and walking outside is like entering a museum. People are everywhere, taking pictures, laughing, running, eating, relaxing. I live feet from one of the coolest bridges I’ve ever seen and minutes from some of the best pizza I’ve ever had (Gusta Pizza). Overall, the food is exceptional. From gnocchi and ravioli to ricotta gelato and cannoli, everything is perfectly prepared, beautifully plated, and stupendously tasty.
Getting to and from class is itself an adventure. I have the privilege of walking past the Duomo everyday, past glittering shops, and bakeries that make you drool. In so doing, I happen to be walking at least 7-8 miles a day.
Now let me talk about my classes. For me, they are really the main reason I’m here, the reason I chose Florence, and the reason I chose this program. Firstly, obviously, new teachers, new classmates, new curriculum, but more importantly, I’m learning a completely new topic, in a completely new classroom setting, in a completely new classroom style. So, the topic is culinary, meaning we are learning the basics of cooking: how to cut, chop, and slice; how to create a stock; how to use eggs; and how to cook vegetables. The classroom itself is a kitchen and the style of teaching is split between lectures and practice. In addition, we’ve been given the responsibility of serving in the learning restaurant, gaining an understanding and appreciation for food service. One of the coolest parts about the cooking class is having eight other students all prepare the same dish and then having the opportunity to taste all of the different variations of the same food. In so doing, I feel as if my sensitivities to flavor are deepening rapidly. On that point, my wine class has made me think about smells and tastes I never knew existed.
The wine class is structured very similarly to the cooking class. The teacher lectures and following this, he leads us in a tasting of wines stemming from what we learned. Today, he taught us the different methods of producing sparkling wines and then we tasted a bottle produced in the Classic Method, followed by a bottle produce in the Charmat Method. Realizing the differences in time-spent aging, among other factors. is exemplified by tasting the two wines alongside each other.
Through classes, walking around the city, trying new foods, and meeting new people, the first two weeks have been an exciting new adventure. Over the upcoming weeks, I hope to find a routine that will allow me to become accustomed the Italian lifestyle. While that will enhance my Florence experience, the next few weeks will also include a lot of traveling. I can only imagine what these upcoming weeks will hold and what new tastes, smells, and experiences I will be privileged to have.
Noah is a current student at Tufts University studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy, during the Spring 2016 term.