My journey to Florence, Italy, started on Monday, January 25th. Because I had never been to an airport, I was a little nervous to embark on the trip all alone.
Luckily, I met a girl named Ellen, who was in the same program and going to the same place I was. We met up at the gate to board and all my nerves were calmed. After I met her, the only emotions that filled me were anxiousness of what was to come and excitement!
When the plane took off I was in awe. My eyes were probably as big as a child looking into a candy store window. My first flight ever. Wow. This was a huge deal for me. As the plane ascended, I looked out my window, which looked over the back of the airplane wing. I watched below me as the night lights of Minneapolis became smaller and smaller. I was very well taken care of on the plane. When Ellen and I arrived in Pairs, we rode a little aboveground train to get to our terminal. Surprisingly, navigating was not as hard as I thought it was going to be. I wish I could say that the flight from Pairs to Florence was as luxurious as the flight to Pairs was. We had a tiny bit of turbulence on my first flight but nowhere near as bad as the second flight. It felt like a roller coaster for most of the trip to Florence. I was terribly nauseous and so was everyone around me, including my roommate who happened to be sitting right behind me. This was our first time meeting.
When we arrived in Florence, Ellen and I took a bus to the baggage claim. It was so much fun for me, however, everyone around me seemed so frantic, stressed, and worried. As I grabbed my luggage off the claim, Miranda Lambert’s song, “Baggage Claim” played in my head. After that, we followed the signs to meet up with the SAI Program. We were put into vehicles and taken to our apartments. Riding with an Italian driver is a bit crazy. They drive really fast and the streets are very narrow. Vespas weave in and out of cars and you have to dodge pedestrians and people on bicycles. Driving in Italy is like an unwritten language. Whoever budges or gets there first gets the right away. There are no lines that I’ve seen but if there were they would just be a suggestion. Almost all of the streets are one ways but somehow it all flows. It is funny all the do not enter signs have funny pictures on them.
On the way to my apartment we crossed a beautiful bridge. It turns out there are several that cross the Arno River. The famous bridge is called the Ponte Vecchio. The water below is a green color and there are often rowers rowing. I thought to myself, “holy cow do I really get to cross this every single day!” I learned on the tour of our plaza that the Ponte Vecchio was built as a walkway by an architect so people did not have to smell the river because butchers used to throw their scraps of meat into the river and it stank. I also learned that the Santa Trinita (Trinity Bridge), was blown to pieces by Germany in the war, even though the city of Florence declared itself an open city. They were able to find all the bricks and were able to rebuild it.
I was the first of my suite mates to move into my apartment. After scaling five flights of extremely steep stairs carrying a 50 pound suitcase, a 35 pound backpack, and a purse, by myself, I reached the top floor and unlocked the door. I was astonished at how large and spacious the space was. It has huge windows with beige curtains, a fireplace, wooden floors, and a vaulted ceilings in the living room. I was giddy beyond belief and immediately hurried through the house checking out every room. I settled in the room with its own bathroom and balcony (even though we cannot step out onto it). Once two of my other five roommates arrived and we all got settled in we went on a search for food because we were all majorly jet lagged and hungry. We ate at a restaurant and I am happy to say that my first Italian meal was lasagna alla bolognese (with red meat sauce). It was very good. We of course were charged with a cover charge (the price to sit and eat at the restaurant) and it cost 2e for a bottle of water. Although I paid 10e for my meal, I did not care because I was so hungry.
As suite mates we have been having a blast, exploring the town by foot, walking countless miles daily. The neighborhood we live in is in a more residential part of town which is a relief from the hectic touristy and city life. It is especially busy near the Duomo, which is a huge church in the middle of town. The first time I saw it I was amazed. It is huge! It looks like a painting. The Duomo and the river is how I best orient myself in the city, though, I am getting pretty good at orienting myself only after four days of being here which is surprising. I have learned that exploring later in the night is the best time to get some good pictures if you do not mind the night shots. There are far less tourists and in some places hardly any. For instance, we visited the Fountain of Neptune in the Plaza of Signoria at night and there was only one guy that stood there the whole time and would not move.
The first day of class is tomorrow and I am pretty excited to see what it will be like. From the looks of my syllabus, it seems like a lot more reading and a different way of test taking than I am used to but I am ready to dive in head first. My plans for the rest of the semester are to pass my classes, travel a lot, immerse myself further into the culture, and take more pictures because everywhere I look it is beautiful even if it I just a wet cobble stone street. Until next time. Ciao!
Sheena is a current student at Carroll University studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Spring 2016 term.