I have lived in a small town in Washington State my whole life. It is a quaint little town that even people born and raised in Washington have never heard of before. I love where I am from more than anything, but being that I’ve hardly traveled outside of the United States and away from my hometown, I knew I had to go out and see the world. I am a junior at Washington State University studying Elementary Education, but I came to a point in my studies where I felt as if I wanted to do more.
With ideas swirling around in my head about what I could do for one last adventure in college, I decided to take a semester off of studying from Elementary Education to study abroad. What better way to discover who I am as an adult before I graduate college and begin my career? When deciding where I wanted to go, I had absolutely no idea how to decide which incredible country in Europe I wanted to study. After talking to several friends and family, I was told that Florence, Italy, was one of the most incredible places most of my family and friends have ever visited. With much research of the city and hours spent flipping through the various pictures I searched on Google Images, I decided that Florence, Italy, must be my new home while I study abroad.
Let me just tell you, pictures you see on the Internet do not do justice as to how beautiful Florence is. It wasn’t until I actually stepped off the plane in the Florence airport and walked through the streets until I realized just how captivating this city is. Luckily, Florence is a smaller city and you can walk just about anywhere in the city within forty minutes. Everywhere I turned charming buildings greeted my eyes and invited me to take a peek into the rich history of Italy. On the first day of exploring Florence, my five roommates and I decided we wanted to see the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio, two of the most well known landmarks in Florence. After walking twenty minutes from our apartment, I laid eyes on the Duomo for the first time. The intricacy of the Duomo left me speechless. My roommates and I stopped and stared in silence, absorbing every little detail of the Duomo. I had never seen anything like this before in my whole entire life. I was in awe of how large the Duomo is and wondered how it could have possibly been built with such beauty and detail. To this day, when I walk anywhere in the city, I always make sure I walk by the Duomo because it is one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen, and I want to absorb its beauty as often as I can. After seeing the Duomo, my roommates and I decided to see the Ponte Vecchio. We walked across the bridge and peered in all of the window shops we came across, including stopping to admire the diamonds that glimmered in the setting sun as we passed all of the expensive jewelry windows. After crossing the bridge, my roommates and I had to stop to take photos. The Ponte Vecchio is so captivating and is the perfect spot to take a picture of all of Florence’s beauty. The Dumono and the Ponte Vecchio were not the only two sights we saw. My roommates and I explored many other sites in Florence, including the Piazzale Michelangelo, the Mercato Centrale, and the Basilica of Santa Croce. Everywhere you go there is something fascinating to see in Florence.
Not only was I impressed with the architecture I saw in Florence, but I am also very impressed with just how delicious the food is here. I have eaten some of the best food I’ve ever had in my whole life. Everything, and I mean everything, tastes better here in Italy. Spaghetti is by far one of my favorite meals, and I have eaten my fair share of spaghetti at home in the States, but when I had my first plate of spaghetti here in Florence, I have never tasted anything so delicious. The pasta here does not compare to anything I have ever eaten at home, and each day, I find myself finding more and more delicious places to eat. Everything you find here in Florence is so fresh, including the fruits, vegetables and bread. My roommates and I go to the market each day and pick out fresh food to take home and make dinner at our apartment. Not only does the pasta taste ten-times better here, but the gelato and coffee do, too. So far, I am very impressed with the dining scene in Florence, and there are so many other incredible places to eat that I cannot wait to try.
The culture here in Italy is so unlike anything I’ve experienced in the United States. In Italy, citizens are taught respect from a young age. Several times, we have been taught that if you treat someone here in Italy with respect, they will gladly treat you the same. Additionally, Italians are so much better about enjoying the moment, which I think is so special. When I first came to Italy, I was nervous because I did not know any Italian. Fortunately, the locals in Florence have been very receptive to my roommates and I, and they have actively sought to help us in our struggle to speak Italian. Whenever we go out to a restaurant or a store, the employees are very patient with us and repeat everything in Italian so we can have practice saying common phrases. Although I am still working on it, my Italian is slowly getting better, and I am finding it easier to interact with the residents here in Florence.
Overall, in my short time being here, I have absolutely fallen in love with Florence. There is so much more to see and explore, and I can’t wait to spend the next four months exploring all that Florence has to offer. Ciao!
Madison is a spring 2017 Florence University of the Arts student from Washington State University.