This semester is coming to a close and unfortunately I have to say goodbye to this city I have fallen in love with. Florence is a small city that I have been able to spend the past four months exploring and learning from. Everywhere you go is beautiful and a piece of history and sometimes it needs to have a little cleaning. That’s where I took the chance to help out and clean up parts of the city that needed a little extra love.
The group I got the chance to work with over this semester is Angeli del Bello. They bring people together and inspire people to believe in the preservation of a city full of historical, artistic, and cultural significance. It gave me a chance to be outside and in gardens and parks that you see so little of in Florence. You get the opportunity to care for the decoration of streets, squares and public areas.
One of my favorite times volunteering was at this park we went to in Florence. It was on the edge of Florence and full of trees and flowers. We were helping get it ready to be reopened and clean it up. After some hours of raking and gathering of leaves and sticks from sidewalks we sat on cobble stone paths pulling weeds for another couple hours. It gave you an odd sense of satisfaction pulling the full part out and after a long day of hard work seeing your hard work has paid off and that it will be ready to the public soon.
The people in this community (or just the ones I have taken place in) are mostly older woman and men who have lived here their whole lives. They welcome you with open arms and accept that even though you are living in their wonderful country, you do not speak their language. They would point to a rake and say rastrello or broom and say scopa. Point out different flowers and birds that are common to the area; so while I may know very little Italian my Grandma would be proud I could say what I would need in a garden.
Volunteering really gave me an extra connection to this city and made me fall in love with it even more. So if you are trying to decide to give helping hands while abroad or just skip it, I say don’t skip and take part. You will not regret it.
Ashley is a current student at University of South Carolina studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Spring 2016 term.