This week started off with a flurry of exploration during my time here in Florence over the course of the weekend.
On Saturday most of the CIS Abroad group I’m part of spent it’s time exploring the Tuscan town of Lucca courtesy of our liaison Alessandro. It was a fun and yet relaxing day of exploration. We started our trip walking through the open air market where we got sandwiches for lunch made from freshly cut cheeses and cured meat. From there we climbed the Torre Guinigi where we were able to get a view of the whole city and reaffirming the fact that climbing seems to be a vital part of many of the things I do while I’m here. After our climb we continued to explore Lucca on foot to see the remnants of Roman architecture that still exist and enjoy some Buccellato; they say you’ve never been to Lucca if you haven’t tried it and it was delicious! We finished off our day taking a bike ride around the town and past the ancient walls.
Sunday was spent exploring the streets and canals of Venice with my roommates. It’s crazy to see how many different waterways they have to navigate the city but it’s so gorgeous. We walked around and explored the city and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the streets devoid of cars. Of course while we were there we had to go on a gondola ride which was crazy fun but relaxing. We had a cheeky gondolier who got joy from make us squeal overtime the boat rocked (but all in good fun) and who we entertained with our laughter and jokes throughout the ride. The best part was that after we got the photos/ video we wanted we took the time to really just put our devices away and enjoy the ride and company without distractions.
Monday started off a week where everyday was a chance to focus on exploring Florence only instead of jumping around from place to place. Going into the week I knew that the weather forecasts were calling for rain sometime around Thursday or Friday so my game-plan was to make sure that I did the outdoorsy things earlier in the week. That being said, I spent my time before class on Monday exploring the Boboli Gardens which are part of Palazzo Pitti right across from the apartment I’m staying in. It was a perfect day to explore the gardens and there was so much more to see than I was expecting! Every turn seemed to bring me to a new area which in turn had even more new areas branching off to explore as well. I definitely didn’t get see everything but I’m pretty sure I saw most of it and the gardens were beautiful! I can only imagine what they look like in the springtime. Class today was spent focusing on dishes from the Italian region of Lazio which is just south of Tuscany and includes Rome. We made Carciofi alla giudia (pan fried artichokes), gnocchi all Romana as well as tried some pane del pescatore (fisherman’s bread) from the school bakery Fedora.
Even though it was an indoor activity I decided today was slightly overcast and that I had been in Florence for too long without saying that I had visited the Uffizi yet so I got spent about 3 hours of my morning wandering through the Uffizi. The museum is huge so I’d like to go back again before I leave because I definitely didn’t see everything yet. Afterwards I decided I wanted the chance to still se more of Florence but to do so looking at something that was a little less overwhelming in terms of the amount of historical content so I went to see the Basilica di Santa Croce which is where a lot of famous Italians like Galileo, Dante and Machiavelli. The church was absolutely gorgeous but, like many of the churches here, a lot of the floor that you walk on is actually tombs which, no matter how many churches I’ve visited since I got here, still freaks me out a bit. For class today we made two traditional Tuscan dishes; Infarinata which is a sort of kale and vegetable soup and frittelle di riso which was sort of like having pan fried rice pudding (it was incredibly delicious and perhaps one of my favorite dishes so far).
Wednesday morning was spent doing more outdoor-based exploring. Within the course of about two and a half hours I climbed up (and down as well) 877 stairs. Yup. 877 stairs. I first climbed the bell tower of the Duomo which was 414 stairs and then after climbing back down I climbed up the 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo. So many stairs but it was so worth the view! After recovering from the climb over a yummy salad (yay veggies!) I made my way to the Galeria Dell’Academia to see the real statue of David (not the replica is Palazzo Vecchio) as it was starting to get overcast out. Definitely a good choice because it actually started to rain in the afternoon. It was definitely cool to say that I’ve seen the real statue of David in all of it’s sculpted detail because seriously, I don’t understand how sculptors can do what they do without just breaking it all into a bunch of its bits pieces. Afterwards class was spent doing more wine tasting (yay!) this time focusing on wines from the tuscan region. This included learning a bit more about the sangiovese grape and trying some Chianti classico and then having the opportunity to try some white wine with grapes from the western coast of tuscany.
Despite the impending threat of rain Thursday was gorgeously sunny and after spending some time viewing the ducal treasures at Palazzo Pitti (I had made my plans for a rainy day) I decided to dump the plans I had and make my way back to the Piazzale Michelangelo which I had explored for all of about five minutes my first Monday in Florence. Having so much time to explore this time was so worth it. I had the opportunity to take my time taking in the beautiful views overlooking Florence and afterwards continued to climb up even higher to visit the Abbazia do San Miniato al Monte which was a beautiful (but kind of dark and creepy) church with an even higher view of the city of Florence and where the monks were all “singing” when I visited. Afterwards in class we focused on making two different types of pastries; Cantuccini which is sort of like a biscotti and torta di semolino which is a sort of tart.
Today unfortunately looks to be very overcast and will be mostly spent in the computer lab of FUA (where I am now) working on a paper for class due on Monday and then possibly doing some souvenir shopping which I’ve sort of been putting off. Class later is another tour around Florence this time focusing on wine and various food pairings with it.
Next it’s off to spend the weekend in Rome!