Week 1: Settling In & Siena Sightseeing

My first week in Florence is over! Even though it has only been a week, this experience has been so incredible and it is amazing to think about how much my friends and I have done so far. I arrived in Florence last Sunday and I’m happy to report that my flights ended up going pretty smoothly! It was a bit difficult falling asleep on the 8 hour flight and navigating the Amsterdam airport was a little stressful, but luckily my friend and I were able to find two other students from the program on our flights so we were able to all have each other throughout the experience. Jet lag did hit me really hard once we landed and after eating our first Italian pizza and gelato Sunday night, I tried to rest as much as I could and sleep in on Monday.

Monday was our orientation for FUA and it was helpful to get an overview of what the program will be like and tips for living in Florence. We also had a walking tour of the FUA locations around Florence such as the cafe Fedora. My friend and I met our other roommate who is a joy to be around and we all connected so easily. We made a few more friends at orientation so now I have a wonderful group of people to explore Florence with! We’ve tried to eat at new restaurants each day and have gone to a different gelato place almost every night! As a picky eater, I was a bit nervous about finding things to eat around town, however I luckily haven’t had any problems! In my eyes, you can never go wrong with pasta or pizza, and the point of studying abroad is to try new things and step outside of your comfort zone.

I had my Italian Renaissance Architecture class Tuesday through Thursday last week and it has been very interesting so far. The classroom has huge paintings on the walls and chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, so it’s definitely not a normal classroom setting. Part of our Wednesday lecture was learning about the differentiation between Romanesque and Gothic architecture and the Orsanmichele. We ended up taking a trip to see the Orsanmichele in person and had to point out key Gothic architecture details that were right in front of us! Being surrounded by so much magnificent artwork, architecture, and history around every corner has been the most surreal feeling. There is so much to focus on wherever you go, and I think it’s important to stop sometimes and truly take in what you are looking at. When my friends and I ate pizza sitting on the steps of the Duomo, that’s when it really hit me that I was in Florence.

Although I have been having a blast and am trying to enjoy every moment, it is key to stay rested and take breaks. I was having some struggle adjusting during the beginning of the week because there is so much I want to do and see. Even though I’m here for six weeks, there are obviously things I won’t be able to do. With how intense the heat is here, it is vital to rest and stay hydrated. However, I would beat myself up thinking that I was missing out on something because I was napping in my room. It is important to put things into perspective though and realize that there is still plenty of time. If I try to rush through things or don’t stop to take in the moments, I will get burned out. Getting adjusted to a foreign country can be overwhelming and take some time, but surrounding yourself with good people and friends who have shared interests and that you feel comfortable around along with knowing your own limits and boundaries makes it easier.

My friends and I had a lovely end to our week when we went a day trip to Siena on Saturday! We took a train in the morning and arrived in Siena around 11:00 and walked from the station towards the city center. We got tickets to the Duomo di Siena and explored the various buildings included in the ticket such as the Basilica, Library, and the Crypt. The Duomo was absolutely breathtaking and it was wild to be see so much exquisite and intricate artwork. Everywhere you looked, whether it was the mosaic tile floors, sculptures, illuminated manuscripts in the library, or the murals on the ceiling, there was always something to see. Coincidentally, Saturday was also Siena’s annual horse race called the Palio di Siena. There were flags all over the city symbolizing different parts of the town and many people were wearing scarfs around their necks to show off their team pride. We got to watch the parade as the different contenders marched through the streets with fanfare, drums, flags, and even knights in shining armor. It was such a unique experience to be there that day and although we couldn’t get in to see the race, seeing the parade and walking around the stadium was very exciting.

I am so grateful to have my friends with me and to have made new friends so quickly on this trip. Our first week was jam packed with adventures that were well-balanced with some chill nights of cooking at home and resting. I have loved getting acquainted with Florence and I’m very excited to go on more trips and visit more cities! This upcoming Saturday, my class is taking a field learning trip to the city of Montalcino for a wine and cheese tasting as well as seeing historic sites so I will give a recap in my next post!

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