Week 4: Around Town, the Galileo Museum, and a Day in Venice!

During the first week of my introduction to art history class, we focused on the Minoan and Mycenaean cultures from the Bronze Age. We also discussed the Etruscan civilization and the beginnings and impact of the Romans on art and architecture. To help us visualize what we are learning and to see more of Florence, our professor took us on a walk through town to show us places that have roots in the Roman culture. Our first stop was the Piazza de’ Peruzzi where the building located there used to be an amphitheater used during the Roman period. The place is made out of stone with rounded windows and the shape of the structure is a semi-circle. After that, my class took a walk over to the Palazzo Vecchio and explored the ground floor. I loved the open air square in the middle of the Palazzo and I was fascinated by the frescos that adorned the vaulted ceilings. There were painting on the walls showcasing the city skyline along the river and the columns had beautiful carved patterns of grapevines. A fun fact my professor told us is that the water fountain outside the Palazzo that you can use to refill your water bottle actually has sparkling water! Right outside the Palazzo Vecchio, my professor told us the history behind the various statues that stand tall in the Loggia next door as well as the Fountain of Neptune, which is a marvel of sculpting. I have had such a great time in my introduction to art history class so far and it is truly special to be able to learn about a piece of art during our lecture and then actually go see it in person the same day. 

On Thursday, my friend and I visited the Museo Galileo and it was such a fantastic experience! We went before my morning class and spent about an hour and a half there walking through the whole museum. There are three floors and loads of artifacts and tools to look at within all the exhibits. There are various types of telescopes, mathematical tools, meteorology and medical instruments, and plenty of things relating to astronomy. I was so in awe with how much they had in their collection and the idea that scientists from way back when used the same exact items to make some great discoveries. I loved seeing all the old maps and huge globes they had on display as well because of the detailed drawings of the way people used to view the world. Without a doubt the strangest thing they had on display was Galileo’s right middle finger in a glass. The plaque stated that when Galileo was being moved from the first place he was buried to where his remains are located now in the Basilica of Santa Croce, researchers took three fingers, a tooth, and a vertebrate from his body to preserve. The museum entrance fee was only 10 Euro and I would highly recommend visiting this museum if you have even the slightest interest in science, Galileo, or just want to spend some time seeing some history to get out of the hot Florence sun!

Sunday my friends and I were finally able to make it to Venice! We found round trip train tickets to Venice for a decent price and knew that it would be worth it to spend a few hours there. As soon as you walk out of the train station, you really feel like you are in Venice because a canal is only a few feet away with a huge bridge nearby as well to get to the other side of the river! It was so surreal to be so close to the water at all times and I had such a blast getting to walk over the small bridges to get around the city. Since we only had a short time period between when we arrived and when we had to leave, we made a list of certain spots we really wanted to go to as a way to make the most of our time. The first landmark we visited was the Rialto Bridge which is conveniently pretty close to the train station! I was ecstatic seeing the bridge in person because I am a huge Marvel fan and the Rialto Bridge was featured in “Spider-Man: Far From Home” when Peter Parker goes on a European vacation. I loved the idea of being somewhere that was in one of my favorite movies and I made sure to take lots of pictures and hummed the Spider-Man theme song in my head while walking across the bridge. It was also really cool that we found a small comic book shop on the way to the Rialto Bridge that had a Spider-Man cutout outside! We stopped to grab lunch afterwards and took a moment to check out Fondaco dei Tedeschi, which has a gorgeous clock inside and a rooftop terrace where you can see a sweeping view of the canals. The terrace was unfortunately fully booked, but my friends and I had a nice time getting to see all the designer items in the stores. And of course when in Venice, you have to go on a gondola ride! We went over to St. Mark’s Square to see the cathedral there and tried to find a station to purchase a gondola ride. There were many gondoliers waiting over by the water so it was very easy to pick one and choose the route we wanted to take through the canals. Our driver, Luca, was very kind and told us historical facts about the places we rode by. It was such a terrific time getting to travel through Venice by the water and going under the bridges was awesome. Our last stop before we left Venice was the Libreria Acqua Alta, which is also known as the High Water Library. I adore bookstores so this place was like a dream come true for me! There were books everywhere and there were even a few boats and gondolas displayed in the store that were overflowing with books. Outside, they have a staircase made of books and inside there are some pet cats roaming around through the shelves. I bought some great gifts for my friends and it was unlike any bookstore I’ve been to before. 

I’m so happy that my friends and I were able to make it up to Venice during our time here and even though we were afraid we wouldn’t be able to see much since we only had a short amount of time, I felt like the 6 hours we spent there allowed us to see a decent amount of what the city had to offer. I only have two weeks left in my study abroad program, but I still have a few more day trips planned and will be visiting a few more locations in Florence with my class before I leave! Thanks for keeping up with my adventures so far!

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