Highlights: I think the highlight of my trip was the day trip to Sienna that was offered by the program. Sienna is a lovely medieval town. Thus, it contrasts really nicely with Florence, which is more of a Renaissance city. Everything about Sienna was charming, from the town square in the shape of a sea shell, to the beautiful cathedral and other churches. The streets are small and narrow, and they are lined with small shops and mom-and-pop-type family run restaurants. It has a small-town feel, compared to the big city of Florence, and is a nice place to just walk around, have a gelato, and get lost for an afternoon. Best of all, it’s very easy to just hop on a train to Sienna from Florence at any time. It was definitely one of my favorite places in Italy.
I think what made this study abroad experience unique was the flexibility and freedom that I had. I had to go to class for a couple of hours four days a week, but other than that I was really free to spend my time however I wanted. If I decided to hop on a train one day and go somewhere, I could. The program provided enough structure that I didn’t feel lost or uncertain, but not so much structure that I felt like everything had been planned for me. The possibilities in Italy are endless, so having the freedom to explore them was wonderful.
Morning: Usually in the morning I woke up around 9:00 am, took a shower, and caught up on emails with my family and friends back home. After some breakfast I often went for a walk. Some days, I went to visit one of Florence's countless museums. Other days, I walked up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo to take in the beautiful views of the city. However, there were also some days when I just walked the streets to do some window shopping and people watching.
Afternoon: In the afternoons I had class for a couple of hours at Santa Reparata International School of Art. The class was a Modern Italian History course, so it usually consisted of a lecture. However, on some days my professor took us to a museum instead of lecturing, and on a couple of occasions we watched relevant Italian movies. These things kept the class interesting and I really enjoyed it over the course of the four weeks.
Evening: In the evening I often went to the grocery store to buy things for dinner. The Italian way is to buy groceries every day, so that the food is always as fresh as possible. I usually ate dinner at the apartment to save money, but sometimes my roommate and I would go out to one of Florence’s many, many restaurants, where the food is always good. At the end of the evening I usually read for a little while before taking a shower to cool off (most Italian apartments do not have A/C, and during the summer it can be hard to fall asleep at night because of the heat).