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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

Florence: The Time of My Life

Photo courtesy of Liz Kameen.
Photo courtesy of Liz Kameen.

If you are hesitant at all about studying abroad, I have no other advice for you except to do it. Every time I travel, it feels like the scariest experience of my life, and for some reason, I’m always anxious about things I can’t even place. But, every time, without fail, the travel experience changed my life. Florence was enticing enough that I had already scheduled an appointment with the Center for Global Education to study abroad for a full semester. 

To start, the gelato in Italy is on another level. I felt like I had it every single day, and for the first time in my life, I was able to finish an entire ice cream cone by myself in one sitting (and they fill those cones up!!). 

The artwork and culture in Florence are on a level I have never even come close to experiencing in the States. Speaking of that, seeing Michelangelo’s David was mesmerizing. He is huge!! He’s 17 feet tall, weighing almost 13,000 pounds – and there is no way to prepare yourself to see that. 

And on Moravian study abroad trips, you’re not just seeing – you’re learning, experiencing, and feeling the artwork. David, dissimilar to most other sculptures of the time, was not a mold. Instead, Michelangelo hand-chiseled him layer by layer in a process that he refers to as liberating the form, as he thought the sculpture already existed within the block of stone. He is quoted as saying, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work.” 

In the Uffizi, there was enough work to keep me distracted for hours. There are over 177,000 pieces of art in the museum, and I feel like I could have spent an entire lifetime there. It took twenty minutes for me to push my way to the front of the crowd to see The Birth of Venus and Primavera by Sandro Botticelli, and it was so. Worth. It. Seeing these works in person after I’ve been studying and referencing them for years is simply indescribable. They’re shiner and more vibrant, you can see more details, and seeing their actual size to scale is something that cannot be replicated over a screen.

Photo courtesy of Liz Kameen.

I spent at least thirty minutes looking at Raphael’s Madonna del Prato – every time I would leave the room, I felt myself being dragged back to the painting. It was enchanting. The facial expressions, the softness in the skin of the figures, and the flowing fabric were simply captivating, and I felt like I couldn’t look away. 

We traveled to Florence during a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the Brancacci Chapel is under renovation, so scaffolding led all the way up the ceilings so we could get an up-close view of the frescos. If there wasn’t a barrier, you could literally touch the hundreds of years-old frescos. Usually, visitors can only look up and see the ceiling frescos from a hundred feet down, so it’s difficult to see fine details – except when we went and got to stand feet away.

In addition to the dozens of museums, we had access to, (if you ever go to Florence, get the Firenze card – it may be pricey, but you make your money back after you visit four museums), Florence is rich in other architecture and natural views; there’s never a shortage of anything to do. Our group visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a vast cathedral, which its construction took over 200 years to complete. On one of our last days, we climbed the Duomo, which was … a lot of steps (463 to the top, to be exact!). 

Standing in front of the towering Duomo takes your breath away. At some angles, the cathedral is so tall that you cannot even see the dome at the top. I can’t even imagine how they built this structure in the 1200s with no machinery – just breathtaking. The breathlessness and heart racing from climbing those stairs was definitely worth the wonderful view ( I’m a little claustrophobic with a fear of heights, but I sucked it up. There’s only one time you’re in Italy (well, hopefully not for me!)) 

The culture in Italy is much different than in the States. The food service is much quicker, and tipping is not expected in any sense. Instead, most restaurants charge a “service fee,” approximately one to ten Euros depending on the restaurant, most averaging around three Euros. And, waiters will never bring over the check, when you want to pay, you have to get up and approach the payment station on your own accord (we learned this the hard way when we waited quite a while for the check). Also, water is not free anywhere you go out to eat; you have to order bottled or still. And, there is a pretty big tax on goods; about 12.5%. The good news is you can claim these at the airport before returning back home and receive a refund for the tax – if your purchase is over 71 Euros.

Photo courtesy of Liz Kameen.

The food in Italy is wonderful. There is a lot of seafood, wild boar, and beef if that is up your alley, but it is absolutely nothing like the American depiction of Italian food from restaurants like Olive Garden. The pasta dishes tend to be much more elaborate, and the pizza has less grease and tastes much fresher. And, at almost every trattoria (casual dining featuring local food) or ristorante (a little fancier than a trattoria), you can find complementary bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar – my favorite! 

We visited so many amazing places I couldn’t even begin to list them all, let alone describe them. We visited the Boboli Gardens, an expansive and beautiful sculpture garden, where my suitemates and best friends got ENGAGED!!! It was so beautiful and made the trip so much more special.  

My trip leaders, Natessa Amin, Angela Fraleigh, and Heather Kuhns made this trip even better than I could have ever imagined, so a special thank you to them for making this magic possible. 

My final piece of advice: if you travel abroad, find a way to exchange into that currency before leaving. If you can’t, only visit an ATM that has good reviews online and DECLINE conversion. The study abroad team did mention this during their presentation, but the wording/language on my ATM was a little different so I wasn’t sure which option would allow my bank to convert the funds. So, don’t get scammed out of $40, and decline the conversion, which allows your bank back home to exchange the currency.

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    Stephen LopezMar 9, 2024 at 6:14 pm

    Sounds amazing and makes me want to visit Italy even more!