I am very excited to be writing to you from Florence, Italy! I am studying abroad for Intersession at Lorenzo de Medici. I arrived in Rome on December 30th with my friend Holly and we stayed there until January 2nd, when we moved into our housing in Florence.
It is absolutely beautiful here and I have seen so many incredible things. Here are some of the highlights so far!
December 30th – Rome: Exploring & Colosseum
We arrived in Rome, checked into our hotel, then got going. We visited and/or saw the Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Colona, Palazzo Venezia, Auditoria de Adriano, Monumento a Vittoriano Emmanuel, Colonna Triana, Foro di Augusto, Foro di Nerva, Foro di Cesare, and last but not least… Il Colosseo! (The Colosseum)
Everything we saw was incredibly beautiful, but the bitter cold put a bit of a damper on our day. 😥 Here is a picture of the Colosseum from the outside, though we did go on a tour and see it from the inside (we also saw the Areo di Constantino on our tour).
December 31st – Rome: Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, Castel Sant’Angelo, NYE at St. Peter’s Square
This was such a great day. We went on a tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, and I truly cannot even begin to describe the magnificence and beauty that those buildings hold. I was blown away. I could spend hours in every single room of the Vatican Museum, or days in the Sistine Chapel, and still not see enough. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but here is a picture of one of the beautiful rooms of the Vatican Museum:
We also went to the Castel Sant’Angelo and saw a beautiful view of the city from the top of the Castle. We were lucky enough to see the sunset from the top, which was absolutely stunning. Here is a panoramic photo I took:
Late at night, we went to St. Peter’s Square to count down to the new year. At 11:45, doves were released from the Basilica, which was so cool (especially since I had no idea it was happening). Then we ran around trying to see the fireworks being set off from every direction. Here’s a picture of St. Peter’s Square just before midnight.
January 1st – Rome: Papal Mass and Blessing, Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, Spanish Steps
We woke up early to get in line the Papal Mass, and were let into the Basilica about one hour before the mass started. It closed early the day before, so we were not able to see it on our tour. I am so glad we got to see it (and attend mass inside!!) because it is absolutely stunning. Here is a picture from our seats:
It was also so cool to attend a mass given by Pope Francis! One of the readings was in English, which was nice! After the mass, he gave a blessing outdoors from a window. The crowd of people was unbelievable. I cannot even estimate how many people there were, but the entire square was filled.
We also visited the beautiful church of St. Ignatius Loyola, per my mom’s recommendation… THANK YOU MOM! Look how beautiful it is!
Left: panorama including the front of the church and the ceiling; upper right: wall and ceiling of part of the church; lower right: exterior
We also visited the Trevi fountain, which was under construction. 😥
Finally, we went to the Spanish Steps, which were so cool. The view from the top was beautiful! We climbed even higher on some other steps, but I have no idea what they were called (if anything at all).
January 2nd – Pantheon, Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, Travel day
We made a few final stops in Rome before heading off to Florence. First, we visited the Pantheon, which was so cool and beautiful. Reading about what each part of the Pantheon meant as well as the mathematical genius behind its construction was especially exciting. Then, heading back to our hotel, we accidentally stumbled upon the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena… which was ABSOLUTELY outstandingly gorgeous.
We took a train from Rome to Florence and checked in at Lorenzo de Medici and then moved in to our awesome apartment! I was not expecting much, so I was that much more excited when I walked in. The apartment is SO nice! It’s really big, it’s in a beautiful location, and we have a full kitchen and lounge area. Holly and I are in a double room, along with two other girls from Scranton, Liz and Patricia. I had never met them before this trip, but they are so sweet, easy to talk to, and really fun to hang out with!
January 3rd – Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and Exploring
So… I woke up at 1:45!! Oops. I guess I needed it! Anyway, though our day started late, it did not disappoint! We walked around and came across the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. Seeing that they offered an English mass on Saturdays, we decided to go! So, we got gelato (YUM) to kill some time, then headed back and got seated for the 5 PM mass.
After mass, we explored the town again. We came across a really cool bookstore with books piled up to the ceiling! Across the street was a store that produces organic olive oil and organic food from confiscated mafia property… which I think is awesome! (I didn’t go inside, but I plan to go back)
Look at what I got for dessert. Nutella and mascarpone calzone. I could eat this for the rest of my life. (Oh, yeah, I’m not vegan anymore)
January 4th – Museo del Duomo (part 1) and Edoardo
We went back to the Piazza where the Basilica was and we waited in line for tickets to the Museo del Duomo. We got our tickets and then climbed the Bell Tower – 414 steps!! Check out this view:
(That’s the Dome on the right side. Remember this… you’ll see why!)
On top is Gianduja (chocolate hazelnut), below it is White Chocolate.
January 5th – Museo del Duomo (part 2), Orientation, First Class
Since the ticket for the Museo del Duomo works for 24 hours after it is activated, we decided to go back and do the rest of the museum! So, we climbed to the top of the dome. It was even more incredible than the view from the bell tower, and 463 steps this time!
(See the bell tower in that picture? That’s where I took the picture from on January 4th. And the place I took this picture from, the Duomo, is the one in the picture from January 4th)
We had orientation, which was two parts: the first at 1:00 and the second at 5:00. In between the two sessions, Holly and I had our first day of class! We are both taking History of the Italian mafia, a sociology course which will count towards my Criminology minor. The professor is so adorable and sweet, and we are the only two people from Scranton in the class. There are students from Marist College in New York and Miami University in Ohio as well. The class is small (about 8 students) which I love, personally!
January 6th – Siena
We took advantage of the Italian holiday (Epiphany) by taking a day trip to Siena. Siena was beautiful!! It was a long day but definitely worth it. We did a lot in the time we were there. In Piazza del Campo, we climbed a bell tower and visited the Museo Civico (Civic Museum). In the Piazza del Duomo, we visited the Santa Maria della Scala (an early hospital, turned into a museum, so cool), Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral), Libreria Piccolomini (Piccolomini Library), Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery of St. Giovanni), Cripta (Crypt), and Museo dell’Opera (Opera Museum).
Here’s a picture of the Duomo di Siena from the outside:
At the Museo dell’Opera, there was another tower climb to see a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Here’s a photo I took from the top:
January 7th – Class, Pasta, and Gelato
Today I slept in a bit because I was so exhausted from Siena yesterday. I woke up around 12:20 😀
I had class from 2-4:55, and we learned about the Italian political system and watched parts of the movie The Leopard. After class, Holly and I planned dinner and went to Palazzo Tempi, which was so delicious. I got penne with cheese, tomatoes, and eggplant… YUM!!!! After dinner we got gelato. The place we planned on going was closed, 😥 , so we went to a different place instead. I’m so glad we did… IT WAS DELICIOUS. It was called La Strega Nocciola… and I will be going back. Here are pictures from dinner and dessert.
I hope you enjoyed this very long update… wish me luck on the rest of my study abroad journey, and I will be sure to post updates along the way!