As a freshman in Dr. Decker’s survey class, we discussed and studied Brunelleschi’s famous dome in Florence, Italy. If you had told me then that in just 2 years I would see this dome in person, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here I am, spending a semester in Italy (my first time outside of the United States!) and walking past the enormous Duomo every time I step outside.
It’s almost unfathomable to me that buildings like the Duomo, built before America was even discovered, are dispersed throughout contemporary Florence. In Florence, I get to live life with one foot in the 15th century and the other in the 21st. The street I live on is referenced in letters written by members of the Medici, a powerful Renaissance banking family and patrons of the arts, but today bustling tourists walk the same steps of the Medici with guidebooks and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Here in Italy I have become acutely aware of the vastness of human existence. It’s one thing to read about Renaissance works in Stokstad, but it’s an entirely miraculous and humbling experience to be actually standing before the works I read about in class, especially considering the Renaissance is relatively recent in terms of the entire history of art. I wonder if Michelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo, and other Renaissance masters knew how widespread and lasting their legacies would be.
Though the Florence of today is incredibly different than the Florence of the Renaissance, there is still so much to love about it:
1. the art—almost every week I am traveling to museums for class to see works of the Renaissance firsthand. The art in Florence isn’t just limited to the Renaissance either! There are many small contemporary galleries, and it’s impossible to walk through the city center without passing street artists or seeing guerilla art.
2. the sounds—whether it’s the clinking cups in the espresso bars, the street musicians, or the emphatic sounds of the Italian language, I love walking around and just listening to Florence.
3. the people—through passing the same street violinist on the way to class each day and being recognized by the vendors at the market, Florence is becoming more of a home to me. I love when I get to have conversations with Italians on the street, on the train, or in restaurants because they are so friendly! Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to practice my Italian.
4. the food—everything in Italy is so fresh and delicious! I have a feeling caf food is going to get old really quick when I return next semester.
5. the travel opportunities—not only is there so much to do in Florence, but there is so much more in Europe BEYOND Florence! My school sponsors several trips around Italy, but I’ve also discovered upon coming here that it is extremely easy to travel to other countries. By the end of the semester, I will have gone to Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Germany, France, the Netherlands, England, and several regions of Italy. One of the wonderful differences between America and Europe is that in Europe, so many different and rich cultures are so close together!
Needless to say, studying abroad has been wonderful so far. It is definitely something I believe everyone can benefit from, even if just for a summer or winter term. There is so much to see, and every day I experience something new. It’s now the halfway point of my semester abroad, and despite the noisy neighbors downstairs who are always on the terrace either passionately fighting or casually singing opera, I conquered a week of midterms. Time has flown by and although I will probably be excited to return home, there are so many things I will miss about Italy. I can’t say it enough—STUDY ABROAD if you can!
Feel free to follow my travels at elizabethmetcalfe.tumblr.com. I hope everyone in the art department is having a great semester and I’m looking forward to seeing you all in January!