Buonasera friends and family! Jessica here. Eric and I have been in Florence for a little over two weeks now. We miss you all! I hope this blog will be a place where we can stay connected for the next year, along with email, Facebook, Skype, Face Time, Google Hangouts…it sure is a lot easier to connect now than it was the last time I lived abroad! I ran up some pretty big phone bills if I remember correctly.
Eric is pretty busy at the moment, between his orientation to the EUI, meetings, research projects, job applications and our Italian class. He will probably write more on the blog after job apps are turned in next month. So for now, I’ll be doing most of the posting. I haven’t done much non-professional writing since college. This should be fun!
Back to Florence! I’m just starting to feel like I know my way around the city, and it seems like everyday we stumble upon something beautiful or unusual we haven’t seen before. It might be difficult to remember everything I want to share with all of you, but I’ll try. This might be a long post.
A Few of My Favorite Things
1. The EUI Campus
Getting to the EUI campus means a 20 minute bus ride up into the hills to the northeast of Florence (or a slightly longer bike ride once we get bikes). It’s a little bit of a haul, but I love going there. I love Italian class, the free wifi, the great people, and it just happens to be located in a stunning Renaissance-era villa.
This ceiling is a beautiful work of art! It does amazing things with sunlight. It’s the best ceiling I’ve ever seen in my life, hands down.
If you’re standing where I was when I took this picture, you just take the second door on the left to get upstairs to Eric’s office. If you walk to the end of his hallway, this is the view you’ll see:
I forgot how much bigger the sky looks when you’re up in hills or mountains.
So, campus is wonderful, and we still have a lot of exploring to do.
2. Biking in Florence
One of the first events I heard about in town was Bike Walk. It was really a bike ride, but I guess Bike Walk made it sound more intriguing. It was a free guided ride around Florence, rental included, with some local bloggers. Since Eric and I definitely want to get bikes, it seemed like a great way to get a feel for riding in the city (and getting acclimated to cobblestones and Vespas).
We had a blast. Riding on the bike path along the river was our favorite part, but it was fun going on all the narrow little alleys as well.
Italians (and other Europeans as well) have a beautiful concept that takes Happy Hour to the next level: aperitivo. Between about 6-9pm (pre-dinner time for Italians, dinner-dinner time for us), lots of bars will offer a free buffet with the purchase of a $7-9 drink. Admittedly, this is a much better deal if you like fancy cocktails or top shelf liquor. But even if you get a mineral water like I do, if you’re hungry enough, it’s an amazing deal. Tonight we had rigatoni, salad, roasted potatoes, some kind of roasted pork, baked mushroom pasta and fresh veggies. One tiny plate at a time. Three trips to the buffet later, we were very happy and full, but not too full for gelato. Which brings me to…
There’s not a lot to say. It’s amazing, and we’re very lucky to live in the land of gelato. My favorite flavors are pistachio and lemon.
5. Accademia (David)
Last night we went for a post-dinner walk in our neighborhood around 8. We were heading towards Piazza della Annunziata when we realized we were passing the Accademia (we knew when we rented the apartment it was close by, but for some reason hadn’t walked by it yet). We peaked our heads in and noticed it was almost empty. So we went in and spent half an hour with Michelangelo’s David. He is every bit as impressive as you’d expect. We got to take our time walking around, looking at the sculpture from every possible angle. It was so nice not to have to fight crowds. Do you know what is not quite as nice? Entering the room next to David, which I like to call the Hall of Nightmares.
First of all every statue is a let down after seeing David. Second of all, if you have an overactive imagination like I do, this is so very creepy. Eric didn’t feel the same, but I’ve seen enough scary movies to know what’s up.
6. The Arno
I was afraid I’d feel water-deprived moving away from the isthmus, and I do miss the lakes a lot, but Florence is right on a beautiful river.
It’s hard to believe the Arno flooded in the 60s. Right now it’s pretty serene, even after a couple of good storms this week.
7. via Santa Reparata
Via Santa Reparata seems like a very typical Florentine street. It’s about five minutes north of the Duomo, but seems much further away, noise- and activity-wise. We love it here so far! Our apartment has a big window over an inner courtyard. It’s nothing fancy, but I really like our view. Here it is in the morning and evening.
Here’s a mystery tower a block or so from our place. It’s on a gated, private lot with no sign, so I have no idea whose tower it is. But it’s a very nice tower.
8. il Duomo
Quote from Eric: “I love espresso. Un lungo is my go-to order.”
I’m just relieved that tea exists in Italy. I read something about how they only drink tea when they’re sick, so it’s hard to find. Not so! Tea is everywhere, probably because tourists are everywhere.
10. Piazza della Santissima Annunziata
My favorite piazza so far. Here it is during the once-monthly Fierucola market, which made me feel like I was back in Madison a little bit 🙂 It was like an art fair and a farmer’s market in one. Anyway, this square is so elegant and lovely. And it has this very odd fountain.
And now a much shorter list of things we don’t particularly care for, but they’re not going to keep us from having a great time while we’re here:
1. The sidewalks. They’re super narrow, made of broken bricks and cobblestones, with lots of little deposits of dog poop.
2. Public urination. Also related to sidewalks. Somehow the women of Florence always manage to find a bathroom, but the men just can’t make it. We’ve seen a few guys peeing so far, during the day. I knew about this before I got here, but it is still shocking.
Those are the only serious things we can think of at the moment. Other than the fact that the people we love are not here with us.
By the way, “mangio la mela” was the first Italian sentence we learned on our Duo Lingo app. It means “I eat the apple,” and it is very fun to say.