I have to say, Regina Milan is a superhero. Our flight from Paris to Boston was canceled the morning of, and within minutes; Regina had me on a different flight which arrived in Boston sooner than my original flight! I never thought I would leave the United States, and within my short study abroad experience; I stepped foot in The Netherlands, Switzerland, and most notably; Italy. I did not know that the Swiss Alps and the clouds look identical to 40,000 feet high. I didn’t know that strangers could become life-long friends within days. My boyfriend passed away last December, and Italy was the one place he wanted to travel. UMass Lowell made it possible for me to bring him there, and I will never be able to repay that. Thank you so very much, and Ciao.
Now that, by day seven, I am basically a Florence native; I took on the market. As our last full day in the country, most of us took advantage of the day shopping. I purchased gifts for family and friends back home including an authentic leather purse for my mom and various cooking ingredients, souvenirs, etc. Our farewell dinner was not only bittersweet, and reminiscent of Da Vinci’s Last Supper, but also well deserved.
I think it is pretty amazing that my first cooking class was in Florence Italy. Or maybe not considering I am 21 and haven’t taken one as an adult yet. I do have to say the best pizza I tasted was made by me, or maybe that’s the designer in me speaking.
Florence is a city, and with that comes the people who live there that expect tourism and try to sell you things for too much. The market there was loud and had a lot of people, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. So going to a smaller village outside of the city showed us all a different, more realistic side of hilly Italy. I felt proud of ordering an iced coffee while speaking Italian in this small town north of Sienna that we visited. Afterward, we all had lunch together overlooking the atmospheric, rolling hills of the central Tuscany region. Seeing the landscape in person gave me a greater understanding of how Italian paintings are composed, and how photography can only do a portion of what the eye can do. A short nap of the shuttle brought us to our private wine tasting at the Gagliole Winery. Our guide was extremely patient and enthusiastic about her work which was refreshing. Upon leaving, she said I was a gentleman and gifted a bottle opener to me; something I’ll keep forever.
On this day, my newly made friends and I independently ventured to the city of Venice. Everyone was talking about how excited they were to go on a gondola ride, and I was confused as to what they were talking about because I forgot what Venice was famous for. Why did everyone want to ride a ski lift, and who was going skiing during the summer? I kept quiet until I got there and realized how beautifully wrong I was. Good thing the elevator doors didn’t open to me with skis wearing a parka because it was HOT there. We all shared a laugh later on when I revealed my confusion. The city was stunning and raised a lot of questions as to how day to day life works on the water. I purchased a new ring here, which I will always have as a token to that ski lift I never got to ride!
On Day Three, we visited the Boboli Gardens; something I was very much looking forward to. After exploring a little with my group, we sat down to do some botanical illustration. After taking an illustration class last semester, I felt right at home with my pens and watercolors.
Here I am sitting at the airport again after a canceled flight and a rebooking gone wrong. Val and I spent one last night in the city of Florence and tried to make the best out of it. We explored this other side of town, Sesto Fiorentino nearby the airport. We were given a hotel and a very nice dinner, where we finally found some Tiramisu for dessert!
Looking back I am extremely happy I went through with decided to come on this trip and learned so much about history and art. Italy is absolutely gorgeous and I am already looking forward to my next trip – whenever that may be.
Ciao, for now, Firenze, you have been a dream. Thank you for making me appreciate the beauty this world has to offer a little bit more.
Our last full day in Italy was well spent doing my favorite activity, shopping. We made our way down to the center of Florence and went into the bottom level of the market where I bought salami, oil, spices, and an olive wood cutting board. Outside of the market was an open-air leather market stocked with all sorts of souvenirs and knick knacks. I bought key chains, magnets, a bracelet and even a small leather purse. Although that section of downtown was all hustle and bustle we decided to have a small lunch a few streets away where it was more quiet. Of course, I had to get the pizza. I’ve decided that there’s no such thing as too much pizza. After enjoying a quick meal I took the best nap of my life back at the hotel to prepare for the “Last Supper”.
Not to brag or anything but, I’m a certified chef in Italian cuisine. I learned how to make fresh pizza dough, how to stretch it, what ingredients to use in the sauce, and how to finish it off with yummy toppings. Our chef Niccola told everyone to design their pizza differently so it was distinguishable after they cooked it- so of course I created an “M” with the pepperoni, prosciutto and onions (because I’m just so original). After it cooked though…. the M looked more like an abstract painting. ANYWAY, besides my sub par design, it tasted AMAZING. I will totally start making my own pizzas at home now.
Today we learned more about Tuscan culture as we visited Panzano and Chianti. These towns are way more rural and “old-timey” than Florence. There is one large market in the middle of town where the locals do their shopping for clothes, groceries, and household things. I bought these comfy linen red pants for only €10! Lining the outside streets of the market are handmade ceramics and beautiful flowers. Once we passed the market we made our way up the hill to lunch. At II Vescovino we have the most beautiful view overlooking the vineyards and enjoyed a traditional meal of meats, bolognese, and panna cotta. The atmosphere of this place brought me back to a more simple time and I’m glad we got to experience it.