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.
There is no way to describe how unreal seeing the David in person is. I have been learning about the subject for what seems like years now, and it honestly took my breath away. Day two, we visited the Ufizzi, and also the Academy Gallery to view works by various Italian Masters. Other than David, an excited aspect was seeing numerous painting which I referenced and studied throughout my art history publication process. Over the course of the last year, I worked under the mentorship of Professor Cadero-Gillette studying European playing cards ranging in date from 14th to the 18th century. The main focus of my study was actually a Florentine Minchiate deck that I privately viewed at Harvard University Art Museums. A rainy walk home followed. I’m basically a local now!
Day one we explored the city as a group, including the Duomo and a very long climb to the top of the Bell Tower. The view was worth every single step we all climbed, as nerve-wracking as it was. I wish the pictures held the same accuracy that the actual view had. We also got to go inside of the Baptistry temple next door which was very overwhelming for me. I am Catholic and always wear my St. Michael pendant, and so seeing the gold mosaic panel of the archangels meant more to me than others. I think we all became familiar with the area very quickly and had lunch together at Eataly. Lots of new customs, and little things to get used to quickly. Afterward, I was able to visit a costume and fashion museum which was not only surprisingly neo, but also gave me some inspiration towards my senior studio project for next semester. We closed the night with a dinner together!