Day 8/9 — Ciao Firenze!

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 and 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.

Day 7 — Mercato Centrale

We were on a mission, today was dedicated to shopping and only shopping.

We started our day with a “quick” brunch near the leather market, and from then it was game on. We stopped by the first floor of the market to buy some authentic spices and gifts. It’s so different to know this is where locals come to by most of their ingredients, and not usually a supermarket per say. We headed outside to look for some good prices on bags, T-shirts, and souvenirs to bring back home. By then we were all famished and began looking for a small restaurant that met our needs. I ordered a pasta with octopus and mussels and it was delightful!

We went back to the hotel for a quick nap before we started getting ready for our final family dinner.

Most the day was mainly spent avoided market vendors and roaming the streets one last time.

Day 6 — Pizza Chefs

Now that I am a certified Italian chef, I would like to make it aware that making pizza from scratch is a lot more complicated than it looks.

We were greeted by our chef Niccolo outside the Apple Store where he guided us and a few more tourists to the Academy of Food and Wine where we dived right into the art of making pizza and gelato! We went through the steps, first making the dough and letting it sit, then stretching it, how to make authentic Italian pizza sauce, and then we individually decorated our pizzas! My pizza may have stuck to the table so, in the end, it came out a little squished but it was so rewarded to have created the pizza and have been able to eat it. YUM! I will definitely be having pizza parties when I get back to Lowell.

After the cooking class, we took our final stroll to Ponte Vecchio and ended the day with some more gelato!

Day 5 — Land of Wines

Today we traveled to the Chianti region of Tuscany, where we started our day exploring the little town of Greve! It was so nice to see how the locals live and buy their everyday necessities at the market held on the weekends. We captured a look from above the beautiful little city and headed on to the town of Panzano where we had an amazing lunch with a view. The beauty of the scenery didn’t even seem real and looks straight out of a postcard. It was absolutely breathtaking. Lunch consisted of a meat platter, followed by pasta bolognese, and panda cotta for dessert that was to die for.

We hopped back on the bus and took a small stop in Castellina in Chianti where we found a cute little artisan store that I bought some gifts at and took a look at the city center, where our tour guide explained that this city is right in the middle between Florence to the North, and Siena to the South.

That’s when we headed to the vineyard of Gagliole, a little gem in the Tuscan region. We were explained the delicate process that the grapes go through in order to become the delicious wine in the end. I have never been to a vineyard so seeing all the equipment and place that this special wine is made in was very incredible. We got to taste a few of the wines, and we all ended up leaving with wines for home, true Italian style.

Today was more relaxed and not rushed like the others which made the day feel more like a vacation. It was so nice to have gotten to meet such lovely people through the day and learn more about the Tuscan region through locals.


Day 4 — Venice

Today we explored Venice!!! We set off on our journey leaving Florence at 7:45 taking quite a fancy train. When we arrived in Venice we decided to adventure and make our way to San Marco while exploring the local shops and markets. We found a cute art store that had awesome colorful illustrated prints made by a lovely artist.

And of course, we went on a gondola ride that was incredible! It’s something you always see in movies and I never thought I would be in this position. The city of Venice is absolutely beautiful, even though trying to navigate from one side of the city to the next is quite a task. There were so many cool poster designs around the city, and it was so interesting to see how different designs and ideas differ throughout cities in Italy.

After a total of walking almost 11 miles, I would call it an awesome day.

Day 3 — Boboli Gardens

We got all suited up with our art supplies and headed with the Boboli Gardens at the Palazzo Pitti for an awesome day.

As soon as we entered you can see the ancient art compared to the newer contemporary sculptures that create a nice balance between the new and old. The views from the garden are incredible, with both beautiful mountain views and the skyline view of the city.

We had a little botanical garden lecture from Regina, learning more about the science behind the art of botanical drawings. Also, this was my first time seeing a pine cone on a tree! We took a seat, soaking up the sun, enjoying the view, doing some sketches. Life is good.

We met up for lunch at a small local restaurant and got a surprise visit from Pavel! I finally got to eat my favorite dish of ravioli with some delicious sangria — and of course gelato!

On our way to the Palazzo Medici, we stopped by another art store, because why no? It seemed to be more of a franchise. The Palazzo has some cool contemporary art by artist Alexander Calder. It was really interesting that they displayed his process from sketch to posters to blueprints of his sculptures that started out looking like a child drew it!

From there we did some shopping, hit the pool for a little bit, and then we went to dinner as a family for a pizza dinner.

Today was an excellent food day with some awesome outdoor experience at the Boboli Gardens!

Day 2 — All Things Art

I woke up super excited to see some of the most precious and talked about art pieces in the world. As we walked to the Uffizi Gallery, you notice first the scale of the museum — it’s enormous. As soon as we entered the gallery the painted ceilings were one of the things that really amazed me. There are so many of them, especially along the hallways, and they are each different and unique from one another.

The moment I saw Botticelli’s Primavera and The Birth of Venus I was in absolute awe. As someone who has fully investigated these paintings in full detail, seeing it in person is completely amazing. The scale of these paintings doesn’t even seem possible, and comparing it to viewing it on a projector in Coburn Hall, this experience is extraordinary.

Some of my favorite exhibits were Caravaggio and Da Vinci’s pieces. The way that the red walls of the gallery were painted created an intense feeling that made you feel like one with the Art. I think the Medusa Room was one of my favorite due to how it was set up, with different artists all depicting this figure, in such beautiful different ways.

After the gallery, we made a quick stop at the Palazzo Vecchio and made our way to the top of the tower. I personally think this view was even more incredible compared to the Bell Tower since it was a view of the river and Ponte Vecchio to one side and Duomo to the other.

Few of us decided to split off after to have a small lunch, and we sat by a church like locals and had a great time. There was a group of French art students there sketching and painting and I thought it was funny because I thought, “Is that what we look like?”

We headed to the Academia to see our boy, David. I was ready to be underwhelmed and thought that it is all just hyped up. Seeing Michelangelo’s David was a spiritual experience for me as an artist. As soon as we turned the corner, I was completely speechless and amazed. The detail in the fingers, the hair, the feet is so insane to be created out of marble. I have created plaster sculptures and I understand the difficulty that sculpting even is, let alone out of marble at this scale and precision.

17 feet of pure amazing.

Going to these galleries as a student, and having learned about so many of these works of art beforehand made seeing them in person extremely rewarding. It’s nice to be able to just turn to someone and so easily talk about a work of art and all the little details and iconography you have previously learned about.

Let me just tell you — I love Italy!


Day 1 — Firenze from Above

Buongiorno Firenze!

After a tiring flight, we were all excited for the adventures to come. Day one began with an unexpected hike up 414 steps up the Bell Tower at the Duomo. The Duomo seems unreal. I cannot even imagine the amount of detail, precision, and time needed to create a church like this, and can only imagine how insane the inside must look like. The view from above the city kept getting better and better on our way to the top. Florence is beautiful. The contrast in the rustic yellow/green architecture next to the blue sky is breathtaking. Everything looks like a picture, it’s incredible.


We proceeded our day with some of us attending the Baptistry and some headed to the art store with Regina. This little local art store called Zecchi had so many beautiful pigmented colors, something I have never seen before at that scale. We then headed to Eataly for a group lunch for pasta and pizza!

After that, we all split up and explored the city for ourselves. As we walked we stopped by a church, whose outside did not give the inside beauty justice. There were a few paintings that seemed to have been recently restored, looking more vivid and bright. We went through the streets, walking by famous high-end stores like Coach, Fenti, and Versace and it’s crazy to think of the contrast between this new fashion world so tightly connected with the antiquities of the past, which still prosper and amaze us today.

We adventured to the other side of the city, crossing the Ponte Vecchio to attend the Fashion Museum at the Palazzo Pitti, home to the Medici Family during the reign. The museum holding some beautiful dresses and pieces of clothing dating to more recent decades, each with systematic themes. The museum also had showcased clothing from the Medici family themselves, in the delicate state that they were able to be kept remained intact.

From there, we headed our walk back to the hotel along the river and had a nice family dinner at a local restaurant after being lost for a little while. But happy accidents occur and this place was quite a find.

First full day in Florence was beyond an experience. There is so much culture and it’s amazing to see how different it is from our little world back in Boston.