A couple of weeks ago (Nov 4) I arrived in Florence. Although it was dark by the time my plane was flying in, I was happy that I could still just barely make out the snow-capped Alps from the window. My first indication of the change of setting upon landing was the lack of border control. Compared to the UK, where there were lines for entry into the country, at Florence airport there were no lines and I saw only one border control officer, who payed little attention to me even when I hesitated to exit the terminal and tried to show my passport. I guess they just do things differently in Italy. From there, I took a taxi to our apartment in Florence. All 8 of the guys on the trip are situated in one large space here. There are 5 bedrooms and 3 full bathrooms, a large living space downstairs and a small common area upstairs, as well as a dishwasher that will not open. Also, it seems Europe has finally caught up with us… we do not have a dryer. I settled into one of the upstairs rooms, each of which has one skylight and no windows besides. However, it was once I opened the skylight and peered out that I realized how special our setting really is…

View of the Duomo at night from my room’s skylight
The view from one of our apartment windows. Many of the buildings in Florence are very tall and seem a little architecturally haphazard, but that makes them all the more interesting

The following evening, everyone who had arrived in Florence reunited for an antipasti dinner at a restaurant in a hotel just across the Ponte Vecchio. Unfortunately it was crazy wet that evening, so we had to walk through the rain all the way from Il Trillo, the school of music where our classes take place. The rain also meant that the rooftop terrace we were supposed to eat on was closed, although I still managed to snag a picture of the view which you can see below.


Below are a few roof pictures I took looking out of the skylights upstairs in our apartment.

View from the skylight in my room during the day; Often there are birds that flock on the rooftop antennas and all around you can see the Tuscan hills; Also, I can hear the church bells from inside at various points during the day.


On Monday that week, after our orientation at Il Trillo, we were taken on a walking tour of Florence. Our first stop was Santa Croce piazza, where the water lines from two devastating floods of the Arno river were pointed out to us. Next we passed the Palazzo Vecchio and admired a number of original roman statues exposed to the elements in Piazza della Signoria, as well as Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa and a copy of Michelangelo’s David. There is also a modern art installation in Piazza della Signoria that, according to our guide, many people think just looks like diarrhea (at least compared to the magnificent classical sculptures also present in the square). From there, we walked past the Galleria degli Uffizi and our guide stopped to point out a monument to the victims of a mafia attack on the Uffizi in 1993. We then walked halfway across the Ponte Vecchio where we learned of the secret passageway from the Galleria degli Uffizi across the Ponte Vecchio, which the Medici would use to avoid walking among commoners, and which has windows that were added specifically so Hitler could have a better view when he visited Florence while Italy was under Mussolini’s rule. We finished our walking tour at the Duomo and then got gelato at Perche No, which our guide had recommended. I had nicciolo (hazlenut) gelato with a scoop of whipped cream that I had was silly enough to believe was whipped cream flavored gelato…

Taken on our walking tour of Florence, this is Santa Croce, where a piece of masonry killed a tourist a few weeks ago.
Much more impressive in person; the colors are more vibrant
The Arno
Looking towards Florence city center from the Ponte Vecchio; you can see the gold and jewelry stores on the sides of the bridge, which were originally meat sellers but were converted after there were smell and sanitation issues.
The Arno from Ponte Vecchio
The Arno from the other side of the Ponte Vecchio


The Palazzo Vecchio
Had to use panorama mode again


Scootertown; I walk past this line of scooters to get to Il Trillo (the school of music) every day; Fiats and Vespas fit in well here.

This past Friday, our group went on a trip into the Tuscan countryside to visit Castello Nippozzano, the old castle of the Frescobaldi winery estate. It was a particularly beautiful day and the yellow color of the fall grape vine foliage was everywhere.


Castello Nippozano; the original armory structure is pictured above
The picture which I feel best captures the beauty of Tuscany, though I don’t think any of my pictures did the landscape much justice
1864 was the oldest wine I saw in their cellars
Looking over the Nipozzano Estate
The bell tower beside the old armory


Among the olive trees


One the way back into Florence before we got gelato
The Palazzo Vecchio tower can be seen in the distance

Last Friday, Courtney, Hannah, Kirsten, Philip and I were craving American food, so we made our way to Hard Rock Cafe – Florence. Funny thing is I’d never been to a Hard Rock Cafe before. It was a little pricey, but I enjoyed splitting some delicious nachos (I’ve had nachos twice while abroad and I’ve developed a newfound love for them). My order of Cauliflower “wings” with buffalo sauce was very tasty as well.

While on the subject of food… Because all of the guys are in one apartment this time around, we decided to do a group dinner thing. We have been planning dinners and grocery shopping for 4-5 days at a time. So far we’ve had chicken-veggie stir-fry, pesto pasta, tacos, “macaroni” (penne) and cheese, chickpea vegetable couscous, and fettuccine alfredo among other things. My contribution to group dinner was a lentil soup recipe I found online.

Lentil Soup
Lentil soup dinner with all but Courtney and Kirsten, who were traveling that weekend

While here we’ve seen two concerts. The first was a phenomenal performance of some late Beethoven string quartets by the Emerson String Quartet at the Teatro della Pergola. The second was a performance of the Orchestra della Toscana with Enrico Dindo.

One day during a break in class I went downstairs to a cafe next to Il Trillo and ordered an Italian custard filled doughnut, which I was told was called a bombolone. Only then did I realize that I had previously had one in London as well.

The Arno from the Ponte Vecchio at night

A couple of days ago I went with Daniel to Piazzale Michelangelo a panoramic overlook above the city. Along the way we passed through a rose garden, and on the way back we took a circuitous route through the outskirts of the city.



Looking over the rose garden at Florence


View from the Piazzale Michelangelo
I think the structure on the right is the old city wall.
Looking down on the city from the Catholic church


I took this on the way down from the Piazzale Michelangelo.
Taken on the way back into the city


Italian suburbs



Author: pbstreilein

Currently a sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill double-majoring in Geography and Music, I play clarinet in the wind ensemble there. This fall semester I am studying abroad on the Burch London and Florence Musical Perspectives program.

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