I am currently studying abroad with Sam Fox’s College of Architecture here in Florence, Italy. After living in Florence for about a month now, I am eager to share my thoughts on living abroad. I cannot think of a better place to explore the arts. Florence has quickly become my home, welcoming me into its cobblestone maze and feeding me with outrageous food. I am lucky to be here.
The walk to my Italian class is a sight for sore eyes. I tend to travel this path by myself, as I like to be alone when I’m observing the scenery. Listening to my steps becomes a meditative experience. While Florence bustles with people, my heart is relaxed and open. My walk begins right behind the Duomo. I maneuver my way through groups of foreign tourists and couples holding hands. The Duomo is absolutely classic. With each glance, I wonder how two colors: emerald green and saffron pink, match so well. I continue past the most iconic stores and into the Piazza della Republica. A carousel, lit up even during the day, is the anchor of the square. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that this is not a painting or a set. The opera singer who startles passersby with her powerful voice is not out of a movie. She is real. I cross the Ponte Vecchio to the Oltrano. The little cottages that sit on the sides of the bridge look comfortable and balanced, not like they are hanging on for dear life. I like how pleasant they seem, just existing, in agreement with the bridge itself, not at all modeling for photos, just simply being.
I haven’t exactly put my finger on it yet, but there’s something about this city, beyond its artistic inspiration and its historical value, that makes it seem alive. I’ll keep thinking and get back to you on that, but I think it probably has something to do with the lifestyle.
As a young adult from New York City, I am used to a fast-paced mindset. Before I begin a task, I am most often already planning the consequent task in my head. New Yorkers are planners. We have to be. People move too fast and demand too much for anyone to lag behind. And in many ways, it’s invigorating. It’s almost addicting because it keeps you going. So when I was prepping to come to Florence, I mentally prepared myself for a culture shock. But to my surprise, it has been the easiest transition.
I find myself falling in love with the laid back atmosphere, and though I sometimes experience American withdrawals, they are few and far between. It’s rare to stop and think to myself, “I wish I had more on my to-do list today.” It’s a different kind of to-do list anyways. In New York, it’s who to eat with, when to leave the apartment, which subway to take, where to walk, etc. In Florence, it’s where to find the best Panini, how to capture the light for your drawing, which piazza has the best view of the city, etc. I mean I know time exists here, but at the same, it doesn’t. We can sit for hours after dinner with a glass of wine and no one will bother us. But even more than that, there’s an appreciation for aesthetics that does not go unnoticed.
In America, I am often so worried about my next move or so buried in my phone that I do not look up to appreciate an architectural curve or a spectacular outfit. Florentines collectively care about artistic beauty. They pay attention. They appreciate the little things. These next four months will be good for me. I’m an artist, but I’m a hectic artist. I need Florence’s dose of tranquility. I want to be around beautiful crafts and get to know foreign normalcies. I’ll keep you updated. That’s all for now.