Exploring the City

After some good sleep, I started off my day today with a run exploring the streets around where I live. It was a gorgeous day! – Sunny but cool. After being so busy these past few days in a new city, it was my first opportunity to get out for a run since I’ve been here. However with all the walking I do, my legs probably would have preferred a rest rather than a run. I live right down the street from the stadium where the Florence soccer team plays, so I ran around the stadium as my host mother suggested but also discovered an open market, some cute shops, and bakeries near my home as well. I love experiencing the city by a good run.

But I was not done exploring at that. This afternoon, my roommate, Ali and I headed out to check out our new surrounding and get to know our way around. Florence is small so we made it to many of the main sites, hitting the Santa Croce, the Duomo, and Piazza Vecchio. No tours yet but just a little site seeing.

We also popped into a bunch of different bakeries. I was craving a pastry and a cappuccino! After checking out many different ones, we finally decided on a small shop near the Duomo. It was very cute and quaint with a large selection of sweets. I chose one that ended up being a mixture between a scone and biscotti. Was excellent with my latte!

After hours of exploring and walking we headed home to rest our feet and see what was on the menu for dinner…pizza! Cristina made us delicious pizza including red peppers and homemade crust. Also on the menu was a vegetable soup to start, salad per usual, and pineapple for dessert.

Today’s adventures were a great way to acclimated to my surroundings and get to know my way around Florence. As for tomorrow, our host family is planning a trip for us! Although they also informed us they were no longer going to speak English to us so we can begin to learn the language. I guess I’m up for the challenge!

Wonderful Writings

Yesterday (Friday January 13) began with registering for classes. While here in Florence, I will be taking Italian, two Italian history classes I need for my core requirements, and drawing course. I am specifically excited about the art course because we will be going to a different location each week to draw! Classes start on Monday.

During some free time in the afternoon some friends and I did
some exploring through the nearby streets to school. The streets of Florence are so beautiful!

We found a Panini shop for lunch… salmon, ricotta, tomato, and arugula for me!

After some time getting to know the area I headed home to find my host mother making homemade pasta at the kitchen table. Here, every dinner is completely homemade, and usually at least three courses! We had fresh pasta with eggplant to start, then salad, baked eggplant and fish for the main course, and then fruit for dessert. I picked out a delicious organic apple. Dinner is always an enjoyable time where we all sit down together, talk about our days, learn more about each other and enjoy some delicious food. I get to practice my (nonexistent) Italian and they try to teach me new words. Dinner usually starts late (around 7:30) and last for at least an hour.

After dinner, Cristina, my host mother, brought out a journal for us to look through. In the journal were writings from all of the students who have lived with Marco and her in past years. They dated back to 1991! Although most were written in Italian, the few that we could read spoke wonders of Cristina and Marco and their host family experience. The students came from all over the states as well as a few other countries. Cristina says she still keeps in touch with many of the students she has gotten to know over the years. It so incredible so read how this family had touched so many students’ lives. Students just like me.

The journal was very touching and I look forward to writing a lovely note in it at the end of my homestay. It was a lovely way to end an enjoyable dinner and another great day in Florence.

Mi Famiglia and My New Home

Today was the day we are assigned and move in with our host families! – A nerve-wrecking yet exciting event. Our roommates and families were posted after lunch and I immediately began to look for my roommate. I found her (surprisingly) and got to know her briefly. Alison is very nice and a vegetarian like me! (most likely the reason we were put as roommates) Later that afternoon, our families came to the Villa Rosa (our school building) to greet us and bring us home later in the afternoon. 

(The Villa Rosa)

I am living with Marco and Cristina Brandigi, an older Italian couple who have four daughters, and eleven grandchildren (with one more on the way!). They are one of the most experienced host families in the program as they have been hosting Syracuse students for 18 years! Marco picked Alison and I up from the Villa Rosa and brought us to our new home, for as Marco kept saying “Our home is now your home.” There we met his wife, and we all got to know each other. Thank god they know a little English! Cristina offered us some tea and biscoti which were much appreciated. She said the cookies were “biologica” which I understood to mean organic – delish! They are such a sweet couple and I am very content with my host family placement.
Alison and I were then shown to our room and given time to unpack our things. Our room is quite lovely with two twin beds, a giant closet for us to share and our own bathroom! We are also lucky to be equipped with wifi here as many families do not have this feature. Our home stay is a 25 minute walk to the Villa Rosa, or a 5 minute bus ride. Alison and I have decided to walk the first couple days and then possibly look into getting a bike!
After we were all settled in it was time for dinner. We started with some delicious squash soup, then tried three different types of cheeses, moved on to salad with tomatoes, and concluded the meal with fruit (a kiwi for me!) and a Ghirardelli chocolate that I had brought as a gift for my family. Throughout dinner Marco kept introducing us to new Italian words such as fork, and knife. They are very helpful with helping us learn the language!
Overall, today was very successful and I am so glad to like my roommate and my host family. My nerves are at ease! Off to make my course schedule and then to bed.


Yesterday, (Wednesday, January 11, 2012) was packed full from academic meetings, setting up our wireless internet on campus, completing our permit of stay, and other meetings concerning orientation. Despite the busy day, my night ended with friends and a little celebration of the start of our semester abroad. After our final meeting of the day we roamed the streets of Florence concluded our night by sharing a bottle of wine in a piazza near the Duomo. It was the perfect start to a great trip.

Firenze: A Foreign City that I Will Soon Call Home

After almost a full 24 hours of travel, two airplanes, three airports, one movie, not enough hours of sleep and two surprisingly par vegan airplane meals, I have arrived in Florence! The 12 of us students on the group flight from San Francisco were greeted by a member of the Syracuse University Florence (SUF) staff at the Florence airport. We were then escorted to a bus which took us to our hotel where we will be staying for the first two nights until we receive our housing assignments.

Upon our arrival at the hotel, we were paired with a roommate, given our keys and allowed to relax. Of course, I did not want to spend my first few hours in a foreign city resting in my hotel room. So after we dropped our bags and got settled, my roommate, Tessa, and I ventured down to the lobby where we stumbled upon a walking tour! A graduate student took a few of us around the city, showing us different piazzas, and trying to give us a sense of direction around the city. However, feeling the fatigue of a long day of travel and jetlag on my body, none of the directional cues stuck in my memory …go figure. The tour ended with a complementary gelato on the steps of the Duomo. Can you think of a better way to begin experiencing Florence?

After a few hours of walking it was time for dinner in the hotel, where I ran into friends Tiffany and Claire! It will be an early night for all of us as we attempt to beat the jet lag and get our days off to a good start tomorrow.

Packed and Ready or Not

It's departure day and my bags are packed!

I am taking the Syracuse University Program group flight from SFO, where I will be joined by 8 other west-coasters headed to Florence for the semester. We depart for Paris at 3:40pm, although I will be arriving at the airport 4 hours in adavance as suggested by our abroad advisors. After many hours of travel I will be arriving in Florence at 3:10pm tomorrow, where I will be greeted by a few days of orientation and a hotel stay.

I must say it a little nerve wrecking headed to a foreign country not knowing where I am living, how to speak the language, or what classes I will be taking! Hopefully my worries will be eased during orientation where we find out our host family assignments, register for classes, and hopefully learn a few basic Italian phrases.

Ready or not, Florence here I come!