A Few Days In Florence

With my finals now over, I can appreciate the month of winter break and share with you all a bit of variety in my experience of Italy. I am visiting three places: Florence, Zagarolo and the surrounding countryside, and Naples.

I just finished my four days in Florence, and I loved every day I spent there. Maybe it was the Christmas atmosphere or the greater Renaissance influence, but as much as I love Rome (and as much as I found myself missing the familiarity of it once in a while), it was great to visit another major city and to feel how different it was from the place I have been calling home for the past four months.

My first view of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

I arrived in Florence on Saturday through a bullet train from Termini station; the journey took a little under two hours, leaving me plenty of time to wander the streets and situate myself. I decided to spend my afternoon at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, the primary residential palace of the Medici family when it was built between 1444 and 1484 until 1494. The Magi Chapel is probably the most famous section of the palace, and after seeing it, I’m not surprised why. For such a small and private chapel, the frescoes were unbelievably detailed, combining biblical allusions with depictions of the Medici family.

A portion of Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes within the Magi Chapel.
The Apotheosis of the Medici Dynasty, a ceiling fresco by Luca Giordano.

On Sunday I woke up early for my 8:30 tickets to the Uffizi Gallery and spent a long but enriching three hours there. Seeing some of the most famous works of art from the Italian Renaissance, among the rest of its extensive collection, was definitely worth exploring all 101 rooms.

Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. After seeing this painting in person, I see now why it’s such a beloved work of art. Photographs and reprints don’t do it justice!

When I left the Uffizi, there was about an hour before my tickets to climb the Duomo. Despite my slight fear of heights, I was the first to climb up all 463 stairs and drink in the breathtaking view. I apparently climbed up so fast that I had the top all to myself for a few minutes—thanks for the leg training, Holy Cross! Though… climbing down those steep stairs felt much more treacherous than the labor of going up them!

The painted interior of the Duomo…
And the view of Florence outside from the very top!

On Monday I spent my morning in the Boboli Gardens and enjoyed their peace and quiet. With the cold weather, there wasn’t much greenery and many of the fountains were turned off, but it was still a great place to bring my film camera and enjoy a few near-silent hours taking photographs.

A view from one of the many terraces in the Boboli Gardens.

I then decided to visit the Museo Galileo and its massive collection of scientific instruments ranging from the 15th to the 19th century. They not only had terrestrial and celestial globes, but various instruments for chemistry, electromagnetism, and electricity. The museum owns two of Galileo’s telescopes, as well as the objective lens he used to discover the four largest moons of Jupiter (the Galilean moons).

Antonio Santucci’s massive armillary sphere, 1588-1593.

Unfortunately, many of the famous museums in Florence are closed on Mondays. I will just have to make another trip to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia and the Bargello. After all, who would want to miss out on Michelangelo and Donatello’s David?

Now I am taking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy the days before Christmas in the Italian countryside. I look forward to experiencing an Italian Christmas and sharing it with you all!

Finishing the Fall

My fall semester is rapidly coming to a close: I have finals next week, and yet I’ve also done so much between my last post and now!

The rainy November weather here in Rome creates the perfect atmosphere for visiting museums. While my MIC card grants me access to so many amazing museums, it’s impossible to deny that some of the greatest museums cost a few euros to visit. I finally made my first visit to the Vatican Museums and after seeing everything, I know I need to keep coming back (especially since the student discount makes it that much easier)! I could have an entire blog post of just photos from here, but I plan to make a more comprehensive post after a few more visits.

A portion of the ceiling of the Room of Eliodorus with the Liberation of Saint Peter, both painted by Raphael.

I also visited the Museo di Roma, which is hosting the temporary exhibit “Klimt: La Secessione e l’Italia” (“Klimt: The Secession and Italy”) until March. While ancient and Neoclassical art has always been my favorite, this exhibition felt outside of my usual aesthetic comfort zone while still sparking my curiosity.

Judith I by Gustav Klimt.
Portrait of a Lady by Gustav Klimt.

I’ll be honest and say I’ve spent more time preparing for the end of the semester than seeking more adventures. However, in that mundanity, I’ve noticed just how far I’ve come since I first settled down back in September. I made a handful of friends and I’ve grown more confident with my Italian. Both of those combined have helped me enjoy all of the great food Rome has to offer, such as:

Bubble tea in front of the Pantheon,
A gyro from one of my favorite restaurants in Prati,
And crêpes and hot chocolate with friends after a long day of classes.

The end of the semester also meant that I had an opportunity to share the prints I made in my Darkroom Photography class with the rest of the student body in the Student Showcase.

The five prints I selected for the Student Showcase. It was so great to share a semester of hard work with all of the other study abroad students!

I also finalized my course schedule for the spring semester: Latin and Greek, Ancient Roman Historians, From Constantine to Mohammed: Art & Architecture of the Mediterranean from the 4th to 8th Century AD, and Women, Literature, and Art: Artemesia Gentilesci and Anna Banti. I am already thrilled about these classes, but first… I have to enjoy my winter break! I cannot wait to share it with you all once it finally begins!