I can't believe I am already here! It seems just like yesterday that I was choosing to come to Florence for the summer, and now we are already six days into our travels.
On Wednesday, we boarded a 10 hour plane from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and headed to Amsterdam. In total we had two lay overs: Amsterdam and Paris. The Paris airport had luxurious stores and white marble floors allowing the grandiose essence of the city to be illuminated. We landed on Thursday night (European Time) and after settling in our villa, we headed out for a night tour of Florence to avoid as much jet lag as possible. The view of the city at night was absolutely breath taking as the lights illuminated the cities edges and the Duomo lit up as a white beacon in the dark night.
Friday was the first official full day in Florence and the first day of Orientation. During free time, we ventured to the 99 cent store where I made my first Italian purchase of the summer. Almost everything there for 99 euro cents. It is located on Via Nationale on the right hand side as you walk to the Duomo. If you walk from the leather market, it is on the across the street from the end of the market which is ends on Via Nationale. It's probably my favorite store in Italy so far- is that bad?
Starving, we returned to the villa for dinner. Europeans, but especially Italians, eat late and we had not eaten much of the airplane food. We ended the night with our first Gelato of the summer. There are so many gelatorias in Florence, but we went to Festival Del Gelato which had bright colors and felt like a glow in the dark/ neon light party. The Nutella gelato was delicious and I highly recommend it.
Saturday began the second day of Orientation with stops at the Piazzale de Michelangelo where we took classic tourist photos and looked at the view from the day time.
Then we ventured to Fiesole, a small Truscan built city on the outskirts of Forence. While hiking along the Fiesole city walls, we encountered the area upon which Leonardo Da Vinci tested his flying machine in Florence. From this spot, you can see all of Florence and the surrounding country side. It had a broader view of the city and the Duomo was minute in comparison to the surrounding area.
After the long day of walking around Fiesole and Florence, we decided it was time for some gelato and went to Gelato de Medici. Again, I had Nutella gelato, this Nutella was better than the first time. I have decided that every time I get Gelato I absolutely must get Nutella and compare all them to each other. So far, Gelato de Medici is winning. After gelato, we decided to have our first Italian Vino (wine). Spending around 1 hour looking for a cool/truly Italian wine bar, and getting lost a few times on the other side of the city, we settled with an American bar called HOPS. It wasn't the Italian atmosphere we were looking for originally, but it was Italian vino and it was close to campus.
I thought I had walked a lot on Friday and Saturday, but no...nothing compared to Sunday. We started bright and early in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. We walked through the city and various contradas (or districts). In Piazza del Campo, I had my first Italian Pizze (pizza) of the summer!
Following lunch in Siena, we traveled to San Gimignano which specializes in white vino and is known for it's many towers.
We visited the Collegiate Church of San Gimignano where along the sides of the walls, there are paintings of imagines that depict the primary passages of the Old Testament. Afterwards, we hiked to the top of one of the towers which had a view of the Italian country side and hundreds of vineyards.
Following the towers, we ate more gelato (of course!) and visited an old convent- turned prison- turned under development to be a community center. The architecture was very unique because it was from the 14th Century and you could see the different styles from when it held various functions. Finally, we roamed the city walls that have a wonderful view of the countryside before leaving beautiful San Gimignano.