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Study Abroad

Florence Week 11 (+London + Rome)

This last month or so has been absolutely incredible. Every week has been packed with new experiences, people, and lessons. Due to how busy it has been, I’ve fallen pretty behind on my blog. I’m going to try to catch up in the next few days as I get all of my photos organized. Since I don’t have much time, the posts won’t be as in depth as usual (unless I feel like babbling, which is likely). Instead, I’ll quickly recount where I went, accompanied by plenty of photos, and add a reflection on the experience. 

 View from the school terrace during a class break

View from the school terrace during a class break

Week 11, I went to 3 days of school, worked at the market Wednesday morning, and left Florence right after class on Wednesday to head to Rome and London for a long weekend.

My roommate, Elna, came with me to Rome to see one of my favorite French artists, Cœur de Pirate, in concert. 

The venue was very intimate, and the performance was awe-inspiring. She was a delightful entertainer, filling transitions with funny French banter that much of the audience didn’t understand (since we were in Italy). At the end, she signed my ticket. 

Elna and I parted ways the following morning as I headed off to London, and she stayed to explore Rome. 

I planned the trip to London mostly to visit my lifelong friend, Michael, who studies full time there, so I didn’t have too many expectations for the city itself. And I think that’s one of the best ways to approach a place because I completely fell in love with it after just one hour. 

The entire city was covered in extravagant lights, packed with people, and overall, had a joyful and festive vibe. My first night there, we stumbled upon a concert in the street followed by some fireworks. 

The following two days we walked practically every inch of the city. Michael was the ultimate tour guide, sharing so much history as we visited palaces, parks, and monuments. We ended up walking over 30 miles in my short 2.5 day stay.

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I fulfilled my dream of eating at Cereal Killer Cafe, where breakfast is more than just cheerios and milk. 

I picked a really great weekend to come. Not only was the weather perfect, but it was the opening weekend for Winter Wonderland, a major holiday amusement park in Hyde Park. 

I didn’t want to leave! Nonetheless, I had to get up bright and early Sunday morning to fly back to Rome. I arrived around 9 am and had the rest of the day to explore the city since I didn’t really get a chance the first time around. 

The weather was a stark contrast from London. I was actually overheating in Rome, and had to carry around all of my winter layers. 

I did a calm stroll through the city, checking out the main points of interest. About 30 minutes in, a local asked me a question in Italian. Caught off guard, I took a second to switch my thinking into Italian, and responded that I wasn’t sure. While most Italians would have realized I wasn’t Italian by then and moved on, this one for some reason didn’t. Instead he continued to converse with me as we walked to a few of the sites, which gave me some great language practice. 

Later, we said goodbye, and I went to my final destination: the Trevi Fountain. Boy, was I expecting a much calmer visit. 

The place was absolutely packed. There was hardly a foot of free space. Somehow, with determination, I made it to the front and had my Lizzie McGuire moment. 

After a very very long weekend, having walked over 50 miles, I ordered myself a customized Magnum ice cream bar, plopped down on a fenced off stairwell, and ate it with a big smile while watching people push to the front of the fountain. 

I learned two major lessons over this trip.

First, walking is the best form of transportation. Now, I already figured this out within a few days of living in Florence, but this weekend really solidified it. Typically in a city like London, people would get around by taxi, bus, or the Underground. Michael was even shocked at how much ground we covered, but it really is the best way to explore a new place. It's great exercise, trustworthy, saves money, and let's you see so much more (especially when you only have a few days in the place). 

And second, give people a chance. Sure, sometimes it's annoying to get stopped by people you don't know in the street. Often people just ignore it and keep walking. So while I could have easily just started speaking in English with the guy in Rome and walked away, I let him go on in Italian, and ended up getting some great language practice and a free guided tour from a local. An open mind can lead to great things. 

Thanks for reading and look out for the next post (hopefully coming soon)!

Julia Ainbinder