I am halfway through my time here in Florence—which is so crazy to think about—but that also implies that I have been able to develop a routine here. I know what streets to take to get to my academic classes vs. my dance classes vs. my fav café, and I rarely have to use google maps anymore to get around the city. Also, since traveling on the weekends, I have realized how small of a city Florence is compared to other major cities in Europe. I rarely have to use public transportation here. Florence has me thinking a 30-minute walk is the easiest thing ever. Because of the small feel of Florence and getting to walk everywhere, I really get to admire the beauty of the city every single day. With that, every single day I notice something new about this city.
For instance, I buy groceries on my street, Via dei Servi, every other day; yet this past Tuesday I just noticed murals painted high up on the building across from the grocery store. On my walk back to my friend’s house, I noticed that the raised sidewalk the Medici family built centuries ago so they could travel across Florence without having to step foot on the actual ground passes right by their apartment. I notice a new figure or pattern every time I walk by the Duomo. I notice the changing of the flowers as the seasons begin to change. I notice the street performers interacting with their audience, singing and dancing to strangers while spreading music and joy across the city. By looking up and noticing, I have now developed a relationship with two gelato workers on my street, so every day we exchange waves and “Ciao’s!”. I noticed that my walking patterns regularly brought me past this café, so one day I decided to go in…now I say hi to Ida, the barista, every day–she gives me a student discount and free cookies with every visit! This city constantly surprises me with the art and nature beauty I get to see everyday.
Back on campus at Salve, I felt like my head was always down on my walks to class as I was usually looking at my phone. In Florence, staring down at your phone is not only causing you to miss out on getting to see the city, but it is also a hazard. There are so many bikers in Florence, and they ride everywhere. They ride through the crowded Duomo area, on the sidewalk, in between Vespa’s and cars, you name it. Their balance is very impressive, but it can get very hard having to navigate the streets and having to be aware of so much. Pedestrians definitely have the least amount of street cred, so you have to keep your eyes up or else you will run into a bike, Vespa, car or all of the above. However, having to do be constantly aware has allowed me to get off my phone and take in the present moment. In doing so, I have also realized how fast I, and Americans in general, walk. I noticed myself constantly speeding and weaving by people on the sidewalk, and after a few weeks here I took a step back and asked myself, “I am in literally no rush…slow down”. Everything is more relaxed over here, even the pace at which they walk.
Study abroad has already taught me so many life lessons, and a few of them I tried to capture here in this blog: look up, not down. Get off your phone. Make eye contact with people and smile. Be friendly. Be open to change. Slow down. Enjoy the present. Live in the present, because time flies by. I remember boarding the plane to come to Florence like it was yesterday, and now I am halfway done. Study abroad has allowed me to truly grasp the idea of being thankful and grateful for every moment that I get to experience.
Hannah Rezendes (’25) is a Psychology and Dance Double Major studying abroad in Italy at API Semester Business, Arts, Humanities, Italian Language and Culture in Florence.