Considering that I have spent much of my time in Florence exploring the infamous monuments and museums in the city, this weekend I decided to stay a bit more local and visit locations within and near the neighborhood of my host family.
My host family’s apartment building is located in Campo di Marte, a neighborhood that is within walking distance of Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home stadium of Florence’s soccer team; ACF Fiorentina. It should be noted that aside from the screams of cheering soccer fans that occur when games are held, Campo di Marte is overall a very tranquil, residential neighborhood.
On Friday morning, as I strolled down Via Centro Stelle (Hundred Stars), which is about two blocks from my apartment building, I was greeted by young children and an older couple sitting on benches outside ‘Pasticceria Villani’, the local pastry shop. Hearing a friendly “Buongiorno” from strangers in the morning is something that I love about Italian culture. It reminds me that here, simply saying good morning isn’t a shocking act of kindness, its simply expected from all people of all ages.
Once I met up with friends who also live in home stays in Campo di Marte, together we walked to ‘Badiani’, a local gelato shop, where I tasted the best dark chocolate gelato I have ever had in my life and then boarded a bus to Fiesole, a town about 15 minutes outside of Campo di Marte. At Fiesole, I saw the ‘Teatro Romano’, a historical ruin of a Roman amphitheater that offers beautiful views of the countryside of Florence. Another great feature of Florence is the abundant greenery. On the way back to my apartment building I noticed the beautiful plants spread throughout a local park. Usually the only greenery I see during the semester is passing the quad on the Vern while hopping on the Vex back to Foggy Bottom!
In closing, I found that exploring local sights and eateries in my home stay neighborhood was a great adventure. Choosing to study abroad and immerse myself in another culture for a few months has so far been extremely rewarding, yet it is at times also somewhat lonely. Therefore, I can understand why some students may have apprehensions about being thousands of miles away from their friends and family for a semester or longer. However, what I would say to these students is that by getting acclimated to practicing the daily customs and routines practiced by the citizens of my host country, such as wearing a ACF Fiorentia jersey or enjoying some coffee or gelato in the park, I feel as though I have embraced a new community of friends and family that is equally welcoming and kind. When I do this, I feel less lonely, less homesick, and so much more at ease.
That’s all for now! For all you prospective study abroad students: Pick a country and go exploring!