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We’ve settled in here in Florence, and the apartments are great! Tonight we had our first dinner at the residence, and it turned out nicely. Each room was assigned a course and had €20 to buy ingredients at the grocery store. In our room, we had to make a vegetarian main course, so we made orzo pasta and sautéed vegetables, and the other rooms made bruschetta, meat pasta salad, and a cookie ice cream desert. Everything was delicious!

Today we had a day trip to Siena, where we saw two churches and climbed up a bell tower. The first church was that of Saint Katerina, who was not a nun but who devoted her life to the church. She was a great writer and philosopher, one of the few females in those occupations during her time. In many churches, there are relics (certain body parts of the saints or other important members of the church) preserved, but Saint Katerina’s relic is especially notable. They preserved her entire head! Honestly, it was one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen, but it certainly is impressive how well her head has been preserved over the years.

The second church was really beautiful, but interestingly, it is unfinished. They had started it several years before the outbreak of the bubonic plague, in order to compete with the biggest churches being built in Florence, and when the plague hit, there were simply not enough people to finish it. And, almost 700 years later, the church remains incomplete. However, it is still very beautiful and very well kept. We got to walk up a bell tower nearby, and the view was amazing. We could see all of Siena and out into the rolling hills beyond the city. It rained on our way up, but nonetheless the walk was definitely worth it.

Yesterday we started our day off with a trip to the Uffizi Gallery, where we saw the Botticelli painting of Venus on a half-shell, one of the most famous paintings of its time. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of the painting, so seeing it in real life was pretty amazing. In the afternoon, we had the option to walk up Il Duomo, the top of a huge church in the middle of Florence. About nine of us students went, and it was a long trek up, but the view was amazing and it was definitely worth the walk up, however small and crowded the stairway was.

All in all, our time in Florence and Siena has been amazing, and there are more adventures to come in the next few days!

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