Every time I step into the main square of Florence where the Duomo stands, I am surprised to find that its massive stature never ceases to astound me; the green, red, and white marble designs draw people from all over the world. Each day, a new wave of sweaty, gelato-eating, camera-flashing tourists arrives in Florence, and every day my friends and I feel more like natives.
To explore our new city, we embarked on a scavenger hunt by night which led us searching around the city. My group, the first group ever to complete the full scavenger hunt list, won and received souvenirs sold in the square. My prize, a blue polka dot bow head band, currently hangs above my bed to remind me of a fun night exploring Florence.
Yesterday our apartment group went on our first trip to the local supermarket. Shopping together was not only a bonding experience, which thought us how to manage a household and a budget, but it was also extremely fun to experience a true Italian supermarket where you find the beginning of the dishes that Italy is famous for. Walking back along the uneven cobbled streets with a grocery bag in each hand, we were reminded of just how old Florence really is. That night, our food experience began anew as we embarked on a gelato-tasting adventure. It was hard to chose the best of the gelaterias, because each was as good as the last! But never fear, we did find our favorite after much (perhaps unnecessary) tasting.
During my Italian lesson, I learned how to successfully order my favorite dolce dish second only to ice cream: “Posse mixare una granite limone alla menta con fragola, per favore” (Please mix a lemon and mint granita with strawberry). My Italian lessons have taught me not only how to speak the language, but also how beautiful and lyrical it sounds when spoken.
Today after morning lessons, 15 eager students walked to the school of leather (scuola del cuoio in Italian) in the back of Santa Croce, another of Florence’s beautiful cathedrals. At the leather workshop, our noses were assaulted with the rich, woody smell of high-quality leather as our eyes feasted on the authentic Florentine decor. We watched, amazed, as a beautiful, elaborate coaster was engraved before our feasting eyes. It was eye-opening to learn and appreciate the skill needed to perform even the simplest tasks with leather. Our demonstrator craftsman, a twenty-five-year-old native Florentine, proudly told us of his upcoming promotion to master craftsman in November after two years studying and nine years as a junior craftsman. What an accomplishment! My friends and I left with our wallets considerably lighter, having bought precious, authentic leather products from the school. I bought two leather and gold bangles in blue and white, along with a leather journal, which I had the pleasure of watching be embossed with 20 karat gold leaf. The best part of the trip was the ten percent student discount and the complimentary engraving we were awarded. I look forward to many more adventures!
Tonight, the evening activities include strolling around the main square of Florence and visiting an old, still-functioning ceramic shop where students will get to create something of their own.
Ciao from Florence! -Sienna