Exploring Siena

View from Siena at Sunset

While tourists shop in the flea market near the bus station, and snap photos in the main piazza in front of Il Campo, turn off onto any random street and find the heart of Siena, the Contradas. Dr. Dominic Pacyga, professor of History at Columbia College Chicago and author of several books, tells our group of students in a brief lecture that Siena has 19 neighborhoods called Contradas, or districts, and each Contrada races in a horse race through the city called the Palio each each summer. Pacyga also says, “In Siena, when your child is born they are first baptized at the Duomo of Siena and then at your Contrada’s church.” Very local.

I take off on my own through the hills and streets of Siena. The neighborhood aspect of the city fascinates me, since Chicago’s neighborhoods are my favorite thing about Chicago, where I live and go to school. I first see a fountain with a baby riding a turtle and think it’s odd until I see little spray painted turtles on walls and then read “Contrada della Tortuca” above a set of doors. I turn down a street and suddenly I am in a different neighborhood.

Works in progress at Even's studio

While wandering, I stumble upon Even Bertolozzi Caredio’s shop and studio in Contrada della Pantera, the district of the panther. He creates original Sienese art with gold leaf letters, scenes, and Jewish art. “It takes me five days to finish these small pieces,” he explains as points to the partially finished paintings while he shows me around his studio, which is next door to his shop. There are antique books and fabrics in his studio, along with glass doors that open up to a garden oasis.

View from Even Caredio's garden in Siena

I ask him if I can go outside, and Caredio says, “The door is open, look around for as long as you like.” I step outside to a stone patio, I climb the stairs and pass through the garden gates, Caredio points to the kittens napping in straw near my feet and we both laugh. He goes back inside and I pass under trees and past tomato plants to a magnificent view of the city and the hilly Tuscan countryside. I soak in the view for a while and go inside to thank him and let him close up for the two-hour afternoon break.

Caredio's garden

I decide to go inside the Duomo in Siena, and it is well worth it. The Duomo in Florence is stark and plain inside, contrasting with it’s exterior, but in Siena, the inside is the most magnificent part. The ceiling looks like the night sky, midnight blue and golden stars, while the walls are frescoed in bold colors and the altar is brilliant gold. The floor is made of marble and stone mosaics of the Contradas symbols and Biblical stories. Sculptures of every Pope since Peter line the walls, and even the construction zones have murals covering them. I particularly love the giant old hymnals and bibles on display with imaginative calligraphy turning letters into art.

Siena's Duomo, interior

Bathrooms are a strange thing to rave about, but the bathrooms in the Duomo of Siena are worth mentioning. Though you have to pay 50 cents to use them, there is always an attendant who cleans after each person, so the private toilets are clean and stocked with toilet paper. Most of the time I didn’t want to have to pay a fee to use a toilet in Italy, but each experience I had when I did pay was far better than when I didn’t.

Finally, my last stop of the day is the Tuscan Wine School, a recently opened shop and classroom not too far from Il Campo. I take a wine tasting class taught by Kim, an American Ex-Pat who has been working with the Slow Food movement for years and helped start the University of Gastronomics in northern Italy. She gives our class a complete lesson on wine from it’s history in Tuscany, dating back to the Etruscans, to how the grapes are grown and harvested for each type of wine. We then learn how to taste and know what we’re drinking. The class was excellent, delicious red and white wines were paired with cheeses and chocolates and I feel confident about wine tasting after only a two-hour class. In the end Kim says, “It doesn’t matter what you pair your wine with, drink what you like, that’s all that matters.”

Siena is a city worth digging into, each neighborhood has something to offer and the people are friendly and down to earth. Exploring is one of my favorite things about traveling, there is no plan or tour and it’s all an adventure where treasures are waiting to be discovered.

Mosaic of the Contrada animals on the floor at the entrance of the Duomo

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sculptures: the Perfect Models

Art is abundant in Florence, especially sculptures. Michelangelo’s sculptures are the perfect models for sketching because they never move. I particularly enjoyed drawing David at the Accademia and Night of the tombs of the Medici in the Medici Chapels connected to San Lorenzo.

One afternoon, I buy a soft graphite pencil, eraser, and pencil sharpener at the art store down the street and go to sketch David. There are always open chairs or benches surrounding the massive ill-proportioned man, and you can see him even if there are thousands of people in the museum. I sit in between a mother and her son in an empty chair, the son curiously watching me as I timidly draw David’s torso, not used to having an audience. Several people change seats by the time I leave, each interested in my sketch and trying to steal photographs of the statue; no photos are allowed.

A few days later I go to the Medici Chapels to draw. Tourist rarely visit this museum and it is crowd free at all hours of the day. Alone most of the time, with the exception of the guards, I turn the forms of the female Night’s masculine arm.

Sketching or drawing the art you see in Florence is a good way to study the art here, it makes you concentrate on every detail of the sculpture or painting and really understand it. I never realized that Michelangelo emphasized David‘s hands by making them gigantic until I sketched him. It is hard not to get artistic in the heart of the Renaissance with great masters work around every corner.


Filed under Uncategorized

Handmade Italian Sandals

The sandals I bought from a shoemaker in the West Oltrarno

While some of the shops in Florence claim to sell handmade Italian shoes, I stumbled upon an actual shoemaker and his shop, Lavorazione Artigiana, in the West Oltrarno one evening. I have to ring the doorbell before the shoemaker lets me in. I wander around the tiny storefront and see his workshop through the open wooden door. I look at the unique designs of his shoes and he tells me he makes all of them. Looking at the shoes, I see they are stamped with his logo, “Francesco Da Firenze: Al Ponte Alla Carraia.” I find a comfortable pair of brown leather sandals and choose to spend the extra Euro for something handmade.

Francesco Da Firenze: Lavorzione Artigiana is located at Via Santo Spirito 62 r, Firenze.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hiking to the Elusive Guvano Beach

“Manarola only has rocks, but it is very popular for sunbathing,” explains Ricardo Vernazzari, who works at the green hostel, Ostello Cinque Terre, perched on a hillside in Manarola. “The only sandy beach is in Monterosso.” That simply won’t work for me. I am determined to find the magical cove I read about in Let’s Go Florence. When I specificially asked Vernazzari about the hidden Guvano Beach, he was more forthcoming: “Take the path toward Corniglia. You will need a ticket.”

Guvano Beach is also described in guidebooks as the only “clothing optional” beach in Cinque Terre. I found photos of Guvano on Google and was captivated by the cove’s jagged cliffs jutting out of the serene Mediterranean.

Bridge on the hiking path from Manarola to Corniglia

Cinque Terre, or “five lands,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been restored and preserved in large part because of fees hikers pay to walk hiking paths connecting the five towns named from, south to north, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso. There is a red high path, and a coastal blue path. Although not entirely car-free, the villages are remarkably clean and unspoiled. Visitors can buy hiking passes at stores attached to the railroad stations, and can ride back by train if they are winded by a one-way hike. Most routes have huts with a paid employee to check passes, but you can buy them there.

Hiking to Corniglia looks simple enough, a straight shot from our tiny town to the next. After taking several photos of Manarola from the paved path, we start to hike. The pavement ends and a dirt and rock path lined with wooden railing begins. Signs warn hikers of ticket requirements, and soon enough a log hut appears and we buy our passes.

With the sun glaring, we walk the flat path for about 30 minutes, coming upon a not-too-sturdy wooden bridge. While discussing the stability of the bridge my companions stumble upon a tiny map showing us stairs and the tunnel to Guvano, plus areas under construction.

We pound up the stairs past where the path is closed and continue north until we come to a dead end at the foot of the steps to Corniglia. Confused as to where the path continues, we go down a flight of stairs to a small house and a gate leading to the rocky beach below.  A woman and her daughter appear with a key to the gate and I yell “Mi Scusi!” In broken Italian I ask where we are and she tries to explain. I then say “Guvano?” and she smiles and says “Oh! Guvano!” and gestures to go around the corner of the house and I interpret her next movements as button pushing, and she says “Light? Bzzz Bzzz.”

The tunnel to Guvano Beach

We round the corner to find a tunnel with painted scenes of nude figures on a beach. “This must be it,” I say, and head into the pitch-black tunnel. There is an intercom with the words “Push here for lights” written next to the button, and so we push. And we push. And nothing happens. Someone finds the circuit board, and we press every button and flip every switch. No lights come on. A sign next to the intercom says, “Guvano Beach one kilometer this way” and our group of four young women begins to have second thoughts about the black abyss before us. Tech-savvy students, we pull out cell phones, no good. Cameras, better but not enough. Finally, someone suggests lighting a stick. Though the stick is not much better than the cameras, at least it isn’t using up battery power, so, with a little courage, we head towards the unknown.

At least one of my companions wants to turn around, but I offer lead the way with the LCD screen on the back of my camera. We stay to the left and walk slowly on the sidewalk of the cavernous tunnel. Every step, incline, and slippery spot we shout “STEP!” to warn the girl behind us so she doesn’t trip.

The tunnel takes a curve and we are suddenly in a darkness I had never experienced. The tunnel feels endless and we can’t walk fast enough. We imagine what kinds of creatures lurk in the blackness. I block the terrifying thoughts of bats and focus on the ground before me. It was cool and wet, and the girls wearing flip-flops call it muddy and slimy.

We hear a loud noise coming towards us, like a train or a truck, and I have the sudden urge to bolt. Who knew what was coming for us in the dank depths of the darkness? We stop and stare into the abyss and realize it is a train in the tunnel next to us and we timidly trudge on.

We come around a bend and see a tiny light, our pace quickens, and the light at the end gets closer and closer, then we hear footsteps behind us. I’m terrified that someone is coming to mug us, but it is just two better-prepared beach-goers with flashlights.

The end of the tunnel to Guvano

The tunnel opens up to an oasis of trees and a clearly marked gravel path. We pass three men sitting at a table under an umbrella, half expecting to pay them a fee to use the beach, but no one stops us and the beach is free.

The friends are talking to the flashlight couple, from Atlanta, about where they found the flashlights and how we managed the tunnel with only our cameras. “How did you find out about the gay beach?” one of the men asks. After I tell him about the articles and guidebooks I read, a stark naked man with no shoes walks leisurely past, smoking a cigarette. We giggle for a moment about the man’s nudity and get it out of our system.

The Atlanta couple is ahead of us and jumps down the rockslide slope in a swift, graceful motion, and one of the girls asks, “Is that the only way down?” I assume it is and try to calm their nerves and tell them I have done this before and give them tips on how to balance on the way down. As we begin our descent, one of the kind gentlemen from Atlanta offers to help us down. I tell him I can handle it since I’m wearing sneakers, and ask him to help my companions. I nearly fall all the way down the steep slope when a rock underfoot gives way and sends me sliding on my butt for about a meter before I come to a stop. I gain my composure and finally make it down to the elusive Guvano Beach.

Guvano Beach from the path above

When I was 12, I read a book about a young woman who goes to Greece for the summer and lives in a villa near the sea. She discovers a secluded beach cove where the sea is crystal clear. She is alone there and she feels peaceful and free. When I read this book, I created a similar place in my imagination, and at last I found it.

I pause and gawk at the paradise before me, proud of myself for finding the beach and successfully getting to it. Once all of us are on solid ground we strip down to our bathing suits and sprint into the turquoise sea after working up a sweat on our hike. It is perfect; the water is refreshing but not cold. The large pebble beach lay out before us with only four pairs of people lounging in the sun. We swim out to where the salty sea turns royal blue and yell, “You can see straight to the bottom!” We high-five and congratulate each other on making it through the adventure. We float in the ocean and stare at the green terraced vineyards above and the black cliffs that surrounded us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Art in Florence: A Religious Experience

When a piece of art speaks to you, it is like a religious experience and I have had several since coming to Florence. Botticelli’s Primavera was my first encounter with a divine presence. Flora, the goddess of springtime in the painting, glowed in the low lighting of the gallery. Flora is my favorite figure in the painting, if not my favorite figure of all time.

Unfortunately, the museums in Florence do not allow photos of any kind—but I have managed to secretly capture a few shots at a couple of museums before I was officially on the guards radar.

Michelangelo’s David was my next revelation. Sublime is the only word that can accurately describe him. Terrific and terrible, David is contemplating whether to follow through with his duty and save his people or let cowardice take over and turn back.  Michelangelo’s attention to detail, from the veins in his arms to the tendons in his feet, gives David a presence of being alive.

My final awakening was in the Chapel of the Medici’s, where Michelangelo’s female figures Dusk and Night watch over the tombs of the Medici’s. While their male counterparts, Dawn and Day, are intriguing, neither are completely finished. The body language and the musculature and gracefulness of the figures are astonishing. They are beautiful, smooth and hard at the same time. They have become my favorite sculptures and I would have taken a thousand photographs if the security guards had let me.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Bargello: Not Just an Art Museum

Donatello's David at the Bargello

All the museums in Florence are packed during the summer, but on Sunday mornings, the Bargello is nearly empty. The National Bargello Museum is housed in the medieval former Palace of the Captain of the People and became a sculpture museum in 1886, the fifth centenary of Donatello’s birth. Donatello is considered the first Renaissance sculptor and made significant strides in the effort for naturalism as seen during the Renaissance.

The Bargello is one of my favorite museums because of the wide variety of artifacts and sculptures. I like it, too, because the lenient staff lets me take photographs, a rare occurrence in Florence, although even these patient guards have their limits. I lingered in photographing the audition pieces for the Gates of Paradise and was scolded from across the room.

The museum houses one of Michelangelo’s first sculptures, Bacchus, in a room on the first floor directly around the corner from the entrance to the museum. Cardinal Raffaele Riario commissioned Bacchus during the Renaissance between 1497 and 1499, but the Cardinal disliked the figure and sold the sculpture to his banker, Jacopo Galli, who appreciated Bacchus’ drunken gaze and stance.

When I took art history classes in college, I studied the first nude of the Renaissance, Donatello’s David, which is on the second floor of the museum. David, the biblical figure and mascot of Florence, stands resting with his sword in hand and his foot on Goliath’s head. The museum has a large collection of Donatello, Ammannati, and Giambologna sculptures. Also notable is Giambologna’s Mercury on the first floor of the museum.

The Bargello also has an eclectic collection of silverware, keys, tapestry, furniture, tobacco pipes, religious relics and jewelry. I love cameo and antique jewelry, and I found the jewelry at the Bargello intriguing because of the beautiful craftsmanship and antiquity—some of it dating back to the Middle Ages. When looking at the frescoed vaulted arches of the ceilings and through the gorgeous windows into the courtyard below, it is hard to believe that prisoners were stored in these rooms from 1502 to 1857.

Cameo jewelry dating back to the Middle Ages at the Bargello

Each July, the Bargello hosts the Florence Dance Festival with a stage set up in the interior courtyard. It is also host to operas, orchestras, and plays; a schedule of events can be found at the ticket counter of the museum and on advertisements throughout Florence.

The Bargello is open 8:15 to 14:00 every day, Via del Pronscolo 4, museum tickets cost 4 Euro, event tickets are under 25 Euro and discounted for students.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tips for the Best Gelato

Grom Gelateria near the Duomo

Gelato is an art form in Florence, and Grom has mastered it. My favorite flavors have been Lampone (raspberry) and Pistacchio. In each fruit flavor you can taste and feel the pulp or the seeds from the fruit it was created with. Even Pistacchio has the actual bits of nut inside of every bite. The Stracciatella uses dark chocolate with a rich creme base that melts in your mouth.Grom prides itself on being organic and green; even the spoons are biodegradable and compostable.

Tip: Sometimes Grom runs out of certain flavors towards the closing during the summer, don’t be discouraged; try something else, be adventurous! Everything I have tried has been delicious, even if I normally wouldn’t order it.

Another delicious spot is Gelateria di Neri, where locals line up outside the door for delicious Frutti di Bosco (mixed berries) and Fragola (strawberry). These flavors are common at most gelaterias but the difference is that the seeds are still in the fruit gelato which is a good way to tell that the gelato is made from real fruit.

Tip :While gelaterias off of main streets and near major landmarks are usually ridiculously price and not very satisfying, Grom is in an alley way near the Duomo and a small cup only costs 2 Euro. If you’re paying more than 2.50 Euro for the smallest cup, you’re getting ripped off.

How to get there: Grom is the first street on the right of the Duomo if you are facing the front entrance, it looks like a random alley way but you’ll see the line and know you’ve found it. Gelateria di Neri is on the street in between Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi, follow the street around a couple of blocks and you’ll see the neon sign.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

How to Cook Like and Italian Mama for Only 10 Euro

This morning I went to Mercato Centrale in search of fresh ingredients for a traditional Italian lunch. I bought an espresso from the little bar in the market and chatted with the owner. Later I found him in the fruit and vegetable tent, where he was talking to the men running a produce stand. The bar owner asked me what I wanted to make; I said a tomato sauce and then the men working the stand snatched up six tomatoes, a bundle of fresh basil, two onions, and a head of garlic and asked me for 4 Euros before I could even say “Ciao.” I went back inside the market and bought half a kilo of ground beef for one Euro at my favorite butcher’s stand, half a kilo of fresh tortellini for 3 Euro from the pasta maker that only speaks Italian, and I had everything I needed for the perfect lunch.

What you’ll need:
500 grams of ground beef (if you are vegetarian, you can ignore this ingredient and start at step 3 of the recipe)
2 small onions
6 tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic
8-10 leaves of fresh basil
500 grams of a pasta of your choice (in this case I used fresh tortellini because it’s available, but any pasta will work)
salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Serves 3-4 people.
1. First, rinse the produce well in cold water. Then dice the tomatoes, onions, and garlic and set them aside. Pick the basil leaves off the stem and set aside.
2. Next, in a large pot (with a lid) brown the ground beef on medium heat, making sure not to burn the beef, this should take about 10 to 15 minutes if the meat is fresh.
3. Drain the excess fat, and turn the heat down to low and add the tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh basil, salt, and pepper–stir well. Let the sauce simmer until it reduces down to a thick, meaty consistency, about an hour to an hour and a half, stir occasionally.
4. After an hour of letting the sauce simmer or after the sauce is finished, cook the pasta. In a large pot, boil twice as much water as there is pasta–my friend at the market tells me this is key to good pasta. When the water is at a roiling boil, add in your pasta. If it is fresh, it only takes 5-8 minutes to cook the pasta, dried pasta can take up to 15 minutes.
5. Drain the pasta and let cool. Mix your sauce and pasta together and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Buon Appetito!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Paris in 36 hours

Eiffel Tower at dusk

I met up with my good friend Erica in Paris for the weekend and with little sleep and sore legs we saw almost all of Paris in 36 hours.

When I arrived at the bus station at 20:00 we first trekked to the Arche di Triumph, then went the opposite direction while trying to findthe Eiffel Tower, once we found our berrings, we eventually made it to the tower. The Eiffel Tower is something I’ve seen a thousand times, but to see it in person was overwhelming, I was in awe of its beauty and grandeur.

Erica and I went to our hostel, Le d’Artagnan, at around 0:00 to find our bunkmates sound asleep. The hostel was comfortable enough for the little time we spent there, and it was student friendly at only 23 Euro a night.

The next morning we woke at 6:30, ate our fruit, cereal, and bread breakfast in the hostel cafeteria. First sight of the day: the Louvre. I started shaking when I saw the grand glass pyramid; I love art and history and I was thrilled to be able to see the paintings I had studied in college.

Musee´du Louvre from under Palais Royal

Most Paris museums are free the first Sunday of the month, which happened to be the only day Erica and I were in Paris. We arrived at the Louvre 45 minutes before it opened and there was already a line, but luckily not a long one. The glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre is like the Eiffel Tower, I’ve seen a thousand times, yet it was new to me because I had never seen photographs of the palace that surrounds the pyramid. Palais Royal, the palace that houses Louvre museum, is grandiose and gargantuan with magnificent sculptures and a stunning façade. The original Louvre building began construction in 1100 A.D. and the Louvre we see today was once home to Marie d’Medici of the Florentine Medici family that ruled throughout the Renaissance. In the 1800s the palace was turned into a gallery for paintings and sculpture.

Once Erica and I were inside, we bolted to the Mona Lisa before the throng of people behind us had a chance to catch up. On the way, we saw the glorious Winged Victory of Samonthrace; she stood graciously overlooking the grand staircase, watching us as we passed. When we reached the small painting behind glass, I recalled what my art history professor said about the Mona Lisa, “her smile is brazen because she is looking directly at you, and in that time, women simply did not do that.”

While it was interesting to see the most famous painting in the world, I was anxious to see what else was in the Louvre. We walked hastily through the museum so we could cover as much ground as possible in the little time we had. I told Erica everything I learned in art history as we passed by Da Vinci, Ingres, Durer, Watteu, and more. I was ecstatic about seeing Botticelli, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, and David—all my favorite painters and sculptors under one roof.

Palais Royal: the palace that houses the Louvre museum

We carried on to the rest of the museum, painting after painting, and I nearly cried when I saw Lady Liberty Leading the People because it was an image I had fallen in love with in art history, and to see it in person and see the detail in the brush work was too much to take in. I saw Peter Paul Rubens paintings of Marie d’Medici’s love story, and Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, and Venus Di Milo. I found some new favorites like Elisabeth-Louise Vigee´-Le Brun and Peter Paul Rubens. It was fantastic and 24 hours is not enough time to do the Louvre justice, let alone 3 hours.

Next, at around 13:00, we walked to Notre Dame and took photographs of the Seine. There was a large line to enter the cathedral but luckily most people don’t care about cutting in line in Europe, so Erica and I hopped to the front and popped in. The only decorative elements inside are the enormous stained glass windows and large vaulted arches, both of which were an architectural miracle at the time. Latin a cappella choral music rang throughout the church, mystical and eerie, as we sat down to stare at the windows.

Notre Dame from inside looking out

After Notre Dame, we went to the Luxembourg Palace to relax in the gardens. We were the only English speakers around, and we were excited to be amongst real Parisians. We sat at a bench and had cheese crepes and wine while we enjoyed greenery and the view of the Palace.

Beginning in July, stores in Europe have great sales until the end of the summer. Erica and I chose to take advantage of this opportunity and shopped in a little boutique by the Pantheon and bought a couple of Parisian dresses–very chic.

Finally we ended up at the Orsay Museum, where Van Gogh and Monet have large collections, unfortunately the museum closed at 18:00  and we arrived shortly after. We wandered around, saw a few palaces and museums from the outside. We took a train at 19:00 to the Montemartre neighborhood of Paris which sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The bohemian neighborhood is known for the cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried, the Moulin Rouge, and the panoramic views from Sacre Coeur. Erica and I found this adorable outdoor patio of a packed restaurant and happened to get there in time to take a front row table–front row to show that was the sunset over Paris.

I had the Prix Fixe menu, and for 32 Euro I had the most savory meal I’ve ever put to my lips. First a glass of champagne, an appetizer of ravioli in an herb and cream sauce, a main course of chicken and mashed potatoes in a brown mushroom sauce, and for dessert a creme and cheese strainer with raspberry sauce with a digestivo of caffe´. The dessert has become my favorite, it was much like whipped creme, but more substantial and less sweet.


Main Course


View from La Relais de la Butte, where I had my birthday dinner

After a leisurely dinner of watching the sunset and enjoying my feast until 22:30, we set out to find Sacre Coeur and take photos. On our way we found Diwali, a bohemian accessory store where we almost bought out the entire shop. The steps of Sacre Coeur were covered with Parisians and tourists drinking beer and wine. I set up my tripod, snapped a few shots, and we headed to Moulin Rouge before the crowd got rowdy.

Moulin Rouge at midnight

Moulin Rouge is on the end of a strip of sex stores and night clubs, it’s best to watch your belongings closely in this part of town. The area is a bit seedy, but nothing worse than a few pick pockets and drunkards. We took our photos and were back at the hostel by 1:00 to rest up for our early departures the next day.

Tips: Paris is a walkable city, but you’ll want comfortable shoes. We walked at least 15 miles in our short stay, but there is a fantastic metro system in the city that you can use if your feet are aching. Students can buy a metro day pass in almost any station for only 3 Euro, and adults can get one for about 7 Euro.

View from Sacre Coeur overlooking Paris

Erica and I lived off bread and fruit while we were there because it’s cheap and delicious, but if you’re craving something more filling, then I suggest avoiding major landmarks to find decent prices and delicious food like the kind we found at the restaurant in Montemartre.


Filed under Uncategorized


The Duomo at Sunset

On a rooftop bar at sunset

On my first night out in Florence I had experiences I could have only imagined.

My roommate Rachel and I first went to the “Welcome Dinner” for students of the university and met up with our friend Pat who introduced us to his seven roommates, one of which is a DJ from Canada (Powe), and another speaks fluent Italian because he is a first generation American (Lino).  At the welcome dinner, Rachel and I were invited to join the guys at a club where Powe was supposed to DJ at 1:30 that night. The welcome dinner was a let down because it was so Americanized, so we all decided to leave and go to a rooftop bar at a hotel one of the guys (Ben) had stayed in before classes started. The rooftop bar had sensational views of the Duomo, the Piazza della Singnoria, Piazzale Michelangelo–everything in Florence and all at dusk. I couldn’t believe it, we were the only people there for about 15 minutes and I could not get over the views.

We left a few minutes before the bar closed and went on to an Irish Pub where we sat outside and watched some of the World Cup, eventually we wandered of to the club with a group of at least 20 people. Once we got there, Pat saw a couple he had met the night before in the VIP lounge, they saw us and invited us to join them. We passed the red velvet ropes, traded our drink cards for yellow wristbands and settled in for an amazing night.

The Canadian Couple, Tom and Melissa, were in Florence on holiday. They ordered a few bottles of Vodka through out the night, which was served on a beautiful platter of fruit, cranberry juice, orange juice, soda, red bull, and ice– complete with a Roman candle. We sat on the white leather couches behind the glass of the lounge and watched the mass of people on the floor gyrate to the beat of the techno music. Our friend Powe began to spin and the night was on fire. We all danced and drank and had the time of our lives, Florence has been good to us so far.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized