By Mackenzie Dineen – Global Correspondent
Firenze, each time I attempt to write about you, my hand can pen nothing but poetry.
It seems impossible to brush away the golden sunsets over the Arno, the effervescent life pouring through the streets by day, or the tranquility of cobblestone alleys late in the evening. I have felt loneliness and joy here, more deeply than I could have imagined. I have heard the language flowing freely from the lips of Florentines and have yearned to understand. I have conversed with those from many walks of life and found connection beyond measure. I often spend quiet nights in my costa apartment, far away from the buzz of the center, wondering how I will bring myself to leave.
Florence is most certainly a tourist-based economy, and by that token is easily accessible to English speakers.
The city is frequented by visitors from most conceivable locations, almost more-so than it is by locals. It appears to me that one must seek out truly authentic experiences when they travel if they wish to understand a culture. This can be difficult if you don’t already know Italian, and because there are an abundance of shops, restaurants, and clubs that cater to Americans.
One can find solace in the stunning Bardini or Boboli gardens which immerse the sense in breath-taking flora and fauna, a refreshment after days in a completely stone city. A hike up to the Piazalle Michaelangelo offers perspective in the form of a bird’s eye view of the entirety of Florence, but directly below the busy Piazalle is a secluded path to the shore of the Arno river, where one can reflect on their travels in peace.
Florence offers far more than its many landmarks and museums. I have been lucky enough to take classes with Italian professors at Florence University of the Arts. Taking private voice lessons with a renowned opera singer has given me insight to the world of Italian art and music, but singing in Italian to a large crowd of fluent Italians tested my ability to blend and join in a new culture. Education is a much different experience in Italy. Classes do not have the same level of structure, and students are often expected to figure out material on their own. This factor is yet another push towards independence and individual thinking.
In my time in Florence I have resided alone, outside the city, and have had only one or two close friends from home to support me. Taking on a new country by myself was nothing I ever believed I was capable of, until I did it. And in exploring a new place on my own, I not only learned about the world, but about myself. I discovered new likes and dislikes, ways of communicating, and different types of relationships, all of which have opened up new doors for my future travels, career and social opportunities, and personal growth. I believe that everyone should live in another country at some point in their life, as it is a truly defining experience.