Here I am, in Florence Italy, writing while sipping a crazy cheap and crazy good cappuccino in a gourmet cafe at 4:30 in the afternoon (a huge taboo, guilty as charge). It’s been about two weeks since I first touched down in the land of pasta and gelato and so far I’ve loved embracing la Dolce Vita. Cliché aside, catch me wandering every street till I get lost all semester long. Culturally, the Italians love their food and they love their drinks. Give me an aperitivo plate of prosciutto and pecorino for every meal and I’ll happily relax among all the tourists and bustling locals in the large piazzas. On every turn, there is art, either in the form of a building, church, or street art. Nothing quite beats finding the ancient Renaissance era palaces painted with modern edgy street art and I could go on and on about the coffee culture. Watching elderly Italians sip their coffee at their corner cafes while reading the paper every morning always puts a smile on a face.
Florence is a textbook definition of a walking city. Everything is confined within the city center with the massive figure of the Duomo towering over the rest of the city. The central squares are pedestrian only and walks to destination are no more than 30 minutes. Every street presents a new surprise, whether it be an elaborate building facade, a cute cafe that you haven’t seen before, or a random ornate Renaissance sculpture which scatter themselves out through the city. There is a sense of joy and curiosity that comes from walking in Florence. Nothing is boring and everything is accessible. The lack of a subway system allows visitors and locals to take advantage of the walking museum that is Florence.
This past weekend, I ventured away into the tuscan countryside to explore the beautiful Chianti region and learn about the local wine industry. Driving through the hills covered in vines and cypress trees was reminiscent of movies encompassing the beauty of Italy. I visited a small local family vineyard where I learned all about the process of wine making and the history of Chianti. The tour ended with a traditional tuscan lunch paired with the local wine in a picturesque chateaux over looking the fields. Not only was it a super fun experience, but also a cultural one.
The Chianti region offers the perfect break from the bustling city of Florence, even for non-wine people. The vineyard I visited was only 20 minutes away from the city, but feels like an entirely different world. Chianti wine is probably one of the most well known wines from Italy, coming from the Sangiovese grape. The red chianti is smooth and flavorful, pairing well with the delicious ragu pastas that Florence is known for. For my first weekend away, it was a great little escape that really helped me gain a greater appreciation for wine.
These first two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind of cultural exploration, adjustment and fun. Embracing the Italian way of life has been easy, full of gelato and paninis. That’s all for now, as I anxiously await the start of my European travels. Ciao!