Monday, January 3, 2011

The Semester Comes to a Close

I have been home for about a week now and looking back, I cannot believe how lucky I was to experience everything that I did! I am so happy to be home with friends and family, especially during the holiday season.  But, I am going to miss Florence and I want to take a couple paragraphs to reflect on my last few weeks abroad.

After my parents left, I only had a few weeks more to enjoy Italy, so I began operation super-tourist!  I wanted to try and see more of Italy and more of Florence.  I visited a small town called Orvieto with two friends one weekend.  It was a cute little town about 2 hours south of Florence by train.  Emily, Megan and I left early on a Saturday morning to spend the day there.  The town is known for its white wine, beautiful view of the countryside and its large ancient well called Saint Patrick's well.  The coolest thing was the cable car that we had to take up the hillside to get to the actual town from the train station.  Unfortunately, we were not able to tour the famous well because we found it a little too late in the afternoon, but apparently it used to be the main source of water for the town.  The people of Orvieto would hike down hundreds of stairs to fill buckets of water that they would use for everything from cooking to bathing.
View from Orvieto
 The following weekend I traveled to two other cities in Italy, Pisa and Assisi.  I got to admire the famous leaning tower in Pisa and the incredible church of Saint Frances in Assisi.  Florence's central location allowed me to do day trips for both of these cities.  To me Pisa seemed like a mini Florence, it lies on the same river that Florence does and is home to similar architecture.  Pisa differed, in that it lacked the beautiful Duomo and city charm that I found in Florence.  The leaning tower definitely seemed to be the greatest attraction of the city.  Of course, I followed the trend of millions of tourists before me and took the stereotypical pictures of me holding the tower up and kicking it down.   Assisi was another hill town Similar to Orvieto but it was the home of the Saint of Italy, Saint Frances.  His church was one of the most spectacular churches that I have ever seen; it contained two levels and a basement and all the ceilings and walls intricately painted in bright colors and gold!  The town itself was typical of an small Italian town with narrow winding streets, confusing street signs and very friendly people.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
Assisi, Italy
Megan and Me in front of the church of Saint Frances
 Classes at my school wrapped up on Thursday December 16th.  I had a few final and a couple papers to write but all in all my semester was very light and I will miss the relaxed classroom atmosphere of Lorenzo de Medici.  On Thursday I had a final dinner with my roommates at a small restaurant called Ce Ce.  It was delicious pasta (of course) and at the end of the meal the owner, Mario came out and thanked us personally!  If there is one thing Italians do best, it is good food and hospitality. 

On Friday two good friends from my home university of UW-La Crosse came to visit.  Sarah and Evelyn had both been studying in Granada, Spain for the semester and made the trip to Florence after there classes had ended on Thursday.  So after what would be my last cappuccino in Italy, I met them by the Duomo and gave them the complete tour of Florence.  It was a wonderful way to spend my last two days in Italy and gave me an excuse to visit all the sights I liked best before I left.  I think they enjoyed there time an got a kick out of Florence's first snowfall of the year and the ridiculous reactions that people had to it.  That Friday night Florence must have gotten about 5 inches but it was crazy how many snow men were built in the short time before the snow became brown slush.  I saw hundreds of people wearing moon boots, which they seemed to have with them so that they were on as soon as the first flake was falling.  The city seemed to have no plows and the airport was closed for days after. 
The big Christmas tree by the Duomo in Florence
Me, Evelyn and Sarah in front of the Pitti Palace in Florence
I left for Rome on Sunday where I would catch my flight home early Monday morning.  After spending the night in a Rome hostel, hauling around some of the heaviest suitcases in the world and traveling for 24 hours I was finally home! Luckily I had few delays and no major problems getting back to Minneapolis.

Train to Rome, Goodbye Florence!
 Thank you to everyone who followed my blog to the end! I am happy to be back in Minnesota!

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