When exploring the streets of a city known for its architectural, artistic, and cultural legacy, it’s easy to get swept up in the rich history of Florence. Awestruck with Renaissance treasures, the last thing you might be looking at are the traffic signs surrounding you. As an artist and lover of all things unique and innovative, I would say you are making a huge mistake if passing them by without a closer look! Artist Clet Abraham has been reinventing the street sign scene in Florence by secretly adding stickers to them at night. The street art is meant to be funny and controversial in contrast to its backdrop, historic Firenze. You can visit Clet’s studio in Via Dell’Olmo 8r where you can buy stickers and post cards in addition to viewing more examples of his quirky work.
“I’m so incredibly grateful I took advantage of this opportunity. This was absolutely perfect experience for traveling out of country for first time. Everything was handled responsibly; I learned a lot, had so much fun and was surrounded by great people while doing it. This precollege program gave me an experience I’ll truly never forget. Thank you Marist for the best trip I’ve ever taken.” — Sydne Barard, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
In July 2014 the 3rd summer edition of Marist Italy PreCollege took place, as 23 high school students from around the world spent two magical weeks studying Studio Art, Fashion Design, or Interior Design, thereby earning three Marist College credits. Students hailed from all around the US, Singapore, Lebanon, Germany, and Greece. These students (ranging in age from 14-17) witnessed first-hand how Florence itself functions as an open-air classroom, and returned home with precious memories having encountered dozens of entertaining Italian characters (“personaggi”!) during their Florentine sojourn.
Afternoons and evenings allowed students to experience the most popular cultural activities of the city; the session began with a dinner atop a rooftop terrace, then continued to explorations of a personalized guided tour of the city, the magnificent Uffizi Gallery, a sunset boat ride on the river Arno, and of course sampling gelato: thirteen different gelato shops in two weeks!
With the relaxed rules regarding picture-taking, students were even able to take ‘selfies’ with the statue of David in the Accademia Gallery. Three full weekend days accentuated their weekday studies, as students dined with perhaps the most famous butcher in the world Dario Cecchini in his shop in Chianti, hiked and swum along the daunting cliffs of the Cinque Terre, and biked atop the medieval walls of beautiful Lucca. Pisa’s leaning tower provided the classic postcard moment of the session, as students laughed themselves silly listening to the anecdotes of tour guide Roberto Bello. The group even enjoyed an exclusive oil- and cheese-tasting session with a Florentine chef. Students took their rest in residences normally inhabited by Marist first-years who take part in the Freshman Florence Experience. In fact, a previous PreCollege student will begin her Marist undergraduate experience this month right back in the city that inspired her as a 15 year-old. The 2014 PreCollege students were warned that this city has powerful effects on its visitors…
I stepped off the bus at Santa Maria Novella Train Station and immediately felt relieved. After sitting in the same position during a fifteen hour bus ride from Prague, I had never been more excited to arrive at my destination: bella Firenze. As I navigated through the platforms in search of a taxi, I struggled to keep my suitcases rolling as they seemed to weigh about as much as a baby elephant with all the shoes that I just had to bring. (You were right, dad.) My hands had fallen asleep, I had dark circles under my eyes, the strap on my purse had just broken, and not even a trace of the kielbasa from yesterday’s lunch was left in my stomach. In that moment it all became real: I had left my life along with everything comforting and familiar about 4,300 miles away in Buffalo, New York. What was I thinking?!
After settling into my apartment I decided to explore for a bit. Oftentimes I like to wander without a map, get wonderfully lost, and stumble upon something unexpectedly beautiful along the way. This romantic scenario usually comes to fruition, except when it’s your first day in Florence and it starts to rain and you’re without an umbrella. Okay, rain is actually an understatement – it began to downpour and storm as if all the gods in the heavens above were about to strike us down, one by one for no apparent reason. Within a matter of seconds the piazzas and streets were cleared and everyone was huddled under the tiny awnings of the shops that lined the streets. It is here where I met a charming little Italian fellow named Lorenzo.
Lorenzo was about seventy-five, spoke no English, but looked in my direction and gave me a chuckle as if to say, “Can you believe this weather?” He smiled patiently as I struggled to remember any Italian from my previous study abroad experience when asking him about his life. We had the most amazing, broken conversation about his family and his home, and I began to remember why I was here in the first place. Yes, the gelato is delicious, and yes, the history is fascinating, but it’s the people you meet that really make your experience that of a lifetime.
I arrived back and my apartment an hour later soaking wet, laughing, and above all, thankful for my first mini-adventurein Florence, Italy.
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