Michelangelo’s David: More Than Meets The Eye

As someone who lived in Florence for a number of years and lead countless students, tours, friends, and family to see Michelangelo’s David, I have been asked a variety of questions regarding this famous statue. Did Michelangelo model him after the real David? What was David’s last name? Why is his…ahem, you-know-what, so small? Why does he have a mullet? And, finally, the question that forever changed how I thought about the David…What makes him so important and special? The context surrounding this question, posed to me by a 16 year-old student on a study abroad program I was working for, may help set the scene.
It was a scorching day in the middle of July and it was my first time visiting the Accademia with a group of students…60 or so. Between the blazing heat, suffocating humidity, disgruntled teenagers, throngs of anxious tourists, and a “reservation line” that wrapped around the building, the experience was less than ideal to say the least.

The line at the Accademia can be scary.

As we were making our way through the entrance, Olivia – the sweet 16 year-old girl with a heart of gold and zero interest in art history – came to me with her question…What makes the David so special, so important? She quickly told me that she meant no disrespect and genuinely wanted to know why. I took a moment to look around and take in the hundreds and hundreds of people – tired and sweaty, yet eagerly waiting their turn to finally see Michelangelo’s famed David and knew it was a fair question to ask. So, I did my best to explain to her why I thought the David was special enough and important enough for countless visitors from around the world to include “him” on their must-see list while in Italy. I mean…the David is arguably the most famous statue by the most famous artist in the world and many people do not even know why. Well, without further adieu, here are just few of the countless reasons why… Continue reading…

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Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence or Italy – Part II

top_ten_tipsWelcome back to our Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence or Italy! Hopefully you enjoyed and were endlessly impressed by the breadth of information in Part I and are dying for more juicy details in Part II. You probably were since, as I recall, we did a totally kick-ass job.
Continue reading…

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Florence on fire?! Nope. It’s just Easter.

It’s almost Easter! Hands down my favorite holiday after Christmas. I mean, some huge bunny hides chocolate for me? Who comes up with this stuff? AMAZING. So, in honor of this holiday I thought I would write a little something about Easter in Italy, which is really quite different.

There is chocolate, yes. It does come in an egg form, of course.
But, there is something so much better in addition. There is a 500 hundred year-old cart…ON FIRE!!!!
Read on.


Easter, according to the bible, is the day on which Christ rose from the dead, otherwise known as his Resurrection. If this is at all foggy to you (it can be so confusing!), let’s review. Christ is captured and sentenced to death. He is crucified on what is called Good Friday. He is then buried and is, for all intents and purposes, dead for three days. On the third day, the Sunday morning after Good Friday, he is resurrected.

The Jewish holiday of Passover falls at the same time as Easter, as they are symbolically linked through the bible. Jesus was eating Passover dinner – also known as the Last Supper- with the apostles, right before he was captured.

Now, what hidden chocolate eggs and huge bunnies have to do with the above-described biblical events is anybody’s guess. Whereas, lighting a huge antique cart on fire using a flaming dove as the spark and enjoying the ensuing fireworks display makes COMPLETE sense in light of the events surrounding a holiday celebrating Jesus’ resurrection. Am I right? You think I’m kidding? Here is what our friends at Wiki say:
“In Florence, Italy, the unique custom of the Scoppio del Carro is observed in which a holy fire lit from stone shards from the Holy Sepulchre are used to light a fire during the singing of the Gloria of the Easter Sunday mass, which is used to ignite a rocket in the form of a dove, representing peace and the holy spirit, which following a wire in turn lights a cart containing pyrotechnics in the small square before the Cathedral.”
(Don’t believe me? Check here.)
Ok ok. Sheesh. We’ll explain! Continue reading…

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Locked in Love across Italy. Literally.

Lover's Locks chained to a light post in Verona

What’s better than

being in Italy?

Being in Italy, in love.

And who knows love better than the people who love life, I ask you? No one. Well, maybe them and that guy from The Notebook.
This is a post dedicated to good old-fashioned love being shown in a not so old-fashioned way. None of that Italian Stallion crap, but the kind of genuine romance that reminds you of your first love or your first kiss. The kind of love that makes you want to read all Nicholas Sparks’ novels over and over and cry every time.

Think of your average lock. The kind you put on your locker at school or the gym. A totally mundane object that you have likely bought a hundred times in your life and then thrown away once you forgot the combination or lost the key. Now imagine that same lock with two people’s names written on it and imagine it hanging off the bar of a quiet bridge in some little town in Italy. Suddenly, it’s something special. Suddenly, all its qualities of “security,” “safety,” “permanence”, and “lock-abilty” take on a new meaning. Now imagine 50 of those same locks all with different people’s names scribbled on them, all locked to the same place. That is a whole lot of love proclaimed in a beautifully subtle and sweet way that just makes me want to cry. Continue reading…

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Travelers rank Florence #1!

Florence has lured lovers of art, wine, food, and fashion for centuries. We can all imagine the artist and the art aficionado, the vintner and the reveler, the chef and the foodie, the designer and the shopaholic wandering the streets of Florence, but what about families? You may not immediately think of a family (parents, 2.5 kids) when you think of the average visitor to Florence, but think again. Trip Advisor recently ranked Florence as the 2011 Traveler’s Choice #1 Family Friendly City in Europe! (See article here.)

Fellow travelers voted on this one, so I think we should all take note. Now, I know some you may not be planning on traveling with a family (now or ever) and believe that this ranking is not relevant to you or your travel plans. Some of you may even be thinking that family friendly more clearly translates as “boring.” Well, let me set you straight. Locations, like Florence, that are praised for being ideal for visiting families are in actuality ideal for all travelers. Such locations rise to the top of the family friendly list when high standards of safety, transportation, and sightseeing are met. For example, last year Florence closed its center off from traffic. So, no more buses or motorini racing around streets crowded with tourists. I imagine that this major change contributed to the general enjoyment of visitors and Florence’s climb to the top of the family friendly list. Travelers young and old, in a group or flying solo, the jetsetter and the backpacker can all appreciate visiting a place that makes them feel safe, that is easy to get around, and that offers a wide variety of activities. As the thousands of insightful reviewers on Trip Advisor determined, Florence does just that. It manages to be a destination that is comfortable without being boring and dynamic without being overwhelming. Florence strikes a beautiful balance that makes a trip there just right.

In honor of Florence’s big win (that is, in the traveler reviewing world), here is a list of favorite family activities chock-full of fun for everyone. Toddlers to teenagers will get a kick out of these. In fact, travelers of nearly every age can enjoy these things to do and see in Florence. Continue reading…

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