Tips & Tricks for a day in Cinque Terre

Italy_coastlineSummer is around the corner and some of you are beginning to plan your trips to Italy. Many of my friends and family that come to visit during the summer months usually have one thing in mind: the beach. Excellent plan. While there is lots of “coastline” to choose from in Italy, Cinque Terre (chink-way ter-re), or the five earths (aka towns), has risen to the top of the popular spots for tourists. This is an especially great escape from Florence (which can be very hot during the summer) and can easily be done in a day!

Recently, while writing to a friend who is planning just such a day trip, I was trying to remember all the ins and outs and I realized that there were maybe a few more than the average person can just “pick up,” especially if the Italian is limited. So I thought, why not make it easy (for me and for others) and put it all in one place. Below you will find all the need-to-know info from how to get there for less to what you can skip to save time and from where to hike to where not to. Of course we’ll tackle the food, I mean, the cuisine is worth the trip in itself, but we’ll also be sure you know how to make it home without getting stranded there (unless that is part of the plan). Enjoy and see you there this summer!
Continue reading…

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Guest Blogger: Deb’s Fav Due Fratellini Panino (the love of her life)

Welcome our Guest Blogger, Deb!

Deb was a Select Study Abroad student and hands-down one of the most adventurous eaters I have ever met (and she has steep competition, ahem, Jane…). I loved that if we told her to try something she didn’t hesitate. It was after our very first day in Florence that she fell in love with a little panino (sandwich) shop and well…let’s just say it verged into the realm of obsession. We here at Select Study Abroad encourage that…especially when it comes to food in our favorite city. Going to Florence, Italy? You will want to know about this… Continue reading…

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Leonardo Lost: Seek and Ye Shall Find

This is hands-down one of my favorite stories. I mean it has it all: mystery, Renaissance celebrities, top-secret government sting operations, and a little Dan Brown-esque art history (that is actually FACTUAL). Also, for us at Select Study Abroad, it is particularly close to home. Not only is Leonardo da Vinci our BFF and not only do we personally take students to the scene of the “crime,” but our very own professor, Rab Hatfield, was involved, wrote a book on the subject, and gave us the opportunity of meeting (on several occasions) the man behind the mystery (No, not Leonardo! Read on!).

So the story goes like this:

There was this little thing called the Florentine Republic. It had a tough time over the years (those darn Medici are so troublesome), but at the very end of the 15th century it had been reinstated and things were looking good. Now, if you are a little republic in the Renaissance looking to flex your new governmental muscles there a couple things you can do. One of them just happens to be harnessing the artistic power of some of the most coveted and respected artists of the day to do your bidding. Lucky, for this little republic, they just happened to have access to two of the most significant artists available: Leonardo da Vinci (technically he is from Vinci, but whatevs) and Michelangelo. You know…no big deal.

So, you take these two BIG names and you give them a BIG project: decorate the massive walls of the Sala del Gran Consiglio (also known as the Sala dei Cinquecento) in the Palazzo Vecchio (the government building in Florence). In 1503, Leonardo was commissioned to fresco the “Battle of Anghiari” (a battle famously won by the Florentines) on one of the long walls of the rectangular Sala. He had finished his preliminary drawing (called a cartoon) and had begun painting it by 1505. In typical Leo fashion, however, he used a very experimental technique and before the brushes were dry the wall was already having problems. Continue reading…

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Florence’s best kept secret and the city’s best restaurants

If I had a euro for every time someone asked me “what is your favorite restaurant in Italy?” or “where was the best meal you ever had,” I would be a wealthy woman and probably have purchased my own villa by now. Fortunately, my answer to all of these questions is the same – Davide’s. Now, for those of you who have had the pleasure of eating at Davide’s in Florence, Italy you know what I am talking about. You would also know that Davide’s is not the name of an actual place; it is instead wherever Davide Sama (restaurant owner extraordinaire) happens to be on any given night. Impressively, he owns and manages many restaurants in Florence…4 and counting. They are not chain restaurants. While the menus and ambiance at each are similar (i.e. friendly, cozy, welcoming, and always beyond satisfying), they are unique and serve a variety of different delicious Tuscan specialties. Chances are you will not find these establishments listed in your Rick Steves’ or Lets Go! guides. Trust me, this is a good thing. Correction: this is a great thing.

These places (listed below) are generally unassuming smaller restaurants, outside of the Florence city center (where restaurants are filled with over-priced and underwhelming tourist menus) and filled with happy locals (see map below). Continue reading…

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

top_ten_tips_study_abroadSo, you’re going to Italy to study abroad. It’s a dream come true. You can’t wait to leave. You’re also a little overwhelmed about what you need to do before you leave and what to expect when you finally arrive.
 
I remember it like it was yesterday and, believe me, I knew next to nothing about how to navigate a completely new city (let alone one where I barely spoke the language). I only wish I had done a little more research before I left. If you’re reading this ahead of your departure, then you’re already ahead of the game, good work! If you’ve already left, well you’ve already seen, and perhaps found yourself in, some of those classic pitfalls. Not to worry. You’ve all come to the right place. Let us give you a helping hand. Continue reading…

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