Highlights from Week Two: When in Rome…

Week two is always a special time. Classes are underway, jet lag has worn off, and Florence is starting to feel more and more like home. This always seems like a great time to shake things up by leaving our Tuscan home for a little southern Italy adventure. What other city could possibly give Florence a run for its money? Answer: Rome. However, we here at Select Study Abroad refuse to do Rome in a day (especially in the summer). That is a particularly awful form of torture reserved for one of Dante’s deepest levels of hell. We like to take our time. Over a three-day weekend we see as much of this gorgeous city as we can, we throw in a Pompeii visit, and we break it all up with gratuitous pizza and gelato stops. You know, when in Rome…

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Top Ten Tips for Americans Traveling in Italy

Florence_italyThere is nothing worse than a cultural misunderstanding, especially if it has the potential to ruin a trip. I find these incidents especially painful in Italy simply because they can so easily be avoided if you’re properly prepared. Every time I happen to overhear an American traveler recounting some miscommunication, I make a mental note. There are, of course, your classic repeat offenders, but there are also some that stand out because they represent the points at which these two cultures differ. Hence, they are the same things that Italians misconstrue when they’re on American soil. So instead of letting another potential mix-up ruin even just one afternoon of someone’s long awaited adventure, I thought I’d jot down ten of the most common cultural disparities specifically for Americans traveling in Italy. Knowing these before you leave will save you headache and heartache, I promise!
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Photo of the Week: Holy Capri

Photo of the Week: Holy Capri

If I had not taken this photo myself I would think it was a fake; an island shot masterly blended with moonscapes and imagined places by some unknown artist. However unbelievable, this is a real place. It is the view from the highest point on the Island of Capri, Mount Solaro, looking out towards Sorrento. In the lower foreground is the city of Capri. To the right (out of the shot) would be the recognizable Faraglioni, a word meaning “stacks” and used to refer to the limestone crags that jut out of the water off the corner of the Island.
Want to recreate this stunning view for yourself? I don’t blame you. Getting to the top of the highest hill in Capri is not easy, but if I can do it, so can you. First things first, get to Capri. Easier said than done, I know. It took me ten years to get back there after my first visit way back in 2003, but I am so glad I did. While you will have to change your mode of transportation several times (in my case, five times), it’s well worth it. Pack light and get ready to be mobile (all you need a swimsuit anyway).
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Monthly Markets: Antiques at the Fortress da Basso

Welcomeback to our monthly installment of the best markets in Florence! Last month, we checked out the Santo Spirito Flea Market that takes place in Piazza Santo Spirito on the 2nd Sunday of every month. It kicks off the monthly Sunday markets and is a veritable Smörgåsbord of all the wonderful offerings you will find at a typical Florentine outdoor weekend market. If you missed the post, read up here!
This month, we’ll hone in on one particular market genre (old stuff!) that is the main event on the 3rd Saturday & Sunday antique market at the Fortezza da Basso. Now, this is not to be confused with the smaller and more central antique market that happens at Piazza dei Ciompi on the 4th Sunday of the month (to be covered soon!). The Fortezza market is a bit harder to get to, but is well worth the effort as it is larger, a bit more authentic, better priced, and set in a winning venue: around a small pond in the park next to the huge fortress at the northwest corner of Florence.
Antique Market at the Fortezza da Basso Gardens:antique_market_2 Continue reading…

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Renzi & Le Cascine: Greenspace in Florence

It’s a fact. Florence lacks green space. Aside from the banks of the Arno and a handful of piazzas on the outskirts, there are hardly any trees to be found in the historic city center. I almost didn’t notice until well into my first year in Florence. Perhaps I was used to this void, having moved from another urban center (New York), or maybe I was just so distracted by the city’s stunning beauty (albeit of the less animate variety). I think it hit me when the urge for a picnic first took hold and I suddenly found myself at a complete loss for where to go to enjoy some grassy solitude within walking distance.

There are, of course, the Boboli gardens, but without the Amici degli Uffizi card you’re looking at 10 euros just to enjoy their shady trees for a day. Even the small park along the southern side of the Arno (just past Ponte alle Grazie) known as La Spiagga (the “beach”), can be a little less than inviting after a Friday or Saturday night. A bus ticket to Fiesole or Pratolino can help you feel more immersed in nature, but seems excessively far just to hear the sound of leaves rustling. Continue reading…

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