First Week Back

Ciao tutti and welcome back!

Today I want to recap my first week back in Florence, including two amazing and fun trips my classmates and I took over the past few days—the first to Fiesole and the second to Venice!

On Tuesday, led by our amazing Florence Program Director, Lucia, we took a 25-minute bus ride to Fiesole, Italy. The weather was perfect and the view was just as great—even if there was some smog—and we could see all of Florence!

View of Florence from Fiesole

While in Fiesole, we saw the San Francesco Convent and the Fiesole Cathedral before stopping for lunch at a small but popular restaurant called Vivandro Vino e Desco Molle. There, I had an amazing pasta dish of spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Although our trip to Fiesole was definitely fun, my favorite trip so far has been to Venice!

The day after Fiesole, we arrived in Venice around noon to unfortunately very foggy weather. Although it was hard to see past a certain point through the fog, the city was still beautiful and we had so much just walking around for the first few hours throughout the small streets and over canals.

Then we walked to the Basilica di San Marco, one of Venice’s most well-known and historic tourist spots. At the time, the fog was still thick enough that we couldn’t see the basilica very well, but after a tour of the Human Safety Net museum—a global network movement focused on helping others—and a quick lunch at a small pizza restaurant, the sun finally came out and we were able to fully see the Basilica di San Marco.

At the Human Safety Net Museum
Basilica di San Marco

Unfortunately, by then it was time for us to start heading back to the train station, but with the sun finally out, our last look at Venice was amazing.

And with that, I hope you enjoyed this latest blog and I look forward to telling you more about all of my adventures during this semester!

A presto!

Vinnie

Studying Abroad: What to Bring

Hi everyone and welcome back to my blog!

I am officially back in Florence, Italy for part two of my study abroad experience and since I recently arrived, I decided to make a post about what basics and necessities to bring for studying abroad!

If you decide to study abroad and it is your first time traveling outside of the country, packing can be a scary time. Especially since you’ll be living in a foreign place for months where some things might not be available, not knowing what to bring can cause a panic. But since this is my second semester studying in Italy, I now have a pretty good idea of what items to bring and thought I would share them with you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

First and foremost—and most importantly—remember to bring your passport! This might seem like a no-brainer but it is possible to forget, especially if you’ve never traveled outside of the country and aren’t used to carrying your passport with you. And in addition to your passport, bring all of your documents and papers that both Holy Cross and your host school have sent you, including Visa paperwork. I haven’t had to show these papers yet, but in the unlikely event that a situation does occur, it is important to have any and all documents on you that can confirm your identity, US citizenship, and approval for living in your host country.

Next up, adapters and converters. Some people don’t know or forget that the wall power sockets, particularly in Europe, are completely different from those in the US. If you don’t already have one, you will need to buy an effective adapter for charging your phone, laptop, iPad, earphones, and any other items that require a charging cord. I specifically brought two so I would be able to charge my phone and computer at the same time.

Third—a good amount of Euros in cash to bring with you. Of course, you can use a credit/debit card for most transactions, as many European countries are up-to-date with payment systems, but some markets and even cellular carriers when buying SIM cards, like Vodafone, only take cash payments. You can also always go to a bank and withdraw Euros once you get to Italy, but because the conversion fees and exchange rates aren’t always the best, if possible, I recommend just exchanging dollars for euros while still in the States.

Fourth, if you are going into a fully immersive program, I recommend thinking of bringing something for your host family. Your host families put in a lot of time and effort to make your stay perfect, and in my experience they are always extremely grateful to receive even a small gift from their student, especially if it is something native to your hometown or state. For example, being from California, my first semester I brought a box of chocolates from See’s Candies, a chocolate company founded in Los Angeles. And both my host parents and host siblings loved them!

Next—extra room in your suitcase or an extra duffel bag! Even if you think you’re an expert at packing and don’t plan on buying anything while abroad—believe me, you will. Whether it’s clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, presents for friends or family, etc.—you will find something to take home. And I’ve found that the best way to figure out the packing situation for going home is just to bring an extra bag or keep room open in your suitcase. Last semester I brought an extra duffel bag that I stuffed into my suitcase, thinking that even though it would be nice to have, I probably wouldn’t use it anyway. I was very wrong. Both my suitcase and my duffel bag were filled to the brim after I finished packing and I was so grateful I had thought ahead to bring an extra bag. So especially if you’re the type to spontaneously shop, definitely think of bringing an extra bag!

And last but not least, I recommend bringing something from home. This might seem unnecessary at the time of packing, but in my experience bringing a little something from home is extremely helpful. You will get homesick—it’s only natural—and if you don’t then I seriously applaud you. But so far all of my friends, including me, have brought something to remind them of home, whether it’s a blanket, pillow case, stuffed animal, souvenir, book, or pictures. It’s not an absolute necessity, but I do think it helps to lighten the stress and anxiety of moving to a different country.

With all of that said, I hope this blog was of some use to you, and I can’t wait to take you on more journeys throughout my second and last semester abroad in Florence!

Grazie e a presto!

A Quick Recap…

Ciao tutti, and welcome back to my blog!

As my first semester in Florence has come to an end, I wanted to share with you my favorite experiences of the past four months, from the places I visited to the restaurants I ate at, to give you an inside look at my time abroad during the fall semester! And so, in no particular order, here are some highlights of my first semester in Florence:

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

As my first trip outside of Italy while abroad, traveling to Munich to experience the world’s biggest folk festival was so much fun! I got to travel with my friends through a program called Bus2Alps, (which is an amazing tool for traveling as a study abroad student,) that took us by bus from Florence to Munich. While at the festival, we had amazing food, met all kinds of people from all over the world, and shared and created memories that will last forever. This trip was definitely a top 10 for me, and if you ever get the chance to participate in a cultural experience like Oktoberfest, don’t waste it!

Trattoria Za-Za

This was one of my absolute favorite restaurants in Florence! Conveniently located next to the Mercato Centrale and close to the Duomo, this popular restaurant has amazing pasta dishes that give you the perfect taste of Italian cuisine. My favorites were the tagliolini with homemade pesto and the spaghetti carbonara. But even if you’re not much of a pasta person or are craving something else, the menu has multiple other options ranging from salads to fish to steak, all of which are amazing!

Spaghetti Carbonara

Castiglioncello, Italy

This small beachside town located about an hour away from Florence by train was such a nice retreat from the busy, bustling city. While the weather was still warm, I traveled with my friends to Castiglioncello for the weekend to stay at a small hotel and swim in the warm Mediterranean Sea. The weather was perfect when we went and the water was an unbelievable crystal-clear blue. We stayed the entire weekend at the beach, enjoying the sun and ocean air one last time before the weather changed, and it was an unforgettable trip!

Beach at Castiglioncello

Ditta Artiginale

Live, laugh, LOVE Ditta Artiginale. If you know anything about the coffee situation in Europe, you’ve probably heard that Europeans don’t really do iced coffees, and they don’t really do the “American idea” of a coffee shop either. Sure, they have plenty of cafès but nothing like a Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts where you can quickly grab an iced coffee and breakfast to-go or stay the day at a table doing work. That’s why my friends and I became so obsessed with Ditta. This coffee shop is basically an American-style coffee shop with several locations throughout the city. It has various meals you can order for brunch until 3pm, a whole case of pastries, great coffee, free Wi-Fi, and you can sit at a table and work for as long as you want (except for on the weekends, but that’s a different story.) After my friends and I discovered Ditta, we could be found at any of the locations almost every day during our free time. Ditta is also largely popular with study-abroad students, making it a great way to meet new people in the same setting and experience as us. And especially because I love coffee, this chain is definitely one of the places I am most looking forward to seeing when I return for the spring semester!

The Santa Croce Christmas Market

If you know me at all, you probably know that I love all things Christmas; decorations, music, movies, pine trees, lights, winter vibes — you name it. So when I learned that Santa Croce was having a Dutch-themed Christmas market right in its piazza, I was ecstatic! My friends and I probably visited the market together about 5 times, and I visited it even more because it was always on the way home for me. The lights, music, and Christmas vibes were exactly what I needed to get into the Christmas spirit, especially since our finals were so spread out during the last couple of weeks and stressful. I’ve never been to a Christmas market before so this was by far my favorite Christmas event I’ve ever been to. Even though I never bought anything but food, drinks, and desserts at the market, it was still so much fun to walk around and enjoy Dutch-themed cuisine, especially at night when the lights turned on.

Miscellaneous

Now without wasting too much of your time, here are a few other photos of various experiences I feel made my first study abroad semester more memorable and that I would love to share with you!

Thank you for reading all the way through my latest blog, I hope it was just as fun to read about as it was to write about it and that you learned something new about Florence! And until next semester, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

A dopo,

Vinnie

Benvenuti da Firenze, Italia!

Hi everyone, and welcome to my first Study Abroad Blog from Florence, Italy!

My name is Vinnie Wilson and I am currently studying abroad through Holy Cross’ immersive program in Florence. I am so excited for you to be here and to follow along as I deliver updates in real-time about my life in Italy!

First, a few quick things about me:

  • I am from the sunny Orange Country, California (so I am a long way from home)
  • I am double-majoring in International Studies and Italian
  • I have been studying the Italian language for two and a half years now (I started my freshman year)
  • And I love coffee and am a huge foodie (so I know all the best spots in Florence for a quick drink or a warm meal that will leave you wanting more!)

When I first applied to study abroad in Florence, I only wanted to stay for the fall semester—not sure if I could handle being away from home for even that long. But after having spent an amazing first few months here, I have decided to extend my stay to the spring semester, as well, so I will have plenty to discuss.

I hope you are just as excited to learn about Florence as I am to talk about it, and if you have any specific questions—whether it’s about the academics, a typical day in the life, navigating a foreign city, or dealing with homesickness—please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Thank you for reading along and I hope you’ll continue to show up for my next blogs, where I finally get to talk about the “fun stuff”!

A dopo,

Vinnie