Reading all of my peers’ blog posts, I was struck by the range of our travels. From the canals of Venice to the beaches of Sicily, our program has truly allowed us to experience Italy. Entering the last couple weeks of the program with a healthy amount of our cultural budgets unused, my girlfriend Sydney and I decided to plan a trip to a city we weren’t able to visit with our Carleton group. For our final weekend abroad, we ended up visiting the Renaissance hub of Florence.
Getting to Florence was relatively easy from Rome. We departed on Friday, May 26, and took a three-hour bus ride (with wifi and outlets) from Roma Tiburtina to Villa Costanza. From there, it was just over 20 minutes by tram to downtown Florence. That afternoon, we did a bicycling tour of the city, enjoying the sunny weather as we cruised next to the Arno River. After cycling up to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo (admittedly with some help from the electric part of the bikes) we beheld a magnificent view of the city from above.
The next day, we visited the Accademia Gallery and saw Michelangelo’s David. Truth be told, after ten weeks in Italy, I had grown a bit weary of statues. Nonetheless, the David did not disappoint us. As we approached the David, we were surrounded by massive blocks of marble halfway through the sculpting process. Observing the large chunks of stone before turning our gaze to Michelangelo’s masterpiece allowed us to appreciate the intricacy of every curve on the David.
After grabbing some lunch, we hustled over to the Piazzale Montelungo, where we hopped on a bus for a wine tasting tour through the nearby Chianti region. As we drove through the picturesque Tuscany countryside, we learned about the thorough process each bottle of Chianti goes through before it can earn its official label. If you see a bottle with the Chianti DOCG designation, then you can be sure the Italian government has verified that all of the grapes in that wine came from one of the seven Chianti subzones and that at least 70% of them were Sangiovese grapes. The views from the vineyards were gorgeous and the dry, smoky flavor of the wines paired deliciously with savory Tuscan salami and homemade bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil.
Sunday, we visited the Uffizi Gallery, a massive collection that houses far too much to describe here, but is definitely worth your time and features works from the likes of Da Vinci, Titian, and Caravaggio. After enjoying some sandwiches from a local shop by the Uffizi, we walked around the city for a couple of hours before heading back to Villa Costanza and catching our bus back to Rome in the evening. While it was nice to return to a city I was familiar with and get some rest at the end of the weekend, Florence was a lovely city and I would gladly go back in the future. Beyond just the wine and weather, Florence is full of medieval and Renaissance history and the art and architecture on display makes it a lovely weekend outing for anyone staying in Rome!