Zags in Florence – Day 1

On Sunday, the Zags scattered for the weekend before meeting again in Florence. Some went to Rome, some to Bruges, and some stayed in Brussels for one more day. After flying from Brussels to Florence yesterday, I walked to the Ponte Vecchio, passing the Duomo on my way. I saw the Piazza de’ Pitti and ran into a Sunday market bursting with hand-crafted jewelry, bread, cheese, spreads, vegetables and more. The Boboli Gardens were a beautiful escape from the city, and I even fell asleep in the shade for a while.

Before we met at noon the next day, Zags found a (much-needed) laundromat or slept in a little to prepare for a big week. Since the Duomo is one of the only museums open on Monday, I bought a joint ticket for 15 euro and saw the Baptistery, climbed the Bell Tower and visited the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. I recommend visiting the Duomo and doing some sight-seeing in the morning to avoid the crowds! While every museum in Florence is amazing, this museum houses two of my favorite works of art. Michelangelo’s last Pieta is the Pietà Rondanini, meant to adorn the artist’s own tomb. However, Michelangelo became so frustrated with the sculpture that one day, he began hacking away at it, cutting off several limbs and leaving it unfinished at the age of 82. The second sculpture is my absolute favorite, Donatello’s Magdalena Penitente. While Mary Magdalene is usually depicted as a beautiful woman with long blonde hair, this sculpture shows a different Mary Magdalene. Far from unmatched beauty, Donatello’s Mary Magdalene is emaciated and repentant; the sculpture is inspired by her ascetic lifestyle. After the Museo dell’Opera, I visited a café for a late morning latte and pastry.

The Zags finally all reunited at the Gonzaga-in-Florence (GIF) campus! Around the corner from our hotel, the GIF campus is also minutes away from the Duomo and The Accademia Museum. On campus we met Jason and Guido, a huge part of planning and putting together this amazing study abroad trip. Thank you Jason and Guido!! We walked to l’Raddi and ate lunch together near the Santo Spirito. Members of the various rival soccer teams in Florence often frequent this local hang out.  After lunch we walked to the shop of the last remaining metal artisan in Florence, hidden in the Piazza Santo Spirito. Giuiiano Ricchi, the metal artisan, has worked since he was just a 15-year-old apprentice to Carlo Cecchi and is now 70. He handcrafts all types of jewelry and other goods and is commissioned to design accessories and decorations for weddings and for designers like Ferragamo and Dior. Giuliano also gave us a demonstration of how he engraves sheets of metal, oftentimes with unique patterns specially made per the customer’s request. At the end of the visit, students had the opportunity to purchase some small gifts or personal souvenirs made by Giuliano in his shop.

Afterwards, many of us went for some gelato to keep cool on the walk to the Piazzale Michelangelo, a popular spot to watch the sun set over all of Florence. Further up the hill we found Basillica San Miniato al Monte.  After a moment of reflection and admiration of the great marble hall, we descended back down into the city.  On our way back we traversed through a picturesque garden with roses and strolled along the Arno River.  When we arrived back at the hotel some of us ventured off to dinner at Trattoria Tito, a GIF student favorite. Overall, a great start to our week in Florence!

Written by, 

Miranda Giorgi & Elena Slavoski

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