Postcard From Italy: Ali Riley

March 12, 2009

Ciao from Florence!

I cannot believe how fast this quarter has gone by. It seems like just last week I was flying over the Alps into the tiny Amerigo Vespucci Airport. Although I had been to Florence before with my family, nothing prepared me for this amazing experience. I fell in love with my host mom, Patrizia, right away, and it is thanks to her that my Italian has improved every day. She only speaks Italian to my roommate and me, and every night over her delicious meals we talk about life in Italy.

We live north of the city center, so on our beautiful thirty minute walk to school we pass the Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, and cross the famous Ponte Vecchio. I am taking Italian, Photography, and Art History, and I have been playing with a local futsal team twice a week.

The group is small this quarter, there are just 21 of us, so we have gotten to know each other really well and have been exploring the city together. So far we have three favorite panini shops, one favorite pizzeria, and two favorite gelaterias. The food has definitely been a highlight!

We only have class Monday through Thursday, leaving the weekends open for traveling. We have taken the train all over Italy, down to Rome, up to Venice, and out to many of the little hill towns in Tuscany. I loved Rome. My roommate and I met up with our friends from the Madrid and Berlin programs and spent the weekend sprinting around the huge city trying to see everything. My favorite was climbing the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. Seeing the Sistine Chapel was a close second though. Thiago and I sat on the bench and stared at the ceiling for about 45 minutes!

Venice was also amazing. Everyone in our program went, and we went the last weekend of Carnival. There were masks, costumes, music, and confetti everywhere. The city was packed and we danced the nights away in Piazza San Marco. The Stanford Center has also put on some great activities. One morning we had pizza making at a really nice restaurant. We rolled out the dough, piled on the ingredients we wanted, and plopped our pizzas into the big wood oven. We ate a lot of pizza.

There have also been a few 'Incontros,' when we meet Italian students from Florence University. We speak Italian for twenty minutes, then English for twenty minutes. Another day we walked up to San Miniato al Monte, a beautiful church that sits on a hill overlooking the entire city.

In our Art History class, which is about the Italian Renaissance, we have been visiting many museums and churches, seeing the works of all the masters. But there are still so many things I want to see, places I want to go, and foods I want to eat! I have had a wonderful time and I can't wait to come back. But I am also very excited to get back to Stanford!

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