Saturday, October 31, 2015

Buona Serra Italia!

A page out of my sketchbook-
Featuring the BEST sandwich in the world!
By Cate Solari

If you had asked me where I would be sitting at this time of year last semester I would have said, “most likely in my dorm, or even more likely the Ceramics studio.”  Where am actually sitting right now you ask?  In my kitchen, in my apartment, that sits on Via Farini, in the middle of Florence, Italy.  Yup, that’s where I am.  Never would have guessed it, never thought I would have the guts to spend an entire semester away from my family, friends, and most importantly my dog, but here I am nine weeks in and slowly realizing that I am running out of time in this amazing place.  Sometimes, it doesn’t even seem like I’m in school.  I still think I am on summer vacation and that when I go back to the cold of Uconn I have two full semesters left of junior year, but I don’t.  Sitting sketching and water coloring in my sketchbook at the Pitti Palace on a bench surrounded by the Boboli Gardens is actual class, walking through the streets snapping pictures of bicycles whizzing by on their way across town is class, sitting repeating and trying to tell my brain “Mi chiamo Cate” and “Di dove sei?” rather than “My name is Cate” and “Where are you from?” is class. Its crazy! 

My drawing set up at the Mercato Centrale-
Complete with a cappuccino! 
In and outside of class we spend a lot of time sketching in our sketchbooks.  For me this has been a huge challenge that I am happy to accept.  Coming from a three dimensional background I spend very little time sketching things that I find in the world around me.  Its like a new way of looking a the world and looking at a page.  The page is the finished product rather than just the beginning forms or plan for the finished product.  I like it.  Sometimes I pretend when I start a new page that it is a poster or a webpage, this helps me to visualize the composition better and to think about including other elements like text and pasted images.  So far my favorite place to sketch is the Mercato Centrale.  It’s like a scene from a movie.  People bustling in and out of the doors, shouting over each other to the venders, trying to get the freshest cut of beef or the juiciest tomatoes.  The vibrant colors fill the room and the smells as you walk between the stalls are like a breath of fresh air.  Down one aisle, the pungent smell of fresh fish, the clean fresh smell of citrus down the other, and the subtle waft of fresh bread baking around the corner.   
Mercato Centrale

I've also really enjoyed taking photos for our photography class.  Its really interesting having the city as your subject.  Unlike at Uconn where your pretty limited to mooing cows and sunsets over horsebarn hill!  Its really strange how on a daily basis I walk by the Uffizi, or through Piazza della Signorina and think nothing of it, despite being surrounded by countless tourist pointing their cameras up to the faux David.  Being able to live among these incredible works of art that have been standing for decades always gets to me.  And how thousands of artist before me have stood where I am standing and have pulled their own inspirations from it.  Below are some more photos that can help better describe my experience here much better than words can.  So much has happened over these past few weeks I can barely wrap my head around it!  Just looking back through my photos to pick some to include I keep thinking "Oh yeah! I remember doing that!"  and being utterly surprised that I was actually there and not just looking at a picture from google images.  Until next time! Buona Serra! 
Sketchbook page- My unofficial best friend tying up meat
Part of my "Something New" Project-
Blueprints of the Palazzo Vecchio
Drawing alongside the Arno
Taken for a photography assignment-
At the Boboli Gardens
Having fun with some stop motion photography
on a sunny day with water balloons!


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Senza Titola

Florence is wonderful, but you all already knew that. My writing cannot properly capture the feeling you get from spending this much time living and learning in a place like this. I think that being here is something that you have to experience first hand to actually appreciate it fully. Despite that, I am still constantly trying to capture everything through photo and video, in hopes that others will see them and feel at least a fraction of what I've been feeling during my time in this beautiful city.

- Jasmine Jones

Inline image 1Inline image 12Inline image 11Inline image 10Inline image 8Inline image 3Inline image 5Inline image 2Inline image 4Inline image 7

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Quando a Firenze…

Reflecting on the past few weeks of my stay in Florence, I realize just how much my perception of my experience here has evolved through time.  Before my departure to Italy, I was ecstatic to begin my journey abroad in a setting that was completely different from that of home. I couldn’t wait to immerse myself into an environment that wasn’t limited by familiar surroundings. I was ready to explore beyond my boundaries. Although I knew that I might struggle with the unfamiliarity, I was determined and ready to face this challenge in my life.

At least… that was what I had set my mind on until I finally set foot in this foreign city and experienced for myself what living as a Florentine was actually like. The crowded streets full of bustling tourists, the narrow cobblestone roads, and the constant heavy smell of cigarettes lingering in the air was all that I could put my mind on for the first couple of days.  As disappointing as it is, I found myself yearning for a sense of familiarity and comfort: of home.  I felt guilty, as though I had failed my own goals of finally doing something that was beyond my comfort level. I soon realized that the only way to stop feeling homesick was to immerse myself even deeper into the Italian culture.

I started to take my time to observe my surroundings at a closer glance. Once the weekends came around, I would venture out and explore the city’s hidden gems: the delicately adorned vintage stores, the petite bakeries that sell their sweet and savory pastries, the shiny new supplies neatly displayed on the shelves at the art supply stores, and who could forget the wonderful Central Market of San Lorenzo where shopping for groceries is a treat rather than a chore. Florence was finally starting to feel like my second home. I found myself wanting to take more time to fully absorb my surroundings; From sitting on the steps in front of the Duomo at 9pm to sketch, to going for a morning run by the Arno and feeling the Tuscan wind blow gently on my skin, these moments give me another clear reminder of my original intent of studying abroad in Italy. All there is left to do now, is to look at as much art as I can, explore and travel all of Italy and its neighboring European countries, and eat as much gelato as possible because when in Florence…

- Soyoung Lee

Saturday, October 10, 2015


Greetings from Firenze, Italia

My first impression of Florence: I was just taken aback. It is so strikingly unreal.
When I arrived to my apartment, I found out that it is right outside the Piazza Santa Croce. A huge cathedral with a beautiful facade. Walking everyday past historical architecture, and piazzas, and sculptures. At first, I was so overwhelmed, my mind could not handle the excitement that I was experiencing. But after a couple weeks, I would walk passed these beautiful scenery's everyday and consider it the norm; to be in the same town where Giotto, Leonardo Da Vinci, and many other well-known artists, geniuses, and intellectuals came from. 

After almost a month and a half, I have to admit, I have been starting to take advantage of my time here. I am just walking past the sculptures and beautiful cathedrals without really absorbing them in. However, I have become aware of this terrible (Jasmine Jones' favorite word) behavior. I find myself late for class, and pushing through the tourist-filled piazza, trying to make it on time.

On the other hand, a lot of other times, when walking back to my apartment, I find myself going to sit in the Piazza Signoria or walking around the Duomo, just trying to soak it all up and (most importantly) doing some people-watching; that expression on the tourists' face as they look probably for their first time at these spectacular architecture and artworks.

From going to museums & exhibitions, to trips on the weekend, to assignments in class & sketching at cafĂ©'s, here is a selection of some photos: 

Exhibition at the Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens



Florentine window bars (Photo Assignment - shadows)

Dante - Dali exhibition at the Medici Ricardi Palace

Madeline and Dali-Dante

Night Photography Class - Light/Painting Photography (The lovely Louise as the model)

Charity Run for Breast Cancer - Captured Moment

Boboli Gardens

Lisa and her beautiful Tapestry, bought at the Marine de Pisa Beach

Journal entry after a day in the Stibbert Museum, working with Angeli Del Bello

Duomo drawn from a rooftop Cafe in the PIazza della Repubblica

At the Duomo

At the Duomo

And to end, In 1953, John Steinbeck says these beautiful words about Positano, Italy in Harper's Bazaar, but honestly, I think it can speak for all of Italy:

"Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone".

-Diana Abouchacra

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Fan Letter to Pesto

I cannot believe it has been five weeks since I left JFK airport to go to Florence. The time is racing by and I am trying to grasp every last second. From walking to class, or sitting on the steps of Santa Croce, I want to absorb all Florence has to offer. The opportunity to be here is still mind blowing.  It is the greatest experience I could have ever asks for and I am thankful for everyday I have here.

Although I am not in my home state of New York, Florence sure does make up for it. New York City in the fall is one of my favorite places to go. It’s hard not being there during the beautiful weather. Although there is not a Starbucks on every street to find a pumpkin spice latte on, I love the cappuccino here.  While I do miss my friends, family and my best friend (my dog Hank), I think Florence is truly wonderful.

I am currently enrolled in the International Students Institute in Florence, Italy. I enjoy taking class field trips around the historical city. We have sketched in the Pitti Palace, toured cathedrals, and walked around the central market. Having class around the city has made me more aware of my surroundings. I have learned so much about the city during my classes.

One thing I have had hard time learning is  languages. Throughout middle school and high school I was required to take Spanish. You can say speaking Spanish is not my life calling.  Rolling my rs and conjugations never stuck with me. Learning Italian has been similar to my Spanish experience. The constant use of vowels is something im starting to learn. I try to practice my Italian when I am ordering a Panini. When I try to speak, the person behind the counter ends up speaking in English. My language barrier is something I will have to work on as the weeks roll by.

My number one favorite thing about this city is the wonderful selection of food. Although sometimes I do miss sushi, the food is incredible here. I have never had so many choices of pasta in my life. From pear ravioli to the truffle sauce spaghetti, I have a hard time choosing. I usually end up ordering everything with pesto. If I am cooking in the apartment, my meal will consist of spoon full of pesto. I always loved pesto at home although my love has turned into an obsession. I crave it all the time!

Overall the experience of being here is more than I could have ever dreamed of. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget. I look forward to my weeks to come.  Hopefully I will be eating more pesto and learning the Italian language! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I Feel Like a Local

By Lisa Silberkleit

As I finish up week five in Florence, I must say that I feel like a local. Maybe I don't always dress the part, and maybe I'm not fluent in the language, but if someone were to ask me where I live, I would say Florence, no hesitation. Every morning I am lucky enough to wake up and remember that I'm here and that truly is a beautiful thing.

What I would like to focus this post on is not just life in this breath-taking and historical city, but also on travel and the experience that comes with that. My journey here was a long one and I don't even know where or how to begin. I have never flown without my parents before coming here and I must say that getting around on my own is very liberating and makes me realize that I can count on myself to figure out a lot more than I had suspected. It's scary to really be on your own. At UConn, my mom is an hour drive away, plus campus is just that-- CAMPUS. Going to school in a city is a huge adjustment to make from UConn, and I am proud to say that I have passed that test with flying colors.

After learning how to transition from Connecticut living to Italian living, I found that I could finally begin to experience the culture and Italy itself. My first euphoric experience since landing here was my trip down to the Amalfi Coast. I signed up with one of the many student travel agencies in Florence, and I can honestly say that I have never gotten so much out of three days in my entire life. It was rich and packed with beautiful sights, historical landmarks, and so much fun. First, we spent Friday on a boat tour around the island of Capri, and then went into Capritown to grab lunch. This was followed by a beautiful and relaxing beach day on Saturday in Positano. Then, the highlight of my weekend: hiking Mt. Vesuvius and touring the ruins of Pompeii. This has to be one of the most enriching experiences of my life (so far). Walking through Pompeii felt like walking through a ghost town in the most real sense. I couldn't have predicted a more eerie, intense feeling than what I felt while standing, pressed up against the gate that separated tourists from recovered artifacts and bodies. Yes, bodies. Real people who were really preserved for 2000 years under 125 feet of ash.

I am so thankful for the chance to see all of the historical pieces that make-up Italy, and the many more things in Europe as a whole that are to come. These five weeks have made for the most unreal, life-changing moments that I've ever been able to experience and I think that's the key to studying abroad. I'm sure that if you read up and down this entire blog, not one post doesn't contain the word "experience". And that's all that I can hope for in the weeks to come. More experiences that can turn into more stories for me to share.