Shannon Flynn, Italy


Every time someone asks “How’s Italy? Are you having fun?” the only response I can come up with is “Yeah, it’s good.” Italy is indescribable. I have no idea how to begin to answer those questions.

I think the main reason I have trouble describing my experiences to my friends and family back in the United States is because there are so many differences between New Hampshire and Italy.

You really have to be here and see it for yourself to understand. However, I am going to give this my best try.

Florence is just like any other major city. There are tall buildings, crazy cab drivers, streets filled with tourists and it never goes completely dark. I have to say though, I have never been anywhere like Florence. Everything about this city is beautiful and unique. The architecture, for example, is like nothing I have ever seen.

Everywhere I go I find myself staring at buildings, admiring just how historic and beautiful they are. The oldest piece of architecture in Florence is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or Duomo as most people refer to it.

I am fortunate enough to live directly across the street from the Duomo, inarguably the most sought after location in Florence. When I open the windows of my living room and kitchen, I gaze right at it. The Duomo is Florence’s main cathedral. The construction of the marble cathedral began in 1296 and completed in 1436.

The 140 years of construction definitely paid off. Not only is the Duomo, in my opinion, the most beautiful piece of architecture I’ve ever seen, it also one of the largest. After passing it multiple times daily for the past month, I still find myself gazing at the green and white church in complete awe of its size. To put it in perspective, I think if we were to place the Duomo on the KSC campus, it would easily take up the majority of campus.

Living next to the Duomo has countless perks. The biggest one is that I am conveniently located right in the center of Florence so everything is within a ten-minute walk. It is also virtually impossible to get lost going to the Duomo. All you have to do is look up at the sky and you will be able to see its massive, round top. My roommates and I even have our own saying: “All roads lead to Duomo.”

So far our saying has proven to be true. No matter which way we turn, the Duomo is always in sight. The only negative about my location, which is not actually a bad thing, is the massive amounts of tourists the Duomo attracts. People come from all over the world to get a picture of themselves in front of the historic church.

Especially when the sun’s out, the street is almost impossible to walk down. As I try to make my way to class I am always finding myself caught in the middle of these tours and walking in front of people taking pictures of the Duomo.

There are many other beautiful pieces of architecture in Florence. One of the more well-known structures is the Ponte Vecchio. The Ponte Vecchio is the famous bridge that stretches across the Fume (the river in Florence), connecting both sides of Florence. If you ask me, this is the most romantic spot in Florence. There are always couples strolling down the Ponte Vecchio hand in hand.

Florence is also home to many museums and historical artifacts. The original sculpture of the David is located in Florence. I have not gone to see it yet, but there is a plaza in Florence with many sculptures outside, one being a remake of Michelangelo’s “David.”

Not only is the architecture amazing, the food is as well! I have to say, some of the best food I will ever eat is here in Florence. Everything is so fresh and natural.

I personally have problems with my stomach so being able to eat and drink whatever I want without feeling sick is one of the best feelings. My favorite place to buy groceries here is in the fresh markets. Not only is it inexpensive, you can tell the food was freshly picked.

Besides all the great experiences I have had thus far, I will admit I did experience some culture shock. I knew I was throwing myself into a completely different country, but I did not expect there to be so many small differences. The two biggest issues I still have to this day are the language barrier and adjusting to the pace of life.

Although many people in Florence do speak English, it isn’t always fluent. I was told before I came here that Italian was very similar to Spanish (which it really is not) so I did not try to learn any before I came. This was my biggest regret. I thought since I have been taking Spanish since the seventh grade I would be all set. I was so wrong. Every time I try to speak Italian I can feel my American accent oozing out. When it comes to time in Italy, well, it’s very slow. I am not used to this. Personally, I am a very fast-paced person. I walk, talk and eat fast. Italians are not like this. They take their time and enjoy what they are experiencing. I am trying to work on this since you do not need to rush through life.

The other difficulty I ran into was the time difference. Here in Italy I am six hours ahead of the East Coast. Now I have this under control, but at first my sleeping schedule was really messed up. All I wanted was to sleep all day. Then when night came I could not get myself to fall asleep at a decent time. The other challenge I had with time differences was when it came to eating meals. Firstly, Italians do not eat breakfast. Very few restaurants are open in the morning and if they are you have a selection of waffles, pastries or muffins.

They do not eat eggs, bacon or pan fries for breakfast like we do in the United States. Italians do not eat dinner until 8 p.m.. I remember my first night in Florence, my roommate and I went to eat dinner around 5 p.m. and every restaurant was empty. We thought it was so bizarre, seeing as a restaurant at home would have a wait at that time. We soon learned that most Italians eat later in the evening. The last piece of culture shock I experienced was the difference in clothing. Every Italian looks like he or she stepped straight off the runway. Even the boys are very stylish. Yoga pants, North Face jackets and Uggs do not fly here in Italy. I have noticed the current trend here is leggings, some sort of oversized sweater and a leather jacket and boots. If you do not look semi-dressed up you will get stared at, something I was not used to. I have always wanted to study abroad. One of the reasons I chose Keene was that I would be able to go abroad.

I wanted to go abroad so I could step out of my comfort zone and experience things I would not normally have the opportunity to do so. So far being abroad has made me more independent and adventurous. Although I do miss my family and friends, I am making memories here that I will never forget and I am going to cherish every moment I have here.

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