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My Favorite Places So Far and the Highlights of My first Two Weeks in Florence

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Hi everyone, my name is Addysen (Addy) DiMatteo and I am currently studying abroad in Florence Italy for the Spring semester. I have dreamed about this for years and with Covid honestly never thought this was going to happen but I’M HERE! I look forward to being able to share all of my experiences with you the good and the not so good.

My journey began in April of 2021 when I first started looking into programs abroad. I looked into New Zealand, Ecuador, and Australia but my dream has always been Italy. Unfortunately, my school did not have programs in Italy, so I looked elsewhere and that is when I found CEA.

I applied instantly without telling anyone because my parents were not completely in favor of my decision to study abroad at that time. But when I got my acceptance letter, they slowly started to realize how I was going to do this and how excited I was to do this. By October they had eased up and were excited to make the trip to New York City with me to get my visa. When I got my visa the next week, I think that was when it finally hit me that I was in fact going to Italy.

Fast forward to Christmas time when Covid picked up again and I yet again thought this would be cancelled, but it wasn't. I was determined to stay Covid free and get on the plane two weeks later but was still so convinced something would happen before then and I wouldn’t make it here, but I MADE IT!

Arriving in Italy was amazing and shocking because for so long I never thought this was going to actually happen. When I first arrived in Italy, I was severely jet lag and so overwhelmed by this big city, new roommates, and a complete shift in my way of life as I am from Western New York and am more used to cows than people. Yet I was so excited to see what this experience and city had to offer as I have been dreaming about this day for months.

I have decided to include some things that I have found the most helpful in my first few weeks here and I hope they can help you as well!


Piazzas

Italy is set up in a much different way than a town or city would be in America. Every few blocks there are Piazzas which are just big squares that have some significant touristy thing inside them. As beautiful as they are careful in them because you will see the highest prices and people will try to sell you things. But I do recommend seeing them all and seeing what they have to offer.

My favorites so far:

Piazza Della Repubblica - This is where school is located and has a beautiful merry go round in the center. When we arrived here the Christmas lights were still up making it a must see at night if you’re here around Christmas.

Piazza del Duomo - This is where the famous Duomo is located and is where you will find the most amount of tourists in Florence, but it’s a must see.

Piazza Santa Croce - This is the piazza closest to my apartment and I visit it frequently. It has a beautiful church at the center of it which draws people to the area. There are also bars and restaurants all around it, making it a hot spot for study abroad students.

Piazzale Michelangelo - This is another tourist spot, but it is one that I find the need to keep visiting. You can see the whole city from here and it is the perfect place to watch the sunset and I hope to one day watch the sunrise there, I just haven’t dragged myself out of bed early enough for that yet.

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Gelato

I have always loved ice cream, but gelato is just a whole different level. My favorite gelato place so far is Rivareno Gelato, they have really creamy gelato, and it is very reasonably priced. If you decide to get a cone you might be lucky enough to find some chocolate chips melted in the bottom of your cone, which is the best in my opinion.

In a close second is Gelateria Dei Neri, they have so many flavors to choose from that are very unique. You can also get more than one flavor for super cheap.
There is a lot of Gelato I would recommend that you avoid. That would be anything that is in mounds because gelato should not form like that naturally, meaning it’s probably not very good. Also avoid gelato anywhere between Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo because it is overpriced and more for the tourists. (If you are studying in Florence, you are not a tourist you are a local go to the local places.)



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Safety

YOU ARE SAFE in Italy! Before I left my family stressed that Italy was very dangerous and that I was going to get pick pocketed or a target because I am an American. Which in some cases is true, no matter what you wear or if you speak Italian before you get here, they will know you are American. That does not mean you are not safe, you are. You just have to be smart about the situations you put yourself in and don’t go places alone in the dark.

I do recommend going and doing your own thing during the day though. Start somewhere and just go and walk, you have a whole city to explore and there is a lot here! I have walked over 11 miles a day on more than one occasion, and I have not regretted it once. I have also realized after some travel to other local cities that if you chose Florence like I did you will realize it is the best city and has so much to offer.


Arno River

The last recommendation I have for now is to take advantage of the river because it is like nothing you will find in the States. I love running around the river in the morning and it is a common place you will see people exercising in Florence, just be careful of the uneven sidewalks (I think I’ve rolled my ankle at least once every morning).

I would recommend going to the “parks” that surround the river, they take you out of the city and are so relaxing. I also find it to be the perfect place to sit in the grass and do homework on warm January days (the Italians will be cold but being from New York it’s like spring to me).

I hope that the things I have learned in the first few weeks abroad are helpful to you and I cannot wait to share more about this once in a lifetime experience that I am on. Arrivederci!



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Addysen Dimatteo is the Spring 2022 CEA MOJO Photographer in Florence, Italy, and is currently studying at Houghton College.
 
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