Written by Ingrid Sulistyo
June 12, 2020
This semester I was studying abroad in Montpellier, the south of France for a semester. I chose France because there is a program with a community internship focusing on youth development and psychology, in line with my interest in the area of trauma and resilience. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, my time studying abroad was cut in half, and we had to return home two months early.
As deeply disappointing as that was, I am still so thankful that I got the opportunity to experience life in a foreign country and traveling around Europe. My first weekend trip was to Florence, Italy to visit my roommate from back home, Claire. It was a crazy feeling reuniting in Italy together because that was the longest I have gone without seeing her since we started sharing an apartment at the University of Minnesota. I couldn’t believe I was in Italy with her!
We filled the entire weekend with activities. We got a guided tour of the Duomo, a giant cathedral right in the middle of Florence. It is the fourth largest church in the world. It took the tour guide a half hour to explain all the paintings that filled the mural on the dome. It is the largest dome made out of brick in the entire world. Construction of the Duomo began in 1296 and was not completed until 1436. The decoration of the external portion of the cathedral was not finished until 1887. Just imagine that! After climbing 463 steps, we reached the top and could see the whole city and it was amazing. https://www.visitflorence.com/florence-churches/duomo.html
We also went on a wine tasting tour in the hills of Chianti, stopping at three family-owned vineyards. The wine was some of the best I have ever had and I will never forget it. Each vineyard served delicious bread with olive oil, along with an assortment of cheeses and sausage. Yum. www.chianti.com
Claire and I also went to a small, local restaurant with authentic Italian pasta and pizza. It was the same restaurant that Julia Roberts went to in the movie “Eat Pray Love.” Family owned, they started making Neapolitan pizza in 1870. No wonder it tastes perfect! https://www.pizzeriadamichelefirenze.it/ My mom was jealous when I told her I went there. It was fun watching the Italian workers flip the dough. They told us they would teach us Italian if we taught them English. My pizza crust was made from fried dough. It was incredible.
I absolutely loved the architecture of the buildings in Florence and experiencing the culture of the city was very memorable. Overall, the weekend I spent in Italy with Claire was something I will never forget and I am so happy that I got to spend time with her while we were both abroad in Europe. I felt especially fortunate because it was not long after that Italy was hit hard by the pandemic and it became impossible to travel there.