Hi!! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog (sorry Dr. P), and a lot of that time was spent desperately missing being on CR and the 15 people that became some of my dearest friends throughout the experience. Since arriving home I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on everything that happened and that we went through, and it helped me see my time in each city in a slightly different light. Looking through my journal notes for Florence, the first sentences I wrote stuck out to me:
“Theres so much art in this city, it’s astounding. While Berlin was full of street art and graffiti, everywhere you turn in Florence there is some kind of Renaissance masterpiece. So far, I feel like the study of art and my efforts to fully absorb it have marked my time in Florence”.
Reading that entry a month later, I still think it rings completely true. However, I have a new addition. My time in Florence was defined by my efforts to learn about and absorb art, as well as learning about people and forging new connections.
First, the art. Wow, Florence is a beautiful city. You don’t have to wander through the streets long to stumble across a massive sculpture or historical building that will blow you away, all while listening to covers of Adele or opera songs performed by street artists. And that’s all before you step inside the museums. Each site we visited, including the Uffizi art gallery, the Accademia, and the Boboli Gardens, were practically overflowing with famous art pieces, and it was often difficult to take it all in.
This feeling of being overwhelmed by art hit me the most at the Uffizi. With a strong appreciation for art and the shaky memory of my art history class, I was ready to stroll through the museum and see everything, read the plaques, and leave feeling like I had given it my all. However, after entering the first hallway, I knew that wouldn’t be possible. Every hallway was lined with statues, with portrait paintings covering the wall and the ceiling completely painted. Then, the hallway led to dozens of rooms with pieces dedicated to certain artists or time periods, which in turn led off to new rooms and different floors, creating a maze of art that I knew would be impossible to conquer in the few hours we would be there.
With a sudden sense of determination, and some stress, I set out on my own to see if I could get it all done. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t. I gave up reading the plaques somewhere in the Middle Ages and decided to hop around between the Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Caravaggio rooms. Despite this change, I felt like I was still absorbing so much. I got to see tons of the art pieces in real life that I had learned about through textbooks or online, and still take the time to linger on whatever I found particularly special. For me, it was the Niobe room, which was completely gold-plated and filled with statues in various poses, with massive oil paintings on either wall. I went back to that room two or three times, just to make sure I had gotten to see everything.
Towards the end of our allotted time my desire to see everything started to pick up again, and I resorted to speed-walking through the first floor, where I ran into Lauren. She took me to see a painting that she found interesting, which happened to be a portrait of various types of food. There we found Kevin and Taylor, and together we decided to have a drawing contest to see who could recreate it the best (the results of which are memorialized on the CRinstagram 🙂 ).
Our time spent talking and laughing at our drawings was so fun, and one of my favorite memories of that day. By the time we had finished it was time to leave the Uffizi, and I knew that there were many of the art pieces that I hadn’t been able to see. I wondered if that meant I hadn’t given my all. However, I thought about all the amazing art that I did get to see by not letting myself get overwhelmed and instead focusing in on a smaller group of artists, all while making fun memories with my friends. By my definition, I had given my all.
That brings me to my second highlight of Florence: making connections with people. Two instances specifically jump out at me: getting to room with Gabby and having dinner at the mob restaurant.
Florence was the first city where Gabby and I got to room together, and we ended up in a double room so it was just the two of us. Going into CR having already known each other, we had been able to grow a lot closer as we traveled through each city together. However, as roommates we were able to stay up all night talking, which we often did, and through that I learned that Gabby is basically my twin. Beyond similar interests in reading and writing, we share a lot of the same passions and goals and even views on the world. Without CR, I’m not sure we would have been able to make that connection. Because of it, rooming with Gabby was one of my favorite memories of Florence.
The second instance was a dinner at the mob restaurant, where I asked Dr. P to ask me a deep question. Despite asking for it, I wasn’t prepared for how emotional and touching the conversation would become. Through his careful questions, I opened up a lot about my life, particularly about my relationship with writing. After me, everyone at the table took turns, and I got to see others, specifically Taylor and Brent, be very open and vulnerable about themselves. I learned so much about both of them through that conversation, and I hope they got to learn something new about me. It was intimidating to have such a deep conversation, but through it I learned so much and even had my perspectives changed.
I think it’s these conversations that I miss the most about Cultural Routes. We reached a point where we could talk to each other in an authentic and meaningful way, which is not easy to do. Through this focus on art and people, Florence stands out to me among the other cities. I gave my all in my time in the museums and in my vulnerability with others, both of which pushed me to expand my worldview. Florence changed me a bit, which is something I will never forget.
Until next time,