Saturday, 14 December 2013

Update On Life In Florence

I am currently sitting in the the Biblioteca delle Oblate in Florence, just a couple of doors down from my flat, and I wanted to give an update on what the hell I have actually been doing for the last couple of months. I'm here because in all seriousness I am trying to work but in reality I am finding that very difficult so what better than procrastinate with a bit of writing. I know I have been pretty rubbish at the whole blogging on my escapades and I apologise for that but hopefully this post will make up for it all.

Now that I have been living in Florence since the beginning of September, about 3 and a bit months, I think I can say that I am pretty settled with most aspects of life in Italy. In truth it is not that hard to 'acclimatise' since Italy is a European country, it's not like I'm in Delhi or Beijing where I am sure the whole experience would have been much much more challenging. I mention Delhi because a friend of mine had the chance to go there for his year abroad but turned it down and I can't even begin to imagine how amusing it would have been if he had in fact gone.

The only aspect that I have probably really found difficult to get to grips with has been the work (or lack thereof). Since the start of the 1st semester in October through to Christmas I have only been taking one course, which has related to 6 hours of contact time a week. Not a lot, especially when you consider the fact that unlike all my friends back in Edinburgh, and indeed others on International exchanges, I have had no assessed work during the semester. No essays, no presentations, no readings, no seminars, zilch. 

Instead I have had to endure lecture after lecture on pots and pans from Ancient Rome and Greece. Endless slide after slide with a constant mumbling accompanied by my very Tuscan lecturer who makes it very difficult for the likes of myself to understand him. Although I have ascertained that I am quite possibly the only Erasmus, definitely English, student on my course, I have used a Dictaphone throughout the semester to record the lectures but even listening to them there are some areas which are just completely incomprehensible. Oh well, fingers crossed for the exam eh. Which, incidentally, I still do not know when, where or what it is. 'Apparently some time in January', 'some sort of oral', 'your Erasmus you will be fine' are a selection of comments I've heard over the past few weeks. In fact I finally received a reply from my lecturer this week and it seems he doesn't even know when this exam is either.

Always nice to have a good moan! On the plus side, since I have had so much free time I have been able to do a teeny bit of travelling around Tuscany and a couple of other places in Italy. Hopefully after Christmas I will be able to do a bit more with Turin, Genoa, Verona and Venice definitely a few places that I want to explore.

In early October I took a trip with two of my flatmates to the Island of Elba just of the Tuscan coast. It's a really nice place and I can obviously see the attraction of the island. Unfortunately, the timing of our trip was somewhat out of season and a combination of wet weather and very few holiday goers served for a quiet weekend away. But nonetheless good fun as we ate well and rented a car for the day to explore the Island where Napoleon was exiled to in 1814.

This trip was shortly followed by a day trip with ESN, an Erasmus group in Florence, to three places in Tuscany. ESN put on three coaches as we went to Volterra, San Gimignano (pronounded San Jimi-iano) and Monteriggioni. All three towns are very much archetypal of the Tuscan region. Situated amongst green rolling hills that stretch out as far as the eye can see from all angles. Picture scenes from the film Gladiator and you know what I mean. San Gimignano was particularly fascinating, a walled medieval town, it still boasts 14 towers of varying heights within its walls. An amazing feat since catastrophes,wars and the like all cause some sort of destruction of these old columns, certainly in Florence where many no longer exist.

I hopped on the train, with three friends, from stazione Santa Maria Novella in Florence last weekend and took the fast train to Rome. Only an hour and a half!! It was great weekend in the Italian capital. I've been to Rome before, I spent two weeks there in the summer of 2012, and so I took on the role of chief map reader, seeing as the other three were somewhat incapable of such things. Rome is a truly wonderful city and I take probably more of an interest than most since I study Ancient History at University alongside my Italian. What was equally as fascinating was being in the capital in December, something that I had not done before.

The high point of the weekend was seeing Pope Francesco up on his balcony from St Peter's square (sorry, Piazza) at midday on the Sunday. I've never seen a Pope in the flesh before and though I am not Catholic I still felt slightly touched and humbled to be in that Piazza at that time and hear him preach to the masses. Like what I did there...masses.... Anyway, I even understood some of what he was saying too which proves the last 3 months or so have not been a complete waste of time. Although we will give it another 5 months I think before we come to any conclusions.

I was incredibly fortunate to see Ludovico Einaudi live in concert in Florence this week. Truly one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen. I think the performance was all the more special since I watched him with Italians, in Italy and of course Einaudi himself is Italian, born in Turin. What made me so in awe of the whole spectacle was how one man had all this in his head.

I'm now looking forward to Christmas back home in East Anglia and New Year in Edinburgh. But I will endeavour to be much more informative about my time in Florence after Christmas for my 2nd semester in Italy!! 

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