Our orientation for school took place in a hidden building next to the Duomo.  You had to walk past the ticket office for the Baptistry and Campanile and to an old looking building that was very modern inside, all glass and metal.  Orientation started at some obscene time that was still the middle of the night for us, like eight in the morning or something.  They had pastries out for us, but there were so many hungry people that they were gone pretty fast.  The first morning was a safety orientation.  Like about pickpockets and not to walk alone at night if you’re a girl (a rule that I flagrantly disregarded).  After orientation, Emily, Polly, Nicole, Daniel, Rachel H. and I walked around the Duomo and had pizza at a place called Pizz’A.  We walked back across the Ponte Vecchio and got gelato again.  Then, I don’t know, I guess we all went back to our apartments and fell asleep. The second day of orientation was about our neighborhoods.  I will never understand why we didn’t have this orientation first.  All we had to eat for three days was chocolate wafers, pasta with meat sauce, and crackers with Nutella.  They told us about how our apartments work, what Vape is, what settings were best for our washing machines, not to walk around at night.  They also introduced some of the teachers.  I don’t think any of mine were introduced but they all seemed really nice. After orientation Emily, Polly and I walked to Gilli, which is the oldest caffe in Firenze (since 1733).  It’s very fancy looking in there, with gold railings and mountains of candy displayed in the windows.  In the displays inside the caffe there are all kinds of sandwiches and pastries.  I’m not really sure what I got, but it looked like this:


I got tea, but Em and Polly tried espresso, which is Italian coffee.  They let me have a sip.  Nope.  Just no.  I’m sorry, but no.  It’s the strongest stuff in the world and I was practically choking.

At Gilli, as in most Italian caffe, you have to stand at the bar with your drink and pastry, because if you sit at the tables outside, a meal that was only €1,50 will end up costing €4,50.  Don’t ask me why, Italians do crazy stuff.

After we had lunch, we walked across the Ponte Vecchio to the Oltrarno, the neighborhood across the river (oltrarno is Italian for ‘beyond the Arno”).  We walked up to the Palazzo Pitti, one of the Medici palaces.  We wanted to go into the Boboli Gardens but they were closed because of rain earlier that day.  So we went through the costume gallery instead.  It was basically a bunch of different kinds of clothes from 1800-2000.  It was fun to look at even though all the descriptions were in Italian.


Views from the Ponte Vecchio:



We walked around Oltrarno for a while.  It’s a lot quieter than the city center, where the Duomo is, and hillier, and it has more trees.

Also it has this view:


We walked back across a different bridge to Santa Croce, which is one of the most beautiful churches in Firenze.  What’s interesting about it is that on the facade there’s a Star of David, because the designer of the facade, Niccolo Matas, was Jewish.  We sat on the steps in front because we were tired from all our walking.


Later, we finally got a tour of the grocery stores in the Santa Maria Novella neighborhood, where my apartment was.  Our grocery store was called Conad.  It is a cramped place, with small sections for produce, bread, meat and dairy, and entire area dedicated to pasta, and some household supplies.  We also had the Vivi Market, which is the import market where they have stuff like peanut butter and soy sauce.  Surprisingly we almost never went there.  So Rachel H., our roommate Erica, and I all bought groceries and realized that we would have to take them up eight flights of stairs.  But at least we had food.


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