What can I say that describes what it is like to study abroad in Florence? There is no way to explain the feeling of going to an art gallery at 8:15 in the morning and walking into a room that is entirely empty except for yourself and a Botticelli. I stood in front of the Primavera for 40 minutes, alone in the room, moving closer and farther away as the desire arose. I woke up slowly and faced this painting with all my thoughts and curiosities. And then I left. I did not stop to see any other paintings, even though there are so many masterpieces in the gallery; I didn’t stop because I knew I had time to come back and spend a full hour with each of them. So, I left the gallery and walked back along the Arno just as the city started to wake up and got into the full swing of business and tourism, and then I went to class.
Being in Florence is not just learning about the paintings or art you are literally surrounded by at all moments of every day, but about experiencing the things you are seeing. Each time we stop in front of something, course professor Dr. Jannette Vusich will tell us all the interesting facts and important information about the building, but ultimately, the learning is when she asks, “what do you see?”
“It’s not like you are going back in time to the Renaissance, but rather experiencing the longevity of human creation and existence within the modern world.”
Being and seeing inside a building that has stood since the 14th century is indescribable. It’s not like you are going back in time to the Renaissance, but rather experiencing the longevity of human creation and existence within the modern world. We went to a Renaissance Palace last week and as we wandered, looking at the original frescoes and the old well, we learned that this building had been transformed into apartment buildings in the 50’s. Living in Florence is living intimately within remnants of the past. I find myself at least once a day stopping to admire a building or public sculpture, or eating gelato for the third time that day, and struggling to reconcile myself to the fact that this is my life, this is my education. That I am lucky and privileged enough to travel to a country where the history I am most interested in is still evident throughout the city. That I am lucky enough to standing near a bridge that survived the flood of 1966 and World War II and has been crossed by famous people such as Machiavelli and Dante. That if I get lost my first response is to search the skyline for the Duomo and find my way to the Casa from there.
Between the paintings, the buildings, the general atmosphere around Florence, it is almost an overwhelming amount of joy and unreality. Even as I write this it doesn’t seem enough, not until you’ve sat beside the Arno eating gelato and comparing Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and Raphael will you ever begin to comprehend the mythical quality that imbibes the city of Florence and Dr. Vusich’s course. I don’t think I can even comprehend that we have tutorials in the gardens of the Medici dukes, and discuss Dante’s love of Beatrice overlooking the city he was exiled from. I’ve only been in Florence for a week now, and yet it has stolen a piece of my soul and will forever lodge itself within my bones as a reminder of the beauty of art, and the power an object can have over your physical body and emotions.
EMSP 2510 runs May 4 – May 31, 2019. Through our academic affiliation with Dalhousie University, King’s students have over 90 international exchange options to explore. For more information on our international exchange opportunities, please visit our Study Abroad page.