Florence: forever in my heart

Florence: forever in my heart

Wed 01 Jun 2016 7:39 AM

“Firenze, sei sempre nel mio cuore.” Those were the words I used to caption my last Instagram on my last night in Florence. As everyone was posting pictures and essay-long captions to sum up how they felt about their time abroad, those six words came to my mind. Rather than explaining how much those past four months meant to me, I feel that six simple words, in Italian nonetheless, did my Florentine experience justice.


A golden Florentine sunset / ©2016 Helen Farrell for The Florentine

A golden Florentine sunset / ©2016 Helen Farrell for The Florentine


Asking me “How was abroad?” was a loaded question. I had made the decision to study abroad knowing that I didn’t like change. Living away from family and friends wasn’t something I thought I could do. But coming to Florence was important to me.


I doubt I would have had the same experience had I studied abroad somewhere else. Living in Italy is a dream and a privilege. Full-on conversations in Italian, visiting relatives in Sicily and connecting with my host mom the way that I did were some of the most rewarding moments in my life to date. I have always been proud of my Italian culture, but it wasn’t until I lived in Florence that I could really understand what it meant to identify as an Italian.


Florence is a beautiful city. It doesn’t swallow you up like other cities do. It has the perfect balance of city and suburban life. While the Duomo is at the center, the rose garden is within walking distance. Initially, I thought walking was the most tedious thing I could be doing, but eventually I learned to appreciate it because it meant getting to know all of the city’s ins and outs. (And obviously, that’s how I stayed fit.)


What can best be said about Italians is that they know how to enjoy life, whether it be by a ride on their Vespa, una passeggiata for some gelato or a solid two-hour Sunday dinner. Value is placed on dressing immaculately on a daily basis and taking your time is important. In a country where quality holds more sway than quantity, every artisan shop in the Oltrarno is proof that “Made in Italy” can still uphold its reputation. But what I love the most is the way every word, no matter its meaning, is spoken with passion and enthusiasm.


I feel like I lived a separate life there with completely different friends and a completely different routine. When my parents came to visit in November, it was strange to share with them what I had been experiencing for so long because it was almost like they didn’t fit into the picture. That’s when realization dawned that a part of me had changed.


Now that the experience has passed, I can honestly say going abroad has shaped me into the person I am today. I’m more confident, independent and willing to go out of my comfort zone. It also made me realize what I want out of life.


I know that one day I want to return to Italy, hopefully Florence. When I’ll make it back or for how long I don’t know, but what I do know is that when I am reunited with the city, it will be like reuniting with an old flame. Everything will quickly feel familiar. As I said in my caption, Florence will always have a special place in my heart.

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