Study abroad has been front and centre of the conversation in Florence of late. Stacia Datskovska’s Insider.com review of her semester spent in the Tuscan city spread like wildfire on social media, especially on our Facebook page (500+ comments). What I found interesting wasn’t the over-the-top abuse pointed at this “green” journalist (a little understanding goes a long way), but the sharing of memories by people who have studied here down the decades, mostly positive, yet some in agreement about the trials and tribulations of being away from home in a foreign country, often for the first time at a tender age. It feels important to acknowledge the scale of feelings elicited by study abroad in Florence. It can be lonely, it can be joyful; you might not like your roommates or perhaps you get on like a house on fire; travelling in Europe at the weekend might not be for you or you might prefer to explore locally. One thing’s for sure: Florence provides a plethora of unique opportunities if you choose to seize the day, enjoy the liberation while respecting the city, and do your best to build a community. Like everything in life, the onus is on you.
This spring issue of The Florentine shines a light on study abroad, opening with Marco Badiani’s cover photo shot beneath the Vasari Corridor arches between the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi, which captures the aloneness and togetherness of international students, before continuing with ISI Florence student Elizabeth Mueller’s piece on her study abroad experience (page 4) and ISF’s column about the enlightenment of studying art history in context (page 7).
At a recent book presentation in front of a full house at Teatro Niccolini, bestselling novelist Ian McEwan spoke about how our recollections may change with the passing of time (and how memory will always be a driving force of great literature). Who knows if Walter Sarfatti’s art history studies in 1969-70 while residing at Anna Maria Ichino’s boarding house in piazza Pitti were as straightforward as he now reminisces on page 6. His year spent under the same roof as the partisan ally was certainly life-changing as the painter and printmaker continues to practise his art in Tuscany today.
Continued learning is the basis of April’s major international conference, Art for Tomorrow. Founded by the New York Times in 2015, the annual congress is organized by non-profit Democracy & Culture Foundation and is now embarking on a three-year spell in Italy. Held at the St. Regis Hotel from April 26 to 30, the top-tier congress brings together leaders in the arts and culture world to explore art’s unique capacity to elicit change under the title of Is culture a way out? Speakers include visual artist Ernesto Neto, filmmaker Amos Gitai and the director of Palazzo Strozzi, Arturo Galansino.
More student content can be found on page 22 as interior design student Rakel Jónsdóttir shares tips on how to make your short-term rental homelier and food writer Martina Bartolozzi tells us her favourite panini places around town (page 27). We hear from Armenian opera singer Grisha Martirosyan, whose studies at Mascarade Emerging Artists in Florence have resulted in a stellar place at an artists’ programme at London’s Royal Opera House (page 14) and three emerging creatives, Ecuadorian Arianna Anda, Californian Poiret Masse and Russian Inna Morozova, who all moved to Italy for the purposes of education (page 11).
To quote McEwan, life is indeed “a festivity of irresolvable problems”, but the beauty and eclecticism of Florence make strides towards loosening the knots and celebrating life. It is a life lesson in itself.