I volunteered at Flo’n the Go while I was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. It is an English speaking online newspaper/blog in which students and staff attend events and then review them. To see each story published online, click on each heading. Enjoy!
Do you ever feel the urge to go somewhere or do something that you know other people would not normally do, but you are intrigued?
That is how I felt walking to the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy to see the International Handicraft Fair. I had no idea what to expect but I was extremely interested to see how yet another event held in Florence would blow my mind.
Stepping into the fairgrounds, I would often ask myself – where in the world am I? This cannot still be Florence!
To give a scene of inside the grounds of the Fortezza da Basso, there were tents, buildings, pop-up stands, and food stands. It was amazing!
I walked into a Coop grocery store that was set up just for the event where tastings of prosciutto, cheese, wine and truffle oil were taking place! I also walked into an archeological museum that also had specialty clothing items such as jackets and hats. I saw a large shopping area where people were displaying their handmade jewelry, scarves, knickknacks, and clothing. There was another building that housed beauty and wellness items and finally, an entire food and beverage section where people from all over the world showed specialty food items that could be bought or tasted.
I was so amazed by the many displays at the International Fair that I came up with 8 of my favorite spots in the fair:
- One of my favorite places was where I actually walked in first: this was the pop-up Coop store that had specialty groceries and tastings and where there was a big crowd of people. In there, many people figured I spoke Italian because I do not think it was a big tourist spot (and I do speak a little) but definitely not at the pace the workers did! However, it was fun to try some cheese samples and practice my listening skills!
- My second favorite spot that amazed me was outside of the archeological museum – here there was a man playing a piano outside and it was really unexpected but fabulous.
- The third spot that amazed me was inside the large shopping area. In here, there was everything from scarves and bracelets, to front doors for purchase and a popular video game store selling swords! It was hard to imagine I was still in Florence but this made me wish I had saved my souvenir shopping for this part of the fair!
- The fourth spot I really enjoyed was inside the beauty and wellness area where I saw little cupcakes that were actually handmade soaps! They were very adorable and smelled really good.
- The next spot was in one of the tents that housed very vintage clothing and bags, it was cool to see a huge display of items that were designer but vintage as well. Here I saw a wall of Converse sneakers in some of the most interesting patterns I’d ever witnessed.
- My next favorite place had to be in the food display – of course! I saw vegetables that were actually made into roses using cucumbers and carrots. It was refreshing to see vegetable art rather than the typical chocolate art (which I still do love!)
- Inside the food area there was also a sitting area where people could sit on comfortable bean bags and look at art that was displayed on the wall. People sitting there looked so relaxed – like they were going to spend all day there (which is definitely doable).
- The final spot that I loved definitely signified the entire event. Outside the food area were flags hanging of all different countries. At the event there were artisans from over 50 countries so it was only right to show the diversity that was at the event.
This was a really special place to visit as an American, and Italian or from any country in the world. It is amazing to see the items that people create and display with such passion and heart.
I am really happy that this was my last event in Florence I went to before I head back to the United States and it was really special to be one of few tourists among many locals there.
The flood of spectators rushed in, the lights dimmed and the bows hit the strings of the violins. This was the beginning of The Italian Woman in Algeri Opera at the Opera di Firenze.
The orchestra sounded from the pit for the first ten minutes of the Opera and then all of the sudden, the curtain lifted and the colors of the show were revealed. There were blues and pinks and oranges on the clothing of the performers and the background and floor–it was a beautiful burst of hues that filled the audience’s eyes.
The performer’s voices were loud and projecting: some soprano, some bass and tenor. With each introduction of each character came more sounds, more colors and more emotions.
The beginning of the opera was very male based. Mustafá was in high control and gave his wife, Elvira away because he did not want her anymore and claimed to not love her anymore. He wanted a new woman in his life–an Italian woman.
This seemed easy right, set your weeping wife free to have a new and exciting woman in your life? It could have been, during this time period (1800s) but not if the new and exciting Italian woman was Isabella.
With Isabella’s introduction to the performance the entire mood of the opera changed. This was now a girl power opera. Isabella was so strong and had such a presence on stage that she even made the great Mustafá listen to her and obey her.
It was rare for this time period that a performance or even a story or novel would end with the praise of a woman but this opera did.
Isabella showed that women can be just as tricky and tough as men and even have a little flare.
Not only was the opera sung beautifully but the meaning behind the words were comedic, light hearted and easy to follow along.
The performers had a range of qualities–at times they sang very fast or very slow, they were loud and forceful but could be soft and they could change their pitch from low to high.
The atmosphere of the Opera di Firenze would make any spectator feel comfortable and at home–almost like they were watching this performance in their living room.
All of the aspects of the play: the performers, the plot, the musicians and conductor in the pit and the lively spectators came together to make this an enjoyable Italian opera that English speaking spectators could follow along too with the English and Italian subtitles.
Performances like these remind the world why gender equality is so important and will forever be significant. For now, let’s all give thanks to Le femmine d’Italia, for this brava performance would not be possible.
As only being a sophomore in college, I have never travelled on spring break before – let alone without my parents or someone who was good at traveling. So, what did this mean for me? It meant if I wanted to go on a spring break, I had to figure out with my friends where to go, how to get there, what to do, and most important, how to budget my money.
Figuring out where to go was easy: we wanted to relax but also have fun. With that in mind, we came to the conclusion of Santorini, Greece and Barcelona, Spain. We decided to plan this on our own rather than going through any travel companies so we made sure we did what we wanted, when we wanted.
The day before we left for spring break, I have to say I was a little nervous of how traveling was going to go. We had to take a train, a taxi, and two airplanes to get to Santorini and had to make sure we allowed ourselves enough time so we didn’t miss any of the transportation.
If you have ever traveled before, you can probably relate to my worries.
However, we all made it to Santorini in one piece and that–was rewarding. During our stay in Santorini we came across some very nice people, a lot of sun, a couple of donkeys and the most fantastic view I have ever seen, talk about relaxing. We rode on a boat to a volcano and then did a donkey ride to end the day. I think we covered almost every form of transportation while traveling. We also did an 8 mile hike from Fira, Santorini to Oia, Santorini and were greeted by the amazing views that Greece has to offer. I also got to experience Greek food but somehow I ended up with some sort of pasta every night at dinner (oops!)
To get to Barcelona, it was another taxi and two planes but finally, we were in Spain and ready to hit the streets and have a great time. I had the most amazing food in Barcelona and it was the highlight of my visit in Spain. We walked along La Rambla, a famous street in the city center and we also walked the side streets that reminded me a lot of the look of Florence. We also saw La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell, two ‘must-sees’ while in Barcelona.
The amount I got to see in each country, mixed with the amount I got to relax and the large amount of food I consumed, I would say it was a pretty relaxing first spring break trip.
My trip was definitely one for the books and I will never forget the time and energy I put into getting there and the feeling of looking at the scenery in Greece and walking down the hustle bustle of Barcelona to remind myself that it is truly rewarding it is to reap the benefits of hard work.
I do not know about other visitors of Florence this week but I do know I was in awe of the chocolate festival. I not only think that food is personally pleasing but it brings communities together as well.
Every time I walked by, rain or shine, night or day, the tents were always packed with chocolate-craving Florentines or visitors of Florence.
Love was in the air this week and I am not just talking about Valentine’s Day (although, it was the perfect week for chocolate to be gracing the Florence air). However I am talking about the love of chocolate by so many.
Maybe it is because I am not from Florence, but I have never seen an entire week dedicated to one small food group, it was amazing to see.
If you did not get a chance to stop by and smell the cocoa aroma, here are ten thoughts you may have had from start to finish when walking through the festival:
Thought one: Hmm…why is Florence smelling a little extra sweet today and less like diesel?
Thought two: Maybe I’ll just walk over to Piazza Santa Maria Novella and see what is going on…hmm, what are those big white tents that say ‘Fiera del Cioccolato’?
Thought three: Okay, I have 30 minutes or so, let me just start at the beginning of these tents and just see what’s going on, it’s not like I have to buy anything.
Thought four: Well I just got handed a free sample of chocolate – I have definitely found the grown up Disney World of Europe for sure.
Thought five: That sample of solid dark chocolate with nuts in it was really good, I will actually have to circle back around and buy a chunk of that goodness.
Thought six: Oh! Its noon and I still haven’t had breakfast. A chocolate covered waffle is considered breakfast…right? Yeah it is, and hey, if I get a cup of strawberries with chocolate filled in between and whipped cream on top, that can be my fruit for the day, right?
Though seven: As I am walking through these tents I’ve seen chocolate in more forms than I thought was possible. From solid squares, to balls, to hand crafted tools and violins to even owls and liquid chocolate. Who knew? I must try them all.
Thought eight: Wow, look at all of those people just walking by and starring. Why don’t they come in? Maybe they are resisting the urge. Well too bad, more for me…I am already on my fifth purchase, it is not expensive though. That’s dangerous.
Thought nine: Maybe I’ll be like everyone else and Snapchat and Instagram every piece of chocolate I am going to consume, after all, this only happens once a year so might as well make everyone else jealous while I am at it.
Thought ten: Wow, I can’t wait till next year when the chocolate festival is back. Not only do you get free samples, the chance to buy chocolate and eat it while walking, you can also buy chocolate in bulk and travel back home with it. I also loved to see so many tourists and Florentines in the same place, bonding over something so fun. How ‘sweet’!
If anyone got the chance to experience Fiera del Cioccolato this past week then you may have experienced the same thoughts I had. If you did not get to, there is always next year.
Dolce lover or not, this was a mouthwatering cultural experience you will want to experience at least one time in your life.
FLORENCE, IT –Many people may think that museums are for rainy days and I must say, walking into a museum on a sunny day in Florence did seem odd, but once I got my first look around Museo Stefano Bardini, I was not disappointed about spending a couple hours inside.
Museo Stefano Bardini is located in Florence at via dei Renai, 37 on the other side of the Arno. Stefano Bardini himself was an Italian antiquarian who stopped his fast paced art business and collected his items to display them in the museum. He had two children, his daughter named Emma, was an icon of style and was often photographed in elegant gowns, hats and shoes. Because of this, she helped shape fashion in the beginning of the 20th century and for many more years to come.
The museum is an antique building that was a great atmosphere to be in. All of the original Stefano Bardini items are housed there still and in addition to them, there are pieces of fashion sprinkled all around the museum – from top to bottom for the Tailor-Made Dressed fashion exhibit. These fashion items will be on display in the museum to pay homage to Emma Bardini until February 22, 2016.
The garments varied in style, color and age and they each had a certain charm. The designers of the items varied from Valentino, to Nina Ricci and Thierry Mugler. The clothes and pictures of Emma Bardini displayed are mixed from the years 1910-1970. If you have a knack for fashion, art, history or anything antique and want to appreciate it even more than you already do, this is the place for you to come and spend some time.
The detail of each piece of clothing was stunning and with every sparkle, thread and feather, my eye was caught. It is amazing to think that women in the late 19th century and early 20th century wore clothing items such as the ones displayed because for most of the pieces, I could say I would wear them still today.
One of the dresses that specifically stopped me was the dress by Valentino in the 1970s. It has embroidered fabric webbing that makes up the entire tailored dress and mini roses crafted throughout. It has a certain shimmer to it and the manikin wore it high up on the neck with longer three-quarter length sleeves. It is a dress that I can picture a modern day celebrity wearing on the red carpet.
Another dress that caught my eye was a dress that I can picture myself wearing to an event of any kind. The dress is by Pupa Carmine, a Milanese designer that always customized her items with detail. That is true for this dress too, it is a multicolored cocktail dress and every inch of it is stitched with sequins. When I saw the dress, I thought of a cocktail dress and that is exactly the intention of this design in the 1980s.
Lastly, to reflect upon the set up and design of the garments throughout the museum, it was breathtaking. To see a room intended for summer and swim wear, another room intended for ball gowns, an entire staircase dedicated to bridal wear and countless rooms for short and long dresses. There is truly something here for everyone: of all ages, genders and tastes to see.
Fashion is truly timeless and this museum reassured that for me again and again. It is true, fashion is always changing but usually, it makes it full circle. There are few places that people can go to really appreciate style and all it has brought to us over the years, but the Emma Bardini exhibit in Museo Stefano Bardini does not fail to please.
To check out this fabulously stylish exhibit, you can stop by between the hours of 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and it is in the museum until February 22, 2016. This is a Florence special you will not want to be fashionably late for.