Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fiesole: Paradiso Italiano!

It is midterm week! I have been busy reviewing the passato prossimo for Italian, memorizing the process of wine making and reassuring myself that I know which food accompanies which wine in the best way, writing papers on the masterpieces that are in my own backyard...okay, so midterms here are a lot more fun than back in Harrisonburg-but a girl still needs a break! Hence the name of this post's title.
Yesterday, I luckily had no classes and was able to work as much as I wanted studying all I needed to know for my Italian midterm(that I am pretty sure I aced this morning) and the seven page paper I needed to write for my Italian Renaissance class. In the middle of the day the 'City as a Classroom' course was taking a trip to Fiesole, the ancient hilltop city situated right above Florence. The great thing about the study abroad program is even if you aren't enrolled in a certain class, whenever that class visits a museum, goes to a historic site, and even visits a beautiful small town outside of Florence all of the students in the Florence Program are allowed to attend. So for my study break...I went to a class I am not even in! Talk about funny, could you see a student doing that back in Harrisonburg or anywhere else in the world!?

I met up with the class at the train station in Florence and we took the number seven bus out of the city streets and into the rolling hills of Tuscany! Within a minutes we found ourselves surrounded by greenery and ascending some of the most gorgeous hills I have ever seen. When we exited the bus we found ourself smack dab in the middle of Fiesole. The air was so different there! Not that Florence smells terrible or anything, but the fresh air in Fiesole was so amazing. You could smell the trees, the fruits, and the breeze was so much more crisp than in Florence-only a few kilometers below. Breathing in this fresh air got us all excited and in the mood to explore.

Our first stop in Fiesole was the Roman ruins that the town is well known for. We arrived at three o'clock in the afternoon and sadly the museum and grounds were closed to this historical monument. There were no signs as to why we could not enter, everything was just locked up and closed without any posted reasoning. It didn't stop us from climbing to a high spot and getting an aerial view of the ruins and discussing them from a distance! It might have been a little odd and not as much of an up close experience we were hoping for, but we sure made the best of what seemed to be a bad situation. So instead of spending our first hour in the city examing the Roman ruins we began our walk around the ancient walls a little early. We climbed even more hills with paths that were marked very clearly and at every peak was another breathtaking view. Who knew Florence was so big! Looking down on our home town of the past month was so astonishing. We were seeing it with new eyes...the eyes of mile high giants! The Duomo was so tiny from up there, and the Piazzale Michelangelo looked like an anthill compared to our newly disovered hilltop town.

The walls outside of the city were surrounded by hundreds of olive trees, lemons, berries, flowers: you name a color and it was represented on this Tuscan hillside! I decided to pluck an olive off of one of the trees(probably breaking a rule or two...but hey! when else would I be able to taste an Italian olive straight off the branch?) I had heard rumors about how gross this was, but me being the 'dive-right-in-get-all-the-experience-I-can' type of girl that I am I decided to try it for myself. Let me tell you, that olive was the most acidic, bitter thing I have ever tasted! I spit it over the ancient wall of the city and had a few of the girls in the program spinning around, confused, and asking, "What was that noise? What did you just do? Are you ok!?" It was a good, funny experience, but one I think I will leave in Fiesole.

After completing our walk around the city walls, weaving in and out of the gorgeous residential areas, illegaly trying Italian produce, and taking some beautiful pictures, our day in this ancient city was about to be over. At the end of our journey we had the chance to see some of the local sculptures perched outside of one of the main buildings in the city, took in a few more breaths of the heavenly air, and jumped back onto the number seven bus to retutn to our current hometown. Once I arrived back in Florence, I hurried home to complete my studies before another one of Mama Lo's famous dinners. (We had a spicy and delicious pasta with red sauce that is definitely one of my new favorites)

I hope everyone is enjoying my blog. I just wanted to remind you I would love to hear your comments on my experiences, questions you have about them, and I definitely have lots of answers to questions about truly having the JMU study abroad experience! Ciao and Grazie!


  1. Hi Angel! Great job on the blog. I ended up here from's recommendation. I love all your pictures, just gorgeous. Makes me want to visit (I've never been to Italy, wah)! I did a semester abroad in London back in '94. Do you know if any of your fellow study-abroaders are writing a London blog? Thanx!

  2. I'm going to Florence next semester, and when I saw the link to this blog on the JMU homepage, I couldn't resist checking it out. Thanks Angel, for getting me even more excited for January to roll around :) I'll be keeping up with your posts!

  3. Angel, girl
    You are doing such a good job of describing the scenes of Italy! I feel like I could be there with you when I read your blog. Thanks for this; you're amazing. Keep it up.

  4. Kristin,
    I'm unaware of any blogs currently being kept by students in London. I just checked the Office of International Programs website and saw that they're having a London reunion to celebrate 30 years of the program in London!! Check it out:
    You may also be able to find some contact information on the website for the director of the London program as well.

    Good luck and thanks for the wonderful comment!