Getting up at 5am is never fun – unless you’re getting up early to travel to Florence to begin your semester abroad! After packing up all my stuff and somewhat quietly lugging my suitcases down the stairs trying not to wake the other people in my Airbnb building, I headed out to London City Airport to catch my flight to Florence.
I flew on CityJet, an airline I had never heard of before but was actually pleasantly surprised with – it’s a budget airline that flies directly to Florence and actually includes a checked bag and drinks and snacks on the flight (I’d highly recommend). I slept the entire flight and before I knew it, I had touched down in Florence, my new home for the next four months!
After stamping my passport and student visa, I located the NYU Florence representative who was gathering all the students together to board the shuttle from the airport to campus, where we would begin our check-in process. Driving through the streets of Florence knowing that this was not merely a vacation, but an extended stay in a location that would soon become familiar to me as a second home (or third home, if NYC is already my second home) was an incredible, awe-inspiring feeling.
Arriving on campus and seeing the vast estate and villas in which we would be having class made me ecstatic to have chosen Florence as my study abroad site. The NYU Florence campus is the entire Villa La Pietra grounds, spanning an entire field with five main villas for classes, on-campus housing, and student life buildings. We spent the afternoon in Villa Sassetti checking in and starting the immigration process for student visas by making appointments for our Permesso di Soggiorno – something that is required of all students studying and living in Italy. After a few hours of the check in process, I was able to head to my off-campus housing apartment, which is in the center of Florence, only a block away from the famous Duomo cathedral.
My apartment is on the second floor of a building full of four floors of students attending NYU Florence. The entire floor shares a kitchen/common room and there are ten people total per floor – two quads and one double. My three roommates and I share a quad at the end of our hallway and have our own bathroom in our suite – something I think NYU students definitely take for granted, never having to have dealt with the typical college communal bathrooms. These apartment dorms in Florence are also amazing because we have a cleaning service come every week to clean the rooms and wash our sheets and towels.
After we had all settled into our room and unpacked, we met up with our four friends who live on the fourth floor of our building and headed out for our first dinner in Italy. Numerous friends who had previously studied abroad in Florence had recommended this restaurant across the bridge in the less touristy part of Florence called Osteria Santo Spirito, so we walked there and passed the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio on our way over.
We arrived too early since the restaurant does not actually start serving dinner until 7pm, which apparently is typical in Italy, so we chilled on the Ponte Santa Trinita, admiring the sun reflecting off the Arno River. Once we finally went back and got a table, the majority of our group ordered the truffle gnocchi, which had rave reviews of being “life-changing” – and it did not disappoint. It was definitely one of the most well made, creamy, and flavorful pasta dishes I’ve ever had. Alongside a glass of wine, it was a perfect first dinner to kick off my semester in Italy.
After dinner, we stopped for gelato at a gelateria near the river and I got my first gelato (of many) of the semester: melon and banana. As my friends and I strolled through the streets of Florence on our way back to our apartment, we couldn’t stop remarking how surreal it was that we were actually living here, and that we had the privilege of enjoying another 109 days in Florence.