spotlight! Florence, Italy (parte tre)

In my continuing reprise of my former vita in Italia, I want to move on to the time I spent in school. As you know, since I was coming upon the end of my bachelor’s degree, I had narrowed down my list of classes to a remaining set of “fluff courses”. You know the ones: Ballroom Dancing 101, Intermediate Jogging, Intro to Astronomy… that you could probably sleep through and still make an ‘A’ (well, perhaps not the walking or dancing….although it WOULD be entertaining to see!). This being the case, my choices for courses at FUA (Florence University of the Arts) was wide open. Bliss. Of course, there was the obligatory Italian language course, but since one of my main reasons for choosing that school was to continue my language education, this wasn’t exactly a deal breaker for me. While thinking about my options, I considered what I was passionate about, like fashion and literature. I also considered the courses that were not normally taught back in the states, like Introduction to Tuscan Cooking, or a class on olive oils…..and yes, you heard me right, there was an entire course dedicated to olive oil. Must I say it again? Bliss.

The only snag I came upon during my course selection was the fact that many of the cooking courses did not meet the requirements to count towards my degree. Fail. Enter: Introduction to Nutrition. It wasn’t exactly the Italian cooking course I was looking for, but I decided to keep my mind open to the possibility of learning something new and interesting about the health system and nutrition in Europe. After all, it is well-known that Europeans are vastly different in the health and diet realm. Who knew, maybe the class would be fun after all? [Side note: the class DID prove to be fun, as one of our “field trips” was to a brewery, where we at and drank all night! Ummmm, YES PLEASE!]

I also selected a fashion course, as well as a European Literature course. Both proved to be wonderful choices. My fashion course was taught by a man who previously designed for many well-known fashion houses, one being Gucci. Swoon. I mean, who better to learn about fashion from than a man who lived and breathed the best of the best? I learned about everything from couture to the cut of a jean. To me, it was fascinating. One of the highlights of the course was taking a field trip to a couple of local museums. One was the Salvatore Ferragamo museum. Holy Shoe heaven, Batman! I was in love, and my lover was a basement studio space full of famous footwear….I got to see shoes made for Audrey, Grace and Marilyn. The colors and designs set my little heart a flutter….The other museum was stock full of my other favorite fashion: dresses. And again, I have one word for you: swoon. It was an amazing experience, one that I could only have in the first fashion capital of the world!

My literature course was equally enticing, but for different reasons. I was able to explore the written word and all its glory through multiple countries, languages, and genres. Each class was spent book club style: discussing the latest novel we read and dissecting it’s viewpoints and motifs. Each week was a different book, so the fact that I read fast came in handy!

The Italian language class I partook in was so much different from most of the ones I had taken back at my university in the states. Rather than focus on grammar, spelling, and the conjugation of nouns, we just spoke. Each class, we’d sit in a circle and talk. Talk through the homework, talk about current events, talk about our lives. Our professoressa, Francesca, would not allow English, so if we “slipped up” and began to converse in our native tongue, a sharp, “AHEM” would jolt us back to our Italian mindset, where we’d sheepishly fumble for the right parole in order to continue the conversation. It was Italian on crack, and I learned at a rapid pace, which made my life in Italia that much easier as time went on.

The best class, though, was my piano lesson, taught by Paulo, the bumbling, lanky, sweet Italian man whom I came to adore through my time with him. When I realized that music courses were offered through an affiliate music conservatory in Florence, I jumped at the chance to learn from teachers who grew up in regions where the greats (Mozart, Bach, Beethoven) had lived and worked. In order to take a course through the college, I had to audition, which I found out on the first day of my orientation. OH.MY.WORD. Needless to say I was a bit nervous upon walking in to the audition room, especially since I had not prepared a piece, and had to frantically pull a former performance from the recesses of my mind to showcase my talents. It also did not help that sitting in the room were 3 Italian professores, each formidable in their own right, but together, making my heart sink to my feet and my palms sweat. At that moment I wanted to jump out the open windows to my doom below. However, I stayed, I played, and I passed. I was placed in an advanced Piano Performance course, with a private tutor named Paulo, who I mentioned before. Each week I would meet Paulo for an hour and a half lesson. He would sit next to me on his stool, English dictionary resting on the side of the piano, and I would play. The time was precious. I learned so much more Italian through Paulo, since he did not speak any English, so I was forced to call upon my knowledge of music jargon in order to communicate. I also learned how to play with soul, with passion. Music wasn’t just about technique, it was about feeling. We would open up the balcony doors in our room that overlooked the Duomo, and Paulo would excitedly chant, “SUONA! SUONA!” (meaning, “PLAY! PLAY!”). He wanted me to get the attention of the bustling streets below. It was magnificent. I conquered some fears of timidity with my playing, as well as a fear of speaking in a tongue not native to my own. So for that, grazie Paulo.

again, this journey is too great for one post….more to come!

hearts and hugs,



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