by Rich Landesberg
Florence has been good for us. The history, art and culture help us better understand the modern European Union. Over the last few days we have had many lectures by Dr. Morgan and great chances to explore, interspersed with some shopping opportunities.
The last few days have been filled with lectures, excursions to neighboring towns in Tuscany and opportunities to explore the joys of Florence on our own. We’ve taken an inter-city bus up to Greve-in-Chianti were we walked around this delightful little town in the heart of Tuscan wine country. We stopped at the wine center where those who chose to could taste different wines from the region. Oenophiles know that the region is famous for Sangiovese, the grape that forms the heart of Chianti wine. But we also tasted wines blended from other grapes grown in the area. A few brave souls even tried one of my favorites Grappa, an acquired taste and note for the faint-hearted.. After our one-hour bus ride back to Florence, many of us headed to a Napolise restaurant for a taste of southern Italian cooking.
The restaurant is on the other side of the river, far from the tourist center. Not only were we the only people speaking American but the menus had no English translations. It doesn’t get much more authentic. The waitress patiently explained the menu, including about two dozen different pizzas, all done in authentic Naples style. By the time we left, the big room was stuffed to capacity and so were our stomachs.
And speaking of different….we spent the morning at the Salvatore Ferragamo museum. That’s Ferragamo as in the Italian shoemaker to the stars. The old building, right by the bridge on the river, has been in the family since the 1920s. The upper floors are still the family home with the ground floor being the flagship store and the basement a museum. So, why look at shoes? Florence is about art, in the architecture, the sculptures, the paintings and even the handmade shoes. The Ferragamo story is about Hollywood, entrepreneurship, craftsmanship and art.
That afternoon, some of the students headed for Arezzo, the little village where “Life is Beautiful” was filmed (we showed our students this movie before we left. If you haven’t seen it, make a point to watch is sometime soon). Some other students went to a local football (soccer) game. Others stayed in Florence to discover more wonders. All showed that they are making the transition from tourists following the pack, to independent travelers.
Our last full day in Florence started with a morning lecture discussing what we experienced , what it means to our study of the European Union, and previewing our next stop. That afternoon, we took a city bus up into the hills to visit the European University Institute. The spectacular view of Florence was complimented by the amazing old villas that house the University. The highlight of the day was a lecture by a political science professor about Italy and its role in the current EU. We took the bus back soon after sunset and dispersed for a last meal…and last gelato,,,,in Florence. In the morning, the 90-minute express train ride to Rome.
Next up: 48 hours in Rome…and then home.