In 2012, I spent the summer in a study abroad program in Florence, Italy. We studied food science, culinary arts and sustainable farming, all while living with the most darling host family just blocks from the Piazza del Duomo. To say this experience was life-changing would be an understatement.
While I was there, I met so many wonderful people from around the world (most notably, the other students staying in our flat - from Alabama to Argentina to Switzerland). We spent our days wandering the streets and back alleys of the city, searching for the best gelato (more on that later - spoiler, we found it), eating our body weight in fresh produce, and learning the Italian language.
On top of all of this, my father got to come with me. Wow, what a treat! He already spoke some Italian and was able to take private language lessons while I was in class, as well as stay with us in our host family's home. He and my host father, Paolo, certainly hit it off. So much to the point that the minute we walked in the door from a day of exploring Paolo would turn to me and (with no greeting whatsoever) say, "Dov'e tuo babbo?!" *cue eye roll* Regardless of not being the favorite host child, their bromance was adorable.
At the time of this trip, I had just finished my freshman year of my undergraduate studies at Western Washington University. I was planned to study photography, but hadn't taken any classes in the discipline yet (due to pesky 100-level prereqs). Forgive the content, as I have resurrected these photographs more for nostalgia and inspiration as I am about to embark on my next trip abroad.
One sweltering hot day, dad and I hopped on a (non-air conditioned) train and headed off to explore the town of Siena. While there, we soon discovered that the city was prepping for hit biannual horse race, known as Il Siena. It was a sweet surprise, as locals were celebrating in the streets and buzzing about the city in high spirits with anticipation of this event.
Our class took a trip to the Tuscan countryside to visit a sustainable farm and learn about their crops and production methods. There was fresh fruit everywhere we turned, and we had the opportunity to tour the farm and watch the farmers as they went through every step in the harvest process - from crop to table. To top it off, the farmer's wife prepared us some of the most hearty and delightful food I have ever tasted in my life. Some days I am still in disbelief that it was all real.
On one of our final days, we went on a day-long wine tasting at another sustainable winery in the countryside. The farm produced its own olive oil and Chianti wine and had been a family-run farm for generations. It was the most delicious and intoxicating (if you catch my drift) experience, and the perfect farewell to this city that had treated us oh-so well.
Farewell, for now, Firenze. I know in my heart that we will meet again.