Junior Men's Soccer Student-Athlete Liam Dole Shares His Experience Studying Abroad In Florence

 SUNY Geneseo men's soccer junior goalkeeper Liam Dole is studying abroad in Florence, Italy for the 2019 spring semester. The communication major from Delmar, N.Y. will be studying at Florence University of the Arts on the Arno River in the heart of Florence. Dole will be providing regular updates in the coming months on his studies, travels and life abroad. 

"Chi Non Va Non Vede," comes from an old Italian proverb and translates loosely to, "If you don't go, you won't see."  The Italian proverb encourages one to go, explore and learn.

Check back often for updates of Liam's experiences! 

FULL PHOTO ALBUM

ENTRY 15 - May 29

My last week abroad was one of the best weeks of the whole experience. After enjoying some of our final days in Florence throughout the week, myself and a handful of friends from my program traveled down to the Amalfi Coast for our final weekend. The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline on the southern half of Italy. Our hostel that we stayed in for the weekend was located in the city of Sorrento, and it offered us an unforgettable view of the vast sea.

Sorrento Italy

We arrived in Sorrento very late on Thursday night, and by Friday morning, we were all on a boat to the cliffside village of Positano. Positano has popular beaches, but since the weather was not great, we were able to explore the village. The village was filled with seafood restaurants and locals who were kind to tourists. Once the afternoon was up, we hopped back on the boat to Sorrento and enjoyed a nice meal in the downtown area of the city.

On Saturday, we found ourselves on a boat once again, this time the destination being the island of Capri. The highlight of the day was the boat trip to the island as we traveled around most of Capri before we arrived at the dock. By standing at the back of the boat, we were able to take in the views of the seaside cliffs provided by the unique landscape of the island.

Cliffs of Capri   Capri, Italy

It rained for most of the day, but that did not stop us from having an awesome experience on the island. We explored the streets for miles underneath our umbrellas. We got to see a lot of what Capri had to offer, including unique residential homes, restaurants, shops, and hiking trails. At one point, we wandered into a shop owned by an elderly Italian painter. The man was kind to us and proud of his work, claiming that his paintings have attracted numerous famous individuals ranging from baseball hall of famer Mariano Rivera to British royal family members. Unfortunately for us college students, the cheapest canvas painting was priced at 500 euros…

The weekend spent in Amalfi Coast was a perfect way to wrap up my abroad experience. During my 20-hour commute home from Florence to Albany, I had ample time to reflect on my past few months in Europe. Although I had to sacrifice spending time at Geneseo with friends and teammates, I was able to grow as an individual in a different way. I recommend spending time abroad to anyone, not just college students. By putting yourself outside your comfort zone through experiencing other cultures, you gain a new perspective on the world, and more importantly, yourself. Because of that, I would not trade this experience for anything. I am grateful for the places I saw and the people I met -thank you to my parents for making this experience of a lifetime possible!

Positano Italy

ENTRY 14 - May 5

This past weekend was spent in Munich. I was lucky to be able to meet up with some friends from hometown who are also studying abroad in Europe, so getting to explore the German city with them was a blast.

After braving through a nine-hour overnight bus from Florence that departed on Thursday night (I highly recommend not traveling in this manner, especially if you are a 6'7'' human being), I arrived in Munich early in the morning on Friday. By the afternoon, we were roaming around the city. Our first stop was the English Garden, a large park that is comparable to Central Park in NYC. We spent a long time walking aimlessly through the park until we came across a cool scene. In the park is a naturally-flowing whitewater stream where surfers were taking advantage of the conditions. The surfers all took turns dropping in, and we joined the small crowd that gathered around to leisurely enjoy the display.

Surfing in Munich

At night we attended the "Fruhlingfest", a beer festival that happened to begin on the very Friday that we were there. If you are familiar with the customs and traditions of Munich's "Oktoberfest", it is essentially the same festival but smaller, being nicknamed "Oktoberfest's little sister". We were able to grab a table inside of one of the two main tents of the festival, allowing us to soak in the high-energy atmosphere. People were singing, dancing, drinking (no NCAA violations were committed by me), and simply having a great time. It was truly a fun environment, and we ended up spending all of our time on Saturday at the other main tent. My favorite part about this experience were the kind people I met. I met individuals from all over, ranging from Switzerland to Indonesia.

Springfest, Munich, Gremany

On Sunday I had all day to explore as my bus did not depart the city until 9:00PM. Exploring is actually what we did, my friends and I set out early in the morning and ended up walking over 16 miles on the day. We saw more of the large English Garden, toured the BMW Museum, came across some magnificent churches, and walked through the Olympic Park complex, the site of the 1972 summer Olympic games. The day was well-spent as we ate a lot of fresh pretzels and got a good sense of what life is like in Germany. My weekend in Munich was more fun than I ever could have imagined, and I am sure that I will be back at some point in my life.

Olympic, Munich Gremany

ENTRY 13 - April 28

With a couple of trips planned for my last two weekends that are coming up, this weekend was spent mostly in or around Florence… I tried my best to soak it all in because my time here is coming to a close.

The weather was beautiful all weekend, so I gathered a couple of friends and spent Friday afternoon at the Boboli Gardens, a place that I visited and wrote about back in March. These gardens are so big that I set an intention to see them one more time before the semester is up. After walking around for a bit, we found a grassy hill that gave us a nice view of the city center of Florence in the distance.

Boboli Gardens

Saturday was a day well-spent as we hopped on a train and traveled to the coastal city of Viareggio. There are a handful of beaches in Viareggio, and we picked out one that was not too crowded and simply relaxed on the beach all afternoon. The sea water was a little too cold to enjoy, but the afternoon was a success as we taught ourselves to cut a fresh pineapple that we bought at a nearby market. I can check that one off the bucket list. Also, Dean and I must have broken a world record with a mindlessly long rally in paddle ball. We did not see anything remarkable during the day like the Eiffel Tower or the Colosseum, but we certainly made the most of it by making our own fun.

Viareggio

Sunday was Easter and it was the most hectic I have ever seen Florence. The streets were flooded with tourists; it was truly a spectacle. The city has gradually been getting busier and busier as the weather has gotten warmer here, almost as if it was building up to Easter Sunday. The walk down to the Arno River, the river that bisects the city, usually takes about 15 minutes from my apartment. On Easter, it took me 30 minutes to get there with the massive crowds in the city. It was honestly cool to experience; the energy was lively as there were small parades that I ran into throughout the entirety of the city during the afternoon.

Easter in Florence

Easter Monday is a national holiday throughout Italy, so mostly everything was shut down for the day, including my classes. I spent my time walking around the city and enjoying the lively Easter energy that was still pulsing throughout the city. In the afternoon, I went on a nice scenic run by the river (only added that part because maybe Coach Howlett is reading this) and enjoyed a nice late lunch at a café by my apartment that happened to be open despite the holiday.

ENTRY 12 - April 21

The highlight of this second week in April was a weekend trip down to the Italian island of Sicily. This trip was ran through my school's program, so I was able to travel and enjoy the weekend with a lot of awesome people. We trained down to Rome on Thursday afternoon to hop on an overnight train that brought us to the Sicilian city of Catania.

We spent all day Friday exploring and learning about Catania. First and foremost, I have to mention that the food in Sicily is amazing. I can confidently say that I ate more cannolis this past weekend than I have had total in my prior 21+ years of life. Sicily is where cannolis originated, so you can only imagine how good they were. We spent the afternoon exploring the city, which is right on the coast of the Ionian Sea. It was raining most of the day on Friday, but we were able to enjoy the main sights including some ancient Roman ruins and the Baroque-style church that was constructed during the 17th century.

Cannoli

Right outside of Catania is Mount Etna, Europe's highest active volcano. We were lucky enough to take a bus up to the visitor's center of the volcano, located 1,100 meters above sea level. From there we hiked a little bit higher and were rewarded with unforgettable views of Sicily, the sea, and multiple craters created from past eruptions of the volcano. We were literally in the clouds, and the wind chill had the temperature below 30 degrees (I am lucky to say that I have not been that cold since Geneseo!)

Mount Etna

On Sunday, we traveled to a nearby town called Taormina, a place loaded with ancient Roman and Greek ruins and my personal favorite stop of the weekend. We had a walking tour of the city during the afternoon and got to see inside an ancient Greek amphitheater. The town had a refreshing feel to it after spending two days in the hectic city of Catania, and it offered great views of the sea and the mountains behind the town. After a wonderful dinner at a local restaurant, we embarked to the train station to travel back to Florence.

Greek Amphitheatre

Something that was cool about this trip was the unique style of traveling. Since Sicily is an island, the overnight train had to load onto a large ferry to get to mainland Italy (imagine a very big ferry).  We were essentially on a train within on a boat. With this, my classmates and I were able to enjoy a starry night for a few minutes on the deck of the ferry. Sicily was a great time, and I expect to be back sometime in my life solely for the cannolis and riceballs.

ENTRY 11 - April 14

Just four weeks remain in my semester as I write this entry… time is flying. Luckily, this weekend was another fun one filled with new places and experiences.

On Friday, I got the opportunity to explore the historical city of Rome. Having lived in Italy for a few months now, I had heard several things about the city, a fair amount of them being negative. Rome is too crowded, too dirty, too dangerous, etc. However, my time in the city completely exceeded my expectations as the city is filled with an abundance of cool sites to see.

There was not much structure to my visit, I traveled with a friend of mine and we simply wandered around the city for the whole afternoon, taking in the historic sights before us. Our stops included the Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Vatican City, Giancolo Hill, and of course, the Colosseum. Just like the Eiffel Tower, there is no way to explain what it was like to see the Colosseum in person… after seeing so many pictures of it throughout my whole life, it was truly surreal to admire the structure before me with my very own eyes. We had walked about 15 miles on the day and were exhausted when the sun was setting. We were able to see a lot, including one last visit to the Colosseum before we departed for Florence on Saturday morning.

Liam at the Colosseum

Sunday held a completely new adventure. I took a bus with a handful of other study abroad students to spend the day in Cinque Terre, a string of sea-side villages on the coastline. There were five villages to visit in total, all of them within a hiking distance of each other. My favorite part about this trip was the hiking. Most of the hiking was overlooking a cliff, offering amazing views of the vast sea. There were a lot of people hiking from village to village, and I will never forget some friendly interactions I had with some of these outgoing individuals. Upon visiting each village, the weather only improved as the day started out with rain. I enjoyed my lunch overlooking the village of Vernazza, a village known for its pesto and fried seafood.

Cinque Terre

Between visiting both Rome and Cinque Terre, I had a fulfilling weekend. They were two unique experiences- I was lucky to be able to experience the best of Italy's history, along with the best of Italy's landscapes.

ENTRY 10 - April 7

After a fun week in Barcelona, I decided to stay in Florence for the week and adjust back to my regular routine. It was nice coming back to the city, and it made me realize how truly comfortable I have become with calling this place my second home.

With my Florence routine comes my volunteering hours at St. James Church, something that I have wrote about previously. I am continuing to volunteer at the church's food bank every Thursday morning, and it is something that I always look forward to as I am building great friendships with those who I volunteer with. Every week brings a new experience with the volunteering, and I am choosing the church as a focal point of a multimedia project that I am working on for one of my communication courses here in Florence. I just learned this week that David Bowie was married in this church, so I can brag that I volunteered here in the future.

St. James Church, Florence Italy

Saturday was an awesome day as my friend Grant and I took a public bus up to the hills outside of the city to revisit the small town of Fiesole. We arrived in the town with no expectations and spent our afternoon exploring the streets of the town. We noticed immediately how quiet and relaxed the place was compared to Florence, and we ended up discovering some pretty cool parts of the town. There was a little outdoor park hosting a 4-year old's birthday party- adults were lounging and enjoying each other's company while children were running around playing without a care in the world. The setting certainly reminded me of some memories of my childhood, and it was cool to see this on the other side of the world from my true home. Eventually we found a hiking trail in the hills and found some unique views of the city of Florence. We enjoyed the hiking trail for a couple of hours until the sun set on a picture-perfect night, not a single cloud in the sky.

Fiesole

Biking to Florence's soccer stadium is a short and enjoyable ride, and that is exactly how I spent my afternoon on Sunday. Fiorentina had a match against Torino FC, a team just ahead of them in the standings. It was sunny, warm, and the stands were packed with passionate Fiorentina supporters wearing purple and white. The fans in Florence have much pride in their team, as the chants and waving flags lasted for the entirety of the match (even when Torino scored). The match ended as a 1-1 draw. Getting the opportunity to experience another European soccer game made the day fulfilling, and it reminded how excited I am for my senior season in the fall!

Florence Soccer Stadium

ENTRY 9 - March 27

The rest of my time in Barcelona went better than I ever could have imagined. Each day throughout the week contained little adventures that will be impossible to forget.

After enjoying the first few days of the week, our plans for the rest of the week were focused on exploring nature. On Wednesday, Dean and I visited the famous Park Guell. The park, like most parks we have visited in Europe, was full of life. Flowers were blooming and individuals played various different instruments for everyone's enjoyment. The vibe was relaxing, and upon climbing up a small mountaintop, we were rewarded with a fantastic view of the city.

Guell, Spain

On Thursday we planned for a day trip to Sitges, a small beach town about an hour train ride south of Barcelona. The town was quiet and beautiful, and it was nice to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The beach was virtually empty as it is not yet beach season in Spain, making the afternoon even more relaxing by the water. It was very windy, but not windy enough to be complaining on a beach in March. We wrapped up our afternoon with one of the best lunches we have yet while being abroad in a small café in the town. One of the many highlights of the week was how good the food was!

Stiges, Spain

Friday was my favorite day of the week as we traveled up to Montserrat, a mountain range not too far from the city. After taking a cable car up to the mountains, we spent the afternoon hiking the many trails located on the peaks. Dean and I had lunch at the summit of one of the peaks, and we concluded that it was the coolest lunch we have ever had (the picture below justifies that!). The views from the hiking trails were incredible. There were countless trails to embark on, so we were able to fill our whole afternoon exploring the mountains. Of course, the weather was perfect!

Montserrat   Montserrat

We spent our last full day in Barcelona revisiting Park Guell to take in the views of the city one last time. Being able to spend my time off in one location to experience all that it has to offer was more than worth it. Up to now, Barcelona has been my favorite place that I have visited for many reasons- the food, the sites, the kind people, and much more.

ENTRY 8 - March 20

Time continues to fly as we are on our spring break here in Florence. On Saturday, Dean and I flew out to Barcelona, Spain, to meet up with some friends from home. We are here for the whole week, and we have some fun plans to experience the most of the city.

On Sunday, we spent the afternoon on a bus tour to see the most notable attractions of the city. We were able to sit on the top floor of the bus as it cruised around the coastal city, allowing us to enjoy great views of the sea. The most remarkable attraction we saw was La Sagrada Familia, a massive catholic church located right in the city center. Even though the church is unfinished, it only adds to the list of unforgettable architecture that I have seen while exploring Europe.

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Monday was a day dedicated to soccer as we took a tour of Camp Nou, FC Barcelona's world-renowned stadium. The experience included a visit to the team's museum and access inside the stadium. After seeing the massive collection of trophies the team has won throughout history, we were granted field level access to the stadium. We were able to sit on the Barcelona bench, the same bench that countless of soccer legends have sat before. The stadium is massive with a capacity at almost 100,000, and being able to stand right next to the field was unforgettable. To say the least, it is much bigger than our College Stadium.

Tuesday started out with a run by the ocean and a visit to the city's aquarium. After spending the afternoon wandering around the city, Dean and I got our European fill of March Madness by attending a Barcelona Euroleague basketball game. This was a unique experience! The fans, as expected, were passionate as ever. From start to finish, they were singing and chanting like it was a soccer match. The quality of basketball was enjoyable to watch as the two teams featured a handful of former and future NBA players. It was no NCAA Tournament, but being in that arena with the energy that the fans brought was a unique substitute. Barcelona had a resounding 93-64 win!

FC Barcelona Basketball

ENTRY 7 - March 13

This week was a special one as my parents flew out to visit. They arrived around midday on Wednesday, a bit jet-lagged but ready to experience the city. This had been a week I was looking forward to, and I had a plan of showing them all of the highlights of Florence.

On Thursday we had a full day of sightseeing that included Michelangelo's famous David sculpture in the Accedemia Gallery. Luckily for us, and to our surprise, it was heritage week in Italy, meaning that we were able to enjoy Florence's museums for free. In the afternoon we hiked all 463 steps to enjoy the view atop the Duomo. Both of my parents were good sports about how physically-demanding and dangerous this task was.

The Dole Family in Florence   

Friday was my favorite day spent with them, highlighted by a tour of the Chianti wine region in the afternoon after we climbed the Bell Tower in the morning. We boarded on a tour bus with several other people and set off through the beautiful hills of Tuscany. The afternoon included tours and tastings at two different wineries in the region, and a quick visit to the small town of Greve in Chianti. We were able to taste samples of wine, meats, cheeses, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar- all of the samples were too good to describe. After our tour was finished, our bus ride home featured an unforgettable ride through the hilly Tuscany while the sun was setting.

Chianti, Italy

On Saturday, I had an academic field trip with my Travel Writing class to the cities of Fabriano and Gubbio. In Fabriano, we visited a paper museum to learn how paper was produced during the medieval times, and then we had free time to explore the city during the early afternoon hours. Myself and a few classmates stumbled upon a market in one of the squares of the city, and we were able to enjoy delicious pork sandwiches. By late afternoon we had arrived in Gubbio, and a classmate and I delivered a quick presentation on the main center of the city, a medieval plaza called Piazza dei Consoli. The plaza offered a fantastic view of the city below and of the hills of the Umbria region, which can be seen in the picture below. Although I barely saw my parents today, they were able to take a day trip and explore Siena, Pisa, and San Gimignano!

Piazza Dei Consoli, Italy

The Boboli Gardens were the main attraction for us on Sunday. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the massive gardens, and although it is still considered "winter" here in Florence (sixty-degree weather certainly sounds like Spring to someone who is accustomed to Geneseo weather), the scenes and greenery were worth the one hour wait to get in. In the afternoon I was able to take them to my favorite pizza place, and by night, we enjoyed a Fiorentina game, Florence's soccer team, as they drew 1-1 to Lazio. The atmosphere inside the stadium was full of passion, which I will write more about in a few weeks as I have tickets for their March 31st game!

Boboli Gardens

Monday was a simple day. A calm walk along the Arno River took up our morning. My mother was somehow able to control herself for the majority of the week with the shopping, so poking around the many markets is how we spent the afternoon. The day came to an early end as I had an exam on Monday night, and my parents had to get up for an early flight back home.

I am grateful to have spent such a fulfilling week with them, and I was so happy to show them the kind of life I am living. Observing them in this setting was a valuable experience as they reminded me of myself when I first got here: excited, awe-struck, and trying hard to adapt and integrate to a new culture.

ENTRY 6 - March 6

A couple of spontaneous adventures made this week a fulfilling one. Saturday was filled with wandering and exploring on rental bikes. Two other adventure-seeking friends and I set out on these bikes with little intentions but to get lost and maybe find something new. That's exactly what happened as we found ourselves in the hills outside of Florence.

We ended up in a small and intimate town called Fiesole. Exploring the little town was a memorable experience- it was filled with locals, not a tourist in sight. We simply walked around and marveled at the massive private properties that some of the locals resided in, surrounded by massive gardens with a unique view of the city center of Florence in the distance. Nothing was more inviting than the renaissance churches that were also in our area of exploration. We were lucky enough to experience the soothing silence and history inside of these churches.

Fiesole, Italy

On Sunday, I decided to take a day trip to Lucca, a popular destination to visit and just a short train ride away from Florence.  Upon arriving, I took a walk on the massive renaissance wall that borders the city. There is a paved path for people to walk and bike on atop the city wall, and most immediately I noticed the happiness that beamed from the individuals who were on the path. The adults, children, and even the dogs were noticeably full of delight, simply enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon.

After walking a full loop around the city on the path, I strolled into the city center. My first destination was Guinigi Tower, a tower with an origin of the early 1300's. Visitors are able to climb the tower, and once finally reaching the summit, the view of Lucca that is offered is spectacular.

View from Guinigi Tower, Lucca, Italy

I had no real plans for the rest of the afternoon, so I spent my time wandering around the city and taking it all in. There is not a more relaxing feel than experiencing a Sunday afternoon in an Italian setting - people outside, either slowly strolling or dining, enjoying their own company or the company of others. It is quite easy to sense that there is not a single worry on their mind. Without having plans, I eventually stumbled upon a place called Piazza dell'Antifeatro, a public square radiating with life. This square is significant as it was once a Roman amphitheater that could hold 10,000 people, dating way back to the second century.

Amphitheatre

My time in Lucca was worthwhile as I got to see and experience another brand new place. I walked over 12 miles on the day, leading to a great sleep on Sunday night!

ENTRY 5 - Feb. 28

Yet another fulfilling week has come and gone, and this experience is truly starting to fly by. On Thursday, I took the afternoon to walk the city, taking pictures and shooting videos for an assignment for one of my communication courses here. I ended up wandering far outside the city center and found myself exploring a small suburban neighborhood. The weather was perfect, which has been the norm, as the sun was setting. I took my time exploring, and as aimless as my approach was I was able to experience a different part of Florence, away from the touristy city center. 

By Friday afternoon, I was on a flight to Amsterdam, Netherlands, with a few other friends. We were in the city center by 7:00 at night and had time to wander around the beautiful city. After a much-needed American-themed dinner at a delicious burger bar, we were fueled for a full day in the city on Saturday.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

We started our day off at Vondelpark, an urban park located in the city. Of course, it was an unseasonably warm and sunny day for us, so there were tons of bikers and joggers enjoying the weather. The scene was relaxing as children played tag, adults played a pickup game of soccer, dogs fetched tennis balls thrown by their owners, and as mentioned, lots of bikers pedaled through the paths. The vibe was contagious as we were perfectly content with soaking in the scenes of the park at a bench for over an hour.

Vondelpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands

In the afternoon we visited the Van Gogh Museum to admire the famous paintings of the artist, and by nightfall we were getting a tour through one of Heineken's first breweries. After dinner in the city center and more walking around the canals, we called it a night as our flight back to Florence was early on Sunday. It was a short trip, but one to remember. The people of Amsterdam were my favorite aspect of the experience. It was hard not to notice how pleasantly kind each individual was. By walking through a few parks in the city I was able to observe people enjoying themselves in various carefree activities with smiles on their faces, something that I think is admirable. I would have to say that Amsterdam has certainly been my favorite place that I have visited so far, and I would love to go back one day.

ENTRY 4 - Feb. 20

Another week has flown by in Florence. The university I attend here offers community service opportunities for study-abroad students in an effort to make integration into the Italian culture a smoother process. My volunteer service hours began on Thursday, and I am scheduled to volunteer at the food bank every Thursday morning from 9:00-11:00. The church I am stationed at is called St. James Episcopal Church, also referred to as the "American Church" as they offer their religious services in both Italian and English.

St. James Episcopal Church, Florence, Italy

My first experience of volunteering at this food bank served me much more than I could have imagined. All of the workers were kind and outgoing, showing the volunteers exactly what needed to be done. By the time the food bank services began at 10:00, we had multiple tables set up filled with donated food for those in need to take. Although it was just my first time at the church, being able to witness this service was a humbling experience. It was eye-opening to see the gratitude on the faces of those being served when they had next to nothing, and humbling as it made me realize how lucky I am to be in a position to enjoy this experience of studying abroad with a warm bed to sleep in and enough food to eat. I am looking forward to continuing to give back to the Florence community throughout the rest of my time here.

On Saturday, I traveled to the beautiful city of Venice for a day trip with a few friends. This place lives up to the hype and was all that we imagined it to be. The city is dissected by an intricate canal system, so being able to walk along the sidewalks by the water was as scenic as ever. We arrived with no particular plans but to walk around and take in the views of the famous city.

Venice, Italy   Venice, Italy

Although we had no plans, we were in Venice for the opening day of the annual Carnival festival. Carnival is a multiple week festival that attracts people from all over the world, ending on the Catholic celebration of Lent. By night time, the main area of the city was packed with individuals wearing masks of all sorts in celebration of the opening day of the festival. With it being so crowded, we were able to catch just glimpses of the traditional water parade that takes place on the opening night on the city's main canal, Cannaregio Canal.

We simply walked around aimlessly all afternoon, but the experience of immersing ourselves in the culture, excitement and sheer beauty around us was fulfilling and unforgettable. 

ENTRY 3- Feb. 13

The weather is starting to become just slightly better here in Florence than in the windy hills of Geneseo- sunny most days, with the high temperature reaching high 50's and low 60's (sorry to brag). More and more opportunities arise to enjoy what the city has to offer as the weather improves by the day. On Thursday, I got a chance to climb the Florence Bell Tower that is located right next to the Duomo for another view of Florence that will be hard to forget.

View of Florence From Bell Tower

During the weekend Dean and I flew out to Paris to explore the historic French capital. Although we were only there for about 48 hours, we were able to see much more than we expected. Something I had not fullyncomprehended before we arrived in the city is how massive Paris is… especially compared to Florence. Being able to successfully navigate the subway systems and see as much as we were able to made this trip a valuable experience.

We landed from our flight from Pisa, Italy around 6:00 p.m. on Friday night. We immediately made our way to the world-renowned Louvre Museum as students are admitted for free on Friday nights. The museum was indescribably big, but we were able to see the famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Saturday was a jam-packed day of sight-seeing, we got up early and got ourselves into the city to cram in as much as possible. Our first sights of the day were Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle. Both of these structures were constructed back in the 13th-century, filled with magnificent stained-glass windows.

Stained Glass Windows inside Saint Chapelle

Later in the afternoon we were able to fit in a Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer game, one of the best European soccer clubs and the home club of Paris. Although we were seated in the last row of the stadium, the experience was amazing. The passion of the PSG fans was well-worth the price of admission. There were chants from fans lasting the full ninety minutes of the match, and every individual was fully-engaged in the match. PSG defeated Bordeaux, 1-0!

PSG-Bordeaux

The trip would not have been complete without seeing the Eiffel Tower. We took a subway after the game to the famous tower, and seeing it was truly an indescribable experience. After seeing so many pictures of it throughout my lifetime, it was surreal being able to walk so close to the structure and soak it all in.

Eiffel Tower at Night

Our flight was at five in the afternoon on Sunday, and we were able to utilize our final hours in the city. We were able to see the Arc de Triomphe and walk the Champs-Elysees, a famous street in Paris known for shopping and notable restaurants.

Getting the opportunity to leave Florence and experience another culture/city was a worthwhile experience. Being able to see much of what Paris is known for certainly gave us more confidence as travelers. The weekend was memorable, and we were happy to get back to Italy when it concluded.

ENTRY 2 - Feb. 6

This past week offered a lot of new experiences highlighted by seeing other parts of Italy outside of Florence. I took a day trip to Siena on Thursday, a city in the Tuscany region that is just a 90-minute train ride from Florence. Spending the day wandering around and taking in all of the medieval buildings that filled the city, I was able to engage in a totally different experience than Florence- I did not see one tourist, and did not hear English being spoken throughout the entire day. After ordering lunch through a somewhat-broken interaction in Italian, I was able to sit down and relax in the main area of the city center, Piazza del Campo.

Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy  

In the afternoon, I got the opportunity to climb the massive bell tower, Torre del Mangia, located right in the city square. After hiking up over 400 steps, I got to enjoy an incredible view of the entire city of Siena and the vast hills of Tuscany.

Skyline, Siena, Italy

On Sunday, the students in our program got the opportunity to visit the city of Bologna. Just an hour bus ride outside of Florence, we spent the afternoon visiting the historical sites of the city. The city center was buzzing with life. It was filled with statues, outdoor cafes, street vendors, and musical performers.

Street-level, Bologna, Italy

At night, we all got together and celebrated Super Bowl Sunday (more like Super Bowl Monday for us, kickoff was at 12:30 AM Florence time!). There was not a better American-themed place to watch the game than at the Hard Rock Café in Florence. The restaurant offered a special offer to American students looking to watch the game, and it ended up serving as a great way to meet other Americans our age and share our new perspectives and experiences of studying abroad in Florence.

On Tuesday Dean and I climbed the 463 winding steps that led to the top of the Duomo in the city of Florence. We got fortunate with the weather and we were able to take our time gazing out at the view of the entire city. By looking out at Florence from this unforgettable view, we noted how small and intimate the city truly is. This experience gave us yet another reason to appreciate the place that we are lucky to call home during this short period of time.

ENTRY 1 - Jan. 30

The first week of my study abroad experience in Florence is about to conclude, and it has already been an unforgettable time. I am traveling with some familiar faces from the Geneseo Men's Soccer team: juniors Dean Kousmanidis and Caleb Murthy, along with sophomore Marco LaRocca. We arrived in the city early in the morning on Wednesday, Jan. 23rd, giving us six whole days to explore before our classes begin. To say we were out of place at first would be a wild understatement. Despite the city being a tourist destination, a 6'7" American who only knows "Ciao" and "Grazie" certainly stands out to the locals.

Assimilating into the Italian way of life has been the biggest adjustment, but certainly my favorite aspect of my experience so far. Everything here is smaller- the beds, bathrooms, showers, and serving portions of food. Compared to America. When it comes to presentation, local Italians take great pride in the way they dress - I have yet to see a pair of sweatpants being worn.

The first few days were dominated by aimlessly walking around and soaking in everything Florence has to offer. In the past six days that we have been here, we have averaged about eight miles of walking per day - Coach Howlett will be happy to hear that we are keeping ourselves in fine shape. The architecture of the city is unlike anything I have seen before.


                    Florence Streets  Piazza Del Duomo

Pictured is the center of the city, Piazza del Duomo, just a two-minute walk from our apartment. We learned a lot just by walking around the city and dining in restaurants, simply observing how Italians go about everyday activities.

The school we are attending here, Florence University of the Arts, is very resourceful. The school's staff is composed of English-speaking Italians who actively offer us valuable advice on how to assimilate into Italian culture throughout our various orientation activities. Everyone we have come across thus far have been kind and friendly, and the students in our school are from all across the country.

The highlight of the week was on Sunday, when our orientation advisor took us on a walk up to Piazza le Michelangelo. This is a famous plaza that overlooks the city from a distance, seen in the picture below. Getting there was a hike, but we were well-prepared thanks to the hills of the Geneseo campus back at home.

Florence Skyline   

Even though it has not even been a week yet, the days are already starting to fly by. Adjusting to life here has had its ups and downs, but I know that I won't want to leave this place come May.

More information about Geneseo's Study Abroad Opportunities