So, this weekend turned out to be much different than I had expected. But it was different in nothing but good ways!

On Friday, I woke up, worked out, and waited for Mensa to open. I ate with some friends (a lot of my other friends were already on the train to Florence at this point… I’ll explain). Then my friend Emily and I decided that we were going to go exploring. We took the 913 bus to Via del Corso and decided that we would start with shopping. We walked up and down the majority of the street. We also walked down Via del Condotti, the street where all of the designer stores are. There are always so many interesting people there! We decided that we were going to try some new stores this time. We went in this store called Mango, which we both really liked.

We saw a group of kids being led by a teacher(?). They'll definitely never get lost wearing those hats!

We then stopped at Giolitti for some gelato and ran into our friend Erica. If you can’t tell by now, I really like gelato. This time, I got chocolate, bacio, and decided to try the Tiramisu. The Tiramisu was… interesting. It didn’t taste very good at all, actually. But I guess that’s part of trying new flavors? I will stick to real Tiramisu from now on.

We walk right past the Parliament building on our way to Giolittli. Neat, right?

Then we stayed with Erica and decided to walk a new way. We stumbled upon St. Ignatius church. St. Ignatius of Loyola is whom our school is named after.

St. Ignatius cathedral!

The church is known for having a “fake” dome. Inside, there is a spot on the ceiling where the artist painted a circle to look like a dome when you walk in. Once you stand underneath it, though, you can tell that it is painted. It was too dark in the church to take a picture, unfortunately.

Then we caught the 913 back to campus, had Mensa dinner, and just relaxed. I went to bed early so that I could catch the train to Florence the next morning.

My friends that left for Florence on Friday morning made a pit stop at Pisa. They stayed the night in Florence. I chose not to so that I could save some money. I already have a picture with the Leaning Tower from my last trip.

I definitely look different now, but it's still a good picture!

I had to get up at 4:00 A.M. so that I could catch my train. In Italy, you choose your train by speed. The faster trains cost more money, so I opted for the slower train. Unfortunately, because my train left at 5:58 A.M., public transportation wasn’t running yet and I had to take a cab. I ended up at the station really early, which was fine. I got on my train and headed for Florence.

After my four hour train ride, I finally arrived. My friend Elizabeth studies in Florence, so I met up with her. I met her through my friend Carolyn. The two of them met last year at Marquette and are still really good friends. My other friends did their own thing, which was fine.

Elizabeth took me to all of the places that tourists go in Florence. She also took me to some places that people generally don’t know about (one of the many perks of having a friend that lives in an unfamiliar city). She took me up this hill that overlooks the whole city.

Isn't it gorgeous?

Then, we walked some more and went to the Chocolate Festival. Words can’t describe how excited I was. I mean, chocolate is one of my absolute favorite things. Side note: KitKats here in Italy are made by Nestle, so they taste different than the ones made by Hershey’s. Anyway, the chocolate festival had pretty much any hand made chocolate you could want.

Chocolate Salami!

They had Chocolate Salami, which is a log of chocolate with nuts and bits of white chocolate in it. These bits make it look like salami. Thankfully, it doesn’t taste like salami.

I had some chocolate covered strawberries... Yum!

I also got some chocolate to take home with me. I ended up eating it on the train. I got a cereal bark and hazelnut bark. Both were delicious. We then went to Florence’s famous leather market. There was so much leather there. They had pretty much anything you could want. I was tempted to get a leather jacket, but didn’t really see any that I liked. I got a leather messenger bag instead. It’s so nice!

We also went to the fruit and meat market right next to the leather market. The smell of the butchered meat was kind of overpowering and nauseating, but it was worth it. We found a booth selling baked goods. Elizabeth and I each bought a muffin.

Chocolate chips on top and Nutella in the middle? Yes, please!

We also saw the Duomo, of course!

Unfortunately, we didn’t go up into the Duomo. We got confused when looking for the price and the woman selling tickets spoke no English. We were content with just looking, though.

Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral.

We also saw part of a protest, which was scary. I was trying to understand what their banners said, but I couldn’t figure out whether they were for or against Fascism. It scary because of everything happening in Egypt and Tunisia right now. I really hope that nothing happens in Italy or another country that I travel to while I am there.

It translates to "Remember the strength of yesterday fighting fascism today."

It was a quick protest, though, so I was greatly relieved. Then we just walked around and did some shopping (again). I didn’t buy anything else, but I finally found an H&M. It was really crowded, like, as crowded as stores the day after Christmas.

Before I left, I had a salami, pesto, mozzarella, and tomato panini. It was sooo good. The panini here are absolutely delicious. I then met up with my friends and said goodbye to Elizabeth before returning to Rome.

Elizabeth and me. Notice the leather bag!

It was a fun weekend. Today, I walked to the store to get dish soap because my water bottle is in dire need of a good washing. I forgot that stores here are closed on Sundays. Other than that, I just worked out and did homework. It was a relaxing day.

Well, that’s all for now! If I don’t update before Friday, I hope everyone has a good week. Expect a length post about my trip to Barcelona next weekend!


About Austin Sears

I'm a junior at Loyola University Chicago majoring in sociology and minoring in urban studies and photography. The purpose of this blog is to document my semester abroad in Rome!
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