Ciao! A Semester in Firenze

WOW. This past week has been jammed packed with unforgettable trips to museums, restaurants, and even an entirely new country. I have so much to share about the last seven days, so i'm sorry in advance for the extra long post...

Wednesday's are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week as we only have one class. With an 11:40am Food and Culture class, I have time to sleep in and catch up on a couple much needed z's. This specific Wednesday was even better than most because we had a walking food tasting tour throughout Florence instead of our usual lecture. Our first pit stop was at a small street vendor to taste a Lampredotto sandwich. Thats right readers, I, Morgan Collins, actually tried the fourth stomach of a cow (!!!) It was salty and fatty and 10/10 would not recommend. The rest of our tour consisted of yummy sweet and salty foods like Carnival Biscuits and Schiacchiata (a type of Italian bread). We got a morning walk in and free food.. what more could you ask for?!

With the rest of the day free for whatever we pleased, a group of us decided to check out the oldest science museum in the western world, La Specola. The first half of the museum was packed with every form of taxidermy that you could imagine. From tiny insects to huge Rhinos, this place had it all. The second portion contained the oldest collection of anatomical wax figures which fell somewhere in-between an anatomy book come to life and a horror story. Nevertheless, I was intrigued and amused.

After being spoiled with a late start on Wednesday, Thursday morning came with a bang. To ease the pain of a 7:00 alarm, my Renaissance Art and Architecture took a field trip to the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. Our quirky, energetic professor talked about each piece of art with so much enthusiasm and joy that it made the tour so much more interesting and enjoyable. After taking a quick look inside the baptistry to marvel over the intricate and perfect ceiling, we headed over to the museum. We first saw the three bronze doors that Lorenzo Ghiberti slaved over for the baptistry, an original Michelangelo sculpture, and even the finger of John the Baptist. If you are intested in learning some fun facts about each of these pieces, hit me up, but for now, I'll spare you the details..

I'm loving the religious aspect to this class!

After a day filled with classes and packing, six of my friends and I finally departed from the Santa Maria Novella train station with the destination of Interlaken, Switzerland! Several uneventful hours later, we arrived at our hostel at 3:45am. Balmers Hostel is famous for its cozy, chalet-type atmosphere along with the reputation as the oldest hostel in Switzerland. All of us were groggy and tired but extremely excited for the weekend ahead. A short "nap" later, our alarms simultaneously rung at 7:15am. Four of us shot out of bed elated with the thought of paragliding. We quickly got dressed, ate a continental breakfast of yogurt and granola, and impatiently waited for our shuttle to arrive.

With every minute that passed, the four of us became exponentially more excited and ready to soar above The Alps. After a quick five minute drive to the center of town, we changed into hiking boots, dropped off our backpacks, and jumped back into the shuttle to head up the mountain. This was the first time since arriving that any of us saw the mountains around us. The only way I can describe the views: magical. As we climbed 4,600m up the mountains, the views became better and better. About 20 minutes later, we arrived at our jumping site. The professionals gave us a short safety lesson, strapped us into the harness, and we were off! Paragliding was unlike anything I've ever experienced. It was breathtaking, relaxing, beautiful, and everything in between. Soaring above the isthmus of Interlaken gave me a birds eye view of the whole city; to our left sat Lake Brienz and at our right Lake Thunn. This experience was worth every penny.

After all four of us safely landed and squealed with excitement, we headed back to the hostel to shower and make a plan for the day. With a little taste of the lake from above, we decided we needed to get a closer look. A short, charming hike lead us to the bluest, most beautiful water any of us had ever laid eyes on. For many moments, I had to simply stand and soak it all in. While taking in the views, I learned that words are not always necessary. Sometimes, silence is more important.

Saturday morning we woke up without a set plan for the day. We chatted about renting bikes and exploring the city, finding a hiking path, snowshoeing, or even traveling to Zurich for the day- all had a hefty price tag attached. After some deliberation, we decided to adventure up into the Alps. We hopped on a bus, a train, a cable car, and ANOTHER tram wayyyyyy up into a tiny town carved into the Alps called Mürren. I swear, my jaw was on the ground the entire time we visited this storybook town. LITERALLY children were frolicking through the snow covered streets carrying tobbagins while parents cross country skied in front of them...WHAT! Every twist and turn got better and better. To cap it all off, snow started to lightly fall just as we were walking into the doors of a hotel for hot coco. Our waitress told us that we were good luck because it hadn't snowed in over two months, which is unheard of for this tiny town. As I sipped my hot chocolate while soaking in the 360 degree views of the mountains around me, I silently said a quick prayer of thanks for this incredible opportunity. In this moment, I felt an overwhelming amount of gratitude towards my parents for providing me with this experience. This whole trip I was constantly thinking how much my mom, dad, and Aaron would love this picture-perfect town just as much as I do. As much as I wish they were with me, I feel so incredibly grateful that I am the one that has the opportunity to explore the world. Every day is a new blessing and its all thanks to my supportive, amazing parents. S/O MOM AND DAD I LOVE YOU!

A bittersweet trip down the mountain lead us safely back to Interlaken. The six of us rested for a moment, soaking in what the weekend had held thus far before venturing back out into the charming winter wonderland. For dinner, we grabbed a brat and Glühwein (warm wine, cinnamen sticks, and cloves) in the center of town before heading to our chocolate making class at Funky Chocolate Factory.

This is the moment I was looking forward to all weekend! CHOCOLATE! We eagerly put on our red bakers hats and white aprons ready to consume a weeks worth of chocolate in one hour and impatiently waited for the class to begin. The rumors are true people, Swiss chocolate is a force to be reckoned with. The hour class flew by as we made and decorated three of our own chocolate bars. I walked away with a tummy full of chocolate, clothes stained with chocolate (sorry mom), and many fun facts about the chocolate making process. How many times can I say chocolate in a sentence? As if the weekend wasn't jam packed with enough activities, we capped it off with a night out... in our hostel's basement. Thats right, the oldest hostel in Switzerland also doubles as a night club. A large group of us spent the night dancing and laughing but the best part was.. we only had to walk up a few flights of stairs to crawl into bed. Definitely a win, win situation.

Sunday morning came nice and quick but we couldn't let an opportunity go to see beautiful Lake Brienz one last time. We made the hike out to the lake and said our final goodbyes. May or may not have shed a couple tears in the process. With heavy hearts, we boarded the bus and watched as our perfect weekend home faded into the distance.

Switzerland was an absolute dream. BUT, how lucky am I that I get to go home to the beautiful city of Florence, Italy?!?! I'm excited to see what the upcoming week has in store.

Until next time. Wish you were here.. xo

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Morgan Collins
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