Written by: Colin Grant, a team member of The Italian Language Foundation, earned a Bachelor of Arts & Science from Indiana University. He majored in Media Advertising with a Minor in Italian. Colin utilizes his creative skills in media, advertising and Italian to support ILF’s social media and website content.
In the summer of 2019, I had the pleasure of being able to study abroad in Florence, Italy. After moving into my new home for the summer, I discovered that I was staying in a part of the city that I would describe as “touristy.” Walking around the crowds in the Piazza Del Duomo you hear countless different languages spoken as people come from all over the world to see Florence’s beauty. A goal of mine was to see as much of Florence as possible, so after classes would end, I began taking a few classmates with me to explore parts of the city that we didn’t know. It was in these quieter areas with fewer tourists that I was able to meet and talk with more people, usually in the piazzas. This not only helped me improve my Italian language skills but also allowed me to connect with people and see Florence as more than just a beautiful city.
One person I talked with commented that outside of the busy city center, the gelato shops are both better and less expensive. This gave a few of my classmates and me the idea to try and find the best gelato shop in Florence as we continued to learn our way around. Luckily gelato shops were a common sighting, and it was never too difficult to find a new one as we walked through the narrow cobblestone streets that often seemed to wind and curve. After several weeks of exploring new parts of the city and new gelato shops, I began to feel like I knew my way around town.
On my last night in Florence, I went for one last walk and ended up at my favorite gelato shop along the Arno River. It’s a small shop with only enough room for the counter, which had around twenty flavors of gelato on it. There was gelato in every color and flavor from traditional gelato such as stracciatella to less traditional flavors like Oreo and mint chocolate chip. Walking home with a cone in my hand, I couldn’t help but stare at the beautiful Renaissance architecture. I passed by the Uffizi Gallery, several churches, and buildings that I couldn’t identify. While taking my phone out to take a picture, I heard a voice behind me “scusi scusi.” I turned around to see an older man holding out a map, “sai dov’è la stazione di Santa Maria Novella?” He asked for directions to the train station and luckily we were not far away. We talked briefly and I pointed out on his map the upcoming intersections that he needed to turn at. I realized this was the first time I had given anyone directions while in Italy, and Florence felt like much more of a home than a foreign city.