By Jessica Helfond

After our third week in Rome, our entire program took a trip to Florence. This trip was my favorite weekend in the program because we were able to explore an entirely new city. On Friday morning, we all took a charter bus to Florence, which was about a 4 hour ride. Once we got there, we had some free time in which we got pasta and gelato for lunch.

After lunch, we had to meet by the Duomo. We were walking in a small alleyway, and all the sudden the road opened up to a giant piazza and we were able to see Florence’s famous Duomo for the first time. The architecture is so detailed, and the building has such intricate designs with red and green coloring. It was the most beautiful exterior of a building I saw throughout the entire program. Once we finished admiring the building, we all climbed the watchtower, located right next to the Duomo. There were over 400 stairs, and it was a trek to say the least. However, the view made it more than worth it. We could stop as we made our way up and were able to look out over the rust colored rooftops of Florence. 

Finally, we reached the top, and the best view was revealed: the famous domed rooftop of the Duomo. Domed buildings were very rare in Italian architecture when this was built, and it was amazing that they could get (and keep) such a large dome structure standing. We were at the highest point of the city, and could see all of the surrounding areas. It was an absolutely breathtaking view, and made the climb more than worth it.

After we made our way back down, we had free time for the afternoon until dinner later in the evening. With our free time, we decided to explore Florence, and of course did a little bit of shopping. After wandering around the city for a while, we decided to go to Piazzale Michelangelo, which was a viewpoint across the river that overlooked the main city center of Florence.

The view was absolutely beautiful, and we were able to see the famous Arno River, Ponte Vecchio, and Duomo from afar. We then walked back down along the river, all the way to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge. This is one of the most iconic spots in Florence, and has a TON of shops (especially for jewelry) all along it. We were able to admire yet another one of Florence’s beautiful views as we walked along the bridge, and eventually made our way to the restaurant where we ate dinner.

We had a great dinner with a variety of bruschetta, meats, and cheeses for appetizers, and then meat and potatoes for dinner. They were classic Florentine dishes, as opposed to the pasta Rome is so well known for. Dinner was so fun because we were able to talk for hours while enjoying a great meal. In Italy, that’s what food is all about: being able to share it with your company as you chat the evening away. It was a great end to an incredible day. Our trip to Florence was one of my favorite parts of my entire study abroad experience, and I completely recommend visiting this charming city.

Jessica Helfond studied abroad in Rome in Summer 2019. https://ieo.ucla.edu/travelstudy/italian-rome/