Last Updated on June 21, 2019 by Chelsea Opong-Wadeer
From Saturday, February 11th to Sunday, February 12th I embarked on a whirlwind adventure in Italy. Saturday began at the near break of the afternoon where my roommate Bethanne and I walked over to the Tower of Arnolfo and Palazzo Vecchio, where we met our tour guide for the day, Professor Frans Van Bladel. As we walked into the building we stepped into a beautiful open room, with a fountain inside. Although this fountain was a copy, it still looked as beautiful as the real one. We then continued through the rest of the museum, where we discovered the apartments of a man by the name of Cornelius. His significance escapes me, but he and his wife lived in the apartments that we explored and the rooms all had purpose. After the tour, we made our way up to the tower. We climbed about 263 steps to see this breathtaking view. I can definitely say I got a leg workout in. Pictures definitely couldn’t do this view justice. I highly recommend checking out this view if your travels ever bring you to Florence.
As the day came to a close, my night was just beginning. Through Richmond University, several students and I had the chance to watch a Fiorentina soccer game, the official team of Florence. For those that know me and my family, European soccer is a big part of our household. Walking into the stadium gave me chills. So many Italians cheered, yelled and laughed as they filled the seats in the stadium. My group of friends and I had seating in the upper levels, where we could perfectly see the field and the Fiorentina die-hard fans. As the game began, the fans roared with excitement. I found myself falling more in love with the atmosphere. Massive flags swung back and forth by a select few fans in the stadium. What I found interesting was that whenever Fiorentina scored a goal, Italians wouldn’t just cheer, but they would hug those they were sitting next to. At first I thought they were family or friends they came with, but I realized once someone hugged me in the crowd it didn’t matter who you were – the goal brought us together. The final score was 3-0 Fiorentina. I honestly had the greatest time and am very excited to attend my next game, especially with the warmer weather approaching.
Speaking of warmer weather, on Sunday I attended Carnevale in Viareggio. Carnevale is the celebration of winter in Italy coming to an end and spring beginning. To describe Carnevale in a few words or less is almost impossible for me, but I will do my best to keep it short. The city of Viareggio reminded me a lot of Florida. Very beach-like homes and shops, and restaurants located inches away from the beach. As we approached the event, we already began seeing families and friends dressed up in costumes. This one family all dressed up in tiger costumes. Another group wore colorful wigs with colorful skirts and shirts. The atmosphere reminded me of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but also the chance to make things that seem only imaginary to become real.
In addition to the celebration of the seasons, Carnevale includes a huge parade with floats made out of paper maché. There are artists who specifically work on these floats all year round leading up to this event! These floats don’t even look like they are made out of paper maché. It’s apparent that tons of time and effort go into making these masterpieces. Each float had it’s own purpose and meaning. One thing that was very interesting to me was how many floats I saw depicting America and Donald Trump. Many of the floats showcased America as “grease eaters” and a nation divided. It was interesting seeing the another country’s perspective of my own.
All and all, I danced, I laughed and I sang together with my friends, strangers, and those who became new friends at Carnevale. I definitely felt truly connected to the Italian culture without feeling judged or questioned for my reason of being there. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
This post was contributed by Chelsea Opong-Wadeer, who is studying abroad with AIFS in Florence, Italy.