Travel Log 4: “Studying Abroad…It’s More Than Just a Walk in the Park” by Brandon Lyons – Florence, Italy

In Italian there is a phrase, “fare una passeggiata,” that is frequently used among Italians. Literally translated it means to go for a walk, however the phrase has a much deeper cultural significance. Here in Italy it is very common for locals to go for a late night walk after dinner, whether it be to a local piazza to enjoy the lively atmosphere or to a gelateria to indulge after dinner. That is why last week’s walking exercise made me feel a little bit more like a real Italian. I started out in Piazza della Republica, one of the main city centers in Florence, and went from there, exploring neighborhoods that I had not previously encountered and engaging with locals who were kind enough to help me better understand the city.Ponte Vecchio

Pictured to the right is a photo of the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge that has been around in Florence since ancient Roman times. I took this photo while
crossing an adjacent bridge to the other side of Florence, a part of Florence that I have
not yet experienced. I personally like this picture so much because of both its beauty and the fact that it represents a journey to an unfamiliar place.

There were so many things that I was able to take away from this walk. First and foremost I learned how to navigate the city streets with a new sense of familiarity. I am finally getting to the point where I can find things on my own without the help of a map or GPS, which is definitely a great feeling. I was also able to work on my knowledge of the Italian language through asking for directions and speaking with locals. One of the places I discovered was il Mercato Centrale, or the Central Market, a place where you can buy any fresh produce you can imagine. The environment was unlike anything I have experience in America. For lunch I stopped at a local café/restaurant where I was able to experience the Italian social etiquette food culture firsthand, all on my own. In Becoming World Wise Slimbach writes “as you begin to walk and talk, don’t worry too much about getting lost.” This actually reminded me of one of the quotes we looked at during our seminar back at Quinnipiac that says “not all those who wander are lost.” That phrase was constantly in my mind during this walking exercise, an experience that I will certainly remember when looking back on my time abroad.

“Not all those who wander are lost” – J.R.R.Tolkein

The travelogue I purchased is entitled Bella Tuscany: The Sweet Life in Italy. Author Frances Mayes (most famous for her novel Under the Tuscan Sun) gives a detailed description of her own personal Tuscan experience “written in precise and passionate language of near poetic density” (Newsday). One thing that I found very exciting about this travelogue is that she describes the beauty of places in the Tuscan countryside that I have already visited. To hear a place that I have visited be described with such poetic beauty was very exciting because I was able to identify with the emotions of the author. At one point she writes, “the silence of the country sounds loud,” which sounds strange but is something that I can totally identify with. To hear her describe the food of Italy and the unique way in which it is prepared is also great to read about because my experiences with food in Italy so far are almost indescribable. Finally, one thing I really enjoyed about the travelogue is that it describes her trips to places outside of Tuscany, such as Venice and Sicily. This is definitely something that I will use as a guide when planning the rest of my stay in Italy.


3 thoughts on “Travel Log 4: “Studying Abroad…It’s More Than Just a Walk in the Park” by Brandon Lyons – Florence, Italy

  1. Brandon,
    I can completely relate to your feeling of joy when you realized you could finally navigate without the help of GPS. I, however, still need the aid and I’m a month in. Similarly, I am using my travelogue as a guide of Paris. I plan on checking out every restaurant, boulangerie and bar that the author recommended. Does the author of your travelogue still reside in Tuscany? If so, maybe you could try contacting her and she can share her experiences with you firsthand. I recently reached out to David Lebovitz, the author of my travelogue.


  2. For me, a great triumph was also knowing how to get somewhere without the help of a GPS. Citymapper, the main GPS app here in London, tells you how to get anywhere you want by walking, taking a taxi, or public transportation. When I first got here, I needed Citymapper for everything. I didn’t know where anything was, and I would always screenshot my directions to get anywhere and follow them to a t. Now that I’ve been here for almost two months, I find myself knowing how to get places without Citymapper, and, if I do know how to get some place, I’ll try to take a different route to see more of the city. I think that being able to walk somewhere on instinct is one of the best feelings. It really makes you feel at home.


  3. It is interesting to hear about the Italian culture of taking a walk after dinner. This tradition is the complete opposite to that of the culture I have found here in New Zealand. Italian’s may take their walk after dinner, Kiwi’s take theirs in the morning and are rarely seen walking about in the major public regions late at night. All the shops close around 3pm so there is little reason to be in town unless you are on your way home from dinner. As a PT major the gait and pace of a person walk is something I pick up on in my every day life. As a result, I have recently noticed that each culture has its own social norms on walking. Americans seem to walk with haste everywhere (making them easy to pick out on the streets here), Kiwi’s walk in a way that is totally opposite. Their stride is relaxed and un-rushed. It will be interesting to explore this theory more as the semester progresses!


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