16 students and one dead finger: The Florence Experience

At the last CR meeting, I was instructed to pick a cookie with the name of a city we will be visiting on it. I strongly considered going for Cinque Terra, but in the end settled on the classic Firenze, or Florence. I’ve always liked Florence because I’m a big Renaissance and Baroque art fan, but also I’m tired of all the Rome hype. Yes, I get it, the Roman Empire was a big deal, but the city of Florence often gets under appreciated because everyone is so busy marveling at the history of Ancient Rome and all the people they subjugated. But when I think of Florence, I think of great food, beautiful architecture, and phenomenal art. I’m insanely pumped to visit for my second time and really absorb all the city has to offer, because last time I visited I was a ten year old with bad style and an even worse haircut. This time, I think I’ll appreciate the city more and God willing, maybe even take some pictures of myself that I’m not embarrassed to look at.

Instead of looking at Wikipedia as a starting point to learn more about Florence, I typed “weird facts about Florence, Italy” into Google and then went straight to the fifth page of results. I ended up finding a website called “Hidden Florence: Discover 15 Unusual Things to Do in Florence, Italy”, and let me tell you, this site has introduced me to some destinations that seriously need to be added to Cultural Routes. First and most importantly, apparently Galileo’s middle finger is preserved and on display at the Museo Galileo. I vow to everyone on CR9 that before our time in Florence is up, I will be making a trip to see the lifeless, decrepit finger of one of the most important men in astronomy’s history. I honestly don’t understand why this exhibit doesn’t make the top 10 best things to see in Florence list, but I guess I’m not a professional like the people over at Trip Advisor. And still, even beyond the finger, this site also listed other incredible must-see locations like the world’s oldest operating pharmacy which contains 800 year old recipes, a secret museum created for an Italian duke in the 1500’s, and hidden drawings by Michelangelo in a room underneath the Medici Chapel, to name a few. I had no idea there were so many cool, obscure things to see in Florence, and I’d definitely like to try a few of them and see how these lesser-traveled paths change my view of the city as we go through it.

With that in mind, I guess the question I’d like to ask about Florence is: What is the real Florence? Every big city has a public persona that’s visible to its tourists and vacationers, but also a more real and raw private persona felt by those who go about their daily life there. I want to see parts of the city most tourists don’t see, engage with the citizens in ways most Americans never would, and learn to view the city through less of a generic lens. It will be difficult to learn much about Florence’s private persona in a matter of days, but I think by making a conscious effort to not only visit the big tourist-y spots and important markers of history, but also to adventure out and find less obvious parts of Florence’s culture to indulge in, maybe our trip as a whole can get a little glimpse of what Florence is really about.