Trains vs Planes

My daily commute to school can be summed up as a 25 minute stroll across the width of the center of Florence. I step out of my apartment building right onto the Arno, and usually the first Florentines I see are those rowing down the river each day. (Actually, the street name “Lungarno” is a combination of two words meaning “along the Arno”). I make my way directly from the Ponte Vespucci to the Ponte Vecchio, consistenly passed by the many Florentines on bikes. Here I turn into a square, lined with Gucci, Valentino, Salvatore Ferragamo and Balenciaga stores, among others. 100% of the time, I’m sporting my Goodwill and Gap outfits as I pass by.

At home in Pittsburgh, if I were to want to go to the city center or any of the neighborhoods surrounding Oakland, I would usually take a Port Authority bus. But here, I can’t remember the last time I was in a car at all. I love travelling on foot, though. I can read (or try to read) more of the signs, hear more of the conversations, listen to more music in each piazza, and even meet more new people. I can see all the intimate parts of Florence more closely. And, I can take whatever new route I want to. Maybe the only downside – if you could even think of it that way – is that I almost always end up snagging some gelato or a panino along the way.

And, when I do travel to other cities or towns in Italy, I take advantage of the vast train system they have here. Any location you might want to reach – Venice, Naples, Rome, Amalfi, Milan, Pisa and each small town in between can be reached within a few hours by train at most times of the day. The exact number of hours depends on how much you’re willing to spend. This countrywide accessibility has been one of my favorite parts of living in Italy (alongside the language, food, and endless views).

If I were to offer any advice to future study abroad students, it would be to try to utilize the trains rather than the planes – meaning, you only live in Italy for these few short months. Many students travel to a new country every weekend, but you can be a tourist for longer than a weekend anytime in your life. You’re only a local right now; make the most of it, and be the best local you can be.