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  Cornell University

Cornell in Rome

College of Architecture, Art and Planning

Toscana, un Bel Viaggio

As my friends and I made our way to the train early Thursday morning, bleary eyed with itineraries in hand, we knew what we’d be doing on the field trip but none of us really knew what to expect. I anticipated that the train would be much nicer than those in the US, and I was certainly right. Walking out of the station on Florence soil, however, was nothing like I’d envisioned. My first thought was, Why are these cobble stones HUGE? My next thought was, Why are the cars and vespas not almost running me over? As we happened upon the Cathedral Complex, I thought, Ok stop comparing everything to Rome – we are definitely in a very different place. I was utterly blown away, for I had no idea that Cathedrals existed with such colorful, elaborate exteriors. I found myself scanning over every marble shape and bas relief, trying to regard each speck of detail. Everything was too beautiful to ignore.

Cathedral. Photo by Sabine Strauch.

The height of my stay in Florence was (quite literally) ascending Brunelleschi’s dome. The climb itself was our major cardio for the day, climbing 463 steps to the top and reaching 374 feet high, but all quivering legs were forgotten once we materialized from the skinny, spiral, stone stairwell and saw the view. Pictures cannot do it justice.

Nellie Congdon overcomes her fear of heights on top of the Duomo! Photo by Sabine Strauch.

The ceiling of the Duomo was also extraordinary, and we got to see it up close during our ascent. Cathedral ceilings are typically only a spectacle from afar, so it felt almost as if we were getting a special glimpse into the heavens.

Ceiling of Brunelleschi’s dome. Photo by Sabine Strauch.

Another marvelous experience was visiting the Uffizi museum. My friends and I decided that we would see everything, which was tricky because it’s a large place and difficult to move through quickly. Alas, we did it! Our feet were so sore that we ordered takeout to our hotel for dinner.

On our third day, we bussed to Siena. Even though it was frigid and rainy, we had an amazing time wandering through the streets, regarding the incredible scenery and stopping into sweet little cafes and magnificent cathedrals. Climbing another set of winding stairs to the top of the Facciatone, I found my breath stolen again as I looked out at an unbelievable view.

The view from Facciatone. Photo by Sabine Strauch.

Our fourth and final day was absolutely my favorite. When we stepped off the bus in Montepulciano, the first thing I noticed was the fog. Blanketing the distant ground, it wasn’t eerie but seemingly out of a fairytale. Each destination was a mystery until we were right in front of it! Miraculously, the sun then appeared, illuminating the bright yellow buildings and revealing a cobalt sky. Cats sprawled across car hoods and darted past the authentic, cute shops that line the cobble stone streets. Pienza, our next stop, was somehow even more picturesque, complete with yet another unreal view. The farmland and hills looked like softly carved marble, as if they were shaped by giant human thumbs.

Pienza. Photo by Sabine Strauch.
All smiles in sunny Pienza! Koso Edozien and Yabework Abebe. Photo by Sabine Strauch.

I feel lucky and humbled to have experienced such a large quantity of beauty, both natural and manmade, in only a span of four days!

Welcome to the handmade leather shoe shop in Montepulciano! Photo by Sabine Strauch.
Montepulciano. Photo by Sabine Strauch.
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