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So much of what you are, is where you have been.

Tuesday my students arrived to Florence not so bright eyed and bushy tailed, but excited none the less. I love having a new group of students every summer, they remind me of all of the cultural differences I have either forgotten or become accustomed to. I get to see Italy through a fresh pair of eyes every year!

After a full day of orientation (covering the dos and don’ts of living abroad for the first time), yesterday, Thursday, was our first official day in Florence.

The first place I like to take students is the Mercato Centrale. Not only do I love to see their reactions to cow testicles, stomachs, and brains, but it is an incredible lesson in the cultural importance of food. Americans have a very strange relationship with food. Our meat never looks like the animal it comes from and our fruits and veggies are harvested early to be shipped across the country (and even hemisphere). Food in Italy, however, is (for the most part) grown and sold locally. And meat and fish are butchered fresh daily in the market.

After grossing students out, I like to remind them that for centuries Italian peasants didn’t have the luxury of just eating the breast of a chicken, every part of the animal was consumed and nothing was wasted. Although most students are not game at first, by the end of the trip we get many of them to at least try some of Tuscany’s specialties – Trippa and Lampredotto (the first and fourth stomach of the cow) and Fegato (puréed chicken livers).

Following our morning market tour, the students split off into their various classes and I escaped to one of my favorite places in Florence, the Palazzo Pitti (and adjoining Boboli gardens).

Kirsten, my TA, and I enjoyed a fun afternoon in the gallery gazing at Raphael portraits and selecting our favorite fashions at the “history of the hat” show (I always “preview” museums before taking students, just to make sure things aren’t closed or rearranged, which they often are!). Afterwards we strolled through the famous gardens snapping pics and soaking in the sunshine. All in all, I would say it was a pretty great day!

Today is another one of my other favorite days with students – the first time they see Michelangelo’s David. David never disappoints! Hopefully I can sneak an illegal pic on Instagram!