Experiencing Florence Through Travel Writing

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EXPERIENCING FLORENCE THROUGH TRAVEL WRITING

By Joslyn Matthews

Photo by Silvia Mancini

Venturing out and discovering a city, no matter what background a person comes from, is not a simple task and it is easy to allow fears to become an obstacle. FUA’s Travel Writing course, taught by author-painter-philosopher Nicoletta Salomon, allows students who arrive in Italy to coax themselves out of their comfort zone. Students are urged to keep a travel journal to document emotions and memories of the things they do during their study abroad experience.

One of the first assignments was to discuss the topic “What am I doing here? In a city seen a thousand times.” It is a question that forces the writer to consider what they personally hope to discover while in Florence and not what they have been told to look for. Salomon introduces students to travel writers dating back to Homer and the story of Odysseus along with more modern writers like Bruce Chatwin. She also exposes the class to different writing techniques within the genre. “My aim is to show them the ocean of writing and help each of them individually to build up their raft for navigating it,” Salomon said, “each students has then to find out what kind of traveler and writer she/he is.”

The course gives students free range to discover a writing style unique to them as they venture out into the city and through the assignments, students transform the prompts given to them. There is a seemingly never ending list of things to do for a student studying abroad in one of the world’s most visited city, which means there is much to be written about.

Deborah Galasso, a student at Università degli Studi di Firenze and a Florentine, had her own suggestions for what makes up a good day in Florence. She recommended eating at the Hard Rock Cafe because of the daily live shows and the view from the terrace. “You can enjoy the beauty of Florence from above,” she said.

Florence from above tends to be a theme that runs throughout the work of students in the Travel Writing course, but not without good reason. It is from the top of different structures that the city takes on a new meaning for the traveler, and its charms are witnessed from a new perspective. Students often describe the harrowing walk to the top of the Duomo only to be rewarded with the expansive sight of Florence before them, along with the well-known view from Piazzale Michelangelo.

“And for the evening,” Galasso says, “squares such as Piazza della Repubblica turn into open spaces thanks to restaurants, bookstores, and cafes, thus becoming a meeting place for young Florentines.” The night life of Florence can also be an inspiration for students when they write, as it provides them with an opportunity for new experiences or a chance to compare it to what they are used to back home.

Salomon wants students to walk away from the course with a plethora of  new skills under their belt. “I hope each student will leave with a suitcase full of diverse literary experiences, new perspectives on old thoughts,” she said, “...and a lot of doubts and questioning.” Personally, I did not know what to expect when I signed up for the course. Towards the end I found myself appreciating the assignments for the way they made me consider, with more depth, my view of the time I spent in Florence.

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