Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Katie Wynkoop: Italy

By Katie Wynkoop

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Read about this trip | See more from Katie | Follow along with other UMass students as they travel across the globe.

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Where is the shrub?

Walking around the streets of Florence, you wouldn’t think they know what a plant is. Basically everything is tan and, for some reason, all of the vegetation is hidden on the insides of the buildings.

Outside of my window, there’s not much to look at (it’s still winter, technically), but I think the palm tree is pretty cool.

Cascine Park

Cascine Park is the largest park in Florence, which isn’t saying much. Still, it’s one of the only places in the city where you can go for a run without falling over a cobblestone or being frowned at by Italians.

There’s also a miniature carnival and bike and rollerblade rentals, which is nice.

Chocolate Festival

It’s a chocolate festival! Giant tents in front of Santa Croce housed chocolatiers from all over Italy. The festival ran for 13 days leading up to Valentine’s Day and I’m pretty sure I was there for every one of them.

What was my favorite? Cioccolato caldo, a hot chocolate that is basically just melted chocolate bars. That’s how it is made here, sometimes with hazelnut in it. Yummm…

Sun-Dried Underwear

Italy isn’t really big on dryers or, at least, not big on giving them to student renters.

Eventually, this will mean romantic-looking clotheslines and sun-dried underwear At the moment, it means an unusable bathroom when my three roommates and I decide to do laundry on the same day.

The Duomo

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Duomo, is in the center of the Florence. It is the major feature of the skyline and a massive monument to the innovations of the Renaissance.

It looms over everything and tends to pop up at unexpected times, like in the bathroom window of the library.

San Lorenzo Market

Two blocks away from my apartment, there is the San Lorenzo market. It’s the largest leather market in the city and, if you haven’t heard, Florence is known for it’s leather.

It’s a fairly colorful place, surrounding the Mercato Centrale, where I buy all of my food. If I can walk through without being heckled by the merchants, I know I’m looking pretty Italian that day.


Like the rest of Europe, and other places other than New England, Florentines love their bikes.

They don’t even stop to think that, maybe, their bike can’t handle the things they’re putting on it, like the day’s shopping list or their laundry; their two kids; a dog… It all fits on there, though I haven’t yet figured out what kind of magic they use to do it.


We’re in Italy, remember, so this many Vespas shouldn’t be surprising.

In fact, the Vespas are probably a bigger traffic risk than the cars. They don’t care for silly things like one way streets, or crosswalks.

Luckily they’re loud as anything, so you can here them zooming around the corner in time to jump out of the way.

A recipe in Italian culture

As part of my orientation into Italian society, I was given a cooking class at a fancy little cooking school on the other side of the Arno. There, we were abused by smart-mouthed Italian men who were fond of hand gestures and weird analogies between cooking and American pop culture.

Strange migrations

Every night between the hours of five and seven, the birds of Florence fly back and forth over the city.

I’m not sure if this is some sort of ritual, or if the pollution has caused them to lose so many brain cells that they can’t handle it when the sun disappears everyday.

La polizia

As far as I can tell, there are at least three different kinds of police in Florence, distinguishable by their hats.

Most of them can be found standing around and gossiping, but occasionally some of them also write parking tickets.

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