europe, florence, italy, life, travel


It has been 3 weeks 3 months 12 months 17 months since I left Florence, and the separation sadness (not anxiety) is hitting me especially hard these days. I’ve tried to write this thing ever since I got back, and I’ve just been editing the number of days or months until I actually finish and publish it. Now it’s been 17 (seventeen!!!) months since. The harsh jerk back into the smoggy confines of Manila is one that can ruin the best of moods, and while deep down I knew it was time for me to leave Italy (temporarily, I hoped), I also didn’t relish being back in the concrete dump that is Manila. Everything that I hate about this city seems to have worsened in the short year that I was away, and only serve as reminders of all the great things in Italy that I left behind.


I had the urge to write about some of the things I’d learned/realized from my time away, but it felt so melodramatic to phrase it that way. It sounded more apt for me to just call this, “Post-Italy”, which encompasses not just stuff learned but also the immense sort of hollowness I felt after leaving a city that had become my second home, brief as my time was there.



Monumental: Buontalenti Grotto – Florence, Italy

europe, florence, italy, monumental, Uncategorized


Buontalenti Grotto, Boboli Gardens – Florence, Italy.

Accessible from Giardino di Boboli (a ticket you can purchase separately from the ticket to Palazzo Pitti), the Buontalenti Grotto doesn’t look like much from the outside, especially because it’s near the exit and you can easily miss it if you’re not looking the right way. It’s tucked away down a pebble path amid some trees and bushes, so when you’re walking down the path towards the Boboli Gardens exit, you won’t actually see it unless you know that it’s there, or unless you happen to see the tiny sign that almost blends into the bushes. So remember to look to the right before you exit the gate!


His cave-inspired style of sculpture might not appeal to a lot of people. Honestly, I wasn’t too sure what to make of it, but they did get more interesting the closer you were and the more you looked at them. Bernardo Buontalenti was one of those renaissance type artists who were good at lots of things–he was a sculptor, architect, engineer, painter, etc. NBD.




These rough-but-detailed sculptures remind me so much of the stone king/wizard in Return to Oz. The stuff of childhood nightmares, but ever so fascinating.




Entrance to the grotto is limited to a handful of people at a time, and it’s not always open. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and someone will be there to let you in, and sometimes you’ll just have to poke your head as far as you can through the grills and try to see what’s inside.




Check out these stone sheep











Whether or not you think it’s pretty, you can’t deny that it’s definitely interesting, and that’s always better than boring!



Churches: Cupola del Santa Maria del Fiore

churches, europe, florence, italy


Florence, Italy. October 2014.

Going up the cupola of Florence’s duomo (aka Santa Maria del Fiore) can be done with a combined 10€ ticket that includes going up Giotto’s Tower and entrance to The Baptistry of St. John. The ticket is good for 24 hours so if you’ve got good legs for climbing then you can make the most of your ticket. For some people though, the views from the tower and the cupola are pretty much the same, so if you’re pressed for time or if (like me) your legs have only got enough juice for one climb, then one climb is just as well.


What I like about gaining access to the cupola is that it affords you views of the duomo that can really change your opinion of it. As people who’ve visited Florence’s duomo know, compared to the intricately detailed exterior, the interior is relatively sparse. The floors have beautiful tilework, but generally the walls are quite bare and austere.

6 (Un)Common Sense Things for Non-Italians in Italy

articles, europe, florence, italy, life, travel


10 months and 10 days in Florence as of today. Where did all that time go? When I heaved my bags off of the train and onto Florentine land all those months ago, I had checklists upon checklists of Things To Do, Things To Buy,  Things To Accomplish, Places To Go, and whatever else I had misty ideas about. But as I mentally scroll through those endless lists, it’s kind of sad to see all those boxes that are still unchecked. I’m sure my expectations were probably unrealistic and more the reflection of the idealistic I’m-finally-here! sort of mindset, but I honestly thought–as I’m sure many study-abroad students have done–that I would have more time to do those things, and then I find that amid all the school work, errands, chores, and (in my case) scholarship requirements, I’m suddenly ten months in, with barely three months left on my visa and still a long list of TTD’s to get through.