How Florence, Italy has changed my life:
My name is Clara, I’m 21 years old and I live in Barcelona, Spain. For my 8 year birthday my aunt gave me a present that changed my life: an atlas. Since that moment all I always wanted to do was to see all of the places that my eyes were seeing in that map. This past semester I was able to go to Italy and live in Florence for six months, and it changed my life.
During these six months my life improved, being able to live abroad for the first time it is always a little scary, but everybody in Italy welcomed me with open arms. Once you cross the language barrier one can feel that even if two strangers are completely different they are exactly the same.
I feel that being able to embrace a different culture in all of its forms is a great way to learn and empathise. For me travelling has brought in me a new sense of empathy towards others, it has also provided me with more patience and understanding to different views than mine.
Being away from your comfort zone isn’t always easy but I would definitely say that while travelling I gained a lot of self-confidence and I overstepped situations that are not always easy. I feel that my generation has an advantage towards others, and it is that is really easy to travel. We have many opportunities to experiment this world and discover what this planet has to offer.
In my case I discovered Florence, the heart of the Tuscany and, let me say, the heart of Italy. Florence is an incredible city, full of secrets and worth of Dan Brown novels. Its past is present everywhere and if you are vivid and curious you will never stop discovering amazing things.
For example, I discovered that Florence, as many other big cities crossed by a river, had a flood 50 years ago. They called it the ‘alluvione’. In 1966 the Arno river caused a big flood after three straight days of rain. The flood killed 35 people and destroyed many paintings from the renaissance and numerous historical operas, not just of art. This disaster is remembered by the so called “angeli del fango / the angels of the mud” a number of people from around the world that came to rescue the operas and to help the people, including people from the US army that helped to rescue.
Although it is a big tragedy I also think that this flood is a great example of humanity and this is exactly what travel has taught me, everybody working together for a greater cause. And in essence if you walk around Florence you can feel that, from smallest acts to bigger ones, once you open yourself Italians will respond immediately with the biggest of smiles and the biggest of personalities, from the women in the bakery to the owner of the little shop to the landlord of your house, everyone is willing to share if you are ready to listen.
I would like to say that I think what helped me the most discovering the essence of Italians was sharing a flat with two of them and I encourage people travelling to do the same because it is the most honest way to learn from a country. My flatmates showed me their traditions and culture.
Since I was a child I was programmed to memorize things: maths, language, music, philosophy, etc. But it was only when I started to travel and discovering the world that I started learning and actually living. Once I saw that we are different but we are the same I felt a new sense of humanity and love that keeps me travelling and pushing to discover more. As Italians say “piano piano si va lontano e si va sano”, little by little you can go far and safe.
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