Florence is Good for You

Sunset on the Arno

Florence has been attracting visitors with its charms for hundreds of years and is as dynamic a summer destination today as it ever was. Our summer study abroad program challenges a select group of students to see and do as much as possible in four weeks, and establish a relationship with one of Europe’s most elegant and sophisticated cities

The birthplace of the Renaissance, home to the Medicis, Michelangelo, Dante and Machiavelli as well as some of Europe’s oldest fashion houses, not to mention superb restaurants, museums and ice cream. Yes, lots of ice cream–or rather, gelato, to be precise.  Florence is a city of spectacular architecture from Brunelleschi’s Duomo to the Palazzo Vecchio, outstanding music and art. Is there anywhere in the world that can rival the Accademia with its incredible David? Or the Uffizi that bursts at the seams with works by Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, Caravaggio and Botticelli to name but a few.

Our summer residence at Calza dates back to the 16th century and boasts some of the finest frescoes in Florence. It’s in a privileged location in Oltrarno, the most sought after residential neighborhood where students enjoy the shops and restaurants of San Frediano and Santo Spirito far from the hoards of tourists. We don’t simply rent a bunch of hotel rooms and declare ourselves a “Florence program,” rather we give students the opportunity to live in an authentic Florentine Palazzo, surrounded by history and charm each and every day.

Florence is very much a walking city. Step out of the Calza residence onto the Via Romana, and take a ten-minute stroll to class or to the famous Ponte Vecchio. On your way, you pass the Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti. We dare say this this beats your current morning commute! The pedestrianized city center (Centro Storico) makes lunchtime fun, with dozens of options to sample Tuscan cuisine and sit in the Piazza della Repubblica or Piazza Santa Maria Novella for some people watching and shopping on Via Tornabuoni.

Our partnership with the Florence University of the Arts means you are being taught by locals and the best and brightest in their fields. From Italian language, to Art History, Fashion Design, Photography and Cooking, the city of Florence is your inspiration for learning and fun. Charlie Hall our director has been going to Florence for thirty years and his connections in the art world and his love of Italian culture and history filter through to every aspect of your stay. Yes, you will see the famous galleries and museums and places of interest, but Charlie will make sure you have a lot of doors opened for you that are not normally opened for anyone else.

And when you come to the end of the week in Florence it’s time to hit the road for exciting day trips that take advantage of the Tuscan countryside and take you to the wonders of Lucca, Pisa, San Gimignano, Siena,  and even relaxing on the beach in Cinque Terre.

We encourage students to “go beyond tourism” and join us for an authentic summer stay in this magnificent city and get a real sense of why Florence possesses such a unique and enduring charm.

FAST Fashion Course

While some of the students are learning about 15th and 16th Florentine Art, others are diving into the fashion scene at the Florence University of Art’s FAST fashion tailoring school. Preparing themselves as the next big designers of Ford Models, the students have been diligently constructing and sketching designs that would eventually be used as rubrics for their outfits. Their classroom is actually situated in the back of a clothing boutique where the clothes that can be purchased in the store were all designed and made by students. Perhaps they can give us a discount in the future!

Il Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and Dining in the Franc

To get the real feel of the Duomo, the students have been visiting the Museum of the Works of the Cathedral where you can find all the original works that were taken from the cathedral in order to preserve them for our viewing pleasure. Inside you can find various works of art such as the original “Gates of Paradise” by Lorenzo Ghiberti as well as others by Lucca della Robbia and Donatello. Below you can see some pictures of a few students soaking in all the information delivered by our director, Charlie Hall.

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We have also been extremely lucky to have the Convitto here prepare a delicious meal every evening. Usually we eat outside in their courtyard but the past two days we have been even more lucky to have been eating inside their ‘Franc’ room where the rooms are filled with 17th century art. What can be better than eating good food while surrounded by frescoes from the 17th century?!

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Departure and Rome Extension

The ASA Florence program came to an end after a great final dinner at Chalet Fontana in Firenze. Upon returning home for our final night at Convitto della Calza, the RAs had a nice slideshow and surprise music video for the students. Students also received their Summerbooks, showing photos and memories from throughout the program in Italy. Many students were up very early on Thursday morning to head to Rome, while several others stayed behind to fly from Florence or meet their families.

In Rome, we dropped our friends off  and said our goodbyes to the students flying back to New York on the group flight while the rest of the group remained on the bus for the Rome extension. Upon arrival at the hotel students were able to relax and nap and prepare for our first dinner around the corner from Piazza di Spagna.  After dinner and gelato we returned to the hotel for the evening.

On Friday we were up early to head to the Colosseo and then the Foro Romano.

We enjoyed lunch near Piazza Venezia and then boarded an open tour bus to relax while seeing the sites. After the bus tour we all returned to the hotel to rest until dinner which we had at La Carbonara in Campo dei Fiori.

After dinner we saw some live street entertainment. First, in Campo dei Fiori, there was a group of Brazilians doing flips and awesome street music. At Piazza Navona we saw a group of Italians breakdancing and lots of artists. We next headed to the Pantheon and later went on to the Trevi Fountain. After getting gelato we returned back to the hotel for the night.

On Saturday morning the Rome extension group was up again to head to the Vatican. We arrived at the Museo Vaticano and spent the morning exploring the seemingly endless museum including the Sistine Chapel.

After the museum visits we split into 2 groups. One group got lunch and then went to St. Peter’s Basilica, while the other group went to Capuchin Crypts, where monks have decorated shrines using the bones of the dead. Finally a few students went to see the Bocca della Verita and visit the Isola Tiberina.

On Saturday night, the ASA Rome Extension group will be enjoying our final dinner at Pizzeria Dar Poeta, before heading home on Sunday morning. What a busy weekend and fulfilling month for all of the ASA Florence students. We want to thank everyone for such a great summer! Grazie mille e ci vediamo presto!

ASA Florence Students Share their experience!

In Art History class we have learned an incredible amount about the art and history of Florence. Everyday we visit one to two sites, varying between churches, palaces, monasteries, and museums. In Art History we visit palaces such as Palazzo Medici Riccardi and Chapels such as Santa Maria Novella. In the Chapels and Churches, we observe the many frescos and take note on which period they were painted, what styles they are painted in, and consider all the different artists we have learned about. We have visited many museums, even one regarding human race in Italy! Throughout this course, we have been able to expand our knowledge of art history and the way that art has progressed, through Gothic and Renaissance. We have studied many historical buildings in Florence as well, developing an eye for Romanesque or Gothic buildings. We have visited buildings near and far, such as the Duomo, Baptistry, and Palazzo Vechio. Thanks to this course, I not only know Florence like the back of my hand, but am able to distinguish between many different forms of art and architecture.

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Fashion class has sprouted each of us pupils into fashionista experts. Behind a chic consignment store, you will find a petite courtyard with multiple studios situated for different genres of fashion classes. In our class room, we have practiced sewing and drawing figures with current styles.We traveled to the Ferragamo museum dedicated to the late marilyn monroe. This museum was not only full of beautiful and famous clothes marilyn wore but also a perception on her life. There is also an inspiring collection of eccentric vintage shoes by Ferragamo; which was one of our lovely italian teachers many ways to aid us in discovering style ideas. For our class project, we developed our mood boards that grasped our lounge wear collections theme. Once our theme were established we chose our fabric to sew into pajama pants.  For example, my theme is jungle which inspired me to create leopard print pajama pants. We are currently concentrating on completing the tailoring of the pants as well as the waist bands. As we are completing this our next couple of days, we will also wrap up our collection of lounge wear that we have drawn on model figures. In a city of such eccentric and beautiful fashion, the learning will never end here in Firenze!
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Final Martedì

As the program has come to a close the students had a final opportunity for some great activities. On Tuesday the ASA students attended their final morning classes and thus finished their majors while here in Florence. After lunch RA Amy took a group of students to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David sculpture. Soon afterwards RA Melinda took students to the other famous art museum in Florence, The Uffizi. While that was happening RA Jim took two students to climb to the top of the duomo for great views of Florence!

In the evening RA Maddie lead a very popular event, a tasting event with her friend Pino. Pino is a great guy who owns a deli, Salumeria Verdi and makes great panini’s here in Florence. He ha great meats for the students to try as well as different olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The event was a great success. RA Amy also took a small group for a boat ride on the Arno which was a great hit as well.

On Wednesday the ASA Florence students will begin the task of packing their things as they prepare for the next leg of their trip. We will be enjoying a nice final dinner at Chalet Fontana and the students heading to Rome for their flight home or for the extension trip will be up bright and early to catch the bus at 4:30.

Final Week

On Monday we began our final week of the Summerfuel Florence program. Students attended morning classes and RA Maddie guided a lunch activitiy for several students in the center of the city. In the afternoon the students attended their final elective classes. The drawing and painting class displayed their wonderful artwork during the artshow right here at Convitto della Calza. Students and staff were very impressed by their work!

In the evening RA Jim led an activity to climb the Torre di San Niccolò which has recently been opened to the public. Our tour guide shared the history of the tower and of Florence in general and we learned quite a bit during the brief climb to the top. The views of the city and the river and bridges especially were excellent.

On Tuesday the students will be attending their final morning classes and will have one final opportunity for RA-led activities.

A Cold Day in Cortona

After a free day on Saturday, the ASA Florence students boarded the bus for Cortona on Sunday after lunch. On the bus ride there we watched Under the Tuscan Sun, a film about an American woman who buys a villa just outside of the hill city of Cortona. We arrived at the top of the hill where we met our tour guide, a nice English lady who lives on an organic farm about 5 miles outside of Cortona. Some students chose to stay and take the optional tour while most decided to head downhill to explore the town. On the tour our guide showed us several churches including the Basilica that held the body of Santa Margherita. She was a great story teller and friendly guide so the students really enjoyed the tour.

After the tour a group of students and staff met at the steps of the church in the main square and took a walk to the house from the film, Bramasole. It was extremely windy but we finally made it after a long walk.

Sunday was the cloudiest day of the month so far, and by far the windiest. As a result it turned out to be a bit chilly high in the hills of cortona. As the group made their way to the meeting spot for dinner, we noticed that many students were sporting new sweatshirts. We waited for dinner on the steps of the church in the main square and huddled together for warmth.

Soon after the above photo was taken those cold faces brightened as we enjoyed an excellent meal at a restaurant just up the hill overlooking the piazza. The delicious pasta and steak certainly warmed everyone up! Following dinner we enjoyed gelato at Gelateria Ti Amo and boarded the warm bus soon after. Despite the chill it was an enjoyable afternoon and evening in Cortona!