New Year, New Destination

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The typical advice for a university student, struggling amidst the bitterness of what is second term, is often to have a nice cup of tea, a ‘hot girl walk’, and an early night. Yet, despite our best efforts, these measures are rarely an adequate cure for the winter blues that seem to settle upon us in the aftermath of the festive season. After a gruelling day of trekking to the library, hauling heavy bags across the icy roads, and longing for lighter evenings as I watched the sun set in my 4pm lecture, I found myself once again in front of the 1985 film adaptation of ‘A Room With A View’. 

In a somewhat miserable attempt to simulate the summer season, I returned to a familiar watch; a young Helena Bonham Carter flitting around Florence, basking in Mediterranean rays that now feel hopelessly out of reach. This nostalgic comedy perfectly captures the Italian ambience of E. M. Forster’s novel, with Florentine culture and landscape pervading through every scene. It’s impossible not to be captivated by the grandiosity of gothic structures, and the ongoing animated hum of such rich language and emotion. I soon found myself researching the many sights that appear entwined in the storyline, drawing up a bucket list of my own. 

Florence is the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, encapsulating some of Europe’s most astonishing architecture, and housing prestigious works of art that millions of art-lovers make pilgrimage to each year. The Duomo of Florence, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is arguably the quintessential landmark of the city. Nestled in the heart of the historic centre, this Gothic masterpiece dominates the skyline, serving as a monument of Renaissance virtuosity. Not only is it a site that holds spiritual significance, it also holds the sculptures of Michelangelo and Donatello, making the Duomo a must-see for any person with an affinity for either art or religion. 

Nestled in the heart of the historic centre, this Gothic masterpiece dominates the skyline

For a slightly more grounding experience, walks along the renowned Arno River allow for a breathtaking view, both of the city and the prolific natural surroundings. Thus far, I have not been tempted by the evidently damp cycle rides around the uni town, but breezy bike hires along the Arno river suddenly seem inspired. Equally, for those who aren’t motivated by the fitness ventures, the aesthetic architecture of the bridges would make for plenty of worthy photo opportunities (unashamed to say I’m more likely to be influenced by the latter). 

Although I can’t fault indulging in a hearty Greggs sausage roll between lectures, the summer months call for authentic Italian cuisine. It seems extravagant to claim that it’s worth travelling abroad, purely for the prospect of a dish of truffle pasta, but the more time I spend in my flat’s kitchen, the more it seems increasingly worthwhile. Florence is known for its steak dishes (Bistecca alla Fiorentina), its tagliatelle, and, of course, its wine. With so many vineyards just outside the city centre, it would almost be rude not to satiate a particular thirst for Italy’s finest beverage. 

As I watched the glamorous cast of ‘A Room With a View’ luxuriate in yet another scene of fine dining, I appeased my annoyance by opening up another tab on my laptop, promising to  ‘just have a look’ on the ever-dependable Skyscanner website. Like most students, I had no desire to spend a fortune on an extortionate holiday that I might regret having spent the money on. However, as so many millennial travel bloggers had impressed upon me, it was decided that ‘Firenze is never a bad idea’. So in a moment of sheer desperation, and with the paycheck from my Christmas holiday waitressing job firmly deposited into my bank account, I became the proud purchaser of cheap Ryanair tickets to Florence. As ambitious as it is to adopt the ‘new year, new me’ mantra of the modern generation, I greatly prefer the objective ‘new year, new destination’. 

Photography by: Giacomo Paltenghi, PROPOLI87, Sandro Botticelli and Trish Hartmann via Wikimedia Commons

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