LdM Clubs

Lorenzo de’ Medici (LdM) is the name of my school here in Florence. When I’m not in class or out exploring a new city, LdM clubs are a fun way to get involved.

Cooking Club

I was able to prepare and enjoy five different Italian appetizers, main dishes, and desserts. Each Thursday morning for five weeks, my friend Lauren and I (as well as the other students in the club) met with an LdM chef who walked us through preparing these dishes. Each class, we were required to bring our LdM apron. We entered the kitchen with everything set up for us: ingredients, utensils, spices, and the recipe to follow. Our chef, Enrico Sassonia, and his assistant were great. We had so much fun making traditional Italian dishes throughout our first club sessions that we signed up for another round of cooking club, which allowed us to make three more dishes.

A quick look at the dishes I was able to prepare:

  • The first dish, called Mozzarella in Carrozza, is an Italian appetizer comparable to mozzarella sticks. They were loaded with mozzarella and super delicious.
  • The next week, we made Ribollita soup. This is a traditional bread-thickened vegetable soup and unique to Tuscany.
  • Strudel de Mele (apple strudel) was fairly easy to make and so good. It came out of the oven flakey and golden brown, which we topped with icing sugar.
  • Panzerotti Ripieni e Fritti is a fancy word for the second appetizer we made, which is basically the Italian version of a pizza roll. They were amazing.
  • Schiacciata alla Fiorentina is a traditional Florentine cake. Similar to a sponge cake, we filled the inside with homemade whipped cream and a mixture of sweet ingredients. My favorite part of this dessert was getting to decorate the top with powdered sugar and the Florentine symbol.

Here are some of the pictures I took throughout my weeks as a chef:

Zumba Club

In an attempt to get ourselves up and working out between all the gelato, pizza, and pasta we’ve been eating, Lauren and I decided to sign up for zumba club. Us two, along with six other LdM students, were able to participate in the club each week. Our instructor, Henrik, is a full-time zumba instructor so he did a fabulous job throughout the semester. We began the classes learning steps to Puerto Rican/Venezuelan type music, which was extremely difficult and not at all our type of music. Throughout the semester, Henrik began to play more pop songs by European artists, and by the last few sessions, he also had us dancing to songs by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, and so on. We will miss zumba club as it was something we looked forward to and a great way to brighten up our Mondays.

This photo was taken on our last day of zumba class, but was missing a good chunk of the students who normally came. We had also just ended the class, so excuse our sweatiness.

Zumba club

Photo Journal Pt.2

Spring Break: March 26 – April 2

Berlin, Germany | March 26-28

Ireland | March 29-30

Amsterdam, Netherlands | March 31-April 1

Brussels, Belgium | April 2

Valencia, Spain | April 6-10

Split, Croatia | April 14-17

Florence, Italy | April 20-28

Sorrento, Italy | April 29-May 1

Rome, Italy | May 6

Spring Break

Feeling adventuresome, my roommate Lauren and I put together a full schedule for our week off from classes. With plans to travel to four different countries, we began our busy journey in Berlin.

Berlin, Germany

A city full of rich history from the time Hitler came to power. We downloaded Rick Steve’s Berlin City Walk audio tour and learned so much about the city. The tour took us a few hours but was highly informative and I would recommend it to anyone traveling in Berlin.

The Brandenburg gate was originally built to separate west and east Berlin. It has now become a symbol of unity and is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Berlin.

Visiting the Brandenburg Gate

The tour led us through many historical sites in Berlin, a powerful one was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews. Numerous cement blocks that seemed to go on forever reminded us of a maze. Our audio tour had us imagine the cement blocks as if they were tombstones filled with bodies. The atmosphere was quiet and eerie as we walked through the maze of blocks.

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

One of the most interesting places we went was the Berlin memorial wall. The original wall, which separated the east from the west, is still partly preserved. In the middle of the memorial was a wall of faces of those who died attempting to cross the wall. Being in the very spot where the wall once stood and the amount of history that once surrounded it set off an indescribable feeling.

Berlin Wall memorial


Our first stop in Ireland was a huge landmark in a small town on the western coast. On the cloudy day, the green Cliffs of Moher appeared brighter than ever. One of my favorite trips from my travels thus far.

Cliffs of Moher

In Dublin, the Guinness Storehouse proved to be a fun stop for a rainy day. This self guided tour taught us about the ingredients in Guinness, how it’s made, and how to properly taste and pour the perfect pint of Guinness. We ended at the gravity bar, which was solely made up of glass windows that overlooked the entire city of Dublin.

Guinness Storehouse tour

Gogarty’s bar, on Dublin’s famous Temple bar street, was one of our favorite night life experiences of Dublin. This traditional Irish Pub has a touristy flare; live musicians play Irish music as tourists fill the bar with beer, singing and dancing.

Gogarty’s Irish pub on Temple Bar street

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Being the (1940s) history fanatic I am, our first stop had to be the Anne Frank house. I booked our tickets a couple months out and for good reason, the lines to get into the museum grew increasingly long throughout the weekend. I was able to tour the secret annex the Frank family hid in for two years during the time of the Holocaust. The audio tour led us through the house to the bookshelf that was once used as a hidden door. We continued up the steep stairs into the annex and explored the many rooms. An extremely eye opening experience and easily the coolest museum I’ve ever been in.

Anne Frank house – Narrow building, fourth from the left.

Seeing the locals traveling around by bike inspired us to rent bikes for the weekend. We hesitantly started on our own. The locals are crazy bikers and move extremely quickly in all directions along the confusing bike paths. We eventually got the hang of it and biked throughout the canals, into Vondelpark, through the museum square and outside the main city area. The next day we took a bike tour and learned all about Amsterdam’s history. It was a pretty cool way to see the city!

Traveling as the locals do

Brussels, Belgium

No trip to Belgium is complete without picking up some chocolate. Mary’s is hands down some of the best chocolate I’ve had.

Delicious Belgium chocolate

Belgium waffles!! Our sole purpose for visiting this country. Of course, the chocolate, fries, and beer weren’t a terrible addition to this quick stop.

Belgium waffles

Although not the most relaxing spring break I’ve been on, it’s easily one of my favorites. I checked many places off my bucket list from this week abroad.

Firenze At First Glance

Though I’ve only been here for a week, I have already learned so much about the city of Firenze (Florence). Between the shopping, weather, social norms, and food, the culture here is so much different from America. I’ve been enjoying every moment of it!

The apartment is in a great location; right next to the river, a close walk to the school buildings, and the streets surrounding my building are all (expensive) shopping stores – we live on the corner of Gucci. Inside, the apartment is fairly modern looking with tall ceilings, a glass staircase, and windows that look out onto the busy streets below. I think we lucked out with this study abroad housing assignment.

As I mentioned, shopping makes up a huge part of Florence. Stores of all kinds (clothing, food, luggage, liquor, hotels, even a store dedicated to rubber duckies) line the streets. My favorite places to walk through are the leather markets – here, you are able to barter with the salesmen for everything leather. I have yet to try this, but it’s definitely on my bucket list for the semester. Along with the shops, there’s also a fair amount of illegal street vendors. You’ll find these men with handmade cardboard stands, a blanket on the floor with their merchandise laid out, or walking around while carrying the items for sale. The funniest thing about these vendors is how they come out in the rain, attempting to sell a handful of umbrellas to all the tourists without them. These same vendors switch to selling selfie sticks when it stops raining.

The weather is much different than I’m used to. It rains a lot here but can change within the hour. Because of this, I’ve found it’s best to dress in layers and always bring either a rain coat or an umbrella. You would think the rain might stop some people from exploring the streets, but on any given day, regardless of the weather, the streets are filled with people.

Locals and tourists fill the streets during the day, all accompanied by their umbrellas and rain coats.

Much like the ever-changing weather, the drivers are also unpredictable. My first time seeing the city of Florence, I was watching from the back seat of a taxi, cringing every other second as we sped through the tiny streets. The drivers will get as close as a foot away from other drivers, mopeds, and pedestrians. Cars here are much smaller and quieter than back home, which makes it difficult to hear one coming up from behind. I don’t know if I’ll ever adjust to the Italian driving style, but the food is something I can get used to.

I came to Florence with high expectations for the Italian cuisine, and they have definitely been met. So far, I’ve tried the pasta, panini, pizza, gelato, crepes, and more. Italians eat dinner around 8 p.m. at the earliest, but restaurants and shops open earlier, specifically for us Americans. I have a growing list of restaurants I still need to hit, thanks to recommendations from friends and other travelers.

Cheers to free pitchers of wine for students.

All of the roommates out for lunch across the river.

Panini with pesto at Pino’s, one of my favorite lunch meals thus far!

Gusta Pizza compares to Punch Pizza back home. Contrary to this picture, there were many different types of pizza; we all just seemed to have a similar craving for margherita pizza.

Amazing displays at a local gelato shop… though I’ve been told to stay away from gelato that costs 6+ euros.

Our best find yet. La Carraia gelato has a shop right on the river, the prices are perfect, and each kind of gelato is so delicious, I might have to try them all!

Hopefully I will see some nicer weather in the next couple weeks, I would love to continue exploring this beautiful city. Until next time!