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​Day 1 ​blogs - July 17, 2016

Travel Travails

Blogger:  3L Jordan Hartsell

Today, I traveled with one of my classmates, Daniela Clark, from Florence to the Santa Chiara Study Center in Castiglion Fiorentino. Leaving Florence at 2:26, we began our train adventure in an attempt to get ​to our destination in a little under an hour. It was smooth sailing until we could not understand the announcement, as it was in Italian, and found out we arrived at our stop after the train had already come to a complete stop. We quickly gathered our belongings and rushed to the door just in time for us to see it close, trapping us on the train until the next stop.

Instead of risking not being able to get off the train again, we stood at the door until we arrived at the next stop, which was only six minutes away. We immediately got off the train at a mostly abandoned train station where we found a single ticket kiosk. We bought tickets for the six minute ride back to Castiglion Fiorentino, but the next train was not for another hour. Finding a bench, we sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the country view. On the train again, we again chose to stand because we refused to miss the stop again.

Finally, we arrived in our correct city and looked at the directions to the study center and started the uphill hike. After walking for approximately 20 minutes, we took a short break where an older Italian man began speaking to us. There was a huge language barrier, but eventually we understood that he was offering us a ride to the center. We could not have been more grateful! He helped us load up our bags in his car, and we were off! We arrived at the center in 10 minutes, where he again helped us with our bags, but he refused to take any money we offered. We tried to show how thankful we were, and then completed our short walk down one of the skinniest streets I had ever seen cars on. Finally, we made it to the center in one piece and just in time for dinner!

​Mass transit, ancient cities and The Bridge on the River Kwai

Blogger:  2L Neal Galloway

I arrived in Castiglion Fiorentino from Florence this afternoon on the 2:13 train. In a rush to get a seat on the train, I missed the people validating their tickets at the door of the train, so I had to pay a 5 euro fine when the ticket man came around. Still, that brings the total to under 15 euro, which is amazing to someone from Texas, where mass transportation is almost nonexistent. No one checked my ticket until after about the third stop, so part of me wonders if locals usually buy tickets, or just wait to see if the man makes it around before their stop. I don't think there's an extra charge to buy tickets on the train, but I didn't know enough Italian to ask anyone.

The Study Center (ItaliArt) is in the old part of the city, behind city walls. The buildings here are all ancient, with thick walls that block wifi. And they all have their utilities running along the outside of the wall like in Jerusalem. I haven’t heard if they also have problems when it rains.

The old town itself is the hilliest place I’ve ever been. Some of the streets, or maybe they’re alleyways, have a near forty-five degree gradient. They definitely should have done stairs instead, but they’re all ramps. Walking up them is grueling; walking down them feels dangerous the first time. There are a couple car roads throughout, but the old city is designed for foot traffic. It’s a shame there aren’t many places in America with similar walkability. Apparently after the war most people started moving out of the historic city center to modern buildings closer to the train station. Some of the walled city buildings look pretty, but pretty rough, so I'm not sure if I blame them.

Sitting in my bunk writing this, I’ve gotten in a whistling match with some Italians three stories below my window. They were whistling, so I started whistling the tune to Bridge on the River Kwai and they started clapping in time. I think one of the girls next door just yelled at them to be quiet.

Italy Santa Chiara city center
Italy Santa Chiara incline