In this week's post, Connor explains the alluring charm of being a flâneur and exploring your own city. He also suggests how to learn more about your environment while studying abroad and shares how he discovered the local Florentine lifestyle.
The word flâneur refers to someone who saunters around observing society. It means to stroll, to lounge, or to loaf. A flâneur is someone who has no place that they need go, so they simply walk around observing their surroundings. This semester I have often felt that I need to go to certain places or that I have to see specific sites. I have not taken much time to simply wander through Florence and observe the culture and the landscape. I decided on Sunday that I need to get lost within Florence to help learn more about the city.
Exploring a street market in Florence.
I set out for this journey by walking outside of the city center and entering a community occupied by locals. I walked for about 20 minutes observing the different apartments, coffee shops, and people. Then as I was walking through a square called “Campo di Marte”, I saw a street market. The market was filled with tents selling clothes, fresh fruits, paninis, leather, and more. It was the biggest outdoor market I had ever seen. The market was flooded with local Italians; in fact I did not hear a single person speaking English the entire time I was there. Being that Florence is such a tourist hot spot, it is hard to find places that are authentically Italian as this was. I walked through the different tents of the market for over 2 hours. I bought myself a sweater and even did some Christmas shopping for family and friends back home.
The biggest outdoor market I had ever seen!
After finally leaving the market I walked further outside the city and center. I saw beautiful houses on hills that overlooked the city. The architecture of these homes was much different than the apartment buildings around me in Florence. They seemed more modern and even had their own yards. It was a completely different area from what I was used to.
Passing by the houses in the Florentine suburbs.
Then I stopped at a café/gelato shop to get something to eat. Since I have been told that the gelato outside the city center is much better, I decided I would try some. The cannoli flavor did not disappoint, as it was probably my favorite gelato I have tried since coming to Florence. The area surrounding me was completely occupied with Italian families eating and talking. Finally, after wandering for more than 4 hours I decided to head back home to my apartment.
In order to find new experiences, you have to wander around your city.
It is easy to get caught up going to the same places and doing the same things while in your city abroad. However, there is always much more to learn about your city. I realized I have been going to the same restaurants, coffee places, and even seeing the same people on a regular basis. In order to find new experiences and see new sights, I needed to wander to places I had not been before. Being able to step out of your comfort zone is one of the most important things you have to do while studying abroad. Flâneuring around gave me the chance to better understand the Florentine culture while seeing new sites. Continuously exploring is the best way to find out more about your city and yourself. As J.R.R Tolkien once famously said, “Not all who wander are lost”.
Connor McGlone is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Marketing and Supply Chain Management major at University of Pittsburgh, he is studying abroad in Florence this semester.
Connor's journey continues every Tuesday so stay tuned.