TRAVEL TUESDAY: First taste of Florence


Harleyann McQuaid

Baked goods at a caffé in Florence.

Harleyann McQuaid, Travel Blogger

The beautiful scenic sights of Tuscany have presented me with many highs and many lows. My first week and a half studying abroad have been jammed packed with a lot of field trips, delicious foods and communication barriers.    

An alleyway in Florence, Italy. (Harleyann McQuaid)

Everything in Florence, Italy is very calculated and mesmerizing. Down every corner is a sculpture, painting or a quaint little coffee shop. I learned how to get to my apartment very quickly by learning what painting was where and seeing where all the unique caffés were.

Coffee has a few rules here: never have a cappuccino after noon and expect to sit down and take your time (takeout is unusual). This, however, doesn’t stop me from getting a caffé shakerato (iced coffee) or a crema di caffé (frozen coffee) which awakens your taste buds with a euphoric feeling. Coffee in a caffé every morning has given me normalcy in my Florentine life. Caffés in Italy are very different from those in America. They offer a more relaxed atmosphere and everything is fresh. Each caffé has fresh homemade pastries, sandwiches and sometimes even pizza. Most caffés also serve alcoholic beverages and everything has significantly less sugar than in America. 

While sipping my coffee, I often gaze at the beautiful architecture that surrounds me in Florence. No matter where I go or what I do, I can take in the rich history Florence has. Every building has unique symbols and the streets are literally filled with plaques, each having a different meaning; everything has a purpose. 

Harleyann McQuaid poses outside Osteria Bella Donne holding a glass of wine.

After class, my roommates and I became fascinated with holes in the walls of buildings. The window-like holes were about a foot tall and closed by a wooden door. After researching the peculiar architecture, we learned these holes were used in the 14th century to give wine to customers while attempting to limit the spread of the black plague. So, like any sensible college student, I had to try it for myself. One quick Google search later, we ended up at Osteria Belle Donne, a restaurant in Florence known for this tradition. After five glasses of wine, I was left with a memory I won’t ever forget. 

Florence has led me on unfamiliar roads that have opened my perspective, cheesy as that sounds, but it has changed me already. Italy has made me curious again. Everything I see, I question the meaning, the purpose and the history. I’m captivated by how far back everything goes compared to the places I frequent in the United States.

I cannot wait to see what road I’ll be on next. 

Travel Tuesday is a weekly series following Harleyann McQuaid as she studies abroad in Florence, Italy. Contact her at [email protected]