So I've been in Florence a week, and so far it beats the heck out of being in Syracuse. Haven't got any pics to a computer that's on the net yet, but I will soon. It's a bit of a pain - would it really be that hard to do wireless in the university buildings so I could do this on my own laptop? Oh well. This post will be long and rambling, and probably only interesting to people who know me, liked "You Shall Know Our Velocity", are particularly interested in the day-to-day experience of the program or are just very curious, so if you're not one of those people, skip this post.
First few days were orientation - how to get around the city, how to do all the registration and immigration stuff, getting us placed in apartments and houses, etc. They put us up in hotels for the first couple of days, gave us free food and then set us loose on the city, which wasn't actually as bad an idea as it sounds like, and allowed us to meet each other and learn that most of the bars north of the Arno are terrible, expensive and full of Americans.
Things settled down a bit after they gave us our housing assignments and sent us off to spend the weekend getting to know host families or bonding with roommates. My roommates and I went to the beach (train from Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Viareggio, usually with a connection in Pisa Centrale, takes an hour and a half) which was great. The sand is clean, the water... as clear as you'll expect on the Mediterranean, and warm, the pina coladas strong.
By now you're probably thinking that we drink way too much here. We don't. Really, I swear, I'm not just saying that. But it's a more mature crowd here than back at Syracuse, with pretty much everybody at least senior, with a few juniors who are not architects, and it's a great place to be a wine snob or go out on the town. So when I comment on bars and wines, well, it's part of the culture here, and one of the things we're here for is to experience the culture. Anyway...
There are 300 students here, something like 38 architects between the B.Arch 4th years, M.Arch 3rd years and pre-arch students. There are also M.Arch 2's doing a 1-year program - these are students who already have a B.Arch and spend the year either taking class in Florence or taking class and doing research in Syracuse. I didn't include them in my count because I haven't actually met any - they got here earlier and have been doing their own thing. So from now on whatever I describe relates to the M.Arch and B.Arch programs, not the M.Arch 2. Got it? Good.
B.Arch students have the option of living in a house with a family or an apartment with other students, arranged through the university. M.Arch's can do either of those or get their own apartment. I was the only M.Arch who chose the university apartment option, so they put me with 2 B.Arch's in a beautiful 2 bedroom / 2 bath a block and a half from the school. Score.
Also near the school is some amazing pizza on the Piazza Savonarola (I recommend the Margherita and the prosciutto e funghi) and a booze stand that's open at night, a place where I can get my plotting done, and a great farmers' market at the Piazza della Santissima Anunziata on the weekends (I recommend the pesto and the sundried tomato spread from the lady who sells at least 50 tapenades, and the '98 Terra d'Artoris chianti, which I hope I've spelled correctly).
Well, I could go on just about forever but I'm burning daylight. More later.