An American In Florence


La Milkeria-the place where Karlyn starts each day for her caffeine fix.

By Karlyn Lienhard*

My daily commute to class is something that makes even me jealous. When I was given my housing assignment the first day I arrived in Florence I was a bit panicked because it seemed so far away from the main school building and I was obviously worried that I would get lost in the labyrinthine streets of Florence. However, I quickly realized that it was not nearly as far as it seemed and while it took me a bit to get the hang of my commute without getting lost, once I did, I realized that it was a blessing in (not so subtle) disguise.


Facade of the Cathedral with companile and dome

I live about fifteen minutes from the main SACI building and on my way to class I get the privilege to pass through the religious center of Florence, but before that, I pass a wonderful cafe called “La Milkeria” where I can get an American Latte at only €2,30. They make arguably the best latte I’ve ever had, so living so close to it has proven to be very helpful for my caffeine addiction. A few blocks after getting my coffee I find myself within Cathedral Complex and it takes my breath away each time at its sheer monumentality. However, most of the time I am rushing to get a good seat in class so I do not get to take in its glory until I am on my way home! My only qualm about having to walk through this area on my way to class is that it is extremely touristy. Since I'm usually rushing, and especially if it is in the middle of the day, I have to do some serious crowd maneuvering.


The main SACI building

A few streets later, and I get to San Lorenzo, which is a beautiful, but lesser known Renaissance church patronized by the Medici family. Fun fact, San Lorenzo was strategically built across the Palazzo from the newer Medici Palace. I particularly like passing by San Lorenzo because it is less crowded than the Cathedral Complex, and I really find the history of the Medici family to be fascinating. I also think it is interesting to see how similar the Cathedral (Duomo) would have looked to San Lorenzo had the facade not been completed.

After very briefly admiring San Lorenzo, I then turn down a street that is packed to the brim with street vendors. Most vendors are selling leather products, as Florence is famous for its leather industry; so if you want some reasonably priced leather products, you will not have difficulty finding something here. This street can get very crowded with tourists trying to buy things, so I usually stay on the sidewalk behind the carts to avoid the crowds as well as the vendors. The last thing I need is a vendor trying to heckle me into buying a leather bag! The street smells heavily of leather which can get a tad overwhelming, but since I actually enjoy the smell, I do not mind it all that much.

I then manage to escape the vendors by turning down the street that my school is on. It is much less crowded than the rest of my commute to class so it is like a nice breath of fresh air. The main building that my school is in, is very unassuming and if you were not looking out for it, you would completely miss it. It is a 16th century building that was once a palace and it is rumored that the woman who is in Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa once visited! Knowing that I have class almost everyday in a building that is older than the nation that I come from is rather overwhelming, but it is also so incredible to the history nerd that resides inside of me.

I could not have asked to live in a better location in Florence because I live so close to all of these iconic Florentine landmarks and the fact that I get to pass them everyday on my way to school is truly a blessing. I am living in a city whose art I get to learn about everyday and I get to see that art everyday as well. I am truly living in a dream and I hope to not wake up anytime soon.

*Karlyn Lienhard  is pursuing a B.F.A. in Painting and Art History with a focus in museum studies at the University of Iowa. The Sparta, NJ, native is spending her semester in Florence, Italy on the SACI - Students Art Centers International program. Every time she sees a dog she cries happy tears.

Student blog entries posted to this International Accents page may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UI Study Abroad and International Programs.  The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.

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