LIFE BEYOND TOURISM BLOG

February 23, 2011

Across the Ocean…compared visitor’s experiences between Chicago and Florence

Hi bloggers,

let’s go back to discover your own travel stories!!
Today, we have Hannah Ring from Chicago, USA telling us about her experience, suggestions, and pictures of a Chicagoan living in Florence, Italy for four months:

“Becoming a local visitor is truly the only way to see the world and experience first hand the uniqueness, beauty, and culture of each location. In visiting places such as Chicago and also Florence, it takes not only visiting the most renowned museums or just walking back and forth down Michigan Avenue, but also uncovering the culture and what makes the cities “home” for the locals. Adjusting to the closing of shops for lunch in Florence or the mile a minute speed of Chicagoans is just the start of a journey to learn the different realities of life around the world.

Tourists come to the “Windy City” for all kinds of reasons be it the sports, the architecture, the lake, shopping, etc. There is always something to find for everyone. Having grown up in “Chi-Town”, I thrive on driving down the highway with the skyline in front of me, watching the Sears Tower and John Hancock building tower over the city. Looking from side to side in the city, you cannot help but be constantly distracted by flashing lights of the theater, shops or restaurants as you continue to follow the flow of pedestrians that guide you up and down the streets. I always love to go to Navy Pier, one of Chicago’s great tourist attractions on the lake, to take a ride on the Ferris Wheel or walk through Millenium Park to laugh at your pictures off the “bean”, a contemporary steel sculpture that is actually shaped like a bean and reflects the Chicago skyline. Although it does not compare to the museums of the most renowned artists in history, the Aquarium, Planetarium and Field Museums were my favorite weekend adventures when I was a kid and find myself even today wanting to return to these places to have a fun and exciting day in the city. It cannot be forgotten that Chicago has some of the best sports life in the country and nothing compares to a sunny day at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs baseball team play while eating a hotdog, or spending the night in the Bull’s and Blackhawk’s home arena, the United Center, with thousands of other Chicago sports fans bonding, cheering, and celebrating with each other. I love Chicago for its excitement, versatility, and opportunity and it definitely welcomes anyone that wants to experience the culture of the city.

Florence, on the other hand, is known around the world as a site of the most renowned Renaissance art, architecture and history, housed in museums such as the Uffizi, Galleria dell’Accademia, Bargello and many more. But beyond these first few essential tourist sites there are hundreds more spots to get a feel for the real Florentine culture, such as small churches, Italian shops, or piazzas. My first recommendation is to wander down the streets and alleyways of the city until you really don’t know where you are. Being able to orient yourself in relation to some of the many major landmarks in the city, such as the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, Santa Maria Novella Railway Station, Piazza della Santa Croce, or the Palazzo Vecchio, will enable anyone to learn about city and also discover all of its special niches off the beaten track. Restaurants, cafes, shops, and bars line every street you may find yourself on and there is nothing better than stopping for a homemade Italian meal, a cappuccino or pastry, and maybe even some of the best gelato afterwards. My first experience in Florence was sitting in a small café while just watching a flow of Italians stop in for a quick drink while standing at the bar and conversing simply among each other. Just listening to the fluidity of the Italian language and watching the hand gestures and expressions of Italians when they laugh and talk to each other cannot help but make you smile even if you cannot understand what is being said. My second recommendation would be to walk up to the Saint Michelangelo’s Square, which sits on top of a hill not far across the river, and see the most amazing view of the city from above. It allows you to appreciate the beautiful location of the city as it sits among the mountains of Tuscany. Being able to appreciate both the history and the beauty of the Florentine lifestyle is the most important aspect of traveling to this one of a kind city.

Although the two locations are separated by many other countries and even an ocean, the experience of touring in a new environment and retaining a piece of each culture truly does make the world a smaller place.”

Thanks Hannah! And now it’s your turn, reader … send us your  travel story by writing at web@lifebeyondtourism.org!

Millenium Park

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