By Allie Maloney

This past summer, I participated in the SPIA a Firenze Maymester study abroad program in Italy. This was my first time traveling to another country and it was an amazing experience. The program hosted around 40 UGA students and three UGA professors and gave the opportunity to take two SPIA classes. First, we flew into Rome, where we stayed for a week. I saw all the major historical sites like St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican, the Coliseum, and the Roman Forum. We had guided tours of these sites and it was incredible to hear about the rich history of Rome. One day, we went to the U.S. Embassy to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization where we met Ambassador McCain and learned about Foreign Service.

We then traveled to Florence, where we stayed for the remainder of the Maymester. I stayed in a beautiful apartment in the city and walked along the river Arno every morning to get to my classes in Political Psychology and Comparative Legislative Politics. I learned a lot about Italy’s electoral system and political history. We were also able to take what we learned out of the classroom by being immersed into Italian culture to observe how that impacts its politics.

Of course, Italy is known for its irresistible food. On the way to class, I would swing into a cafe to order a cappuccino and croissant. At night, I would walk to my friends’ apartments and we would go to pasta dinner and then grab gelato and sit by the Duomo. Our group had the opportunity to go to wine and olive oil tastings in the beautiful Tuscan Countryside. I also got to taste pizza in its origin city of Naples.

Florence has so many beautiful gardens and museums to explore, but my favorite museum was the Academia where I saw Michelangelo’s David. I went to the Uffizi gallery, the Academia, and Pitti Palace on Florence’s free museum day of the month. I also toured the Bardini and Boboli Gardens with friends. One of my favorite memories was going to Palazzo Michelangelo which was on top of a hill with a gorgeous view of the city. I went with a group of friends and we danced to street music during the sunset.

What I’m most grateful for from my trip was the friends I made. I didn’t know anyone going into the trip and was nervous that I wouldn’t click with anyone. After only the second day, I knew I met people who I would share a bond with way past the month I was in Italy. I was able to meet people who were also interested in politics, global affairs, human rights, traveling, and eating good food.