Compare and contrast: Notes from Florence episode eight

May 23, 2018, 1:18 a.m.

As mentioned in previous articles, traveling is pretty common in the Florence study abroad program. Rather than asking “how’s your week *insert number* going?” or “how’s studying for midterms/finals?” default conversation starters are “where’d you go this weekend?” or, if it’s Wednesday or later, “where are you going this weekend?”

Here are the most common places the students in my cohort have found themselves traveling to, and what I think are their on-campus equivalents (debatable, considering I haven’t actually made it to all these places).

Venice: the bookstore. The city is picturesque even despite the globs of people constantly stopping to take pictures of the painted houses, quaint bridges, balconies with greenery trailing through gaps in the railings and over-priced gondolas floating through the canals. Everything is well put-together and neat, and combined with the fact that there are no cars or bicycles anywhere, there is a cultivated Disneyland-like feel wherever you walk. Unfortunately, Venice doesn’t quite double as an authentic Italian town—it doesn’t feel like anybody actually occupies the houses, or that there are Venetians who simply live there without working in or catering to the tourism industry. Typical Stanford students don’t hang around the bookstore, and the same seems to go for Italians in Venice.

Amalfi Coast: the fountains. They both involve blue-ish water, become more appealing in hot weather, and are places where you don’t do anything so much as look at the water, cool off a bit and just relax. The towns along the coast are fairly far apart—you’ll either have to figure out the bus system or spring for an expensive taxi—but you could make an event out of hitting several of the towns in a couple days, just like you could gather a group of friends to walk around campus fountain hopping.

Pompeii: Green library. It’s a committed tourist who wanders into this building, because it’s not as take-a-selfie-and-leave-fast as, say, MemChu. Same goes for Pompeii. The ruins are enormous and can take several hours to explore. There are also preserved frescoes, graffiti, food and jars from almost two millennia ago scattered everywhere. You can see several plaster casts of figures collapsed on the ground or curled into the fetal position, the remains of those killed by the heat waves that swept through the city after Vesuvius erupted. If you look hard enough, there are probably many students underneath the desks of Green in the same posture.

Lake Como: TAP. Pretty hit or miss, and expensive either way. Depending on where you’re from or what you’ve seen, the lake is either astoundingly gorgeous or plain old pretty. You might also run into a celebrity or two while in Como (apparently George Clooney has a house on the lakeshore), although I still think you have a better chance of encountering the Clooney equivalents of our campus at TAP.

Verona, Lucca: Meyer Green. Not exactly a point of interest, but an enjoyable place to spend a leisurely afternoon if you’re trying to go somewhere without actually, you know, spending money and really going somewhere. Bonus points for lots of nice grass.

Naples: Arrillaga dining. HEAR ME OUT. Yes, the food in Naples is way better than at Arrillaga, considering they actually invented pizza. You can get a really delicious Neapolitan pizza (it’s margherita, marinara or nothing) for about $4. But traveling in Naples is not something I would recommend doing alone—thieves will literally steal the earrings from your ears if you’re not careful. In short, it has the best and worst of Italy. It’s always busy, and not catered primarily towards tourists since there few major landmarks or museums. If you want a more authentic Italian experience, this is the place to go. A lot of desperate, late-night study sessions are fueled by Arrillaga late night, and you know somebody is real friends with you if they’re willing to meet you at Arrillaga for lunch. You might not think of that dining hall as one of the highlights of being at Stanford, but it’s where a lot of Stanford life happens anyways, and the same goes for Naples.

Milan: Tresidder Union. Milan is the economic center of Italy, and there’s a lot of money exchanging hands in Tresidder, and that’s really the only connection I can draw, sorry. Oh, and just as Tresidder is mostly centered around food, Milan seems to be mostly centered around shopping. Honestly, Milan doesn’t seem to leave much of a lasting impression on anyone, but maybe I just haven’t spoken to the right people.

Rome: the Quad. It seems unfair to make this comparison because nowhere, anywhere, is like Rome, but the Quad is the one of the oldest parts of our campus. A bit laughable, considering the Roman Forum contains ruins dating as far back as the eighth century BC and Stanford was founded in 1891, but cut me a break. Both places boast a hefty mix of tourists (snapping pictures of the façade of MemChu) and natives (students crammed into stuffy rooms for discussion sections and small lectures), and both will still impress you even after years of passing by on a regular basis. If you go to Stanford, or Italy, without seeing these places, you’ve really missed out.

I’d like to emphasize that these comparisons are just for fun, and aren’t meant to act as some kind of authoritative travel guide. A lot of one’s experience of a place depends on personal preferences, one’s companions, what the weather was like, the ease of transportation, yada yada. Just remember that as large as Stanford looms in our lives today, in the end it’s just a college campus. Outside there are hundreds of cities to see, millions of experiences to have and billions more people to meet.



Contact Katiana Uyemura at kuyemura ‘at’

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