San Miniato and Santo Spirito

by Meagan Ratliff Phillips

This trip to Italy has been the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced; being immersed in a culture that is so different from my own and being able to embrace it. Attempting to communicate with others here has been challenging at times, but thankfully everyone has been patient with me so far. Just the other day at dinner, a few of us got to talk to a man who spoke Spanish. Thanks to my four years of high school Spanish classes, I was able to communicate with him.

I have also been learning little bits of Italian in my Voice Coaching class at FUA. I am learning three Italian arias. I am learning proper vocal technique and pronunciation and translation of the words. To my surprise, the Italian is not as difficult as I expected it to be. The hardest part is trying to remember pronunciation of the words and use proper vocal technique at the same time, but I am quickly learning and making progress. At home, voice lessons are typically once a week, but because I am only here for three weeks, I have a lesson 5 days a week. It is amazing how much progress I have made in such a short amount of time and how much I have learned in just the couple weeks I’ve been here.

Along with the vocal progress I’ve made, I’ve also seen some amazingly beautiful places with my IU East classmates and professor. My two favorites so far San Miniato al Monte and Santo Spirito. Both are Catholic churches in Florence, and both have so much history behind them. They are both truly breathtaking.

A fun historical fact about San Miniato al Monte: Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinnochio, is actually buried at this church. While I couldn’t specifically find his grave (as that area was closed off to the public) here is a photo of the gravesite in front of the church:

My two favorite parts about San Miniato al Monte are the breathtaking view of Florence, and the experience I had attending a mass in the crypt of the church. The Mass was conducted in the same way that my grandmother experienced many times as a child, before the Second Vatican Council changed the way mass was conducted in the 1960s. It was exciting to not only experience what my grandmother experienced many times as a child, but to be able to actively participate in a mass that was conducted in a foreign language because of my Catholic background.

Although I did not attend a mass at Santo Spirito, my experience there was just as exciting. The church consists of 38 chapels done by famous artists such as Filippino Lippi and Domenico Ghirlandaio. A convent also accompanied the church. The main cloister of the former convent is known as Chiostro dei Morti (“Cloister of the Dead”) because of the many tombstones that decorate the walls. My favorite part of Santo Spirito was all the detailed artwork in the chapels.

Before hearing about this study abroad program, I had never considered taking a trip to Florence. Now, I can’t wait to bring my husband back one day so he can see all of the beautiful artwork, architecture, history, and culture this city has to offer!

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