After a lengthy and exhausting journey via two planes and two trains, the amazing city of Firenze was well worth the wait. The lovely Michelle our contact at the Institute of European Design (IED) collected us from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station, along with Marco, our driver who somehow managed to navigate through the narrow, frenzied streets! Seriously, hats off to Marco who chauffeured us through for evading wandering shoppers, push bikes scooting along side us and tiny cars slipping in and out of the alleyways. Italian commuters do not dawdle. Chaos aside, the drive through the sparking cobble stone roads lined with quirky boutiques, eccentric cafes and iconic designers by night was an incredible first introduction to the city of Firenze.

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Our first full day in Florence was spent at the feast of the epiphany, a Firenzien public holiday. The celebration consists of a grand parade where locals dress in magnificent costumes and display extraordinarily coordinated flag twirling routines that stretched from Palazzo Pitti all the way to the Piazza del Duomo. After the parade we explored the busy city center and we, well I, did some serious shopping in some adorable stores unique to Italy. We saw the amazing Piazza del Duomo for the first time, the giant cathedral with the terracotta dome on top, you know the one... and strolled down the winding pathways familiarising ourselves with our home for the next month.

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Sightseeing and shopping aside I'm so excited for the remainder of the course and the rest of my time here in Firenze after my first few days at IED. It was refreshing to be taught by the enthusiastic Professor Gabriele and experience the passion he has for Italian fashion values, craftsmanship and innovation. We discussed Tom Ford rejuvenating Gucci's image in the 90's, Marc Jacobs and his creation of the iconic Louis Vuitton sphere bag and how we should have this willingness to create something original with the tools we already possess and that this is the push off point of the creative process.

Inspired by the introduction to the course and eager to attend the fashion fairs to appreciate the iconic Italian brands for ourselves decked out in designer chic we visited The Mall, a luxury outlet shopping mall in Tuscany. A one hour bus ride along the incredible Tuscan country side and we arrived at the shopping maze of luxury Italian brands such as Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Valentino, Ferragamo and where I considerably dented my bank account, La Perla. Do you blame me? It was on Sale!

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The following day we visited the Palazzo Pitti, one of Florence's largest architectural monuments. Not exaggerating, it's literally a castle. Each room was beautifully detailed with floor to ceiling vivacious renaissance artwork, stretches of marble staircases and surrounded by the famous Boboli Gardens. The palace now houses some of the most important museums in Florence. We visited the Museo degli Argenti, which displays a vast collection of beautiful Medici household treasures including an incredible collection of jewelry laden with vibrant precious stones and incredible metal works. My favorite museum by far was the Costume Gallery, a showcase of the fashions of the past 300 years. The display revealed the intricate detail and level of craftsmanship involved in dressmaking in the early 1900's. Particularly the delicate remnants of the beautiful gown Eleanor di Toledo was buried in an the amazing detail that remained somewhat 500 years later genuinely showing the importance placed on craftsman's that Professor Gabriele expressed in the course.

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The uncontested highlight of my trip so far is the amazing companionship. After two days the Australian residents of the Via de Benci apartments have become a family. Being able to drink copious bottles of wine and eat endless slices of pizza with people whom share the same love of travel and fashion as you is an incredible experience.