After Spring Break, I expected life to go back to semi-normal; back to classes, cooking, no longer living out of a suitcase or on a bus. While all of that did resume back to normal, there were two things that did change. Both were explosions, but instead of destruction, these brought tourists and mosquitoes.
I live in Florence, so clearly there are going to be tourists here at almost all times of the year. I knew it was going to get busier as the weather got warmer and as time drew closer to the summer, but I never expected to have this much of a change within a week. It has gotten so bad, that I have to leave for classes 10 minutes earlier than I normally would, and 15 minutes earlier if my walk to class passes the Duomo. In this explosion of tourists I have come to realize why the Italians act certain ways. I always thought it was really rude when Italians would just run straight into you when you’re walking down the street instead of taking the half step to the side. Well now I understand that they are like this because tourists are rude. They stand in the middle of the only walkway and leave the non-walkway areas completely open while taking pictures of the city. They stop in the middle of the sidewalk to check a map instead of stepping to the side then checking it. They don’t move when you ask politely. If I had to deal with that day in and day out of my life, I’d get pissed off and run people over too. Oh wait, I do have to deal with it, and yes I have taken the same approach the Italians do.
Of all of my classes here, Italian definitely is my favorite. Not necessarily the topic, because I am horrendous at learning languages, but for everything else that can make or break a class. My class only has 8 people, including me. I’ve never been in a class that small, but I really like it because I know everyone’s name and we all get along really well. I do feel bad though its all girls except Greg, but he’s a good sport when we go on “girl stuff” tangents. I also love my teacher. She is so funny; she will explain things half in Italian, half in English so we will understand easier and learn different words. Most of the time we get off on tangents about different things, basically making the class a huge discussion and today, that is exactly what happened.
Last night was Marti Gras and the last night of Carnival here in Italy. It is kind of like their Halloween because everyone dresses up in costumes. It was crazy because even when I was walking home from class at 5:30pm there were little kids dressed up, and my street was shut down for a parade that I had missed. There was confetti all over the ground. Even my teacher told us to get dressed up and go dancing because the next day starts lent and you wouldn’t be able to have as much fun then.
I’ve come to decide that my life here is revolved around one thing, and one thing only: food. I’m either shopping for it, thinking about what to make, or preparing/cooking it. For a long time leading up to this trip I was really worried that I was going to starve here or live off of pasta and jarred sauce. Well, while pasta is a large staple in my diet, it is no where near the biggest or best part. That title is held by onions and garlic.
I left Massachusetts expecting to go to a warmer climate. Not by much, but slightly warmer. On top of the abnormally warm winter we were having in Mass/Rhode Island, I didn’t really expect to have to worry much about the climate here in Florence. But of course, life doesn’t go as planned. It has been
cold FREEZING here. It says its only around 30 degrees most days but the wind is an absolute killer. It has snowed here three times; no accumulation but still scared the Florentines into hiding. Right now I’m sitting in my kitchen wearing leggings, jeans, thick socks, a tank top, sweater, and sweatshirt and I am still freezing. My first attempt to ward off the cold was to make tea… well it worked for about the 5 minutes that it stayed hot. I am currently letting my second attempt simmer on the stove as we speak: chili.
This weekend was a fun time. Friday night my apartment took a trip across the river to meet up with some friends for dinner. We went to this great little place called Pizzeria Dante. It was really neat because they had seating on both the entry floor and downstairs. We sat downstairs, which I think is where they put all of the Americans because it was only us down there. We of course were trying to talk during dinner, and so was everyone else in the basement. Clearly, we were being a little louder than we probably should have. Our waitress only told one of the people at our table that “her voice was like BOOM BOOM” so she was the only one who quieted down. Later on during dinner, a group of boys sitting in the corner of the room started shushing us to be quiet. We were so offended, until they were leaving and they told us the waitress asked them to do it because we weren’t listening to her. Just another example of how culture differences and language barriers make life just that much more interesting.
Today was a nice and relaxing day. For the first time here we had absolutely no plans for the day. My original plan was to get up around 10, get ready for the day, go shopping and some other errands. Well that was changed a little bit when I woke up around noon. It was good to be able to sleep in for the first time. My bedroom here with the shutters closed is like the basement in my house - absolutely no sunlight gets into it. So I got ready and then my two flat mates, Sam and Sam (yes they are both named Sam) and I, went to the market for the first time. All of the different fruits and vegetables; the colors were beautiful and the smells were heavenly. I’ve never gone grocery shopping by myself, besides buying stuff for the microwave or chips, so this was a little intimidating. Jori ended up meeting us later on while we searched the inside market for other things to buy. I tried the best Parmesan cheese with balsamic vinegar I have ever had in my life… but come to find out Parmesan cheese is the most expensive type of cheese in all of Italy and good balsamic vinegar is really expensive. So being a poor college student, I did what I do best, bought the biggest knock off bottle I could find and bought a different kind of cheese. It was the first thing that I was buying so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money in one day. Surprisingly, all of my groceries were really cheap. So don’t worry Mom, I will buy some eventually so don’t yell at me to buy it anyways. I’m definitely buying Balsamic and Olive Oil to bring back with me.
I finally got to move into my apartment today… at 7:30 this morning. Just my luck I would be the first group of people to move in. My apartment is on the second floor of the building (thank god I only had to lug my suitcases up one flight of stairs) and it is HUGE. I was honestly expecting to be living in a shoe box, but it is bigger than my suite back at Bryant. When you come through the front door, there is a long hallway, which my room and my flat mate’s room is off of. At the end of the hall there is a bathroom straight ahead, the living room to the right, and the kitchen to the left. I’m surprised by the size of the kitchen. The way Italians are obsessed with food and cooking with the family, I expected it to be bigger. The stove/oven is the old gas kind you have to light with a lighter, so that should be interesting.
So after flying for a total of 8 hours I finally made it to Florence! We arrived at the Grand Hotel Baglioni at around 3pm. The hotel is gorgeous. When I finally made it up to my room (50 students with two bags each taking elevators that fit 2 people at a time) I could not figure out how to open the door. My roommate, Sam, was thankfully inside and she let me in. We have been hitting it off pretty well. After attending the mandatory meeting, we had a group dinner at the restuarant on the roof of our hotel. The views were amazing, especially the view of the Duomo. Four courses and two food babies later, a couple of girls decided to go search the city. We wandered around and I just couldn’t believe how beautiful the city was lit up at night. It finally hit me that we were here and all the months of working my butt off and planning are finally being put into action.
Today, we had a meeting about housing and excursions that API (the program I am here with) puts on throughout the semester, FOR FREE. There is a weekend trip to Rome, Venice, and a couple other places. Later on this afternoon we took a walking tour of the city with a tour guide. The buildings and bridges are so beautiful and so well preserved.
Its been a great few days so far, but I feel like I am back to last Christmas break with the Sophomore International Experience. I don’t want to be living out of a suitcase in a hotel. I want to be on my own in my apartment, with the ability to cook for myself. Thankfully, I will have that opportunity tomorrow morning when we finally get to move in.