The first two weeks in Florence have been amazing. At first I was a bit overwhelmed, but after spending time exploring the city and starting classes Florence is starting to feel like home. While Florence is easy to navigate by foot, it can be hard to navigate in terms of culture sometimes.
My roommates and I have made it our goal to try and make friends with the local cafe and restaurant workers but that can be tricky with the language and cultural differences. One thing I have discovered is that most people who live in Florence love when you try and make an effort to speak Italian to them instead of just assuming that everyone speaks English. In fact, one of my favorite nights so far was when we went to an authentic Italian restaurant a couple of blocks from our apartment.
We knew the place was all locals as heads turned when we walked in the door. Our second sign that this place was all locals is that not one of the people working there spoke English. Literally, not one. We sat quitely at first trying not to draw attention and be those “loud annoying Americans.” I ordered something random off the menu and hoped that it would be pasta. When the waiter brought our food one of my roommates attempted to tell him that we had just started taking Italian. Soon, he was teaching us Italian phrases even though we had no idea what the English translation was.
By the end of the night he was showing us pictures of his grandchildren and we felt like we had made a friend with our VERY beginner Italian skills. Oh and we had some amazing Italian pasta, maybe the best of our trip so far. Me and my roommates agreed that we would go back at the end of the semester when our Italian is hopefully way better.
Another thing that has taken some getting used to is the pace of life here. I am used to speed walking everywhere and always being in a hurry. Here you take hours to eat dinner, walk to class at a leisurely speed and drink your espresso at the cafe instead of taking it to go. This change has been hard to get used to but I think it will also allow me to stop and enjoy my time here instead of always being on the go.
While I am far away from being a local, I can only hope that by the end of my time here I will feel like one. I cannot wait to continue my time in Florence and learn more about this culture and way of life. It can be hard sometimes and I have felt homesick once or twice but when I stop to realize what an incredible place I am in I can’t help but feel extremely lucky.