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Little Treasures of FlorenceLiana Greene is studying abroad with API in Florence, Italy, and is a regular contributor to our Tumblr blog.
Most study abroad students take advantage of their Fall Break and travel extensively for the week. They spend two to three days in one country and move on to the next. When I travel, I prefer to stay in one country for at least one week. I don’t like to be rushed. Unfortunately, I’m not comfortable traveling alone and none of my new friends wanted to travel where I wanted to go. So, I decided to stay in Florence- which turned out to be wonderful! I was given the opportunity to explore my new home on my own. Exploring Firenze on my own made me fall even deeper in love with the city. I was able to discover hidden treasures, practice the language and soak up the culture by myself.
While exploring, I stumbled across a a few gems- from flea markets to restaurants. Its nice to do touristy things in Florence, but it’s even more exciting to feel like a local. One day, I sat in a park near my apartment- opposite of Piazza San Marco. The lawn was freshly mowed and the sun was shining. I relaxed in the grass, took a few photographs for my photography class and did homework in peace. Another day, I went to lunch on the outskirts of town passed the Santa Maria Novella Train Station. I was surrounded by Italian locals and was able to listen and practice my Italian. When my roommate returned from her trip to London, We went to a fantastic family-style restaurant-Club Peridiso. Twenty Euros for a 3 course meal, unlimited wine and water and dessert and coffee. The owner was extremely kind. He even sat with us and joined us for dessert to get to know us. Now whenever we decide to go there for dinner, we text him and he reserves a table for us. He helps us with our Italian and even offered to take us to the market and show us how to order and bargain.
Staying in Florence for break was one of the best choices I could have made. Traveling is great, but now I feel like a Florentine. Florence feels like home to me now. That’s more than I can say for those who travel every weekend and traveled on break. I’ll have plenty or time to travel with friends and family in the future. My main concentration while I’m here is school. This is my final semester as an undergraduate student. I don’t want to let my grades slip just because I decide to travel while I’m in Europe. I’m more concerned with graduating. Because I didn’t travel like the rest of the students in my program, I had more time to focus on my assignments and wasn’t exhausted from traveling. I feel as though my language skills are improving faster than those who traveled because I spent more time with Italian locals. Exploring Florence made me appreciate the city in a whole new way. I’m now able to walk around and not feel like a tourist but instead a local. Albeit a local that isn’t fluent in Italian…but a local nonetheless. Firenze has officially stolen my heart.
First Week in Firenze
Hello, folks! I’m not going to lie, I’ve been in Florence for a little over a week now. I decided to wait to write until I finished my first day of classes so I could compare the orientation week to the beginning of class.
The first week in Florence is fun. You’re in a new city with an unlimited amount of things at your disclosure. No work, no school yet, just play. You may not realize it at first, but you are overwhelmed by the amount of things surrounding you. The food, culture, nightlife, language…you name it, you’re overwhelmed by it.
Being surrounded by a language you don’t know can be very frustrating. I highly recommend attempting to learn the basics of the Italian language before you come here. Try to take things slow. Take in the sites at a slow pace. There’s far too much surrounding you. Squeezing it in as soon as possible does not give the culture the credit it deserves. The buildings and works of art are breathtaking. I know you want to see it all, but save some for your next trip to Florence. You’ll notice as you’re walking down the street, there are a surprising amount of gelato and leather shops. No matter what, if you are female, someone will call after you saying “Ciao, bella!” and say that you’ve dropped their heart. Ignore them. At first it’s flattering, but after a few days, it gets old.
During the first week, you’ll have multiple guided tours. GO ON AS MANY AS YOU CAN! They will help you learn your way around and help avoid getting lost in the future. Chances are, you’ll still get lost a few times, but at least you’ll be able to recognize where you are, thanks to the tours. Unlike the U.S., Florence is not structured like a grid. The streets change names halfway through and they are set up in clusters of triangles. If you get lost, you will most likely always end up back at the Duomo. So make sure you always start your adventures there or at another very recognizable spot, such as the Ponte Vecchio. If you truly can’t find your way, don’t be afraid to ask. “Buon giorno/ Buona sera, non parlo Italiano. Parle Inglese?” If you don’t speak Italian, this is the best way to ask for something. Just recognizing the Italian language will show natives that you’re trying and you’ll gain their respect almost instantly. They will be more receptive to help you find your way if you begin your conversation with their language. Don’t be too proud to ask. If you don’t ask, chances are, you’ll become even more lost than you were before.
You’ll find out that as your classes start up, your night life slows down dramatically. Don’t worry, it’s not going to stop completely, but if your intentions upon arriving here were to party every night, then you’ll quickly find yourself burnt out and broke. Slow your roll. You have three months of weekends to partake in the nightlife and explore. Also, you’ll need an extra boost of energy to keep you going, whether it’s an extra cup of expresso or a midday nap. The nightlife in Florence is very different from in the States. You won’t even realize it, but some nights you’ll walk into your apartment and find out that it’s 4 a.m. The combination of staying up that late, walking everywhere and getting up for a 9 a.m. class will run you down. Don’t burn the candle at both ends. Try to keep a balance between going out, getting your school work done and getting up for early classes.
Remember to do as the Italians do and take things slow. Relax. Enjoy your life and your time in Firenze!
Liana Greene is studying abroad with API in Florence, Italy, and is a regular contributor to our Tumblr blog.