I know I have only been in Florence for 8 weeks now and that is definitely not a long time to think that I know the ins and outs of this city. So maybe this could be for the beginners, the ones thinking about studying abroad in this amazing place and just need a little push.
Eat out once a week.
- I say once a week because of my next point…
Go to the markets and pick out fresh ingredients!
- Why? To cook obviously. Italy is a food country and they love getting people to try their food. But they also encourage those to learn how to make their own food, and there is always a variety of ingredients to create things you’ve never tried before.
See the Duomo. This is a must. And then…
Go the top of the Duomo because it’s one of the greatest views you will ever see in your life.
Go see the Statue of David. Also a must see.
Take a train to a random city you’ve never heard of and stay there for a few hours.
- I mean why not? If you’re from New York like me or any other urban city in the States, you get lost or fall asleep on the train and wake up in random places all the time. Except this time, don’t get on the return train going home. Venture out and see a town or city you didn’t even plan on visiting. The smallest cities possess so much charm and are worth the trip.
Make random conversation.
- I was going to class and I was thirsty so I stopped at a little café for a bottle of water. I noticed that the water was a lot cheaper than where I usually buy it so I asked him, “Why is your water so cheap?” He didn’t speak English that well, so I said I understood Italian a little bit and I tried to catch a little bit of what he said. I think the gist of what he was saying was that, “As a kid, I did not have that much water to drink and I was always thirsty. So I don’t want people to feel thirsty.” At least that’s what I hope he said because I said something like “Wow, che e` molto noble e gentile” meaning “that is very noble and kind,” and he smiled.
Visit the Santa Croce.
- Why? The bodies of Galileo, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo are all buried there. Like what??
Try the club scene.
- It is very different and very diverse. But also very special. Many other Italian cities, such as Rome, do not have club scenes and students rarely go out. So when they come to Florence, they talk about how much more fun it is.
Visit the leather markets.
- Please, please, please go get your mom a leather purse or hand bag BEFORE she calls you complaining about how you’re cheap and don’t buy her anything.
Pet the Golden Boar so that you are granted safe travels back to Florence one day.
GET GELATO THREE TIMES A DAY. You will not get fat. Hopefully.
Go to all the famous spots like All’antico viniao sandwich place or the Vivoli Gelateria and wait in the lines that stretch to across the street. You will definitely be tired, but it is definitely worth it.
Go to a movie theater and watch a random Italian movie. (And not understand what’s going on.)
- I definitely went in there hoping to find a movie with at least a little English so that I could follow it. The film definitely joined my list of one of the weirdest movies I have ever seen, but at least I can say I did it.
Have dinners with your apartment roommates and form a bond.
Speak to your close friends and family from time to time to let them know how you are doing.
- They miss you as much as you miss them! (I think!)
Find a random relative!!
- One of the club promoters turned out to be my cousin. Don’t ask me how or why he is out here. I just know next that next time I’m in Florence, I will get in for free with him.
Lastly, stand out as much as you can without a care in the world. Be different. Be unique.
- Before you come here, people will tell you and give you advice on thing like how to dress in Italy, how to eat, how to talk, and maybe even how to walk. But I wouldn’t try to follow that as much as possible. Before I traveled out here, someone told me to try to tone down on the slang and try to speak as well as Italians do. But today, my Italian roommate is starting to use slang words that I do, words he has never used before, and he loves it. I even taught my teacher a new word. It’s okay to be different I think.
Don’t crave American food everyday. Try something new!
- But I’ll admit, you will definitely miss having a bagel or regular bread because they do not have that as often as you will like. They also don’t have pancakes. I forgot to add that to my lows last week.
Don’t assume restaurants or shops have the best food because they advertise it as much and as big as they can. The tiniest cafés and secret little restaurants have the best food.
- I remember my roommates and I were on our way to this famous restaurant that we heard had ‘okay’ pasta and we wanted to try it out for ourselves. On the way, we got lost and ended up in an alley way and found this small restaurant called ‘Acquacotta’ that had the best spaghetti ever. (You’re welcome.)
Don’t assume everyone speaks English fluently.
- Simple because, they don’t. But they will try and that’s good enough.
Don’t assume people know you’re American.
- (Relating to my last bullet) I say this because sometimes people will hear you speak English but will still approach you using Italian. What’s nice about this is that you get to practice your Italian a little so it’s not that bad.
DON’T eat out every night.
- I said in my Do’s to eat out once a week. Not just to cook, but the quality and deliciousness of the dinner lifestyle is too rich, in money and variety, to have every night. It may lose its value quickly as some people have experienced.
Don’t get a taxi everywhere. WALK as much as possible.
- As much as I hate walking (well, used to) I love it now. 8 weeks in, I enjoy the 25 minute walk to class at 7:30 am three times a week. I enjoy walking in circles trying to find a food spot that my maps never seem to be able to accurately locate.
Don’t assume water is free, ANYWHERE.
Don’t assume the water is hot either!
Don’t sit down when you get a coffee because you get charged a sit down fee. I know. It’s crazy.
Don’t get fooled by con artists. They think they are low but they are not!
- Some guy asked me where I got my pants from and he thought he felt the need to touch my pockets to figure out where. Not me sir, not me.
Don’t lose awareness of your surroundings. Always be on the lookout.
Don’t forget to remind your friends how much you miss them!
- As annoying as they are I miss my girlfriend and other friends, my brothers on the basketball team, and yes, my mother too.
Don’t forget why you’re here. Immerse yourself as much as possible.
- Grades and rest are important, yes. But try not to stay in bed all day, or spend all day studying. There is way too much to see and time goes fast.
Don’t assume you know Florence because you have lived here for 8 weeks! There is still much more to see, discover, and experience.
Don’t go to museums, churches, and parts of the cities just for pictures.
- I know for me sometimes I get lost in is the excitement of trying to take an amazing picture to show people. But I’ve started to get a better understanding of just seeing the value of where I’m at without pulling out my phone.
Don’t spend all your money right away, it definitely goes fast.
Don’t think people won’t ask you random questions about who you are, and even why.
- No joke. On my way to catch my flight to London, this guy on the train noticed that I was African and asked me what my name was. I assumed because I am black and the majority of blacks seen here selling things are from Africa, he thought that I was the same so I told him, “Christopher.” But then he said, “No, what’s your real name?” I asked him what do you mean, and he asked me why I don’t go by my African name. At first I did not know how to answer. One, because a random guy was asking me a random question on a random train. But two, because I have not really found the answer to that question for myself. A few people know of my African Heritage and my African name, Kwasi, and that is not because I like to keep it a secret. It’s just not as natural as saying my American name. Sometimes when the topic comes up, I see it as an identity thing. Do I not want people to know that I am a little different than how I already appear, or does a part of me simply reject my culture? It is hard for me to be myself, completely. I am confident in who I am as a person, but maybe there is more than just confidence when it comes to understanding other parts of who you are as well. Though I don’t really know what more it really takes, or how to really find out. But hopefully, being in a country like the United States and Italy that is drastically different from African culture, a culture that I need to learn to embrace more, will help me find the answer to the question that random man asked me. He got off the train before I got to answer.