Finding Slivers of America While Abroad: A Tourist’s Middle Ground
Lauren, Spring 2024, Florence
February 13, 2024

As an American getting settled in the routine of living abroad, it’s easy to feel a bit out of place. Hyper-aware of your American-ness, trying to dress and act as Italian as you can, all the while making yourself look more American in the process.

You might try to order your coffee in Italian, but the bartender will reply in fluent English, leaving you embarrassed that they could tell from just a few words. You might go to class and find all the American girls are wearing the same variation of one outfit, because we all saw the same TikToks showing us “how Europeans dress,” which now that I’m here I realize isn’t so accurate. It’s easy to feel like a fish out of water, like everyone knows you’re from the US and they’re all whispering about you.

This is how I felt for my first weeks in Italy, hyper-conscious of my American-ness and attempting to assimilate as best I could. But I am learning that there is nothing inherently wrong with being a visitor in a new place.

It’s easy to point out the differences between Italy and America. There are seemingly countless cultural differences, and it can feel a bit isolating as you realize most of it is unfamiliar to you. In embracing this unfamiliarity, I’ve found that it’s very exciting to experience a new culture and absorb all it has to offer.

I’ve been exploring Florence throughout my first month here, particularly through Italian food. I’ve had some fabulous unique meals, but I usually don’t eat these kinds of things at home. Food plays a huge role in the concept of home for me, so I’ve been on the hunt for a place that tastes like America, and I found it completely by chance.

I stumbled upon the 1950 America Diner on a midday walk around town, and I knew I had to come back for dinner. This restaurant is a blast to the past, inspired by American culture in the 1950’s. The servers wear roller-skates and deliver large burgers, milkshakes and classic American diner style food. The restaurant is decorated with vintage signage, like old college pennants, professional football team flags and old records. Walking in the door, you’re greeted by sculptures of American icons Elvis and Marilyn Monroe in iconic poses and then seated in a vintage looking booth.

My meal from 1950 America Diner, a bacon cheeseburger. The vintage table with American condiments and the classic red and white checker paper felt like I was at a baseball game in the summertime.

I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and a red velvet milkshake, and it felt like home. Although it’s no Fourth of July barbeque or Memorial Day picnic, this restaurant has quickly become one of my favorites because it feels comforting. It was cool to feel appreciated as an American, watching Italians come in and seeing their faces light up as the large burgers were placed in front of them.

The ambience of the restaurant was very reminiscent of the 50’s, with the neon blue and red lights, classic music videos on the TV and the letterman jackets hanging up in the back.

It felt satirically American, with exaggerated stereotypes, but at the same time, very familiar. This is not to say that studying abroad is all about finding America while abroad, in fact it’s probably the opposite. But it was a refreshing experience to feel like I was the expert, recognizing everything and poking fun at their impression of American style food, instead of spending all day questioning if I’m acting Italian enough. It served as a great reminder that you can find slivers of home almost anywhere.

Made with love, what a sweet sentiment to remind me of home.

  Written by: Lauren, Spring 2024 Florence student from The University of South Carolina

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