It wasn’t until after I came home from fall break did I feel like Florence was my home. Before leaving for break I didn’t feel as if the city was a part of me yet, or if there was really anything about it that would ever rail me back in later on in life. That would all change after the fall break from hell, which consisted of being stuck on a bus for 26 hours, missing a flight, having my phone stolen, and almost being homeless for a night. I couldn’t WAIT to be back in Florence…back in my bed, in my apartment, with my roommates…in a familiar city. I then realized Florence was my home away from home.
When I first arrived to Florence in September you could pin me as a tourist from a mile away. My three roommates and I (two of which have strong southern accents that captures everyone’s attention in this city) would walk around with maps in hand, coffee in the other, and your typical American college girl style. Yes, I was that girl that didn’t realize you have to bring your own bag to the grocery store and weigh your produce, or knew drinking cappuccinos at 2 pm was frowned upon, and was expecting everyone to understand and speak English. We were the furthest things from looking like “locals”. Without realizing it, months have gone by and I have been changing little by little and changing my ways to become part of this community.
I really started noticing differences in my everyday lifestyle about a month in. I was using the (few) Italian words I knew without hesitation throughout my day, finding quicker routes home (Yes, I ditched the map), grocery shopping daily, hanging my clothes on the line outside, and even my style was changing. As a fashion major I have always been a fan of the European fashion sense but no matter how hard I tried I could never pull off the look of not trying. Europeans just have this amazing eye for looking so put together and fashionable without looking like they put an ounce of effort in. Now, I am in no way saying I have mastered the look but I have realized that my wardrobe is altering and I’m putting on outfits without even thinking in the morning and actually feeling like I fit in. I love my walks to class and my morning errands, I love passing over the bridge everyday to get into town, and I especially love the smell of food and live music outside my window every night looking over our piazza from my kitchen window. Everything I do is a result of trial and error. I have learned something new everyday that helps me everyday and things have gotten significantly easier for me. When I first got here I didn’t have a clue how different life is from home. I have learned everything from cooking, to taking the trash out to its designated places, weighing my produce at the store, understanding the currency, learning new words everyday, knowing my way around the city, discovering the places I enjoy visiting…everything just comes in time and you start to feel more and more like you belong. I finally feel like Florence is my home and it’s hard to believe it’s not permanent.
If I could go back in time and give myself tips on becoming more of a local sooner, It’s very clear what those tips would be.
- Learn your way around ASAP and ditch that map. (Trust me, looking like a tourist is never a thing you want.)
- Walk with purpose. (You wont be bothered if you look confident and familiar.)
- Find your favorite shops, cafes, restaurants, ect. and get to know the locals.
- Grocery shop daily and use your SAI tote bag as your grocery bag.
- Try to pay with cash as much as possible.
- Learn the basic dining rules when you go out to eat. (Ex. Wait to eat the bread they give you with your meal, don’t ask for salad dressing, and don’t expect to find meatballs on the menu at an authentic Italian Restaurant.)
- Invest in a leather jacket for everyday use and a cute pair of sneakers (like Adidas) that you can wear daily with any outfit.
- Master the Euro-style.
- Try to speak the language even if it’s as simple as a “Ciao” during the day and a “Buona sera” at night.
- Enjoy every second because it goes by fast.
Michaela is a current student at Lasell College studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Fall 2015 term.