Out of two decades of experiencing what the world has to offer, culture have been one of the most interesting aspects of the later part of that time since I have been able to experience different ones.
Fifteen years of living in the Dominican Republic gave me a clear understanding of what it is like to live in a culturally uniform town where I would only travel within a 70 Km radius to go visit my father. During those first years of my life, I only knew Dominican people. I was missing out from experiencing all kinds of diversity as I lived inside my comfort zone. The next seven years of my life was about living in New York City and catching up to people who have been submerged in a world of diversity from day one where one would meet someone from a different country sooner than expected. In those seven years, I have experienced a new language, new customs, new kinds of food as well as new kinds of lifestyles. By this point of my life, I have friends from over 40 countries. There isn’t a single time I am not learning something new about each one of them. Living in Italy is a combination of both of those stages of my life.
Now that I have had the chance to immerse myself in the local culture of Florence, I have experienced the language limitation all over again as well as a different way of living from what I am used to. All over Florence, I have come to experience that local Italian feeling where everyone speaks a common language and newcomers have to adjust to the local way of living. The city is completely pedestrian and there aren’t any skyscrapers crowning over the city. I love the fact that the Giotto’s Bell tower and the Palazzo Vecchio are two of the tallest structures in the city. This is the kind of setting I grew up in and was used to up to a certain point of my life. Now that I live in Florence, I have been able to feel some of the aspects of my old lifestyle—completely different from what New York is all about, a city that keeps growing on itself trying to build the tallest building possible. However, when it comes to tourists crowding the different piazzas, New York and Florence have a lot in common. Crossing Ponte Vecchio to try to get to the Duomo a 3pm is like crossing Times Square at 3pm on a regular day.
Nowadays, many cities feel very similar with globalization growing stronger everyday. However, Florence feels very unique in many aspects because of the city structure, its monuments, its different cathedrals, churches and palazzi, its history and the Renaissance. It is the main thing that makes this culture different from all of the other ones I have lived in. That’s what stands out to me the most about being in Florence.
I love the fact that I have to go up 800 steps to go to the top of Brunelleschi Duomo and on my way up, I am able to touch and see up close the extreme details of the fresco in the inside of it. I love the fact that I use the Palazzo Medici as an orientation point to be able to find my Wednesday drawing class. I love the fact that most every morning I get to walk to class and get a perfect view of the Ponte Vecchio. I love the fact that I can hug a column that is older than the United States. And I love the fact that Florence is such a central city that I can catch a fast train to Rome to sketch in front of the Pantheon for as long as I want. Up to this point of my experience, the only thing that frustrates me is that I haven’t been able to learn Italian fast enough to experience the city to its max. Though I am not worried as I have a lot of the semester to go through! It has become my goal to at least be able to establish a conversation in Italian and hold it all the way through.
Nelson is a student at Parsons The New School for Design studying at Florence University of the Arts during the Spring 2014 term.