After living in Florence for about four weeks now, I’m starting to feel like a true florentine. What do I mean by that? In a weird way I feel like a local in one of the most tourist filled areas in Italy. Store owners and bar tenders alike know me by my first name and wave when I walk by, I know these cobble streets like the back of my hand and my Italian has become quite good. Since being a newly initiated local (NIL), I’ve come to realize that there are some hidden cultural differences between Florence and New York. You’re probably thinking “obviously there are going to be some differences”, but I was told to write about it so here you go.
First off there is a much greater appreciation for old architecture city life than in New York. Back in America we constantly feel that we need newer technology, new buildings and constant improvements which seem to only be temporary. In Italy it is completely different. They truly believe in quality and making their products last for as long as humanly possible. The interesting thing about Florence is that technology has barely touched the city and florentines only use what they really need. For example, Italy doesn’t even have a nuclear power plant in the country. Instead they buy energy and power from France to light their homes and only use what they NEED. Buildings and city landscape make you feel as if you are walking through Florence during a Renaissance period with a bit of modern flare. You can’t find buildings like the Duomo in America. In fact there are far more old buildings in florence (including my apartment) than there are new ones.
It’s not just Florence that is like this though. It’s all of Italy and theres a uniqueness to each city. Venezia is a great example of this. Try finding an entire city that is built on water in America. Just kidding, don’t actually try that, you’ll just waste a lot of time. The people of Venice are some of the nicest and poor driving is never an issue because no one has a car. Everyone in Venezia gets around by boat or in rare cases, Gondolas too.
A big difference between America and Italy is the way we eat. I now everyone assumes that when you go to Italy you eat so much and get fat. Not true. Although all the carbs aren’t the best for you, You don’t actually eat as much as you think. Everything in Italy is very portion controlled and you will notice that most Italians are actually pretty fit, but none of them work out. This is because meals in Italy are traditionally eaten in courses. But due to a bad economy, not everyone can afford to purchase different courses for dinner. So instead most people will order an appetizer and a primi piatti (first course).
Finally a few tips and secrets from my time spent here in Florence. When you first arrive in Florence it can be a bit lonely and you might want to meet a few American friends before you test the waters with the locals. In this case you need to go to the Red Garter. Red Garter is a bar/ restaurant where tons of American college students go every night. Everyone is just as eager to make new friends as you are and this seems to be the breeding ground for friendships. When you rally your new friend group together, take them out for aperitivo. This is something that is very foreign to Americans but is a huge part of Italian culture here in Florence. Aperitivo is held at most bars and restaurants where you and your friends can go and have a casual drink and eat appetizers FOR FREE. That’s right, buy one drink and eat as much as you can. Some places have better food than others, but theres no such thing as a bad meal in Italy.
Salvatore is a student at University of Tampa studying at Florence University of the Arts in Italy during the Summer 2014 term.