The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!
Christy, SAI Florence
June 25, 2018

We caught up with SAI Florence Housing Coordinator & Assistant Program Coordinator Christy, who is contributing to our blog this month. Christy retells some of the unique parts of living in Italy.  

Maurizio exiting an old Florentine small apartment door

When I first landed in Italy from the US, I was in awe and also a little bit surprised. I was in awe of the beauty, the sound of the Italian language and the food was absolutely amazing! On the other hand there were quite a few things that shocked me. Everything in Italy is smaller! The food portions, the coffee, the sidewalks, the cars, the streets, the apartments, the stairwells, the showers, the beds, the clothe sizes, and just about everything!

Alessandra and Christy walking down the small classic sidewalks in Florence

Living in an Italian apartment was an adjustment and really opened my eyes to how differently people in other cultures lives. There really are no carpets; this is wonderful in the summer but a little cold in the winter. Now I know why all Italians wear slippers inside! Coming from Southern California (where I believe we have the best weather) I had to seriously adjust to the cold winters and the very hot summers! On the plus side I enjoyed experiencing different seasons and watching the leaves on the trees change each season; something I never got to experience growing up.

Christy with the classic small Fiat 500 car

Here is some of my advice to keep warm in the winter: close your shutters to keep out the cold, wear warm slippers inside the apartment that have a plastic sole, wear warm clothes and dress in layers. Blankets, sweats and sweaters made of polar fleece (“pile” in Italian) will become your best winter friends! I had an Italian mom help me dress for the winter since I was clueless coming from LA where I had never even owned a warm jacket! She instructed me to layer like so: first a tank top, then a soft warm cotton shirt, then a sweater made of wool, cashmere, polyester or fleece, and finally a warm scarf, jacket (advised a down jacket) and gloves. She told me to never leave my ankles exposed in the winter time and to wear warm polyester or fleece socks under a pair of cute tall boots. Time to rock out your Italian winter fashion pieces!

Some advice for keeping your apartment cool in the summer is again to close your shutters during the hot hours of the day and only open your windows in the early morning or later in the evening. Use a liquid plug-in mosquito repellent like Raid or Vape to save your skin from nasty mosquito bites! You can buy these from any supermarket, just remember to not leave them on all day long. You can also keep cool by making sure you drink lots of water, eating cold meals and avoiding walking around a lot in the town in the middle of the day. My most favorite thing to do when it is boiling hot is to find a cool coffee shop with air conditioning, grab a nice cold “caffè shakerarto” (an ice shaken coffee) sit back and enjoy a good book.

One more final piece of advice about keeping warm and cool: pay attention to what you drink and what you eat. Do not drink ice cold drinks in the winter and in the summer avoid eating heavy meals and limit your alcohol intake. Enjoy hot cups of coffee and tea in the winter; in the summer enjoy ice shaken coffees, iced tea and lots of water to keep your hydrated!

Small food portions: here we have the papa al pomodoro made in one of our cooking classes

Italians change their wardrobes every season, putting away summer or winter clothes when they do not need them. Typical Italian apartments rarely have enough space for wardrobes large enough to store clothes for every season. Wardrobe boxes and your suitcases to store away your clothes will come in handy!

The fact that there are no dryers here was annoying at first but after a few months I realized that my clothes, especially my jeans, lasted so much longer! Now, even when I visit the US my mom knows not to touch my clothes since I always hang them to dry.

Winter fashion for small dogs

Here’s some practical advice about how to deal with having no dryers and small wardrobes while staying fashionable. Plan what you want to wear a few days ahead of time so they have enough time to dry for your special date. Place your drying rack as close to the heater as humanly possible so your clothes dry quicker. Insider tip: Italians typically wear their clothes about 3 times before washing them and they have less but higher quality clothing. At first I thought it was odd that my Italian friends wore the same sweaters a few days in a row, now I totally understand it and welcome it. Honestly, the American in me still prefers to wear that lovely black sweater on Monday and then not again until Wednesday, but I have adapted and do not constantly wash my clothes like I did in the States. The good news is that it is one less thing to do!

Small bathrooms in traditional apartments

Living in Florence is exciting and challenging all rolled into one. Somedays you might be in love with Florence and the next day you might be crying to go home; do not worry this is something that everyone goes through. Even if it seems like no one has a hard time abroad when you are scrolling through everyone’s amazing Instagram and Facebook posts, trust me this is all part of studying abroad and no one posts about their bad days abroad. The good, the bad, the cold, the hot, the small, and the ugly and the beautiful make your experience abroad unforgettable! Try to embrace everything without any expectations, which I know is easier said than done! I hope these tips can help you adapt to life in Florence in style!

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