My first week in Florence has already been one of the most eventful and life-changing weeks of my life. I find it so hard to believe I have only been here for a week! It seems like it’s been much longer because there are always so many different things to do during the day and at night. I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina and up until now, the biggest move I had done was moving to Columbia, South Carolina to attend the University of South Carolina. Never had I ever imagined I would be packing up my things and moving (for four months) to Florence, Italy! I’ve learned so much in the past seven days, and I can’t believe how much I will see and have experienced at the end of this journey. With that being said, here are three things I’ve learned so far about living in Florence, and Italian culture.
1. The Wine: Obviously the first thing I noticed was how cheap and good the wine is here. There are small convenient stores along almost every street where you can buy a bottle of vino for as little as 2 euros! In addition to that, wines in Italy are usually “fresher” because they haven’t been sitting on the self for long periods of the time since the wineries are much closer. Whatever the reason is, I definitely won’t mind getting used to this.
2. Gelato: Upon arriving in Italy, of course the first thing I wanted to do was eat gelato out by the Ponte Vecchio bridge… big mistake. Well not the idea but the way I went about it. The first gelateria that caught my eye was the kind that had massive amounts of gelato piled into one huge mound, each flavor extravagantly decorated with appropriate toppings. It looked absolutely delicious, however this was my first (of many) touristy mistake. I won’t lie and say I didn’t enjoy it because it tasted just like American ice cream rather than creamy Italian gelato. The traditional Italian gelato does look extravagant and delicious, however the gelato that is served as a mountain piled with toppings is just a tourist trap. Italian gelato is made fresh with lots of fruits and fresh ingredients; unlike the mountains of ice cream tourists (like myself) consider to be authentic. That gelato ended up being 8 euros for a small!!! Which is absolutely crazy considering a traditional cup of gelato ranges around 1-2 euros. I definitely learned my lesson!
3. Getting Around: One thing I was extremely sad to leave behind when coming here was my car. I didn’t believe it would be possible to do everything I usually do by foot, and it made me really nervous to saying goodbye to my primary source of transportation. However, having to walk everywhere has really given me a sense of appreciation for the city. It allows me to look and recognize my surroundings and all the beautiful sites that Florence has to offer. It allows me to appreciate details about the city I never would’ve spotted had I been in a car. The only time it gets difficult is when you try to carry groceries for the week from the grocery store up four flights of stairs!! The train is also a great source of transportation. Just this past Sunday I walked to the train station with five other friends and we bought a ticket to Lucca and rode the train for about an hour and a half right into the city for only 7 euros (a dollar less than my gelato)! It was so quick, convenient and we turned it into a great day trip! Overall getting places definitely takes some used to, but its nice to have a break from driving and I definitely can’t complain about the money I’m saving on gas!
Living in this city is definitely going to take some getting used to, but I have already learned so much in my first week of being here. Hopefully, soon I feel less like a tourist and more like a Florentine. I’m so excited to see where this journey takes me!
Ellie is a spring 2017 SAI Florence student from the University of South Carolina.