I’ve been in Firenze for nearly two weeks now (it feels like so much longer) and I’m beginning to settle in and find my way around without getting lost. Of course, to achieve this I had to get lost many, many times for many, many hours, but that was all a part of exploring the city, and I found some wonderful little shops and parks because of my wanderings. There are times when it’s actually possible to forget that I’m in a foreign city/country/continent, especially when I’m spending time with the other girls in my program, but then I will turn a corner and see the Duomo or an amazing piece of art and it will be so jarring that I can’t help but feel overwhelmed at how beautiful it is here and how lucky I am for being able to experience it.
I spend most of my free time (and there is a lot of it — I only have classes Monday through Thursday) people watching on the steps of the Santa Croce or sitting on one of the bridges across the Arno River and watching the water and the people driving by or simply wandering around the city looking for interesting shops and restaurants. One of the most interesting things about people watching here is how many different nationalities you can see and listen to. I’ve heard French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese, etc. and one of my instructors told me that there was something like 25,000 students studying abroad in Florence at any one time.
The view from the steps of the Santa Croce into the piazza
(normally there are huge tour groups in the center)
The Ponte Vecchio Bridge
Some random things that I’ve been noticing/thinking/feeling:
- Despite having more than 475 photos on my iPhone already, there are so many things that just fail to capture. The immensity of the Duomo when you turn a corner and see part of it through a break in the buildings, that there are statues on every corner, the friendliness you encounter from the merchants, the aggressiveness of the Italian men, etc.
- Couples make out everywhere, all the time.
- Even I’m getting tired of the tourists (haha)! Every day I walk across the bridge and I have to stop repeatedly to allow people to take pictures of each other — I don’t know how the Florentines stand it!
- My legs at least will be in tip top shape when I get home, as I have to do a lot of walking, everywhere, up hills, on cobblestones, and up a lot of stairs (which are very oddly and inconveniently proportioned).
- Dogs are everywhere and are sometimes even allowed in shops and restaurants.
- Soda is more expensive than wine, wine goes with nearly every meal, and water is not free (and is always served bottled).
- Pigeons are everywhere.
- In the busier areas of town everyone walks wherever they want, even if that’s in the middle of the road. If a car comes along they just move back towards the sidewalk.
- Smoking is not frowned upon like it is in the states.
- Pinnocchio is like the Florentine mascot — you see him everywhere.
- Everyone wears scarves, all the time. I’ve been informed that this is because the Italians are afraid of catching a throat cold. (Consequently scarves are sold everywhere).
- A “bar” is not necessarily a place that serves liquor. It is generally what we would think of as a cafe — though more often then not they serve liquor as well, because drinking is not quite the big deal it is in the states since the drinking age is 16 and everyone seems to do it all the time (and actually, even some gelatterias serve alcohol).
- Tiny cars, vespas, and bicycles are everywhere!
- There are really no trees or vegetation anywhere except the Boboli Gardens and some churches, which is really weird after living in Bellingham.
Anyway, I’m still having an amazing time, and unless it starts to rain soon (it’s supposed to be raining today through Thursday, but I’ve yet to see any sign of it other than a few more clouds than usual) I’m probably going to get a sunburn because I’ve been spending so much time outdoors trying to soak up some vitamin d.