Sorry! Long time, no tumblr! I can’t believe 6 days has gone by so quickly. I’ve been exhausted and just going going going with class and trips and exploring the city etc. I’d say the theme of my and my roommates stay so far is being on the strugglebus. You don’t realize, til you go far away from home, what things you take for granted. Like being able to walk down the street without tripping (this doesn’t really apply to Chapel Hill) on the cobblestone, or being able to see out of your contacts. I’m tired a lot, my contacts are bugging out because of who knows what - the air here and streets are dustier than back in good ol’ North Car’lina. It hasn’t been consistently warm since I got here. I’ve stubbed my toe twice on the curb and a step out to the balcony of our apartment. I sound like a fool when I try to speak Italian. etc. And my hair has not felt truly clean since I got here no matter how much or how little I wash it. Also, I sat outside today for about 35 minutes and got a shorts tan. The list goes on. This isn’t to complain or say that I’m not having a good time. I absolutely love it! I feel like all of us get a good laugh out of ourselves more often than at home because we simply don’t know how to live here haha. Even going to the grocery store and finding things is a struggle. Can’t read the label? Use context clues and hope for the best.
This past weekend I had the chance to go to Siena and San Gimignano - two beautiful hilly Tuscan cities about an hour and a half from Florence. And if my facebook picture uploader was working or the internet was faster you would’ve already had pictures to look at :) (strugglebus!). However, you will just have to take my word for it that these places were gorgeous! And significantly less crowded than Firenze. Siena has a beautiful duomo (which just specifies a type of church/cathedral) and Il Campo - the piazza in the center of the city in which Il Palio is held every year which is a major horse race. It is amazing that they have a horse race on a cobblestone plaza, but, hey, it’s Italian. The church was absolutely amazing - gold detail, marble sculpture, busts of every pope ever, marble inlay pictures on the floors, etc. etc. Completely ridiculous and like nothing you’ve ever seen…unless, of course, you’ve been to Italy or a pre-18th c. cathedral. I got to see some great works of art which I’ve previously learned about in art history back at school, so that was really cool. I had delicious ricciarelli - which are traditional almond cookies from Siena which they are apparently famous for. Next time I return, I plan to try the paneforte, which is another specialty - dense spice cake with fruit etc. However, it cost about 6 euro for one piece, so I left that for another time. San Gimignano is a beautifully conserved medieval city; which, apparently was forgotten/lost for a long time before people returned and the architecture definitely shows that. We went on another tour of a church which was much smaller, but definitely beautiful. Definitely places I would say to go spend a day touring and eating there.
Another great thing that I’ve been doing is meeting a few Italians! My Italian language partner, Benedetta, is wonderful and so sweet. She is so patient to put up with me when she speaks in Italian and I pretty much understand 10% of what she says. But I’ve been here for a week and a half, so I can’t be too hard on myself. We’ve also met our neighbors who live upstairs - several boys from Italy studying architecture. They were nice enough to introduce us to some of their friends and invite us out as well. Went to a much more Italian piazza last weekend; I say more Italian because we (3 of us) were the only Americans there haha. But that’s what we want! I want to be more immersed, not just enjoy the city center or the more touristy part of Florence. There’s something to be said for living here, it’s definitely easier, and being in the center and around more tourists is good for being here such a short time. But it’s nice, and I think you learn more about people, if you really get out there with some locals.
Some differences I’ve noticed:
- people shop for groceries more often
- it is very hard to find foods/cooking supplies from other countries
- people don’t wear a lot of color - which makes it even easier to pick out americans etc. especially going out at night
- people don’t ask how you are/how things are going. sometimes in caffes. My Italian professor mentioned this - when she visited the U.S. everywhere she went - stores etc. - people would say ‘how are you?’ ‘how’s it going?’ and she would about go into detail until she realized people just want you to respond with ‘fine’ and not much else. I guess we consider it friendly, but at the same time it is funny how she had to be told the person didn’t actually want to know how she was etc.and maybe here, they are just not bothering you.
- many people know a little english and a lot speak decent english, while most people that visit don’t speak any italian.
- you have to air out the apartment
- people don’t really drive cars, there are a TON of motorinos! (vespas and other motorcycles)
- you have to pay for water -__- possibly one of my least favorite things here
- TV works but 90% of the shows are American dubbed in Italian…bad news bears all around
I know there’s more but I’ll update when I remember. Friday, I am having lunch with Benedetta, which should be good language practice for both of us. My best fran’ comes tomorrow! and my birthday is this weekend! It should be a great second half of the week! Hopefully I can get some pics up by tonight.