I have spent 5 months of the past year living in Florence. The other 7 months were spent at school and home in California. When I studied abroad in Italy in the Fall, I didn’t realize that those few months would just be the beginning of my time here. In August I left the comforts of California for the strange excitement of Italy, never imagining that I would be spending this summer in Florence too, and that it would begin to feel so comfortable. Florence is becoming a second home to me, and the differences in culture and lifestyle have begun to seem less strange. I am starting to see more similarities in everyday life between the two places, but there are still a few things that remain separated and give Florence its unique charm. To me, these are some of the things about living in Florence that I value because of their extreme contradiction to my life in California.
- You can get coffee anywhere, anytime. There are bars on every street, making it easy to get your daily caffeine boost without having to go out of your way to find a café. Italians take their caffeinated drinks seriously, and there are certain etiquette rules to be aware of that somehow make the experience more special than it is in the United States. For example, milk is really only consumed in the morning, so in the afternoon cappuccinos are replaced with espresso to power you through the rest of the day. Before coming here, I rarely drank coffee, but now the drink has become a huge part of my daily ritual and is the best way to relax and socialize.
- Food culture is huge, even spreading beyond the world of coffee. Before living here, I paid attention to what I ate, but only to a certain extent. In Italy, especially the Tuscan region which is full of fresh produce and livestock, knowing what you are eating is super important. I have sat at a table with Florentines and listened to them argue to the point of yelling about which restaurant offers the best quality of a certain dish, the proper way to make and eat pesto, and many other particulars I would never even think about. The food here is so good, and knowing how to tell the difference in quality can lead to some of the best culinary experiences in the world. Meals are more than eating whatever is easiest, they are about really enjoying the experience, with great flavor and good company. Dinners with friends and family can last for hours, filled with conversation and laughter. Here, food brings people together.
- People in Florence are more genuine and straightforward. What I mean by this is that in California, there always seems to be a sort of an act that goes on during social interactions. People feel the need to present themselves in a certain way to make an impression on others. Here, people are very open about their thoughts and feelings. You know that the smiles you receive on the street are genuine, and when talking with people, they will tell you the truth. This attitude creates a more welcoming environment.
- Public transportation is not as popular. This applies mainly to Florence, because bigger cities in Italy do have extensive public transportation. Here though, getting places is easily done by foot and maybe an occasional bus ride. The city seems more welcoming when you don’t have to deal with transit delays and figuring out routes and schedules. Your feet can take you everywhere you need to go in Florence, which keeps you healthy and happy.
- Everything is rooted in history. There is no comparison in history between California and Florence. This city is older than the birth of the United States. The buildings and cobblestone streets resonate with richness. Walking to my internship, I pass sculptures and palazzi which hold the histories of some of the most influential people in Italian history. Being surrounded by these reminders of the past makes me eternally grateful for the chance to live here, in a city and country that has greatly influenced the world as we see it today.
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