When I moved to Pittsburgh to start school I was blown away by the sights and offerings of the city. Now, here I am in Florence, Italy, so you can only imagine my reaction. When I first arrived here, every street left me in awe. Now that I am acclimated the initial shock has subsided, but sometimes as I walk to class I remind myself to look with fresh eyes and I notice the city in all its beauty. My favorite sight in all of Florence is from my Ganzo family’s front door. If I haven’t mentioned my Ganzo family before, they are a family of 4 italians living here in Florence that are gracious enough to invite me over for a home cooked meal once a week so I can speak english with their kids for practice. The family’s home is surrounded by olive trees up on a hill overlooking the entire city of Florence. It’s such a quaint spot and is always filled with good company making it my favorite place to see in Florence! A tie for my next favorite spot goes to Mercato Centrale and Mercato Sant’Ambrogio. Both are similar sights which is why I cannot pick one over the other. These markets are open daily with fresh fruits, vegetables, pastas, meats, cheeses, breads, wines, oils and anything else you could ever dream of having fresh. In both markets there are also stands to order the fresh food to be prepared in front of you so you really know where your food is coming from. Not only are the local atmospheres of both of these places awesome, the prices are extremely affordable making the trip all the more enjoyable and the food taste even better! My third favorite sight here is the view from Piazzale Michelangelo. This piazza has a stunning overlook of the entire city while still holding the Italian piazza atmosphere that I have grown to love so much. The live music and wide open space truly makes the sight even better but you’ll never be alone as this is a hot spot for tourists.
Every day I walk to class and to work to the sound of the violin, passing laughing families and world famous sights. While there’s no denying that I’m living the dream, no dream comes without a little bit of adversity. The biggest challenge that I have faced living in Florence is being stuck in the “American” bubble. It is very easy to fall into this bubble because the Americans speak the same language and are generally where you are as you’re all looking for similar experiences. It’s easier to speak English when I go out places because I am more confident in my speaking abilities, thus sinking me further into this bubble. To combat this, I’ve swallowed my pride and began making mistakes. When I go to the markets or coffee shops or customer service stations I speak in Italian, full well knowing I’m making mistakes but also allowing myself to escape this bubble. In turn, people really are nice and help me out. I’ve gotten to know a good amount of people here just by making small talk and trying to learn and adapt to their culture. My advice to other students studying abroad is to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask a local the proper procedure for doing something or the best place to get something. I have found that locals appreciate when you try to learn about their culture rather than trying to keep your own in their environment. Whether you are able to speak Italian or not, the amount of effort you put forth into participating in the local culture is what counts.