Italian culture is one of relaxation, taking life slowly, and enjoying every moment! This has definitely been an adjustment for me, but in the best way possible. In the U.S., we are so used to rushing from one thing to the next, with little time to take a step back and appreciate the little things around us. In Florence, it is common for there to be a midday break around 1-4pm, where many shops close for lunch and for a period of relaxation and recovery during the day. It is refreshing to be surrounded by people who truly appreciate each day without so much focus on work and the idea of “keeping up” that we see in the United States.
In terms of classes, I have two: Italian Language and Renaissance Art History. Italian is a class that I am very grateful to be taking, as I feel it is only right that I learn the language in order to respect the Florentines and their culture. As I took Spanish for almost six years, I have been able to use the similarities to my advantage while acclimating, but it is also very interesting to compare and examine the linguistic differences. Just being able to order food or ask for the bathroom in Italian has gone a long way. Although I was initially scared to take an art history class, as I am not particularly fond of art nor history, I am so happy I stuck with my Renaissance Art History course. Art is a major aspect of Italian culture, and can be seen everywhere, including in their churches, architecture, piazzas, and even on my living room ceiling! Having the opportunity to visit museums that I would otherwise likely not see has been rewarding, especially as our professor is extremely knowledgeable on almost all of the works. Classes are geared more towards learning the material rather than our testing ability, and I enjoy not having my computer out and instead being able to really listen and engage in the lectures.
Here is my living room ceiling!
My six roommates and I live in an apartment on Via del Corso, essentially in the center of Florence. We are about a five minute walk from CAPA (our classes) and the Duomo (the famous Dome of Florence). We could not be happier with our location and the people we were placed with. The seven of us have been trying all of the popular Florence spots, including fantastic dinner spots and coffee bars. While having six roommates has been an adjustment, I could not be happier with my living situation.
When traveling to foreign countries, there will always be challenges, especially for me, a first time European traveler. A smaller challenge I was confronted with (originally) was eating dinner as late as 10pm! At home, I am used to eating around 5:30-7pm; however, dinner does not usually begin until 8pm here. This adjustment has not been too difficult, and it is more of an interesting cultural difference than a challenge. Another challenge has been the constant noise and crowds in the city. Being in the prime tourist season, it is often challenging to navigate the narrow streets and sidewalks, being that people walk directly in the streets. It is difficult to try to not run into anyone while also avoiding the cars driving in the streets. Additionally, there are huge street cleaning vehicles that drive throughout the night, and being in the center of the city, we often hear them as late as two in the morning. However, as I am used to living in Pittsburgh, this has also not been too difficult for me. Altogether, the challenges I face are almost irrelevant when comparing it to all of the incredible aspects of Florence!