Friday, May 26, 2006

Flirting with Florence

"I have an affection for a great city. I feel safe in the neighbourhood of man, and enjoy the sweet security of the streets." - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Although it's only been a few days since my arrival, there is no better feeling than sitting outside a Florentine cafe and admiring the culture as it surrounds you. I'd like to call it an industrialized paradise as the noises that would normally bother us (late night chatter outside your apartment, cars being driven around at high speeds, the click-clack sounds from pedestrians' footsteps)...they are all so soothing!

Although my housemates complained about the miscellaneous noises occuring outside our window while trying to sleep, I slept through it like a baby. It's almost like listening to those silly Nature CD's, except the sounds are artificial.

The people here are also very kind as the natives are willing to ask you for assistance if your body language calls for it (e.g. staring at a map for five minutes with a confused look on your face). That happened to me as I was exploring the southern areas of the Northern half of Florence -- this is where a lot of the nightlife is located

This one native gentleman was kind enough to walk me back to my apartment on Via Sant Antonino (about a 2 minute walk from the train station in the middle of town). Mind you, it was one in the morning and even I felt sketched out as I walked past many dark alleys (which also reeked of drunkard's piss puddles). But the man gave off a very friendly vibe; one so safe that I felt protected.

Speaking of sketchniess, there is nothing more awkward than having a random drunk Italian come up to you and put his leg up against your crotch. From the little Italian that I understand, he was trying to explain to me the sport of football. He seemed too drunk to be trying to pickpocket me (and if he did, it would be even more awkward as all of my belongings are in my waist pouch under my shirt).

The apartment itself is on the fourth floor of a five story building. It's small and quaint with two bedrooms, a small, full bathroom, and a small kitchen. It's nothing to write home about but at least we have hot water, electricity, and a washer! I know there are a couple apartments around town that do not have any of the three commodities that Americans take for granted.

The kids that are studying abroad with me seem very fun and friendly. I've effortlessly made friends (many of them actually came up to me to start conversations) and I've started to do the same. It's comforting to know you are with companions who know as equally little as you do. :)

Although most were predicting that we would get culture-shocked, I personally did not (as I had originally figured). There is a decent amount of texts written in English and a good amount of people know at least the basics of the language. So it's hard to be culture-shocked but I don't blame people if the "syndrome" of sorts does hit them.

The language barrier can be problematic as I tried ordering a latte and a sandwich but they could not understand my English nor (poor) Italian accent. This is extremely dorky but whenever I hear Italian dialog, it reminds me of how characters in The Sims communicate (through their babble of a language). Through the many dialogs I've had with the people of this city, I've learned one thing: SMILE! It's a universal signal for friendliness and it really helps alleviating that notion of "damn you tourists for invading my home" -- a common vibe that all of us have shared on multiple occasions.

A general mistake that foreigners do in Italy is touching food at a market. You're not suppose to touch the fruits! I actually saw this lady get scolded for that and she walked away as if she did nothing wrong. I know my mother would hate that about Florence as she loves to examine the fruits and vegetables before buying them.

Frankly, the only real "con" about this whole place is the excessive walking people would have to do during the winter. I love it during the summer as it's so beautiful to walk these Florentine streets and admire the exotic architecture or the alien behaviors of those who live here. I often find myself pondering just how much life is different in the middle of December. But I'm sure it must still be grand in one way or another during the winter.

I've spent an hour on this it's time to get off and enjoy the city some more. So until next time, ciao!


At 3:16 PM, May 26, 2006, Blogger Kate said...

James, I miss you and I'm glad you're having such a great time! Try to speak Italian whenever you can, and listen to people talking -- you'll pick it up so fast, you'll surprise yourself. Get some hot chocolate (ciccolato caldo con crema) at Rivoire on Piazza della Signorina. Stand at the counter. (Pay first, then order with the receipt.) It's something that everyone in Florence must do! Have a great time! :-)


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