I landed my butt in Florence just over two weeks ago and it has been nothing short of a whirlwind. Between a day and a half of flying, a time change, and a culture shock, I am still settling into the way of life here. Now I am at the halfway point in my second week of school and I’m finally feeling like this could possibly be real life and not just a foggy daze that I am happily stuck in. Florence is, in just a few words, beautiful, amazing, delicious, hot, quaint, and slightly overwhelming at the moment! The next nine months of my life are going to be set in a different time zone, city, country, and continent… it’s safe to say that it takes some getting used to.
Upon touching down here in Italia, a few major differences have come to mind right away. Florence has no idea what a grid system is and having decided to only use my phone with Wi-Fi, I had my head in a tiny map with twisty semi-labeled roads for my first few days here! I decided to take my first run in Florence just the other day as an attempt to burn off a small percentage of the carbs I have taken in since being here. I figured if I ran straight, I could simply turn around, but of course the street I was on ended so I just took a turn. I ran twisting around streets for about 20 minutes and suddenly ended up on my very own street… without trying to. All I can say is that at least I tried to exercise.
A second major difference is the price of food and drinks here. After living in New York City for two years, I expect a coffee to be nothing short of $2.50. My now daily cappuccino, that I order “take away” en route to class, costs me 1.20 Euro, or $1.54. It even comes with a chocolate design doodled into the steamed milk each morning, something I am sure Starbucks would have charged me extra for.
A panini down the street from my apartment is just 3.50 Euro and the best sandwich I have ever tasted was only 5.00 Euro and a short walk away. The prices can definitely go up from there, but as a girl on a budget I’m content with seeking out the best deals.
I have chosen to live alone during my time here and so far I am enjoying this decision. My rent is not even close to what I would be paying if I lived in New York alone and though my apartment is small, it’s certainly enough room for one person. My apartment is a short walk to my friends’ apartments, bars (a bar is a coffee shop here), stores for everything I may need, and the Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale is the most amazing fresh market with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, meats, and fish- it’s a quick stop to get ingredients for whatever I am in the mood to cook. Apartment hunting, although stressful, ultimately worked out. Life seems to have assured that each of us made it where we were supposed to be. Now that I have a place to return home to at the end of the day that feels like my own, it’s much easier to picture Florence as my life and not just a temporary vacation. That being said, it’s a life I am most certainly getting used to.
I am trying to slowly, but surely explore the city. Everywhere I walk I think “Oo I should eat there” or “Wow that place looks awesome.” I have to keep reminding myself that there is plenty of time in nine months to stop back at these places and I don’t have to stock up on every croissant or gelato flavor all at once (although it is tempting to do just that). The most important part of being here for me is to just see it all and take it all in. I’m constantly pushing myself to get out and walk around even when it’s only me. How else will I see all the secret beauties within these city walls?
Everyone says that traveling is easy in Florence and Europe and through Polimoda I took my first trip this past weekend to “Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre.” Cinque Terre was a two-hour bus ride to some of the most gorgeous views I have ever seen. We had the option to hike or go to the beach and the active side of me(and the side that’s been eating all the carbs) chose the hike. Though they made it seem easy, it was quite the uphill climb, but each step and my one wipe out, was more than worth it. As you climbed up the hills you walked past rows and rows of grapes growing in thick bunches. The views were absolutely incredible as you looked out at the jagged coastline created by the Mediterranean Sea. It was breathtaking to stop and see the lush, green mountainside, with the small clusters of colorful homes nestled together down near the sea. After the hike, I took a dip into the Mediterranean Sea. Prior to leaving I ordered homemade pasta with homemade pesto, a Cinque Terre specialty. It was a fulfilling day in just about every way.
My Italian adventure is just beginning and I can’t wait to keep sharing it. For now, arrivederci!