Exploring Florence

Scoops of Gelato, dramatic domes, heaps of pasta and ancient artwork everywhere is some of the first few things that come to mind when thinking about Italy. I have learned several new things about Italy after living in the city of Florence, home of the Medicis and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore: there is a shortage of hot water, there is a fee to dine in at most to all restaurants, people walk everywhere and there is extremely slow internet. 

To put it shortly, Italy, or at least Florence, is a much slower-paced country than the United States is; ironically, since walking down the streets of Florence is a quick-paced battle between the Florence locals and the fast taxis that can nearly hit someone if not watched carefully. The term “pedestrians first” is unheard of. “One for all” a man should mutter when walking through the streets of Florence; it is every man defending himself when walking to grab a bite to eat at the local Trattoria (Italian restaurant) or going to a pub or bar for a cappuccino.

Buildings in the Piazza del Duomo on Jan. 6. The Piazza is popular with tourists for places to shop and eat. Photo by Lydia Egan.

In Italy, everyone walks, and the people who do drive are either taxis, garbage trucks, or locals who are insanely confident. Florence locals also heavily ride their bikes to get to one place to the next. When walking through Piazza del Duomo, a popular courtyard surrounding the Duomo, earth-toned bicycles are propped up in assembled groups. It is hard to not look like a tourist when walking when the iPhone is in your front pocket (not the back pocket because pickpocketers are at every corner) itching to be taken out to capture a photo of a Doric column or historical arch leading to one of the several plazas they have.

Despite the fast-paced cars and Florence natives who know their way, walking through Florence to get to anywhere feels like nothing short of walking through the backlots of a movie set. The narrow roads and archaic buildings build a picture-perfect stroll when walking to literally anywhere. As a student studying abroad in Florence, the walk from my apartment to school is about 20 minutes. At 8:00 a.m. when there is no one around, and there is only the hundred only buildings to keep you company, there is hardly anything to complain about.

Florence natives also help the adjust from warm and sunny California to cold and foggy Italy. Florence, notable for its several churches, contains many American residents studying abroad all year around. Florence is most definitely a tourist town as if it was not obvious by the several souvenirs stores that surround the downtown area. When going into most restaurants, the waiters can speak English, and most menus have an English translation at the bottom. A local favorite among students and locals is Pino’s Sandwiches. The sandwich shop is a 10-minute walk from school and serves authentic Italian sandwiches and pasta for very affordable prices. Being surrounded by other financially unstable college students and Florence locals enjoying great food in a very small room is a bonding experience. 

“Andiamo!” is what the Italians say — meaning “let’s go!” I’m excited to give it a go in a city I am not yet adjusted to.  After seven days in the Italian city, I have seen a sliver of the city and I am excited to see what the picturesque city has to offer.

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