Viva la Internet

Our apartment’s wi-fi has been down for a few days now. (The Internet has a large presence in Florence–with lots of Internet connection stores and free wi-fi advertised in cafes, but it can nonetheless be unreliable and not at the quality I’m used to in the US).

So, as you’ll see, I’ve accumulated several blog posts since my journey to Italy began. Each post indicates the date it was actually written, so start from the last post (“Is it 6:00 yet?”) to the most recent if you’re looking to read the whole chronological story of my time here so far. You can access these via the side panel, or scrolling through Older/Newer posts as the bottom of each post.

I know that there are some family and friends who have been waiting to read these and see the pictures, so sorry about the delay! Hope you enjoy 🙂

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Day 4: Prospective husband? Si

(Written January 29th)

Before I begin this story, I would like to say that this, or anything like this, would NEVER happen to me in America.

Last night, Saturday, my housemates and I went out to a bar for the first time here. We walked down to the hoppin’ nightlife zone near the Duomo around 11:30pm to meet up at a local bar with some Marist friends. Cars may be a luxury we don’t have now, but the ability to walk anywhere in ~15 minutes or less and see amazing sights on the way is an even greater luxury, in my opinion. Walks at night feel safe if you stay on the well-lit roads crowded by groups of young friends—mostly locals, but also students from all over the world. In fact, I love this atmosphere…it’s so alive.

When my housemates and I arrived at the bar, it was PACKED, but soon cleared out to a very comfortable size. We brought our drinks back to a table and kicked off our first girls’ night out in Florence. At first there were mostly foreign students—especially Americans–but the place was mostly full of locals after that wave of students left for una discotecha (a dance club). My group of friends and I ended up befriending one of these locals, Luca—the cute Italian guy who squeezed into the seat behind me to sit at a table with his friends. Luca and I had briefly greeted when I initially scooted in my chair for him, but he ended up rotating to our table before we knew it. Chelsea asked him a question about the Euro to dollar conversation rate regarding the framed display on the wall that we had been puzzling over for a while (we’re the cool girls), which he kindly explained to us. That conversation was quickly diverted, and before we knew it Luca was showering me with compliments and asking me out for shopping or whatever I want to do tomorrow.

At the table, we couldn’t communicate too well because he spoke very little English and I barely speak or understand any Italian [yet]. (However, the many “bellas” and the eventual “Lisabetta, I love you!” were quite clear). As flattering and unexpected of an experience as this was, my favorite aspect was having the opportunity to truly try conversing with someone who speaks a different language. Thankfully Chelsea helped with the translating, but Luca and I managed to converse a little on our own, too. For example, he was expressing to me how when Italians go to New York and cannot speak English, then the New Yorkers are often impatient with them; whereas in Italy, Italians have much more tolerance for Americans attempting to hurdle the language barrier. (Well, at least that’s what I think he was saying). Luca was very passionate and sweet, even just casually talking with us, and didn’t give off any bad vibes that you’d maybe suspect. My friends all approved of him sitting with us and answer our questions about Florence and his life, while charming me in between. Gotta’ give him credit for putting up with our sloppy mix of English, Spanish and Italian.

So today my new Italian lover and I went shopping and picked out my wedding dress in a bridal shop we passed.

JUST KIDDING, MOM. I actually had been quite clear with him throughout the night that I wasn’t interested in seeing him the next day or in giving him my number, which my friends also helped emphasize. Again, didn’t feel threatened or sketched out by him at all, but still not advisable…especially on only the fourth night in Florence. He tried. “Oooh Lisabetta, porque?!” “Mi dispiace” (“I’m sorry”) was all I could say. We both laughed…you could tell he was kind of just pushing my buttons to be cute after a while, even when he knew his White Knight efforts were ABSOLUTELY HOPELESS. He almost bought me a rose from one of those damn flower guys, too. Now I get why that’s actually a business…

At one point during the night, the bartender put on a fun song that all the locals were singing along with and kind of dancing to. Chelsea asked the owner for the name of the song, which is “Ai se eu te pego” by Michel tolo. My housemates looked it up on YouTube today, with the English translation of lyrics, and declared it Luca’s and my song.

“Wow, wow

You’re gonna kill me that way”

Sunday strolls

(Written January 29th)

The sites are always beautiful to walk by, but there’s definitely something exceptional about Sunday mornings. The streets are cluttered with tourists and locals alike, creating an awesome energy that excuses any frustrations with the crowd. Vendors are out to sell their hand-crafted items, leather goods and souvenirs. Artists and musicians are all about the sidewalks and plazas, like the old man playing his accordion or the line of artists with their canvas. The smell of homemade pizza and pastries pervades through the cobblestone streets, and the church bells of the towering Duomo make a loud but beautiful soundtrack. Is this really my life?

Buy some flowers, bro.

(Written January 29th)

I cannot possibly convey to you the hilarious joy in watching Rob run away from the flower guys. Apparently in the evening and night, especially by the major sites and bars, these vendors walk around with a bouquet of roses in effort to sell them to young men who are trying to charm the ladies.

Some friends and I first witnessed this hilarity of this the other night while walking near the Duomo. Rob, being the only male in this group, must’ve been bombarded by a flower guy every 10 minutes or so. The vendor would suddenly appear in our circle of friends, holding out his flowers to Rob with this “I got you, bro” kind of look. Rob practically had to run away sometimes, yelling “No, grazie! No!” Good laughs…

The best was what my housemates and I witnessed last night. Apparently these vendors come into bars as well (good salesmanship, especially considering the Italian PDA norms by the restrooms in the back). We watched and laughed as the flower guy went up to each table and huddle of friends to offer a flower purchase to the males; we ABSOLUTELY LOST IT when this vendor actually disturbed a couple making out in the back to offer that guy the rose purchase. These flower guys are relentless!

Ciao, bella!

(Written January 29th)

Apparently, I am una bella en Italia. (As is pretty much every young female, I’m sure). I had been warned about this, but mamma mia!

It’s like wearing a giant sign saying “I AM SINGLE AND COULD COOK DELICIOUS FOOD FOR YOU AND OUR FUTURE BABIES”—even when bundled in layers of clothing, walking quickly, and avoiding eye contact to a bitchy extent. I cannot go too far without a “Buona sera, singnora!” or “Ciao, bella!” or effusive stares. Usually I ignore them, because I don’t want to give off the wrong impression, and am honestly too occupied holding back a nervous giggle because I have NO idea how to handle this kind of attention. Occasionally I’ll greet them back as I keep walking, especially if it’s just a shop owner being polite. Sometimes I freeze up and can’t even produce a “Ciao” though.

I have not once felt threatened or harassed or offended by these Italian men, though, despite this shocking amount of attention. My housemates agree with this notion as well. Yes, these men will tell you that you are beautiful right to your face. They will flatter you, and they naturally will step down into the road while you pass by so that you can stay safely on the sidewalk. As my Literature teacher pointed out when we were discussing how Audrey Hepburn is praised by the Italian men in Roman Holiday, “They are direct, but in a respectful, romantic way. They will try SO hard!” And it’s true. No threats, no touching, no disrespect—just a shot at telling a girl she’s pretty.

If I am still single and lonely at age 30, I am moving to Italy 😀

Taking on Firenze un caffé at a time

(Written January 28th)

Today I ran out of my instant coffee packets, and haven’t purchased a coffee maker for my apartment yet. Anyone who knows me must know that cutting off my coffee is almost like cutting off my air supply. So today, around 16:30pm (trying to get used to a 24-hour clock), I took my first solo walk down to the corner café to buy my first Italian coffee. It took me a second to realize that I order it right at the bar, which was occupied by old Italian men drinking their afternoon whiskey and beer.

I pulled a noob move of accidentally greeting the barista with “Buon giorno” even though it was evening now, and she responded “Buona sera” (“Good evening”). Then I ordered, “Un caffé, por favore,” and she handed over a cute little espresso cup and asked me a question I didn’t understand. So I asked her, “Parla inglese?” (“Do you speak English?”), and she said no and laughed kindly—but I was glad that it wasn’t immediately apparent to her that I can’t speak Italian, even with my botched greeting. Then she pointed to the milk and asked me in Italian if I want milk, which I understood but replied no, because I wanted to have my first true Italian cup of espresso-style coffee.

It was about 2 oz of liquid, but man did it do the job! I stood at the bar and sipped down my mini-coffee like a pro, enjoying its strength and instant jolt. Then I asked “Quanto costa?” and paid my 1 Euro, then carried on with a lifted spirit. I’m ready to take on Firenze un caffé at a time…even with the Italianglish.

Charmed

(Written January 27th)

They say the cycle of culture shock is “Honeymoon” phase and then a “Crisis.” But I think it happened backwards for me: today, I finally took a 360 from from the jet-lagged anxiety I’ve been feeling, and fell under the spell of this city’s charm.

The more I explore and try new experiences, the less foreign everything feels. Suddenly things that seemed terrifying are no longer scary. Places that seemed unapproachable are no longer so intimidating. And aspirations I hope to do no longer seem so far-fetched.

The more I explore and try new experiences, the more I appreciate this city. It has the same excitement, diversity and containment that I love about New York City. But it’s more relaxed, inviting and beautiful. (Sorry, NY). Every corner I turn has a unique sight to admire, and everything I taste is just amazing. Businesses will close to spend time with their families in the afternoon, and a 2-3 hour dinner of indulgence is a norm.

Sure, there are still many uncomfortable situations that may feel scary, intimidating, embarrassing or stressful. But I cannot learn without making mistakes (like botching an order or making a wrong turn), and I cannot appreciate this city without trying new things. Every little positive experience I have feels so much more significant than one would expect, and every little negative experience is becoming easier and easier to blow off. Bye, Crisis. Ciao, Honeymoon!

Credit: Heather Ayvazian

Credit: Heather Ayvazian