[attempts] to live like a local
La Vita Fiorentina
Well, not quite. One of our roommates had family here this weekend, which was awesome! We got a little taste of home, while giving a tour of our new home. What Nic’s mom said really stuck with me*: “You have to remember that no matter what you’re doing or however long you’re here, don’t get to comfortable, because at the end of the day, you’re still a tourist here.”
So true. I thought I would preface this post with that because everyone runs the risk of feeling all to comfortable with anything that becomes the new routine. I’m LOVING every second of every moment, but with that, I am only a student here and my time is short, so my typical day here is nothing like your average Fiorentine, I’m a hybrid: un’americana chi viva comè una fiorentina.
Three days a week I’m an American student (Monday: Lunedì, Wednesday: Mercoledì, Saturday: Sabato). I get up at 8:30 AM to roll out of bed, chow a little bit, and head to ballet rehearsals at the Florence Dance Center. Then I have class at 1:30 PM on campus (a 45 minute walk to explore side streets), then I’ll hit the books, ‘mini-gym,’ and head home to cook dinner and either do some more homework or catch up on TV back home (shout-out to Megavideo!). Three days a week I try to live as Florentine a life as possible: waking up at 06,00 to get ready for school, but not my school: I teach English at the Primaria Merlo Bianco (Tuesday: Martedì, Thursday: Giovedì, Friday: Venerdì) for Classe I-V (08,30-12,20). After that, I head to the Mercato Centrale to pick up some fresh food for the week before heading to Villa La Pietra for Language Class. After school, I walk home, usually running errands along the way and help prepare dinner for myself and some friends. After this we usually stroll around to check out local hotspots or just to get some fresh air in our lungs. Sunday (Domenica) is my day to be nothing and everything all at once. The way I see it, if the Italians do nothing, the Americans in Italy do nothing. Va bene.
So that’s my routine routine (if there ever was such a thing as a double entendre)...somewhere in between I volunteer with the La Pietra Policy Dialogues too, promoting women’s rights/issues awareness and advocacy in conjunction with the Università e Commune di Firenze).
My Apartment? Can’t complain about it in the least. I have an overview of the Piazza San Giovanni/del Duomo. It’s pretty great at night (not late at night when the drunks are out, but around 7-8 PM is hilarious!) to observe the setting—tourists have just arrive; they have stumbled upon the Duomo; viewing and snapping their first pictures of the jewel of Florence; then they see what appear to be Ghiberti’s “Gates of Paradise” and it’s all over from there. What they don’t realize is that the Gates aren’t the actual entry to the Baptistry...and they’re not located on this side [they’re the shiny ones around the corner! ...which aren’t even the original, but a replica]...CLASSIC tourist mistakes!! It’s great to watch from this view—as other students in my shoes must have watched me, as an eighth grader, embarking on my first trip to this magical place. I think it’s at this time of day that I feel most at home here—in my home [away from home]. When the city is getting ready to go to sleep and everyone is going to their hotel rooms or out to dinner: I get to watch the main crossroads of the town as they intersect.
Another perk to my location: Il Mercato Centrale. The cheapest produce, fruit, legumes, fine chocolates and liqueurs all in one spot—not to mention the AMAZING Cappucini and Panini! Everything is wonderfully affordable! You can eat for 5€ a day! I LOVE IT! But, it doesn’t have everything—well, it doesn’t have toilet paper. So, I also go to the super market to pick up other incidentals like paper towels, laundry detergent, soups, cereals, etc...even so, with all of this fresh, beautiful organic food, I spent a FRACTION of what I spend in New York on groceries in a week. It’s easy living in NYC to spend over $100 on groceries, even if it’s at Food Emporium (although I’ll admit to being a Whole Foods-er on most accounts), but here, I spend about $60...on your average week in NY (including nights dining out), that’s less than half of the money I spend!
Laundry is also much cheaper here...in fact it is free (unless you count utilities in tuition, in which case, it’s still $1,000 cheaper than living in NY). The only difference—we air dry our clothes: a small sacrifice, as I just let it sit out at night to dry (which isn’t an inconvenience, unless you study abroad in Washington and don’t sleep at night). Everything about our location is convenient, as we live in centro città. The Piazza del Duomo is great because it leads to most major exhibits and museums that you need to go to for class (today my Museology class met at the Duomo, which would have been convenient, had I not been sick as a dog for a week :/), not to mention it’s the Duomo. It’s tall. You can’t lose. Not even if you tried.
I think one of my favorite parts about the rustic atmosphere is seeing old and new side by side. My building is super old, as is evident by the ceilings (the photo with this post), but renovations to the structure demanded a few updates, so there are metal support beams in some places and the walls are clearly plaster layered over years of plaster before covering stone. The uneven edges and crooked levels make it all the more beautiful. Our doors? The outermost door is a huge heavy wooden door with a gigantic golden knob at the center—all for looks, of course, because on the inside, the door is reinforced with sheet metal and an electric locking system. Likewise, our apartment doors are a slightly updated 1970s wooden panel with thick metal interior. This building is great; and did I mention the shutters on the windows? I have a strange obsession with European window shutters, and now I actually get to use them, not just for a visit, but they’re temporarily mine! Along with real glass-paned windows.
La vita fiorentina e` magnificente, alas, I am but a guest in this city, but I get to see through eyes of a true Florentine through the windows from which clothes are laid out to dry, where small basil and cooking herbs grow, where pigeons stoop, and where I am permitted for four short months to preside over the daily activities of passers-by.
*I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I look at life as a movie with events unfolding...and I like to pick out my favorite lines and quotes from people I know.
Sorry for the long post, but I’m loving life here so much, I can’t contain myself (and I’m sick and can’t do anything from bed but write). Oh, and since I am living as Florentine a life I can...I saw a doctor who was so sweet and understanding, she helped me right away [had a fever of 39ºC, yikes!] and all of my meds only cost €20,10!