Eating Florence and Experiencing the City

When I travel I attempt to assimilate myself into which culture in which I happen to be. I’m never fully able to accomplish such a momentous task, but at least it is one at which I try. Most Americans, I’ve noticed, do not even bother to attempt to “act Italian” while they are here. The same is true for tourists from many other countries such as Japan. This lack of ‘assimilation’ gives these tourists an air of superiority. For the Americans this is much more defined because they run about assuming that everybody in Italy can and wants to speak English. They clog the streets and ignore the social norms of Italy. These are the stereotypical American tourists who everybody hates.

I think that everybody hates them precisely for the reason that run around the city acting as if people should bow to their presence. They refuse to even attempt Italian and get frustrated when people won’t speak English. Who wouldn’t hate that? Come to a country to respect it and enjoy it. Don’t come to a country expecting it to behave in exactly the same manner as America. It’s embarrassing.

On that note, I can explain why I have been a kind of loner during this trip. Half of the reason is that I don’t attend the Italian class with everyone else, but the other half is that most of these girls act like the typical American tourist! They eat early, don’t want to adventure much, don’t speak Italian and chase Italian men. They want to shop, eat gelato and seem to enjoy acting American. Fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. But I came here for a true Italian experience where I could throw off the societal clamps of America and live life in a new mode for 4 months. I left America because I needed a break from the norm. Boston College had gotten old with its nearly unbreakable habits of working hard during the week and playing hard on the weekends. There was never change and never any new experiences. Why come to another country if you’re afraid to live differently?

And as such I’ve begun to care less and less about what the group is doing and more and more about that which I want to do. I have two reliable partners in Matt and Brian, both of whom agree with my life philosophy. There are also a couple of girls who though less likely than us to go out and do, understand the need to be “Italian.” I don’t mind the loner aspect. I actually enjoy it! Sure life’s better with company but after wasting most of last weekend waiting for the girls to want to do anything, I decided to start making moves on my own.

For instance, yesterday I woke up early and wrote. Then Matt and I went for a run, after which I worked out. Matt happens to have a friend who studied here for a semester who set him a list of places to eat and go. One of those restaurants was a bit of a trek, but I’m willing to travel for food. Brian and Katie decided to skip Italian and join me. We had a great time and the food was excellent and cheap (I had rabbit).

After another lesson with Rocky where we saw San Lorenzo and the Medici Palace we headed back to the hotel for dinner. Well, everyone else ate dinner while Brian and I lounged around doing work. We both got sick of eating so early especially since we had lunch at 2:30! We decided to go outside of the city to Fiesole where we could have a nice view of Florence and hopefully enjoy a wonderful meal. Not eating at 7 allowed me to be productive before dinner. Instead of eating early and doing nothing afterwards, I did work and then headed for dinner.

We had an awesome meal! I had nettle and ricotta ravioli in a butter sage sauce that blew my mind! Well worth the wait and well worth the 15 minute bus ride. At the end of that meal I was in a spectacular mood because throughout the day I did not bend to the will of others; I knew that which I wanted to do and I went for it. Plus after two exquisite meals how could one not be happy? I’m not one to get upset or irritated or anything when hungry, but I certainly get that way if I eat a subpar meal. Good food makes me happy and bad food makes me quite the unpleasant person.

I cannot believe that I’ve only been here for 15 days! It feels like a lot longer than that! The days go by slowly here because we honestly don’t have many responsibilities and we stay up late. The main concerns are what to eat and when to eat it. The pace of life certainly is slower, yet I’m sure it will be much slower once I get out of Florence. We only have a week left here, which seems like a lot but I will be gone for 3 days of it seeing Courtney in Madrid! There’s still so much to see and so much to eat! But one day I will return and the ancient city of Florence will still be here waiting for me.

And honestly I’m ready to leave Florence. The city itself is magnificent and the artwork indescribable, but I cannot stand it’s Americanization for much longer. I want to be forced to speak Italian so that I improve. I want to eat lunch around 1:30 and dinner around 9. I want to walk around a city void of American tourists, void of menus and signs in English, void of people speaking English as often as Italian and void of throngs of people jostling each other. I left America to come to Italy, not to come to another America. I want to cook and learn how to cook true Italian food. I want to learn from Italian students and my Italian host mom. I want to meet Italian friends, not only Americans. Only one more week and I will hopefully begin the transition.


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