After nearly moving to Madrid never to be seen in Florence again, I am indeed back and extremely happy to return to some semblance of normalcy and routine. We are, after all, creatures of habit (for better or worse) and while I can travel bohemian style with the best of them, a month is almost too long.
Summer is still going strong in Firenze. The weather is hot and the tourists are here in full force. The season won’t really end until mid-November, but for those of us that live here, the end of August is usually a very rude awakening. The Italians call it the sindrome del rientro and it is very real. I’m back to work at the University, while at the same time trying to study as much as possible (ahem, FOCUS) for when I choose my next adventure.
I spent some time at the Uva Nera yesterday — a super cute wine bar with reliable wifi — great for working remotely. Located on Borgo Ognissanti, it is situated just past the Polimoda fashion school, walking from school towards the center of town, so they receive a lot of student traffic. Since I was behind the bar when some students came in, we got to talking, and I was able to share some of my experience living in Florence with them. They were really disappointed to learn I was American and speak perfect English!
Both when speaking to Lisa May and in my experience working with students traveling abroad for the first time, many people wonder how to become integrated in their adopted community: how do I get the locals not to speak to me in English? How do you make friends? How do you get your barista to finally say hello?
Needless to say the conversation got me thinking about the advice I’ve given students over the years: CONSISTENCY IS KEY. I believe that if you just do what you love, wherever you are, you will naturally make friends without stressing yourself out about doing it the “right” way. I love running and having a cheap drink at aperitivo, so lo and behold no matter where in the world I go, I tend to meet runners and revelers! And if you find a trail, park, basketball court, museum, bookstore, cafe, whatever it is that you love, and a habit of dedicating some time consistently to that space or activity, you will undoubtedly notice that the locals become curious about you.
For me it’s back to work but for so many students it’s their first time here, so best of luck this semester or year abroad. Fearlessly refuse to speak English and you will leave Florence with an enhanced Italian vocabulary for sure.
How do you like to get the feel for a place? What’s the first thing you do when you go somewhere new?