So, you’re going to Italy. Whether it’s on a vacation or to live, here are a few things you should know:
- Laundry takes 3 hours—at it’s fastest. Other options include a 9-hour cycle and a 12-hour cycle. Most Italian homes don’t have dryers, so don’t plan on washing something and wearing it out the same night. Plan ahead.
- Living in a foreign country can be stressful, and you may find yourself stress eating. The only difference is that here, you’re bombarded with beautifully crafted pizzas to binge on during those times. A curse and a blessing, I say.
- Uh, paper. It’s not 8.5×11 in Italy. It’s longer and doesn’t fit in little American folders. Quite annoying for schoolwork, but if you plan ahead I’d recommend not bringing school supplies. Better yet, don’t go to school while you’re abroad. Go exploring.
- One of the cutest things I saw in Florence happened in the early morning: parents holding their children’s hands and walking them to school. Imagine brick-lined streets, kids playing in puddles, and the locals being the only ones crowding the streets. Innocent beauty. Untainted. I don’t have words. Get up early during the school year and see for yourself.
- Locals love giving Americans free stuff to get them to come back. This may be dishonest depending on your situation, but always tell them you’re on a long vacation—at least for a month or two. Your first time in they want to hook you, so expect free bread, wine, and/or limoncello.
- When shops close up in the afternoons, somewhere between 2-6PM, the streets do a 180. With the garage-style doors pulled down, the magic of Florence is full of tin walls, graffiti, and sketchy meanderers. (During prime tourist season, starting around April, you may not notice this as much because streets will be so crowded. Good luck to you, I say. Good luck with the tiny sidewalks.)
- American music is a big thing in bars. That’s all.
- Italians are fricken loud. In my apartment, the neighbors upstairs fought all the time. And not like the windows were open and we happened to hear them raise their voices. NO, I wish. It was more like a fight between two tigers that no walls could hope to contain. Yikes. (I hope they’re doing all right.)
- Soo, traveling alone… do it if you can. Yes, it might make loved ones back home uncomfortable, and you should definitely check the safety of the area you’re going, but it is so worth it to discover something on your own.
A final thought to leave with: traveling—especially alone—has made me love and hate people. For every person willing to take a later stop on the train to help, there’s another waiting to take advantage of American ignorance. At the end of the day—whether speaking German, Czech, Italian, Spanish, or English—we all laugh in the same language.