As some of you may know, I recently traveled to Florence, Italy! Of course, I have to share my experience with all of you here. I’ve wanted to go to Italy since I was about 15 years old and this trip was everything I thought it would be and more. Last November my school sent out an email advertising a trip to our campus in Florence to study photography. I jumped at the opportunity immediately and on May 19th I made my way to Florence! Did I mention that this was my first time ever being out of the country?
There are so many different aspects of this trip that I could talk about it for ages and not get bored. I’m not going to do that though because this blog post is already going to be super long compared to my other posts. What I’m going to do instead is break down the trip into what stood out to me the most and hope I do it justice.
I’m making this it’s own section because the bathroom/toilet/shower situation was so different that I really just need to vent. My first interaction with an Italian toilet was at a rest stop (the fanciest and nicest rest stop I’ve ever been in. Take notes, America) on the way from Rome to Florence and I was immediately confused. The seat itself was super skinny and there were no toilet seat liners. Weird, I thought, but whatever. I just used toilet paper to line the seat. But then it came time to flush and I had no idea what to do. It took me a minute, but I figured out that the “handle” was on top of the toilet. And later on in the trip, I found that sometimes it was on the wall and that confused me even more… Anyway…
What was even more confusing than the toilet situation was the shower situation. By the time my roomies and I got settled into our apartment on the first day we were all tired and sweaty and naturally we wanted to shower. I was one of the first girls to be settled, so I hopped in the shower first expecting a nice warm shower. Boy, was I wrong. That first shower was frigid. Ice. Damn. Cold. So cold, I felt my chest tighten up in the shower and I started hyperventilating. It was horrible. It was like that for everyone else on the trip too! None of us could figure out how to turn on the hot water. BUT THEN, my roomie Taylor figured it out and saved all of us!! Turns out there was a switch which turned on the water heater you had to turn it on a couple hours before you wanted to shower. We were all very grateful to her after that. Taylor, if you’re reading this, you’re a real one!
For the rest of the trip, those first few showers became a source of laughter for my roomie, Sanaya and I. It is pretty funny when you think about it…
Everyone who has ever gone to Italy raves about the food and I would have to agree, it’s amazing. However, in a weird way it made me more thankful for the food I eat at home. First of all, I mainly ate pasta and bread my entire time there, which was awesome but it also got annoying. I normally eat a lot of veggies and fruits and since I didn’t have as much of that when I was there, my body felt a little out of sorts most of the time. I couldn’t wait to go back home and have my food again. If I had the opportunity to do everything over again, I would have done better grocery shopping so that I could have some of the food I was used to. Later in the trip I ended up finding a raw vegan cafe very close to my apartment and I was so excited! My body rejoiced!
Also! Very random, but I was not impressed the bread in general. My first night there was my roughest because I was super jet lagged and cranky (I was up 5am LA time until about 8pm Florence time) and by the time we got to the first restaurant I was so excited to eat, I could barely stand it. it was ridiculous. The waiter brought out the bread and I was like “YAAAAAAAS BREAD IN ITALY IT’S ‘BOUT TO BE LIIIIIIT” and then I bit into it was like 0___0. It was super bland! Like BLAAAAAAAND, Y’all! I don’t think they used salt at all. Maybe this is my American taste buds talking, but I was upset especially because I was hungry af. I ate it anyway though, because like I said, hungry af and I hate food waste.
That being said, I loved how simple the food was. Most of what I was eating was some version of tomato, garlic, olive oil and pasta and it was always delicious! So rich in flavor and so simple. Each flavor stood out on its own and complimented each other so well. I’m not sure that my writing is doing it justice, but just know that it was damn good!
There were a few key differences that I noticed between Italian life and American life. From my perspective, Italian life seemed a lot more relaxed and easy going. As if they really were just enjoying the moment and could appreciate the sweet and slow beauty of everyday life. It was beautiful. The apartment that we stayed in was in a neighborhood called Santo Spirito and we were right above a piazza. Every night I would hear the hum of people talking and laughing until at least 2am. It was beautiful and it made the trip so much more magical for me.
I noticed this relaxed behavior specifically in my dining experiences. My first morning there my roomie (shoutout to Sanaya again) and I went to this beautiful café. After we had finished eating, the waiter let us sit there without interrupting us or giving us a check. We had to call him over to get the check. In America as soon as a waiter notices that you’ve slowed down eating or you’re done they’ll come over to your table with the check and say something along the lines of “ I’ll just leave this here for whenever you’re ready. No rush.” But we all know there’s a rush.
The same thing happened every time we went out to eat at all. On our last night in Florence, we sort of tested how long we could sit after we finished our food before they would ask us to leave. Our waitress never came by. There was a line out the door to get into the restaurant and no one asked us to get up. It was great! What really got me though was an interaction at another cafe one morning before class. I ordered a tea and instead of the charging me immediately, the barista started making my drink, which isn’t too unusual. I was standing around sort of confused waiting for him to take my money after he made my drink, but when finished my drink he said: “You can pay after”. My American mind was blown. I didn’t know what to do. That would never happen in the states, or at least it hasn’t happened to me yet.
I don’t really know how to explain this, but for some reason being in another country made me super proud to be American. I have no idea why. Maybe because being there, I was just “American” and there was no other question. Once someone asked what my ethnicity was, but it was coming from the understanding that America is a melting pot and there are many different cultures that make up America. In no way were they challenging my nationality though, and that was nice. The question of “where are you from” can feel like that when I’m back in the states. Almost as if they are saying “You don’t belong here, so where are you from originally?” Side note: I always say “I’m from here.” And if they press further I say “I’m Native American. So, I’m from here here. My ancestors are from this country.”
Back to being an American in Italy though, seeing how other people behave made me aware of what exactly made me American. As Americans, we can be loud and somewhat obnoxious and over the top and I saw that within myself more when I was around most other people, even some of my other classmates who were from other countries. While I was extremely interested in learning about and respecting Italian culture, I was aware that I wasn’t trying to apologize for the things that made me American. For instance, one night the roomies and I had plans to go out to a bar. I was getting ready to do my makeup for the night and I wanted to do a really dramatic red smokey eye. I had a brief moment where I thought to myself “Most of the women I’ve seen here have really beautiful natural looking makeup.” Then in that same breath, I thought to myself “Yeah, but I’m American, and American women do whatever the f%^* they want with their makeup!” Then I went right ahead and did my makeup the way I wanted to. It was a really freeing feeling.
Not only was this my first trip abroad, it was my first time being completely on my own and I learned a lot about myself. I’ve always been told by teachers and such that I’m a great leader, I feel like I really saw it for myself first-hand on this trip. One of my teachers even reached out to me to make sure everyone in my house got up in time to make our flight home and called me the “house mom”. I gained a confidence in myself that I think you can only get from being on your own. I realized that I’m capable of handling myself in any and all situations and I think I am way more excited about what awaits me in my adult life.
I’m very grateful for this trip and I will most definitely be making my way back to Italy sometime soon. Even some other countries while I’m at it! I for sure caught the travel bug with this trip and now I want to explore everything, haha!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Love always & stay fabulous,