Florence intern Nina Gibian's thoughts on the Italian culure:
1. Italians will play sidewalk games with you
Italian culture is all about taking things slow, and walking is no exception (something I should have picked up on from my Italian side of the family – never did). But it’s not so much their speed as it is their fearless tranquility that will make you take notice. Sometimes I play a game where I’m walking and someone starts to walk towards me and I don’t move to see if they will…. they don’t. They never do. And I guess this is cool of them because unlike some Americans with serious road rage (a.k.a. me) they’re completely unfazed if they run into someone on the sidewalk every 20 seconds. Good for them?
2. There is some legit stuff on the other side of the River Arno
Go over the bridge to the other side!!! DO IT!! I didn’t discover it until wellllll into my study abroad experience, but when I finally crossed the magical Ponte Vecchio, I found: the BEST pasta I had in Florence my whole time here (tucked away in a tiny little restaurant, maybe if you’re lucky I’ll tell you one day…ok, I’ll tell you now: Il Tarochi); a seriously cool bar only Italians go to (so they probably hate me being there but WHATEVA, now we can all go together cause here’s the reveal: Volume; more amazing food; the Boboli Gardens ; list goes on, and on. Just trust me. Cross a bridge and explore the other side.
3. Everything is way closer then it seems
You’ll go to one bar, then another, then three nights later realize they’re on streets right next to each other, or better yet literally right next to each other. A good tip that I developed was to just look at as much stuff as possible, so I could remember streets based on what was on them. I learned to navigate my way through Florence a little like this: “take a right at Eby's and then head on down past The Lion's Fountain and then a left at that burger house and then a right at that bar you’ll see that has all the red lights and then go straight….” etc., etc. No street names needed.
4. ALWAYS look up when you walk in
It’s not always that a ceiling is really cool in Italy, but it happens a freakin’ LOT. So if you’re walking into a restaurant, church, house, etc. just take a quick glance up so you don’t miss the coolest part of wherever you are.
5. It’s ok to feel stuck in the beginning
As you read above, my first month was not necessarily the best time of my life. But instead of spending the rest of my semester like a Debbie Downer, I decided to introduce myself to some people and be the sociable outgoing person I am! Here’s the best piece of advice I can give you for making friends abroad: everyone (or most people) here are trying to do the same thing as you. They want to meet new people and have some new experiences. So don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to ANYONE because this is your one chance to do freshmen year of college over again. You get to make a whole new set of friends that you normally wouldn’t be friends with. Over the course of my 4-month program I met some of the BEST and most unexpected friends I could ever have (SHOUT-OUT: you know who you are). They’re all different from me, from each other, and from anyone else I’ve ever had the opportunity to be friends with. And I loved every second with each and every one of them.
For more advice from Nina Gibian click here!