Here is my oddly specific guide to NYU Florence and living abroad:
It was February and the weather was quite indecisive. I dressed for New York City weather. Spring weather greeted me. I was hot. The next day I dressed for early fall weather with only a sweatshirt. It snowed. I got a cold the next day. April and May weather is more intense, smoldering hot. Pack a winter coat, bring cold medicine from wherever you are from, buy a spring jacket, and bring leggings for in between.
The rain sometimes goes on and off on days where the sky does not feel like being beautiful. The mosquitoes will come. Pack bug spray. They really only come randomly one day, usually when it has rained the day before.
The coffee machine was invented in Italy, Unfortunately, the size you get at Starbucks was not. Drinking coffee is more of a slow and casual past time spent at the counter of a pasteria. In the center of the city, there is restaurant in to the left of the baptistry. Doni, as I have mentioned in an earlier post, works there. Order regular coffee or iced coffee to-go or two to three euros and it is the closest size you will ever find to the United States. Get two, one for now and the to store in your fridge for a late night. On campus, Fernando works at the cafe and makes some killer cappuccino on a student’s budget for before class as well. And there are plenty of gelaterias for a study break every once and awhile.
While the sense of traditionalism in Italy is amazing, you might experience shorter library hours and in-and-out wifi because if it. But what differs most of Florence than any other site is that the buildings look the same as they did when Dante and the Medicis (you will learn how to correctly pronounce when here) did. Everytime you walk out your door is a learning experience, new paper topic, and a fascination you never thought.
That being said, live in the moment…of learning. While there are so many opportunities to be artsy with photographs or funny, having only one clear picture of a Renaissance portrait for your paper harms your grade if it has the Snapchat caption of a Jay-Z lyric on it. Been there!
You are student and probably cannot afford to eat out every night. What I have learned is that you can learn a lot about a new place by what they sell at grocery stores. In Italy, food is a very prominent part of the culture, and before here I did not know how to cook. I went out the first few weeks and then emulated what I ate at restaurants. That is how I learned how to cook. Also do not underestimate the quality of les-expensive but fresh pane ciccolatta from grocery store bakeries.
Also, as you walk through the streets of any city, remember every aspect of life has an economical, cultural, and social reason for existing. A man eagerly selling self sticks might be a Senegalese refugee and have that as his only means of income. The shoes you buy may tie back to illegal Chinese immigrants working long hours in Prato.
In addition, what to see in Italy and several places in Europe are churche so dress accordingly. I forgot that I was going to the Vatican when I visited Rome. The weather was so hot. I wore booty-short overalls with a cami to Saint Peter’s Basilica. Of course, I had to make a skirt out of my cami and pull it over my legs while I borrowed a friend’s jacket to cover my arms.
Lastly, the most important lesson I have learned is not to worry about being too cliche but to find my own experiences as well. There is a reason everyone goes to Santorini or the French Riviera and not a cute and adorable small village in Italy. The transportation is more reliable. My roommates and I had plans to go to Verona or the hometown of Saint Valentine. Doing so would have stranded us at either location past the weekend. And when you do go somewhere: do not be afraid of traveling alone, ignoring suggestions from someone else’s past on what to see there, and trying to conquer Milan or any other city with less time than you think you are capable of. But if you are sitting in a Seville stadium with a Real Madrid jersey on during a Sevilla vs. Real Madrid game, please bring friends to ease your comfort. Trust!