“Three weeks already!?” That was my reaction after realizing that I had been living in Italy for three weeks and had only three more weeks left of my study abroad experience. It felt like time was going by so fast but I guess time flies when you are having fun. This week was very hectic for me, I had papers due and exams so on the weekend I decided to reward myself with a trip to Greece; I have dedicated another post specifically for my time there.
I didn’t really do much this week other than studying, eating out at restaurants, watching sunsets at Piazza Michaelangelo and of course indulging in gelato so I’m going to focus this post on letting you know how it would be like to visit Italy and how to make the most out of your time there.
As soon as I decided to study abroad in Italy I told myself that I would learn enough Italian to be able to have a small conversation with a local; I bought myself a Rick Steves’ Italian Phrase book & Dictionary and I planned on carrying it around and using it everywhere until I learned good Italian… This was not the case. Before I left to Italy I did study the book but once I got there I only picked it up a few times… Fail! I blame this on the fact that surprisingly to me a lot of Italians spoke English, most of them actually. I’m not sure if it was that the areas I visited were very touristic or what but every time I tried to speak Italian and struggled a bit the Italians would speak to me in English. I liked the fact that I could communicate with them with no trouble but at the same time I disliked the fact that I was not given a chance to practice my Italian as much as I wanted to. I was also surprised at the fact that in restaurants and stores American music would be playing most of the time, I could actually count the times that I heard Italian music playing in a store or restaurant. Good news is that although I didn’t learn as much Italian as I planned to I did pick up some Italian. I could specially understand a lot of it since my first language is Spanish and some words are similar.
The main thing to be aware of is the time difference. Italy is in the central European time zone. If we compare Italy’s time to Eastern Florida’s, Italy is ahead 6 hours. Depending where you are traveling from you can expect some jet lag upon arriving to Italy. Some ways to minimize it are to stay away from caffeine and alcohol that means no coffee or our beloved soda and I know complementary wine while watching movies in the airplane seems fancy but that’s out too. Instead drink lots of water to stay hydrated, try to sleep on the plane and I’ve heard that once you arrive staying up as late as possible on the first night helps a lot.
If you are coming from the US, one of the things you’ll notice is how small the streets are in Italy, at least in most places. Because of this traffic is a little… What can I call it, crazy! Don’t be surprised to see people walking on the streets; I used to do it too. The streets are small but the sidewalks are even smaller or non-existent sometimes. I heard someone once say “Every street is a sidewalk until a car comes” and this is 100% true! You’ll also notice how different Italy is from the US; it looks and feels very different. The cars are smaller there, buildings can be very colorful and it’s a different atmosphere. Life there moves slower there, by that I mean that people take time to do things without rushing so much for example lunch breaks at work can last hours because Italians usually don’t eat out and prefer to go home. People live an active life by walking and biking a lot instead of driving much.
One thing you can expect when going to Italy is to see a lot of people smoking pretty much anywhere. If you are not a smoker yourself you can expect to do a lot of second hand smoking as there are no rules that prevent people from smoking in public places. This was personally one of the few things that I didn’t like about Italy.
I loved the weather while I was there. I got there mid-May and in the mornings it would be chilly in the low 60’s and in the afternoon it would be in the 70’s degree Fahrenheit, it didn’t rain much during may and the beginning of June; perfect weather! I was there until the end of June and by then temperatures started going up and it started raining more often but this was nothing compared to the weather in Florida, US. Florida is way hotter than Florence, Italy; on my first days back to Florida I couldn’t stand the weather at all; it definitely took me some time to adjust to such hot weather. I’m not sure if it gets this hot in Italy later in the year but while I was there from May to the end of June the weather was very pleasant.
These are just a few things to expect when visiting Italy. My first impression was very positive and I loved it and I’m sure you’ll love it too.
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