Written by Isaac V, High School/Pre-College Student Correspondent for CET Florence: Italian Food, Art, and Society Summer 2019
With a cool new hairstyle, more formal clothing, and nicer shoes, Florence has truly transformed me into more of an Italian man. However, not just my wardrobe has gotten better. I’ve made tons of new friends, learned more Italian, learned how to be a good roommate, and I’ve become much more open-minded and understanding of a global perspective.
On the contrary, there have been some challenges. For some of this month, I’ve been plagued by thoughts which have been challenging to overcome. For example, I would think to myself, What’s the point of getting close to these other kids if we won’t get to see each other often after we get back to the US?. After some time looking introspectively I realized that the answer to this question was simple; just because you may not see them often doesn’t mean you can’t keep in touch, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy each others company at the moment. Interestingly, the fact that I had those thoughts in the first place demonstrates something crucial; I got attached to my friends here in Italy. Something about the constant interaction during the day and night that is associated with living in an apartment together brought us all closer over time. Also, living in the same apartment has required a level of cooperative thinking to form between everyone in our group of seven.
But my attachment to everyone in the program can be partially attributed to my desire for stability of schedule. Coming from a family of divorced parents my schedule is usually very complicated. For this reason, the schedule we have had in Italy has been especially refreshing and has allowed me to relax and be much more carefree. Now that I’m comfortable with the schedule and now that I’ve developed a liking to everyone in the program, it stings my heart every time I think about leaving and never seeing them again. Nevertheless, while the people who I’ve been here with, in Florence, are amazing, they aren’t the only things which have made me so attached to Italy.
After eating Italian food for a month it’s going to be hard to go back. Back to normal. Normal food means I make my own meals, don’t eat as many luscious carbs, and I will be eating whats easy to make instead of what’s actually great food. Italian food isn’t normal American cuisine. For an American like myself, Italian food is full of surprises, especially because of all the preconceived notions and stereotypes surrounding Italian cuisine. The first surprise was that there were lots of sandwiches eaten in Florence. This came as a positive surprise because the idea of just eating pasta and pizza all the time was a bit of a scare. Interestingly, these differences in the culture have made me more attached to Italy because I’ve realized that so much of American culture is not as great. For example, while a juicy hamburger may taste amazing as it melts in your mouth, it cannot beat the exquisite oily, salty, and sweet flavors of a sandwich from “Come Dio comanda”. Pasta and coffee are better here as well.
Having eaten Sienese pasta called pici, I can confidently say that American pasta is too thin, too similar every time, and too reliant on the overwhelming amount of sauce which is put onto it. The coffee in Italy is a lot more tolerable and less intense. Actually, I thought that the coffee tasted the same until we ran out of milk. On Thursday the 18th of July I tried homemade Italian coffee with just sugar and it was amazing! I drank it all! In the states, if I had coffee without milk I would spit it out immediately because it is way too intense and it has such a very bitter bite. Plain coffee is just the beginning though. I’ve fallen in love with maroccinos here in Italy which are like cappuccinos but with melted chocolate inside. So good! What’s amazing is that even with all of this spectacular food, it’s really easy to stay in shape here in Italy because the portion sizes are just right. None of the portions are too small, and you can find portions which are bigger, but for the most part, restaurants do an excellent job giving you enough to fill you while not getting you stuffed. Given Italy’s better sandwiches, coffee, and portion sizes, I’m definitely going to miss the food.
In addition to the people and food, I’m going to miss living in Italy’s environment which makes every day an adventure. The very first week I was here I experienced culture differences but no culture shock. One of the first surprising cultural differences was that there were tons of pigeons in Florence. Like the rabbits in my hometown, they are harmless and yet manage to be annoying. Another cultural difference that I noticed quickly was the presence of siestas. Siestas are when Italians take a break for a few hours in the afternoon to take a nap. They do tend to make afternoon shopping more difficult, but in a big city like Florence, there are so many stores that there is always somewhere close that is open with whatever you may need. If anything, they are nice because of the lack of people out and about during the afternoon. This makes the days in Italy less overwhelming and more peaceful.
The other amazing thing about living in Florence is the architecture, art, and historical monuments which are unavoidable wherever you go. Like Lexington Massachusetts where I am from, everything in Florence has a history older than the country itself. It’s wonderful to be able to walk the streets and know that I’ve seen inside practically every museum or castle that we pass. Finally, the environment of Florence is amazing because it allows me to practice my Italian in a low stress setting, whenever I want! Just walk outside and talk to any vendor, it’s easy! Also, in Florence especially, most of the people also know English. This is nice because if my Italian fails to get the point across, I can restate what I meant in English. Losing all these wonderful things about Italy’s environment will be especially hard because each day won’t feel like as much of an adventure anymore. I’m definitely going to miss my friends, the food, and the awesome environment of Italy.
However living in Italy has made me realize a lot about myself and the US. I’ve learned that I can live with roommates, I’ve learned that I don’t always pick up on sarcasm, and I’ve learned that I may want to pursue a minor in Italian during college. Having learned recently about my Italian heritage being from Rome and Sicily, I’m eager to come back in the future and visit more locations in the south of Italy. Coming here is costly though. But even with such a large cost I would say this trip is worth it. The relationships, adventures, and experiences I’ve had here in Florence are priceless. After having spent a month doing CET, I can assuredly say this program has made this summer the best and most eventful summer of my life!