I sit here writing this at the kitchen table of the 4th floor apartment where I am living in the centre of Florence, with a glass of wine at my side. Someone pinch me, please.
Today is my 7th day in Firenze, and what a 7 days it has been. It’s so odd to think this time last week I had not long arrived and I was wandering around the Piazza del Duomo for the first time, marvelling at the architecture of the Cathedral and thinking “Oh my goodness, I am actually here!”
It’s only been a week but it feels like so much longer! I am not sure if that is because I am tired – exhausted even, but I feel settled into my little routine. These first weeks have been and will be all focused on the TEFL course I am completing, with not much time for anything else. If the next 3 weeks go as fast as this one has… it’ll soon be time for me to go out there and actually start working in Florence as a teacher.
I am SO excited…
My first evening in Florence a week ago consisted of me walking around the local area and having dinner early before heading back to the apartment. I was tired from the travelling and the reality of leaving all I knew behind back in Essex was pretty stressful, so I needed to rest. Italy isn’t that far from the UK but it is still another country where the spoken language is not the same as my own, and the customs and traditions are quite different.
There are A LOT of tourists, and many expats, in Florence. I don’t have to go far before I hear someone speaking English and the fact that the centre is so full of tourists means that most of the locals working in the shops and restaurants here also speak good English. I don’t feel completely “on my own” when I step outside the front door. However, this to me is also frustrating. I want to be immersed in the Italian way of life, the language and all that is authentic about this place. I feel that is difficult here in the centre of Florence but luckily you don’t have to go far to get away from the masses of people just visiting. If you are thinking about ever visiting Florence, just be aware that many of the people around you may not actually be Italian. Especially in the middle of the city, in the middle of the day, when all of the day visitors arrive!
Every day I have been getting the train to a town about 30km from Florence called Borgo San Lorenzo for the TEFL course. Here there aren’t as many people who speak fluent English so I have to actually try to communicate in Italian when I buy something or someone says Hello in the street. Clearly, I won’t become fluent in Italian by having these small exchanges, but it’s a start.
I’ve been enjoying myself and eating a lot… I didn’t realise until this week that I liked tomatoes or figs so much. I have loved shopping for food here. They do have supermarkets here (in Florence they are full of tourists) but they are quite pricey. A lot of the shopping for food is done at the many markets and shops around the city that specialise in mostly local food and produce. Seeing the range of all that is on offer makes it so hard to decide and I have almost always ended up asking what they recommend. I haven’t been disappointed yet. The Italians know good food. We have a kitchen in the apartment but I’ve been so tired and busy I haven’t used it much apart from as a place to wash all of the fruit and tomatoes I just throw on a plate to eat. I’d say my diet here so far has consisted of meats, cheese, tomatoes, figs, bread and wine. There has been pasta and pizza in there too. Obviously.
I have already met several people here in Florence, English native speakers and Italians, that I have been getting to know and they are all very nice and very helpful. They are full of tips and advice to help me get the most out of the city and my time here. I am looking forward to getting to know them better in the coming weeks and months and to exploring more of this city and country. There hasn’t been much time for that so far.
A week in and I am feeling positive. I am annoyed about the fact the Great British Bake Off won’t play on my laptop though – I missed biscuit week! I am anxious about the next three weeks of the TEFL course but only because it is so intensive and I hope I can succeed. There is a lot more to get through and to learn, I’ve already learnt so much! You can read about my TEFL course here.
Those of you who know me know that I am not usually an active person, I always drove everywhere back in the UK and became reliant on the fact you could get everything delivered. I never used public transport unless forced and if it meant moving, I probably didn’t want to do it. Here in Florence, everyone uses their feet to get from A to B (unless you’re one of the crazy folks on a scooter or one of the maniacs who dares to drive a car here). I HAVE NEVER WALKED SO MUCH IN MY LIFE BEFORE. I am tired, my body is tired, my feet are tired, my little legs are tired, my hair is tired, everything is tired. I am not complaining, not at all, I hope this means I will stay more active – but OMG, I am worn out. I think this must be how it feels to go to the gym – especially after climbing the stairs to the 4th floor apartment. This may not seem a lot to you, but this week I have walked almost 18 miles. I have been sweating like a pig in the humid weather here. I am hoping I’ll be a size 10 by the time I leave!
One thing I will say is I hate walking up big hills... so luckily last night I had my first scooter ride (do not ever do this in Florence if you have a nervous disposition) and was given a bit of a tour, half of which I missed due to me having my eyes firmly closed. We ended up at Piazzale Michelangelo, from here there are panoramic views of the city. I have never seen anything like it. There are a few pictures below if you want to see but honestly, you need to visit and see it for yourself. I had one of those eek moments where the excitement hits you all at once. I live here now. I live here.
Tomorrow we have another person arriving at the apartment, we are getting rather multi-cultural here – British, German and Japanese so far! I will see if everyone wants to go out for dinner to toast the beauty of Florence tomorrow evening.
Let’s see what next week has in store!
Arrivederci, Nicola xx
(apologies for the lack of pictures - when you are so busy you forget to snap!)