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My beautiful life in Santo Spirito, Florence

The sounds of church bells are what awakens me on Sunday morning. Not at all a bad way to wake up and thankfully the first ones don’t strike until 8:45am, so I am not forced out of bed too early.If I stay in bed for another 15 minutes, the second reminder of Sunday sounds as the bells attempt to call me to church.I’m living in the Santo Spirito area of Firenze, so happy to have moved away from my first apartment by the Ponte Vecchio.My new place is only 25 Euros more a week and it’s more than worth it for its tranquility (one of the few places in Firenze where I’ve not heard the constant noise of Vespas, talking and metal rolling doors being lowered and raised).

Florence_buildingIn addition, it has two items which make it a goldmine: a washing machine and a courtyard. It’s on two floors, has security and is wonderfully un-Florentine in its renovated bathroom and kitchen.Every towel I use and plate I turn over says Ikea, but I’m perfectly happy with living in an Ikea showroom as it is clean and light yellow and white and very livable.I’m slowly making my way through the pastries at the local pasticceria near school, but I have a big job ahead of me, as there are so many ricotta, semolina, con panna, frutta (fragole o lamponi) to choose from.I’ve lost count of how many cappuccini, espresso macchiati e pasta I’m consuming each day, after all the coffees are piccolissimi and after one it almost doesn’t feel like I’ve had it.florence_catI’ve discovered that un cappuccio is Florentine slang for un cappuccino. This was incredibly frustrating because I kept saying “vorrei un cappuccino, per favore”and they would respond with “un cappuccio?”and then I would say, “no, un cappuccino.”And on and on we would go. It’s a subtle difference, but like most things in Italian, subtlety is everything.I discovered that Italians take about three times as long to say something as English-speaking people do.It amuses me when I say something to someone who speaks English and then it is translated to the Italian-speaking person and five minutes later, I am still waiting for them to finish the thought.Italians LOVE to talk, endlessly, even when you understand, they say it another couple of times and in a different way. They are passionate about everything and very patient listening to long stories.I’m making a bit of a name for myself at the local restaurants as I’m always eating alone.One place they announced I was da solo and gave me wine in condolence and at the other place they felt the need to tell me they weren’t open on Thursday (like I was going to show up every day) and then gave me desert and made me sit at a table with another person who was also alone.I can’t tell if they are pitying me, trying to help or making fun of me. The Italians have a confidence that entirely unsettles and intimidates me.The weather has been cold and rainy mainly with clouds that look as though a dropper-full of steel ink has been released into water, dispersing and staining everything.

The quality of the water of the Arno is unlike anything I remember seeing before-It looks like a lacquered surface-a beautiful latte-brown color with the smallest undertone of green. Bellisimo!When it is sunny there is a marked difference in people. There have only been a handful of sunny days while I’ve been here, most of the time it is nuvoloso and raining.But when the sun comes out, people look up (instead of looking down all the time to keep their necks warm) and they look at you. It is a small indication of what spring and summer will be like and I can’t wait.I’ve made an Italian friend, Claudia (pronounced “cloud-ia”), who works at the real estate agency were I found my apartment. She doesn’t speak much inglese, so I am trying really hard to speak in Italiano, but think I will respond to one of the ads for language exchange so I can get as much Italian practce as possible.Some days I think I will learn Italian in cinque months, other days I feel like I’ll never get it.They have verbs for everything in Italian!florence_santo_spiritoIn English, you usually just use a version of “to be”to say everything and add a word to the end, or just say “I, she, they”…followed by the same word. I speak, she speaks, they speak…But in Italian not only do they have a particular verb for “speaking,”they conjugate it every time: io parlo, lei parla, noi parliamo.Last night Claudia and her friend Roberto were trying to teach me how to roll my “r”s successfully, so that I sound like an Italian. Over the weekend I had been in an Irish pub and a very drunk Italian hit on me in English and I responded with “non parlo inglese”, but apparently I have a lot of work to do on my “parrrrrlo”to make it sound like I actually DON’T speak English.A Zen attitude is very much needed while in Italy because I’ve become so accustomed to the way everything in America is immediate (England and Australia are similar to Italy, although in Italy there is confusion on my part of WHY things have to be done a certain way).At the moment, I am attempting to get internet in my apartment because my cell phone reception is terrible when people call me from overseas (no idea why local calls are fine).I went to the internet place last Thursday and they told me I had to return on Friday because I needed to talk to a particular person about it and it would cost more for some reason.

Florence_viewThe next day I came back, spoke to the SAME man and he said I didn’t have to pay more and didn’t have me speak to anyone else and then got me to fill out the form. There were two American girls in the store at the same time as me and were being told they would have to be put on a waiting list to get internet and they just didn’t understand why they would have to wait for anything.

Coming from the land of immediacy-they were arguing with the man, hoping to win with the “customer is always right”attitude they use negli Stati Uniti, but it wasn’t working. I’m crossing my fingers that my acceptance of the situation will result in me getting email in the next week….
Article by Sassica Francis-Bruce

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