I’m absolutely horrible at maintaining this blog. Anyway, that aside, now that I’ve surpassed the “one-month left” mark, I’m dwelling heavily on all the amazing things here I’m going to miss when I leave. Here’s a taste:
- Trips to Mercato Central: For several weeks after my initial arrival, that massive green roofed warehouse around the corner from my apartment was unchartered territory. There are three sets of red gated doors on each side of the building, ushering in the passersby with smells of fresh fish yet it took me quite a bit of time to finally make the move and walk through one of them. There’s nothing at home that’s remotely similar to Mercato Centrale except that the warehouse-feel is slightly reminiscent to that of Costco but even so, the relationship stops there. There are vendors every few feet and each varies vastly from the one next to it, across from it, and behind it. Some are free-form and comprised of simple yet colorful crates overflowing with pungent fruits and vegetables; others are more concrete and emulate deli counters with blocks of cheese behind domed glass, to keep the salivating tongues at bay, and slabs of meat hanging above. Mercato Centrale is such a routine stop for most of the people walking around but I can’t help but relish every trip I make there as anything but routine. Sometimes I just walk through it with no purpose or agenda to buy anything. It’s just to be there. I love it because there’s always so much happening – it’s hard not to be in a good mood when you’re there. I love it because of the chipper young girl with tired eyes who sells me the creamy rounds of Morbidoso cheese. I love it because of the butcher, who’s my father’s age, who speaks to me only in Italian. I love it because the women at the bread booth in the far left corner make the best muffins I’ve ever eaten. I love it because you don’t go to the market for food – you go for life.
- Being able to follow through on plans: You know that moment when you see an old friend out at the bookstore, you start talking, you briefly catch up, and you both say that you need to get lunch one day and really talk, before parting ways? I hate those moments. I hate them because half the time, I don’t really want to get lunch and I hate that I just had to make awkward, inane conversation. Although, mostly I hate them because the times when I actually do want to get lunch, it never happens. And now you’re probably thinking I’m a raging bitch because obviously if I wanted something to happen, I’d make it happen, right? WRONG. The issue at home is that I don’t have the time. There isn’t time to catch up with that friend that has somehow been lost from the fraying ends of my hectic life. The little time I do have available is usually taken up by sleeping, hanging out with closer friends, and being alone. And yes, maybe this is just something I do and you all really do follow through with your lunch plans. In that case, I’m a horrible person. But personally, I feel that while it would be nice to see where that person is at in life, if they’re still dating that guy or if they’re mom is doing well, it’s not a realistic sentiment to say, “let’s do lunch.” In Florence, that sentiment is totally and completely realistic; so much so that if you don’t follow through, you’ll look like a huge flake that no one will invite out again (that’s probably dramatic but you get the point). The fact is, there’s so much time here to be idle. There’s so much time to relax, crack open a bottle of wine, and talk to that friend you had last semester who also happens to be studying here. It’s a wonderful thing to have time for people you ordinarily wouldn’t have time for. You find yourself surrounded by friends at all times and never needing to scramble to get plans because there’s always something going on. How strange it is to be in a place where social rules are so different.
- Dragoons: I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a beer drinker. Like most New Yorkers, I will choose hard liquor over a brewski any day of the week. That being said, I don’t exactly have the luxury of ordering a Long Island at the bar without spending an arm and a leg and getting judged by every other person in the room. Plus, the Long Islands here are mostly Coca Cola – an ingredient that shouldn’t be in a drink that, when made properly, is all alcohol. With the mixed drinks not cutting it, I was forced to delve into new waters and I’m very happy I did. There’s a bar here called Kikuya and it seemed like a hole in the wall when I arrived but now, it’s become the spot to start your night. And why is that? Because of their Dragoons. The Dragoon can be given to you in a plastic or glass cup, depending on where you’d like to drink it (inside or out) and is accompanied by a lollipop. It’s the ultimate in irony when you find yourself imbibing alcohol while clutching the green apple sucker your five-year old self would’ve punched someone for. One beer does the trick in providing a great buzz but it’s not really about that. It’s about everyone meeting there, enjoying the atmosphere, taking in the company, and letting the night take you away.
- The fact that the light in my room flickers predictably every single day at 1:30 in the morning: There are very few things in this world that you can count on irrevocably. You can count on famine, you can count on war, and you can count on the light in my bedroom that flickers every single night at 1:30 in the morning, on the dot. Truthfully, I found it annoying at first but it’s grown on me. It’s an excellent reminder of the time when I’m up late working on homework, Skyping, or just being useless on my computer. It’s probably the result of some generator hidden in the recesses of my building triggering on or off – some sort of electrical phenomenon such as that. None of that even matters though. It’s just a little quirk that I’ve grown to love about this apartment. A quirk that will continue long after I’m gone from this place.
- Dinners last several hours: Being home at six o’clock for dinner was a huge part of my childhood and I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that a huge reason I’m so close with my parents is because of that daily meal together. As such, I value dinnertime as a bonding experience, a time to unwind and enjoy yourself. Dinners here have become much larger and more monumental occasions than the cozy gatherings at home. If we’re going out to eat, we invite all of our friends and go en masse to drink gallons of wine, soak it up with breads and pastas and cheeses, and then drink some more. The meal is followed up, usually, with a gelato and the whole ordeal takes hours. There’s no place to be, there’s no rush, and there’s no shortage of vino. It’s the perfect mix for good conversation, good laughs, and an all around great time.