It's been a full day, but a good one, and I only got lost once.
The highlight was having dinner with the director of the Accademia Italiana here in Florence. They also have a branch campus in Rome, where DU has two students, so I had lunch with her last week. Seeing her again tonight felt kind of like seeing an old friend, I've met so many people in the meantime. She is American, married to an Italian, and has lived in Italy for 25 years. She took me to an amazing restaurant where I had the best meal I have yet had on this trip, and that is saying a lot. First, a caprese salad (Jaime, the best I've ever had - I wish I could have sent you a bite. It was heavenly). Main course was pumpkin ravioli, followed up by cheesecake, followed up by coffee, followed up by limoncello, a lemon-ey digestivo. Yum!
Now for some gross generalizations about Italians:
1) They walk slowly. They are in no hurry to make their way down the tiny, narrow sidewalks that line the crooked streets. Their energy is vested in conversation and gesticulations, not walking.
2) Energy is assumed to be off until you turn it on. In other words, lights automatically go off after a certain point unless you turn them on. The hair dryers only work if you hold down a button; otherwise, they turn off. The showers are made so you can easily turn the water off and on so you're not wasting it when you don't need it.
3) Men seem to think that staring and making kissy noises are effective means of getting a girl's attention.
4) They enjoy life, but "la dolce vita" is a myth. They study hard and work hard.
5) They are protective about their food because it is the best. Do not argue with them about this.
I'm looking forward to seeing Milan. Now that I've had a taste of other parts of the country, I am understanding that Milan is not considered by some to be even part of Italy. It is Austrian, for all intents and purposes. The industrial North, the "innovators," the Milanese. Part of me dreads going back to a large city because they are harder to navigate, but I learned tonight that the streets in Milan are straight and laid out in a grid. Yet another reason why it's not Italian.
Earlier, I wrote about comfort. Now I have a new perspective on discomfort. Every day so far on this trip I have experienced discomfort in one way or another. Some days it has been the pressure of finding a new location on time and meeting with people who may or may not be the kind of people that put you at ease. Or it's been hunger and searching for food, not really knowing what to look for or expect, or how to order it properly. Every day, though, I've had unexpected comforts; wonderful moments of connecting with someone I met only a few minutes before and hadn't expected to find anything in common, or the adorable dog I got to pet today when I visited an Italian host family. It's been a good reminder that the risk of being vulnerable is worth it, and the danger to being always comfortable is never experiencing anything new.
(By the way, as a side note, I have a theory that the reason so many more girls study abroad than guys is because women are more accepting of/accustomed to/expected to be vulnerable, making them more open to new experiences.)