Monday, March 29, 2010

Overwhelmed in Italy

At the moment, I am sitting in my hotel room in Florence, Italy.  I have the room to myself, as my temporary roommate Hannah, has gone out for the night.  The quiet is amazing given that I was staying in a 13 person hostel room for the past week. So much has gone on since I last blogged that I don't really even know where to begin.  I think I'll update you on my day first since it's so fresh in my mind and then back track a few days.  Today was my first full day in Florence.  While in Florence, I'll be doing a homestay, but we don't move into our homes until tomorrow so we are staying in a hotel until then.  Today was crazy.  I had orientation at 10 am which lasted for a couple of hours.  My professors bombarded me with information, dates, times, locations, requirements, cultural adjustments, rules...etc for nearly two hours.  My head was spinning in so many different directions trying to retain all of the info.  I hadn't been in Italy for 24 hours and was just seriously overwhelmed by the number of things being thrown my way.  After that we grabbed some lunch and headed back into the Linguaviva (a big building where I'll be taking my in-class classes).  I had my first Italian class ever.  The professor spoke mainly in Italian and it was seriously a struggle to keep up.  He kept calling on me and I got progressively more frazzled.  It was hard because I was concentrating on discerning what he was saying in English here and there and kept getting confused.  While I am absolutely thrilled to be taking an Italian course, the first one definitely had me a bit jumbled.  After class we went to pick up bus passes due to the fact that most of the homestays are located outside of the city walls in Florence. So I'll be taking the bus into class most days.  I am pretty lost in the city so far; I tried to walk about and check out the sights for a bit today.  I found an adorable leather purse that I'm probably going to go back and buy tomorrow.  So tempting... People look like me in Florence, or rather I should say that I look a bit like an Italian and when I am not walking with other Americans I'm blending in quite well with my surroundings which is pretty cool.  We had dinner at a delicious restaurant and went out for gelatto afterwards.  I walked around the city at night with a couple of friends and it is pretty beautiful.  There was a woman singing opera with a giant crowd around her and I took some video of the performance which I'll post on facebook.  Right now, I'm pretty tired and am looking forward to moving in with my host family and settling down for the rest of the semester.  Traveling is exhausting I'm beginning to find out, especially when you don't know the language at all.  I'm confident that I'll start to figure everything out in no time and things will come easier.  Just a bit anxious that's all. 

But let me update you on the last couple of days in France.  On Friday, Anna and I went to Grasse, which is where they have lavender fields and perfume factories.  It turned out to be a beautiful day so Anna and I enjoyed walking about the tiny town and then headed into a museum/operating factory for perfume.  It smelled pretty wonderful in the building.  We got a tour of how perfume is made and bought some fantastic smelling soap for pretty cheap.  It was a pretty lovely day in the mountains.  After that we had dinner back at Nice.  It was our only dinner out all week and man, it was delicious.  Red wine, croque madame, frites, sparkling water, YUM. At this point, Anna's friend from Sheffield had joined us and we had a really nice dinner and conversation.  Later that night we went out on the town and wound up in this bar called The Bulldog or something.  We walk in and theres a tiny stage and sitting room.  A guy is playing guitar and singing beautifully.  The ambiance was pretty perfect so we hung out, had a pint, and enjoyed being surrounded by locals.  Pretty awesome. 

On Saturday, we went to Cannes and Antibes.  The weather was supposed to be really warm so we headed straight to the beach in Antibes.  But the wind was pretty cold and we couldn't find the really nice beaches so it turned out to be a bit of a dud.  So we hopped on the bus and headed to Cannes.  Cannes is BEAUTIFUL.  I totally get the appeal and why they have international film festival there every year.  The shoreline was awesome.  We headed over to where they had the festival and took pictures of handprints and had a good time letting the wind blow through our hair.  Really good people watching too.  A stifling 2.5 hour bus ride later, we headed back to Nice and our hostel to pack up our things.  I had a really lovely time in France.  Everyone was genuinely nice and patient with us.  I think the French get a bit of a bad wrap, but then, I'm not one to judge.  I'll just say that we had a wonderful time with the French.  Good food, spectacular views, good friends. 

I love hostels for a number of reasons, but never more so than yesterday when I had 3 trains to catch to make it from Nice to Florence.  I say this because during the week we got to meet so many interesting people.  One of then, Frederick from Sweden, just so happened to be taking the same trains as me until he moved past Florence to Rome.  Frederick was great and made the traveling experience with my giant bag much more doable.  I'd stay and watch our bags while he checked platforms so I didn't have to go up and down the stairs with 70 + pounds of weight dragging behind me.  He showed me how the seats were assigned and showed me where to validate my ticket.  So helpful. I had been pretty nervous about making my connections and traveling alone, so God was seriously looking out for me yesterday.  And then once I got to Milan before boarding my train to Florence, I once again ran into Hannah and Charlie, two kids from my program that had stayed at our hostel in Nice for a couple of days completely randomly.  What are teh chances? So crazy.  But nice since we were able to find our hotel together and Charlie helped me lug my suitcase up two flights of stairs.  We had a group dinner that night and shared spring break stories. 

So now I think we are all caught up.  I seriously can't wait to meet my host family tomorrow.  If you want to send me any snail mail (always appreciated) you can send it to:

Emily Lauten
c/ o Linguaviva Scuola d'Italiano
Via Fume 17
50123 Firenze ITALIA 

As the Italians say:  Buona Notte, Goodnight my friends.


  1. sweet! I can't believe Frederick was on that train. How weird. It seems like we ran into him everywhere. I'm sooo happy you had help.

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