Monday, May 20, 2013

This is my third time in Florence and it is my favorite of all the European cities I've ever visited (admittedly there are MANY I've not visited).  I love coming here and hope to be able to teach more study abroad classes here in the future.  This time I'm teaching a course on Machiavelli because Florence was his home and he is entombed here in the Basilica of Santa Croce (though he was not given a proper tomb and monument for 250 years because they assumed he was an atheist!). Here are a few random observations from my first ten days:
* Flying is uncomfortable but because of it we get to visit some real cool places. If you fear flying you should really get over it because you miss so much.
* Riding in Italian taxis (and buses) is terrifying anyway, but you realize your fear is probably justified when your taxi rear ends someone (no real damage but lots of gesticulating and verbal expression)
* I'm not sure about the proper reaction when an Italian fellow walks up and salutes you and says something like "Grazie America". I hope a big smile is adequate.
* Florence has what may be the best food in the solar system. It just seems wrong to see frozen pizza in a "supermarket". Ditto for seeing McDonalds, Burger King, and Subway.

* I understand Starbucks is opening in Florence.  That means there will be one coffee shop (out of literally hundreds) selling bad coffee.
* Having a landlord who speaks no English (and me no Italian) results in lots of grunts, arm waving, and smiles when you are trying to connect to wifi and he has the code (which, by the way, is 24 characters).
* Visiting Sienna for the first time (with the students) was really fun.  I'd never been to that city and it is filled with beautiful architecture and history.  The Snickers Gelato is to die for!
* My gosh, Italians know how to cook!
* FYI: Netflix does not work outside the United States.
* Italian heavy metal bands are no better than American ones.
* I wear a t-shirt and shorts when I go for a morning run. Apparently I don't understand the dress code (the other runners look much nicer than I).
* People really are the same everywhere; almost all are generous, helpful, and kind.
* Technology is awesome. I have used Facetime to talk with Adam and Dylan (my sons) and Lynette (my wife). I understand why people love Skype. I also have had great Facebook conversations with Jessica (my daughter) and cell phone conversations (somewhat expensive) with my Mom. . 

* The little old lady selling umbrellas really loves it when you buy one. Her smile is worth much more than 5 euros. I NEEDED an umbrella so 5 euros was very little to pay (its the cost of a typical panini) and it kept me mostly dry from the waist up. 
* I love being American but in my next life I want to be Italian. Italian babies seem really happy. 
* You won't gain weight in Florence regardless of how much you eat. No matter how many times I visit here I get lost after meals and walk off the calories anyway. The city's designers were unfamiliar with the notion of right angles.
* I sometimes eat in unfamiliar restaurants in unfamiliar areas of the city (see above).
* Some students find Machiavelli fascinating; others not so much. Weird!
* Visiting other countries would be much easier if they would all adopt American Central Daylight Time.
* I apparently pronounce the few Italian words I know with a Southern accent. My undergraduate Russian language professor said the same thing about my Russian pronunciation. I do speak Southern American fluently, however.

* Last Friday I visited Montepulciano with new faculty friends here.  It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited (Google it for photos).  On Saturday my friends and I visited Lucca, another cool town surrounded by a three mile wall which is about fifty feet wide (dirt with stone on the outside) built for protection in about the 13th century.  

                                                This is a photo of me with Lucca in the background

My wife arrives in three days (yay!!).  

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