Alrighty! Or should I say CIAO!
So I have arrived in Florence for my year abroad, I have been here for a month on Monday and thought it would be a good time to kick start this Erasmus Guide/ Florence travel blog. I shall (hopefully) be posting weekly, keeping you up to date on my travels and the experiences I stumble upon throughout my year here. Whether you’re reading for the traveling side of Florence, or perhaps you’re a future year abroad student or even just because you want to have a little read, I invite you to follow me on this life changing and extremely daunting journey!
Now, I remember very very clearly in one of the pre-YA (Year Abroad) meetings, one of my lecturers quoting (no joke) ‘when you first arrive at your destinations, you will feel like absolute fucking morons’ and boy was he correct! I would love to see a collection of snapshots of my face when being spoken to in speedy Italian, especially when being awake for about 10 minutes when the landlord arrives, who speaks no English, and is asking me about my Codice Fisicale (which I STILL don’t understand the use of it). Nevertheless, the Italians are wonderful and are totally sympathetic! They realise you’re learning their language and they love you for it! They will help you understand what they’re trying to say and say the odd English word to help out. Although obviously not all Italians are the same and some do just speak flat out English to me as I’m clearly British with my blonde hair, skin as pale as Olaf (I applaud you if you understand my reference) and my Topshop dominated wardrobe. However, if you stick at it, they will most likely reply to you in Italian.
So I arrived in Florence on Friday 29th August 2014, along with my parents, three large and two small suitcases containing my life for the next couple of months. Crazy! I moved into my flat the following day with Millie, my fellow Briton and Reading University student and our new friend Natalie from Brazil. The flat was previously owned by Millie and my friends from Reading who studied here last year, thus continuing the Reading Uni occupation! The flat is perfect, amazing location between Palazzo Vecchio and Santa Maria Cathedral. Getting the keys was pretty easy, although took a while to go through the contract and do all the necessary signings!
Now the Codice Fisicale is a priority when moving to Italy, since it’s like your Social Security Number and you pretty much need it for most things, like renting a flat. I didn’t have mine at the time but they were pretty lenient and just told me to get it as soon as possible. So, one of the first things you must do is go to the Ufficio delle Entrate in Via S. Caterina D’Alessandria, 23. You just have to fill out a form and boom, you’re done.
After moving everything in, replacing the odd pictures that were on the wall with my Olly Murs calendar (no shame), and frames I managed to squeeze into my luggage, it started to feel a bit more like home. The Sunday was our parents final night with us and we all ate at the Westin Excelsior’s rooftop restaurant called ‘Sesto’, it was a wonderful evening, accompanied by beautiful views of Florence at night.
First Attempt of Florentine Busses to Ikea and Gigli Shopping Mall
So there we were, our parents had flown back to their destinations, and we were left to roam the streets of Florence. What do we do? Go homeware shopping, that’s what! Millie and I discovered a shopping centre in Prato – about 40 minute bus journey from Central Florence. After eventually finding the correct stop and ‘biglietteria’ on we popped. Despite the fact we bought tickets for the bus, it seemed that we were the only ones who did. The bus driver was completely oblivious to people coming onto the bus and therefore we didn’t need to timestamp the tickets in the little machines on the bus. Meaning we could easily use the same ticket on the way back. Which we did. But before you think of not buying a ticket, this was very cheap at €1.70, so better be safe than sorry! Noone wants to end up with a lofty fine for risking it! The journey there was pretty easy, there were a couple stops along the way, but was clear when we arrived at Gigli (pronounce GEE-LEE, the ‘gli’ being like the ‘li’ in ‘million’, not GIG-LEE as I soon found out, after getting many confused stares, probably similar to those I gave to the many fast speaking Italians!!)
Gigli was nice, not huge like Westfield, I’d say about the same size as Lakeside in Kent. It had Zara Home, which was the main reason for us going there, and other shops like Hollister, Sephora and Coin. After being pretty successful there we thought we’d be economical with our bus journey and head to Ikea which was on the way back. However, there was a big question that hovered over this idea, what bus do we get?? Well, apparently, there’s no timetable for the busses that we took to get there, so we used our brains and assumed we get the bus on the opposite side of the road to that we got off at? No? okay….well we were there for some time, busses came and went, yet no bus went by that was the same as the one we got there…so after two Italian women disputing over which bus stop we had to be at, we went with the woman who was going back to Florence too. Fortunately this was the same bus route as the one previously, however this was a typical bus where you have to press the button in order for the bus to stop. Therefore, there I was keeping a close watch on Google Maps whilst Millie had her hand on the buzzer ready to press, in the hope we wouldn’t see Ikea slowly pass by! Luckily, my Google Map reading skills worked and we got off the bus to Ikea. Did I mention we already had three Zara Home bags and two Coin bags? Well we did, so we managed to shove them into the lockers and off we shopping. Clearly getting too excited by the prospect of Ikea, the number of bags we already had, seemed to have slipped from our minds and ended up buying a significant amount of stuff from Ikea. I mean, it’s hard to say no to the hundreds of flatpack boxes you can store makeup in! We ended up filling up two of the HUGE ikea bags….so there we were walking to the bus stop, looking like we had just been evacuated from our home.
You would have thought getting right bus back to Florence would be easy from this point right? Because it’s the same bus stop as the one we got off at…but NO, there were so many busses saying the different locations around Florence. Thinking we got the right one, since we got the bus from the Hilton Hotel we stayed at before, which literally dropped us outside the Duomo. In order to know we got the same bus we would have to pass the Justice Centre, which couldn’t be missed. About 15 minutes later we saw the Justice Centre, yet from a road that was other side of houses to which we should have been on. Turns out, the bus terminated behind the S.M.N Station…about a 20 minute walk from our flat. I really would have loved to have seen us stumbling home with all these bags. Can’t say we didn’t get many odd looks! So the moral of that story is, definitely work out the busses before you head off!!
After that interesting day, my cute little Italian bedroom was all complete! Since I had a second bed in my room I made it into a sofa, by buying a load of cushions. I bought a pin board too to pin up my polaroids as well as little memory things like tickets that I’ve collected during my time here so far.
Thursday came about, after a busy week settling in and getting our bearings we decided to go out for some drinks and soak up the atmosphere. Laura, our friend from Uni was passing through Florence so she joined us for drinks and a massive catch up. If you’re in Florence, I highly recommend you go to Santo Spirito! It’s packed full of young Italians, drinking at the bars and also on the steps of The Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito. It has so much energy there and you’ll feel like a right native! It was so good that we ended up there on Saturday with Natalie, where we packed our Vino Rosso and plastic cups and drank it on the steps.
So that is it for the first week! I shall update you with the second week very shortly!! So far I’ve been absolutely loving it here despite the odd stressful episodes but aye it’s Italia! Follow my blog for more updates on my Year Abroad a Firenze!