The realization that I would be leaving the Northeast for an entire semester did not hit me until I touched down at the Peretola Airport in Florence. My luggage was missing and I was trying to explain to the man behind the desk of the lost and found that it was imperative I needed the bag back. Not only did it have my necessary anti-frizz hair care products, but it had a folder with a copy of my passport, my social security card and my driver’s license. My voice was cracking and my face was red with frustration because he didn’t seem to understand how nervous I was. I explained my situation to the staff at the Florence University of the Arts, the school I’m attending while abroad and no one felt any urgency.
In the Northeast, God forbid someone’s Dunkin’ Donuts order isn’t attended to fast enough — riots break out on either side. The fact that a suitcase with papers that contained all of my identity information AND my Moroccan oil was missing, and no one gave an intense enough reaction drove me insane.
This was the first of many culture shock episodes I went through in the first week. As a New Yorker, I’ve known nothing else but overreacting, fast walking and intense working. In Florence, it seems that no one is stressed out. One of the biggest shocks to my New York hard drive was the siesta. For those who don’t know, a siesta is a period of time in the midday so that workers can go home for a long lunch and take a nap. When this was explained to me, I short-circuited. It was beyond me that people leave their job for an hour to an hour and a half at a time when the longest break I would get was a thirty minute lunch in a small room.
After being in Italy for a week and a half and being my usual overly dramatic self, I was positive that I would be a fish out of water for the next three months. It wasn’t until I went to the Almafi Coast for the weekend that I had my awakening. We stayed in a hotel that looked like it was once a scene of murder crime, but it was 11€ so I didn’t have high hopes. The hotel was in Sorrento and from there, we took a boat to the island of Capri. Once we got off the ferry, I was stunned by how beautiful the island was. I stepped into the crystal clear water expecting the toxicity of the Long Island Sound and was blown away.
Every site we saw on the trip from the vibrant houses in Positano, to the turquoise sky of Capri and finally to the ruins of Pompeii was a thing of absolute beauty. I realized that while those sites took my breath away, I had some of those right outside my apartment. Within just a half a mile radius, I can walk to the Duomo or the Santa Croce Basilica. Among the slow walkers and laidback Italians is a beautiful city that I am fortunate enough to live in for the next four months.