The Italian Job: Perks and Quirks of life in Florence

Discovering life and its functionality in Italy is an interesting adventure. It’s beginning to feel like home in more ways than one. First of all, the Italian sense of order on the road is very much like Manila – at some point the lines on the road become purely decorative matter and you have no clue which car you are supposed to line up behind at the stoplight. It becomes a merry mess like the spaghetti on your plate, and you just have to dig in with a sense of humor. For some, even the middle line that defines the traffic flow in different directions is also something to be discarded, and you need to be fast with your hands and feet to swerve the car right or left to avoid the little pasta bowl on wheels (either a Fiat or Ferrari) driving down like a bat out of hell in your direction – on your lane.

Driving around the old city of Florence is not something I would recommend. First of all the streets are really narrow, second many of them are one-way streets so you are likely to end up driving around in circles to reach your final destination, and when you do, you discover why many locals prefer to zoom around on bikes or mopeds, because parking is a nightmare. Old City? Do it on foot, unless you figure out the bus routes. Just think “pasta, it is all pasta on a plate…”

Pedestrians have no right of way on the zebra zone either. If you affirm and confirm your presence and stare with a dirty look at the driver, then maybe they will consider stopping for you. Perhaps I am spoiled from Germany where the drivers take pedestrians and cyclists seriously and expect the same treatment elsewhere, but here in Florence it’s a case of who can shout the loudest or give the dirty finger first.

I love my coffee in the morning and am very much the cappuccino drinker if I visit a café. Our holiday apartment came equipped with a lot of things and again I realize how predisposed I am to German standards. I found everything thing in the apartment but according to Italian standards and knew it was definitely time for a paradigm shift. In Lübeck I had a coffeemaker and basic pots and pans, here in Florence my kitchen came equipped with a parmesan grater, a traditional risotto pan (or paella), and two stove-top expresso makers. OK. It’s a good thing I knew how to make expresso beforehand with these little pots (and it actually tastes better than the fancy machines) and thanks to the little aerofoamer that my bartender daughter has with her, making a cappuccino at home is possible now.

I had to get used to cooking with gas again, which I find very romantic in a sense, and like it better than electric, but I wouldn’t trade it in for my induction stove back home! Pasta has become a regular fixture at the dinner table, since an Asian Supermarket seems to be rather elusive here in Florence. The one place we found online didn’t seem to exist in reality when we set out to look for it in the city. As a Filipina, I am picky about my rice, and the Italian riso, though great for risotto dishes, does not lend itself to Asian cooking. The local supermarkets carry Basmati, but like my daughter’s boyfriend (who is half Thai), we much prefer our Jasmine rice. The search continues.

A word on supermarkets… to me this is the one aspect of life here that offers the greatest cultural shock and anxiety moments. It is bizarre to find huge sections dedicated to items that of common and general consumption here, but are considered exquisite delicacies abroad (that come at horrendous prices). The first visit at the supermarket completely overwhelmed and disconcerted me to the point where I had no idea what I was looking for anymore. An entire refrigerated section of soft cheese? Another of hard cheese for grating? Don’t even get me started on the assorted types of hams! I turned the corner and was assaulted by mounds of artichokes, more varieties of olives than I could identify, and shelves of tomatoes in various states of processing and pickling. Searching for onions should have been something that could be accomplished with my eyes closed, but instead, I stared blankly at the amazing produce in front of me, most of it organic. I just wanted to run out of there! Oh and the opening hours are a dream here. We had to snicker at the note at the entrance that said they would stop selling alcohol after 21:00, but the supermarket itself stays open until 22:00, and several of them offer delivery service of the groceries to your home, like in Thailand.

Since the weather was too cold and dreary to go out I curled up on a chair and called up my Netflix account for a movie. The season for sentimental holiday movies is over so I decided to watch “The Whistleblower” instead. Now parts of this movie are in Russian and Croatian, but I figured no problem, there will be subtitles. Ha! This is Netflix Italy and for some movies the only subtitles on offer were in Italian. Oh dear, here I go again with my language skills. It was manageable, considering I had no other choice and I was very proud of myself that I survived without once consulting the dictionary.

More on language skills – this morning I booked a taxi, and the lady spoke no English but was patient enough with me. But I had to bite my tongue so as not to burst out laughing when I requested 2 large cars because of all our luggage, “si, due istation wegon?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.