The hardest part about your first few days in a foreign country is trying to balance your need for rest after a long week with your need to absorb anything and everything all at once. It’s kind of like trying to soak up the culture through osmosis while running erratically from one spot to the next.
Two weeks of erratic running later, I’ve soaked up the following:
Street markets are very cool. Boxed wine for less than a dollar? That beats Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck.”
Favorite famous Italian gelato: Chocolate.
Italian men: So far not what they’re cracked up to be. A few too many creepy whistles from middle-agers still living at home. Maybe you saw the June 19, 2011 CBS Segment on 60 Minutes – Meet the ultimate mama’s boys — Italian men in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who just won’t leave the nest. Lesely Stahl tells the story with such humor. Guys who are the height of chique and cool, dressed elegantly, successful, with girlfriends, and disposable income. But they live with in their childhood bedrooms, at home with mom. It’s considered normal from an Italian point-of-view, where the family is there for forever and the mom is the center of it all.
So much for sleep. Must-sees in Florence are the sunset on the Ponte Vecchio and the sunrise at the Piazza Michelangelo. Good thing we’ve got boxed wine for staying out late and getting up early.
Charming local quirk: Florentians apparently live in fear of the cold. Even with temperatures at a balmy 60 degrees they are dressed for nuclear winter in parkas, hats and enormous scarves. Their babies are bundled in sleeping bags and recline in strollers even at age 6 or 7. Somehow, they are always asleep (or passed out). We asked one mom why the children are so quiet and she replied, “Because we know how to treat them.” Not quite sure what that means…
I’m still not sure how I can possibly manage to fit everything that Europe has to offer into only two duffle bags and six short months. And with Fridays off we’ll have to get creative on how to squeeze our 15+ planned excursions into our 12 free weekends, but I guess that’s the joy of travel.