#2 – Fortnight in Florence

Do you ever feel like over the years you’ve become a pretty well rounded person but could still add things to your arsenal? I’d recently started to feel this, even more so when I meet people who say they speak 3-4 languages fluently and I get so jealous! I’m not one to buy into the excuse that you get too old to learn new things; whether it be a musical instrument, language or even a career change, especially since I’m only 27 so have no reason to think I’m done learning. I made a decision to learn to Italian, and what better place to learn than Florence!?

I booked my trip and was so excited, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’ve been to Italy several times but never Florence. The blogs online said it was great.. Internet never lies right? Over the years I’ve traveled a lot and something I started to notice is that each city has a “feel” to it… I flew into Milan and thought it was okay (maybe because it was raining), but when I walked out of Firenze Santa Maria Novella train station that evening, I knew I’d love this city! Amazing architecture at every angle, hearing people speaking Italian, smelling the incredible food… yep, this will work nicely. Only thing that could ruin this is the people I’m sharing my apartment with…

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I signed up to share with 3 other students from the school, bit of a gamble I thought based on past experiences. Turns out I was living with three wonderful girls; Agathe from Paris, Pamela from Stockholm and Laila from Rio (my luck ey). The girls were great and helped me get settled quickly, could tell we’d get along. I naively didn’t give myself any extra days to settle in, I started school the next morning!

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Learning a new language is not as easy as some may think. There are different rules, different pronunciation, different sentence structures, 2 weeks would certainly not be enough to make me fluent but I wanted to learn as much as I could. We started the first few days with basic words and phrases to help us around the town at least… things like “Parlo un po’ Italiano” meaning ‘I speak a little Italian’ and “Ciao vorrei un cappuccino per favore, grazie” meaning ‘Hi I would like a cappuccino please, thanks’ were my home run swings in the beginning. Of course the more I went to class the more I learnt, and the more interacted with my class mates and practiced was only going to help. We had a diverse group, people from all over the world; Sweden, Japan, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, New Zealand, and most importantly everyone was easy to get along with (I kinda liked that I was the only one from England).

The school itself (Linguaviva) was very well run. The organization of accommodation, placement of students in classes, and of course the education was on point. I even got into watching Italian movies; I usually hate watching movies and reading subtitles but these were surprisingly good (One to watch is “La Vita e Bella”). The teacher, Luigi, was awesome. Great sense of humour and gave us an insight into Italian culture as well as the language. For some reason he kept calling me Nik, I’ve been called worse so didn’t mind too much. He often referred to me when there was some complex translating to be done, and I tried my hardest to not give an idiotic answer since I was the only one who’s first language was English (think I managed okay). The first week of classes were easily digestible and went by so quick (speaking of digestible, I ate so much amazing pizza and pasta… possibly connected to me putting on weight, possibly). Next it was time for a weekend off with my new friends!

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Going back to my flat mates, we were also getting along a treat. We would explore the city after class to have lunch, gelato, do some sight seeing and then hit the town in the evening. We even decided to spend Sunday in Venice.. a holiday from my holiday sounds ridiculous but was awesome!

Venice was a short 2 hour train journey and we were lucky the sun shined the entire day, it meant we could explore Venice on foot. What a beautiful city… the architecture, the music playing everywhere, the gondolas, only downside was there were so many tourists (can’t hate though because I was one of them)! It’s one of those places where you want to take your time and take it all in. The picture below, taken from the famous Rialto Bridge, is just 1 example of many views where you just want to stop and stare. It’s a city which is cool to explore with friends, but I can definitely see why so many couples come here, very romantic! But we had a great time… we ate, walked, talked and bonded; we had done quite a lot, especially considering we’d only known each a week! I was starting to feel comfortable with the Italian culture and started entertaining the idea of spending a few months here to fully embrace the language and lifestyle, quite a change from London!

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Back to school and the lessons were becoming more challenging; we were working on verbs, adjectives, prepositions, and starting to have actual conversations in Italian. It is amazing how much your brain feels worked when learning a new language. But I kept up with homework, kept practicing on the street and it was always improving. I kept meeting people at school too and not just those in my class. Some people who spoke very little English so our common language was Italian, brilliant! That’s the beauty of the school and I was starting to feel confident with the language, though still no where near fluent. You can imagine the awkward silence though when we ran out of Italian words and started to use our hands to gesture what we are trying to say. Tip: Always take a third person 😉

We’d only have class in the mornings so afternoons were free to explore and practice what we had learned. Managed to fit in some touristy things by visiting historic places like the Duomo, Ponte  Vecchio and Piazzale Michelangelo (image below) which were surreal! I’d only seen these places in movies, and Assassins Creed games. The lifestyle we lived was completely new for me, and simple things about the Italian culture were my favourite; simply having a glass of wine with lunch or stopping for a siesta (best thing ever) are enough to make me happy, not to mention the endless supply of incredible food! It’s one of those places that has such a charm, and completely engages you whilst you’re there. I’ve visited other cities in Italy like Milan, Venice, Rome, Ancona, but Florence is easily my favourite. I mean just look at this view…

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Overall the trip was incredible. It gave me more than I expected, and the only thing that let me down was the fact I had to leave! Some of the students were doing 4-6 months out there! I never considered doing that before, but these 2 weeks feel like it was just a trial. I will definitely be back for longer and my aim will be to speak Italian fluently!

For now, back to work to earn enough money for the next trip!


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