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**A post that I only just realized never posted! This was written this spring, March, so obviously it is old… but it still applies.**

Because I have a screw loose and decided to up and move to Italy, I now have a lot of free time on my hands. I only go to school for three and half hours, Monday thru Friday, and then I have the weekends off. I haven’t even bothered to look for a job. So, this pretty much leaves me several hours of meandering through the streets of Florence and spending money; usually on food or wine and then getting lost. It’s really fun for me, until it’s not…

I walk around Florence quite a bit and I see a lot of tourists. Not just the usual couple of tourists checking out the ole’ Duomo, there are busloads of them. Busloads of Asians. Busloads of students with harried teachers. Busloads of Swiss, French, Germans and Italians. Yes, Italians travel in their own country… As tourists!

It’s Spring, Primavera, and still quite cold here, at least for my Cali blood so I am always surprised that there are so many tourists at this time of year. It makes me wonder what summer will bring? Alas, Florence wouldn’t be Florence without the tourists or the money that tourism brings to the city, the Florentine’s know this. And, because there is little industry here, this city thrives on tourism. It’s not a bad thing but sometimes I am a bit of a crowd-a-phobe and it gets to me. (Eventhough I’m a tourist of sorts.) So I stay home on Saturdays (and sometimes) Sundays, content to lay in my bed, attempt to do some homework and maybe even learn a new Italian dish. (I think Shane is happy that I’m home too because right now we can’t go out for long walks in the park or hang out on the terrace; it’s still just too cold here and will be for a few more weeks. Maybe even months.)

Herein lies my problem…
Has anyone noticed how I didn’t mention the American tourists? Recently I noticed something. Americans don’t travel in packs. Well, the retirees do, but that is a different story. Americans come here two by two or sometimes in a family of maybe four. And 90% of the time they are awful! Just awful! There are times when 30 or 40 Asians aren’t half as bad as two Americans with American expectations. I am slowly finding out that I am actually embarrassed to say I’m American. This really pisses me off because I LOVE MY COUNTRY…DAMMIT. I will be a total hypocrite by saying this and it may piss some of you off because I am saying it, but Americans are rude and ignorant when they travel. (This is my blog and so I can say whatever I want to on here, and if it makes you angry, well, I guess you will have to be angry.) Now, I am really going to be a hypocrite and say, “Hey, I get it. You’re used to having everything you want, right when you want it, the way you want it.” Well welcome to Italy! This is NOT McDonald’s! So, let me give you all a crash course on how to not be an Ugly American…

First off, this is ITALY. It’s not the U.S of A. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING here runs at a much slower pace. (Welllll, Everything except the drivers…) Women didn’t even have the right to vote until 1945. So… If you have something important to do PLAN AHEAD. Especially if you are going to live here. You will wait in line to wait in line to get those papers that you need to stay here (a Visto Sojourno) and then find out that you don’t have the proper papers anyhow. Lunch sometimes runs 2-3 hours depending on the type of business, and when it’s closing time, it’s closing time. These people have families and meals to get to and nothing is stopping them, so arrive early. Some businesses will let you make an appointment but many don’t. You must take a number and wait in line. I like to think that every place I go in Italy is like going to the DMV back in the Good ole U.S. Take a number and get in the cue. Think like this and you will NEVER be disappointed… Do your homework beforehand but remember, if you waited in line for a few hours and didn’t have the right paperwork, there is always tomorrow…

If you are here on vacation, relax… You are on vacation. I understand that you might have an itinerary and that you need to see everything in 72 hours. This where you need to LISTEN UP FOLKS! It’s just not going to happen. You will leave here feeling more exhausted and angry than when you left on Friday from your job. Plan a few things to see if you are only here for a few days. Read about the places you want to go to and really understand where you are going. The Palazzo Pitti and Uffizi need at least one day a-piece. You won’t enjoy a single piece of art or remember a damn thing if you are rushing from one place to the next and bashing people out of the way to see it. Let’s just say for instance, Botticelli’s ‘Primavera.’ It really is massive and it is beautiful. So, sit and relax and enjoy it. Maybe doodle it a bit because you “legally” can’t take a photo of it… Annnnd…
Next… Don’t get angry with the people that work in the museums and churches either for screaming at you when you do take that photo. They are doing their jobs just like you did your job before you came on vacation. Don’t be frustrated if you get yelled at for taking photos where it is clearly posted NO CAMERA’S. It’s not that they don’t want you to take the photos, the museums make their money when you buy their books and postcards at the stores located within the buildings. Also, these paintings are OLD, 500+ years old, and the flashes on cameras are not good for the paint. You can check out the blog below and learn the top ten reasons to not take pictures in a museum… I totally agree with her…

http://www.everywhereist.com/ten-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-take-photos-in-museums/

Also, ask questions when you visit these places. Most of the museum docents speak a little English and love to tell you about the painting, sculptures, structures and artists who created them. They sit there for hours yelling at people to not touch the art or take photos. Can you imagine what a fantastic break it is to get to use all the knowledge they have from working there?? I love to ask questions in my crappy Italian and I am always surprised by what interesting things I learn! (Sometimes in really well spoken English!)

This brings me to knowing the language. Luckily for most Americans who visit here the Italians are very forgiving of our horrible accents when we try to speak Italian, and if you are trying they will always help you. (Florentine’s have a fabulous sense of humor and love to poke fun of our strange American accents!)

As Americans, many of us can’t stand the Spanish speaking culture that ‘immigrated” from our neighboring Mexico. Those pesky Mexicans! How dare they come into “mer’ca” and spread their “Spanglish!” I’ve always loved (Add A LOT of sarcasm here…) that Americans are bothered by this… those that feel that everyone who comes to America (even for a vacation) should have a working knowledge of spoken English. Most “mer’cans” can’t even speak proper English… (myself included.) Can you imagine if that were the case here? (Why should those pesky Italians expect us to know Italian??) But… Of course we should! At the very least how to say Please: Per Favore; Thank You: Grazie; I would like: Vorrei; Where is the bathroom: Dov’e il bagno; Excuse me: Scusa (or Permesso if you are passing); and my personal favorite…. “Potete dirmi come arrivare a…” Translates loosely to, “Can you tell me how to get to…” There are about 100 different ways to say this, but I make everything difficult so…
And my personal favorite: Posso avere un altro bicchiere di vino per favore? (May I have another glass of wine please?)

(You don’t have to like everything I write here, but trust me after living here for a year now, I see things everyday that scare me about having to move back home and I wonder how long it will be before I just can’t take it and end up moving back to Florence or anywhere else. Stay tuned for part due (2))

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