Having gone around Florence for the past month, I have noticed a lot about the culture and the people here. Before leaving I barely knew any Italian and though I knew that most people here spoke English I was worried to not be able to communicate with people properly. But because Florence is a place that is constantly populated by tourists, the language barrier is not too difficult. That said, now that I am more comfortable being here I try my best to speak Italian as much as possible and though many times that results in people speaking English back to me, it is nice to not be completely lost.
Speaking about tourism in Florence, once you cross the Arno to the side with the tourist attractions, it is always packed with thousands of people either taking group tours or just experiencing and exploring Italy. My friends and I keep waiting for tourism to die down so we can explore museums and the streets of Florence without the crowd, but I have a feeling that Florence never really quiets down. So it is nice to live on the more local side of Florence, I can go towards the attractions when I want, but can also escape that chaos to find little corners of Florence that are less explored.
Yesterday we noticed a festival that was happening on the streets near our house, so when we went out to see what was happening we were happy to see a little cultural festival occurring in support of womens’ rights. There was music, food, and lots of little street vendors. Finding little things like that is something I really love about being in a part of Florence that is more local.
Now my experience in Florence is different to that of most of my friends because I am Indian. I have noticed that there are not many other Indian people who are local to Florence other than shopkeepers. And those shopkeepers feel that it is OK to constantly talk to you, ask about where you are from, or speak to you in Hindi. Before coming here I was told that people are more likely to stare at you or catcalls you while abroad because that is the culture. And before school started our program heads talked about how Florence is one of the safest cities and that they barely have any violent crimes. I agree with that, I have never felt that I was unsafe while walking the streets here. That said, the constant attention that is pulled towards me for my ethnicity does annoy me. I have noticed how people never come up to my friends or yell after them. There have also been many times when someone could speak to me in Hindi, a language I do not know, and be annoyed when I could not respond to them. Nevertheless I have found this place and the people here to be so sweet and welcoming and am excited to meet and talk with more of the locals.