Today marks the first day of the second half of our twelve-week stay in Florence!  We’ve adjusted so well to life here that we are in denial that our experience is half over.  So we are focusing on the glass being “half-full” in that we still have six weeks of Italy to explore.

To mark our halfway point, we each wrote down a few thoughts about our experience so far…

Thomas writes about what he noticed is different in Italy relative to the United States. 

  1. Most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7pm.  Some don’t even get crowded until 10pm!
  2. If people don’t feel like working (like shop owners), they keep the shop closed and don’t work!
  3. Lots of smokers.
  4. Most shops often at different times – some not until after 10am.
  5. A big supermarket in Italy is maybe 1/10 the size of one of our supermarkets at home (like Giant).
  6. A rich person in Italy has a house the size of an average-sized house in the U.S.
  7. Roads are narrow and the cars are small.
  8. We walk everywhere here!
  9. A restaurant meal consists of a 1st course (pasta), 2nd course (meat), a side dish (salad or potato), and a dessert (the best part!)
  10. Soccer is really the ONLY sport here!       

Nicholas writes:  Wow. We are already halfway through our Italy trip.  I have really enjoyed playing soccer with my new Italian friends at the Club Sportivo Firenze.  I am able to see them at least three times each week – and I’ve run into a few of them at a nearby park playing soccer on the weekends.  I really liked seeing the Eiffel Tower.  It was amazing, and I was speechless when we went to the top and I could see the entire city of Paris lit up below me! 

I am really looking forward to seeing Pisa and Venice in the second half of our trip.  I can’t wait to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the water streets of Venice.  I know when this is all over, I will miss my time in Europe!    

Maria writes:  Living in Florence has been one of the best experiences of my life!  I feel right at home here, because I have found people that are loud and love life the way I do.  Our apartment is wonderful, the food is amazing, and I have made lifelong friendships.  One of my favorite places in Florence is the Duomo.  Even though I complained on the way up the 473 steep steps to the top of the dome, the view was just beautiful!  When we were in Rome, we were fortunate to be part of a papal audience.  We were both moved and inspired when the Pope gave a special blessing to Mount St. Mary’s University staff, students, and families.  Finally, seeing the Colosseum in person was simply amazing.

Being in Italy has allowed us to do some traveling to other countries.  One of my favorite experiences outside of Italy was taking a gondola up Mt. Pilatus in Switzerland and sledding down part of the mountain.  In my opinion, our pictures of the Swiss Alps are the best we’ve taken!  My second favorite experience was visiting the Eiffel Tower – it will stay with me for a long time.  The Eiffel Tower is an impressive structure that must be seen in person to capture its beauty.  It is so much bigger than I imagined it would be.  And taking a glass elevator to the very top is one of the scariest things I have ever done.  (But the elevator beat climbing up the 1700 or so steps!)  We went up at night, we went outside at the top, and it was VERY windy.  They say that the Eiffel tower is constructed to account for wind resistance and that it sways 2-3 inches in the wind.  I am glad I read that after going up to the top.  At night, the Eiffel Tower twinkles on the hour for about 5 minutes.  It is beyond belief! 

At the end of March, we are going to Venice for 3 days.  I am very much looking forward to that trip as well.  I expect to deepen the friendships that I have made here, and to continue to enjoy the great food and desserts.  I don’t want to think about the fact that we are more than halfway through our trip.  Some people thought I may get homesick but the reverse is true….I am sick about the thought of leaving!

Karl writes:  Definitely, the best part of my experience so far is having the opportunity to meet people that really live in Florence.  The center of Florence is filled with students studying abroad (from the U.S. and other places), with retirees from many different countries, and with tourists.  So it would be easy to spend twelve weeks here and not get to know any local Italians.  However, having the boys in soccer has given us the opportunity to meet Italian families to really experience what everyday life is like here.  The Marchese family has been particularly wonderful to us! 

Just tonight it was so cold at soccer practice that all of the parents were in the coffee bar talking and hanging out.  Of course I didn’t understand much of what was said, but I certainly felt part of the camaraderie of the group.  Giovanni even picked up a guitar and began singing Italian songs!  Everyone was singing along with him!  It was one of those moments you wish you could just freeze and stay in forever.  (Of course, the video camera was at home!)

This has also been a defining experience for us as a family.  We are learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations.  Living with less “things”, living in an apartment with no yard, not speaking the local language, not having a car, teaching in a tiny classroom, and not having a clothes dryer (!) have all become just part of the routine – not obstacles as they may have originally seemed to be.  I have seen incredible growth in all of us over these past six weeks – I can’t wait to see how we are in six more weeks!   


One Response to “Halfway!”

  1. Linda Richman Says:

    I may have some insight on Thomas’ observations #7 and 8 (and an economics lesson for the class to boot!!). I think I remember a filling station/garage between the Ponte Vecchio and the Santa Croce Bridges on the Pitti Palace side of the river. Check out the price of gasoline!!!

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