Tips and Tricks to Survive in Italy

By Meredith Pollock, MA 2015-16

When you’re preparing to study abroad or move to another country, you’ll find a million tips, tricks, and bits of advice online. While it’s inspiring to hear different variations of “live your life to the fullest” or “act like a local,” sometimes all you want are the miscellaneous tidbits that will just make your life abroad a little easier. After spending eight months in Florence, here is a list of random things I wish I’d know before moving to Italy.

1. Prepare for mosquitos. I’m from Texas, so I am used to being covered with mosquito bites a good ten months out of the year. However, mosquitos in Florence are a different ball game. Unlike the itchy, pink bumps from Texas mosquitos, Florentine ones leave slightly painful, red dots. They also aren’t afraid to bite your face while you’re sleeping. Thankfully, mosquito repellant plug-ins are available which help ward off these pesky critters. But when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) outside and you don’t have AC and just want to sleep with the window open, be warned. There is a trade-off in August and September between sleeping coolly and sleeping unbitten.

2. You won’t know where it comes from, but dust is everywhere. Anticipate becoming best friends with your broom and dustpan.

3. Bring slippers. One of the first purchases I made in Florence was a pair of cheap Ikea slippers, but I’ve been missing my moccasins since week one. Even though it was hot outside, the floors are somehow still cold, and they’ll protect your feet from the aforementioned dust problem.

4. Find a happy medium between traveling Europe and exploring Florence. You have to take advantage of your proximity to the rest of the continent while you’re here, and Ryanair flies out of Pisa for the same price as four cups of gelato, but don’t forget to get to know the city you live in. For the rest of your life you’ll have a place in Europe that feels like home.

5. Take advantage of cheap pasta. You can get a bag with five servings for just forty cents! As one of my classmates said, “You can go to the gym when you get home. Just buy bigger pants.”

6. Dress for the season, not the temperature. When the first day of fall arrived, all of a sudden Florentines were wearing scarves, coats, boots, and hats despite the fact that it was a balmy 70 degrees outside. Even though the weather calls for it, you will look silly in dresses or short sleeved shirts.

7. Peanut butter is weirdly expensive — expect to pay around five Euro for a small jar.

8. Most apartments in Europe don’t have dryers, so avoid bringing any clothes that need to be tumble dried.

9. Be prepared to never understand some things. While lining up in the United States is the typical way to wait, often you’ll find yourself standing in a hectic clump in Italy. There are two types of outlets here, meaning that sometimes your chargers will fit and sometimes they won’t.  When you walk by some restaurants it’ll feel like you’re being aggressively recruited to eat there. Even when it’s frustrating, enjoy it because it’s all part of this wonderful, chaotic experience and someday you might actually find yourself missing the things that used to drive you crazy.

Photo by Meredith Pollock

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