Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence or Italy – Part III

top_ten_tips_study_abroadOK. It’s time.
It’s time for the final installment of Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence and Italy. Seeing as a whole bunch of students have just arrived and are making their way through the streets of Florence and getting the hang of their new Italian life (covered extensively in Part I and Part II of this blog series), I would say it’s time to give them the next, and final installment, of Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad in Florence or Italy. Wouldn’t you agree?
 
Besides, I was starting to feel bad that there were only really 7 amazing tips floating out there… Well, as promised, here are the final three tips in our study abroad tips series – a literal A to Z on studying abroad (and traveling and living) in Florence and Italy. From what to pack to arriving in style and from calling home to getting to a local doctor, we cover all the fundamental life needs in three easy-to-read blog posts.
 
As always, for those of you who are new to our Top Ten Tips blogs (welcome!), see below for a handy guide to the massive quantity of information into which you are about to dive. Use it to help manage the material. Want to know everything there is to know about international calling? Want to get to the heart of the grocery store issue? Jump to that section now by clicking on the links below! Or, should you so desire, start with Part I and make your way through everything, in order. We love to hear from you, so if we left anything out, just let us know in the comments at the bottom! Continue reading…

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Florence Fashion

Gucci_museumComing to Italy is a veritable fashion pilgrimage. While most people think of Milan as the fashion capitol of Italy, there are many important fashion houses that got their start right here in Florence. Guccio Gucci opened his fashion house in Florence in 1921, Salvatore Ferragamo in 1927, Roberto Cavalli was also a Florentine, as was Emilio Pucci. Understandably, we often have students who come to study fashion and textile design and we are always happy to oblige with various fashion-oriented activities. Clearly there is no shortage. Here are just a few that would satisfy any student of the art of moda and anyone looking for a slightly different angle in which to appreciate Florence as well as this countrywide passion.
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Tips on Food & Eating in Italy

Italian_salamiOk guys. Time for me to vent. Pet peeve numero uno comin’ at ya.
It really rubs me the wrong way when tourists arrive in Italy and expect to find the same dishes (cooked the EXACT same way) they enjoy in Italian restaurants at home. Most ethnic cuisine that has made its way to America ends up changing a fair amount on our shores. In Japan, for example, I highly doubt they serve the Philadelphia roll. And a chimichanga is something that has never graced a real Mexican table. So while Italian food in America is, without a doubt, inspired by the food in Italy, there are things on an American-Italian menu that just don’t exist in Italy (at least not EXACTLY as they do at home).
 
I was reminded of this over an English lesson with a friend who works at a local Florentine restaurant. She and her fellow waitresses laughed at the idea of spaghetti and meatballs. You heard me right. Possibly the most Americanized Italian food ever, the quintessential spaghetti and meatballs really doesn’t exist in Italy (well at least not in a version that any American would recognize). Another famous dish that stumped the waitresses is the well-known (in the good old USA) fettuccine alfredo. There is a restaurant in Rome where this dish was invented and while it has really taken off the States, it is rarely on menus in Italy.
 
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these items being ordered and enjoyed (I mean pasta covered in melted cheese is hard not to like), but you should be aware that if you go to a restaurant in Italy that makes them (with the exception of Alfredo’s restaurant in Rome), chances are they’re just doing it because they get asked so often or because they are appeasing American tourists. Let’s keep in mind that it’s a big country with a wide range of gastronomic traditions that vary dramatically in cities barely 50 miles apart. In fact, most Italian-American cuisine is based on food from only one city, Naples. Perhaps in Naples you’ll fit right in, but don’t expect any Florentine to tell you that there is not “that big of a difference” between these two culinary traditions. For Italians, the difference is huge!
 
So this week, I want to try and get some better food knowledge out there. Now this is really to follow up on my intro information on how to pick the place to eat, how to order and in what order to eat all these delicious things in our Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad blog. If you’re lost, perhaps start there.
 
Below is a list of food items that are:
#1. Unknown in the Italian gastronomic world (so take note if they appear on an Italian menu and maybe consider not ordering them).
#2. Fake friends: words that sound like an English word we would expect to find in food and yet are not at all what we think.
Or #3. Food items we rarely see on American menus but are often the most delicious ingredients on an Italian menu and sadly get skipped for lack of familiarity!
I hope in the course of this list to also impart some important Italian cuisine knowledge so while you’re here you are sure to eat some REAL Italian food.
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Ten Books to Read Before Coming to Florence

Saving_ItalyBooks have played a large role in my relationship with Florence, Italy and I wanted to share my some of my personal favorites. Here are ten books to read before coming to Florence, while you’re in Florence, if you miss Florence, or if you always wanted to go to Florence.
 
1. Saving Italy, Robert M. Edsel, 2013. By the author of the popular (and adapted for the big screen by Mr. Italy-loving George Clooney himself) Monuments Men. Saving Italy narrows his focus in this compelling read. He looks at the repercussions of war in a new way and pays respect to the unsung heroes who protected and saved Italy’s greatest artistic treasures during World War II.
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Italian Festivals: Festa della Rificolona

festa_della_rificolanaWho doesn’t love a local festival inspired by dowdy farmers, reenacted for hundreds of years by a procession of lanterns (that end the evening in flames) and children with spitball assault rifles. Answer: no one. Do I have your attention?
Welcome to the (seemingly innocent and wholesome) Festa dell Rificolona! To the uneducated eye, it is a perfectly quaint event involving one contingent of children processing with lit lanterns while another (perhaps slightly more unusual) contingent uses long pipes and putty to shoot spitballs at the passing paper targets. Everyone involved seems perfectly happy with the situation, so you assume it’s all part of the fun. It is. And it is fun, if a bit of an odd way to honor the eve of the birth of the Virgin Mary.
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