Experiencing Italy

The last two days have been a whirlwind. Orientation began with an introductory seminar and a tour, followed by a tour of our neighborhood, and finished with two seminars, one of which we got lost on the way to! Later that day CIS Abroad treated us to a wonderful four course three hour Italian meal. Needless to say I left the apartment at 8 am that morning and didn’t return until 11 pm! There was just so much to see! Yesterday after a full day of exploring the city and running errands to get settled into my new home, FUA hosted a welcome reception with a buffet and desserts. Today is the first day to take a breath, relax, and prepare for the start of classes on Monday! At this point, any initial assumptions I in initially had coming into this experience have been changed. The main thing I have noticed is that there is a huge difference between the tourist parts and the local parts of Florence ; especially when it comes to the restaurants. In the tourist-heavy parts of Florence, there are extra charges in restaurants for tourists called a cuperto. This is charged per person and can range from 1 to 4+ Euro, many tourists are unaware of this. The service is good enough, but usually gets worse if they find you will not be tipping (tipping is uncommon in Italy, as the employees make a living wage, but many servers have come to expect it from Americans).Servers will sometimes say this to Americans, regardless of if a service charge and/or cuperto was already charged, in an effort to guilt them into tipping.¬†At a local establishment, there is rarely a cuperto, and if there is, it is often very low. The staff are friendly, though rarely speak much English. They encourage American guests to practice their Italian and provide excellent friendly service. I will attach a picture below of a note our server made for us when we were inquiring about various Italian phrases. I have also learned a lot about what is and is not socially acceptable here, there are many things we do with out thinking in America that would shock or disgust the locals in Italy. Some examples are: asking for food to go after not quite finishing a meal at a restaurant, eating while walking in general (food is meant for the table), coffee sitting down or to go, asking to change something about the menu while ordering (this is very rude to the chef), and various others. I will try to update these as I find out more!

Ciao!

-Alexis

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