Sometimes, I think back to the way my life used to be when I was 23. I was a bartender/graphic designer/Pilates receptionist living in Vancouver and trying my best to be a cute vegan west coast Canadian girl while working 3 jobs. I really wanted to be the girl who lives in the mountains and goes hiking every weekend, but every time I saw a photo of someone in Florence, the jealousy cut deep and I knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Now that I’ve decided on Italy and been here for a few years, I think it’s time to list all of the strange habits I have developed over time. Naturally, this list begins with food.
1)I need to dip cookies in my morning coffee or I don’t feel whole.
I know it’s unhealthy. I know it’s a change for the worse. The thought of eating anything else but delicious whole grain toast in the morning used to be inconceivable. But now, if I don’t have a cookie (or fourteen) in the morning to dip in my coffee, it’s just not right.
2) I don’t own a car and never feel like I need one or miss having one
I used to feel like I wasn’t a real adult because I didn’t own a car. But I hate driving and I love walking. I walk everywhere. I NEED to walk. I also bike. I longboard. Driving used to give me such bad anxiety. In Florence, I don’t have to drive ANYWHERE. In most cases, it takes more time going somewhere by car. The only time I ever regret not having one is when I’m carrying 12 liters of water home in the middle of August. Besides that, I love the freedom of not having a car.
3) I always have coffee after lunch
There’s not much more to this except it makes me happy. It brings me incredible joy. Standing. Sitting. Lungo. Normale. I don’t discriminate. Coffee after lunch is a sacred ritual. With co-workers, with friends and with strangers. You can never take it away from me.
4) Speaking of coffee, I have a regular bar guy that knows my name.
I’m not very…social. It takes a solid 8 months to get to know me, maybe longer if you give me weird vibes or have really nice hair. If it’s not a one-on-one interaction, I’m not about it. It’s mostly shyness. But I’m so proud of myself for getting to know the owner of the coffee bar in front of my apartment. And I kind of love it. I go there for aperitivo all the time. I stop by for coffee. One time, I lost my keys and got a bit tipsy with a group of Italian boomers at 6 pm. Bruno’s always there. I get my Amazon packages delivered to Bruno. He knows my dog. I’ve seen videos of his cat. If you move to Italy, find yourself a Bruno.
5) I started running
I used to hate running and I can easily run a 15k now. NOT WELL, but I can. And the only reason I started running was because I was eating what I could only describe as terrifying amounts of carbs. I had a “these sweatpants are the only thing that fit me right now” Mean Girls moment. But running has completely changed my mental health and even though my knee hurts, the way it helps me deal with all of my feelings makes it all worth it.
6) I constantly check if I have my phone, wallet and keys on me. Again and again and again. And again. And one last time.
I’m always patting and checking the contents of my purse and my pockets. I can’t go shopping without patting my entire body and purse at least 40 times per store. I have friends who work in retail and the countless stories I’ve heard of people get pickpocketed every day has shaped/ruined my shopping experience. Whenever I’m surrounded by people, I’m forever feeling my purse for my phone and wallet. It’s not a positive change, but for me, it’s a necessary one.
7) I LOVE TOMATOES
Have you ever had sliced tomatoes on a summer evening in Italy? They will change your life. I used to hate tomatoes. Then I moved here. Now they are my lifeline. My guiding light. The Kim to my Kanye.
8) I am OK with speaking up
This is always going to be a little bit embarrassing because I’ll always have a little bit of an accent when I speak Italian. But I used to apologize for EVERYTHING. I once got hit really hard by a bike on the sidewalk and I apologized. OH MI SCUSI. But over time, I’ve built what I like to call “FIORENTINA COURAGE.” If someone casually forgets to give me back 20 euros in change, I tell them. And if they pretend I’m lying, I speak up. It may not always be the most elegant or Buddhist thing to do, but this country will slowly EAT YOU ALIVE and take all of your money if you don’t. Go get yourself a little bit of Fiorentina courage.
9) I can drink 3 negronis and still have a somewhat intelligent conversation.
This is a talent. Do with that what you will.
10) I don’t leave the house in my sweatpants anymore.
I mean, let’s not lose control. I sometimes still walk my dog in them, but I would never wear sweatpants around the city center. I live in the outskirts of Florence, and the streets are mostly deserted so when I take my dog for a walk at 1 am, I can do so without the risk of running into the young and beautiful study abroad students living their best lives at Red Garter. Overall, I am SLIGHTLY more careful with what I wear. All this really means is I don’t go shopping in leggings and a half bun. If you do, I am here for it. It may just be the fear of running into people I know because Florence is smaller than you think, but I generally avoid looking like a COMPLETE slob these days.
Now tell me yours!