Lesson #9: Even If You’re Fluent, You’re Still Not

This is a guest post by Jessica Spiegel: the wonderful, all-knowing Italy expert behind BootsnAll’s WhyGoItaly. After taking time out of his busy day to give me a tour of the hostel in Venice he managed, my host offered to give me a mini-walking tour of the neighborhood surrounding the hostel. It was a kind offer, and one I couldn’t refuse, although he’d already gone out of his way to show me every nook and cranny of the old building the hostel occupied. I followed him up and down the stairs of the former granary, the February chill penetrating the concrete walls and magnifying the fact that the hostel was nearly empty of guests, taking snapshots of rooms and jotting notes in my book. We wound our way in a circular fashion – up the stairs on one side of the huge building and down the stairs on the other – to end up where we’d left off, in the main hall. I thought my visit was complete. It had already taken more time than the other hotel visits I’d done, where managers didn’t have time for grand tours, and I was ready for a nap. Or an espresso break. Or both. That’s when my host offered his guided walking tour of the neighborhood, and when my inability to be curt or bitchy with people who are being nice to me kicked in. So off we went on a slow-paced walk around the island, pausing occasionally while he gestured toward a building and said… Something. It’s here that I should mention something critical: my host was speaking not in Italian, but in the Venetian dialect, and to this day I’ve no earthly idea what he was saying for most of the two hours I spent with him. In fact, I’m only guessing that it was a tour of the neighborhood he was offering, since when I got on a vaporetto nearly two hours later that’s what it felt like I’d gotten. But who knows? Maybe when we left the hostel he was asking if I’d like to go get some lunch, or meet his pet parrot, or take a ride in a speedboat. All I know is that like Ginger Rogers, I let someone else lead – and so we walked, slowly, through the deserted streets around the hostel for the next hour and a half, him chattering away and…

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Local Lowdown: La Cite

That’s right it’s time for my second installment of my new adventures out and about in Florence! When I first arrived in Florence, Lorenzo did his best to lead me around the city and show me all of the most famous monuments but I really had no starting ground and didn’t retain a lot of the information. I remember on one particular rainy night we walked to a bar to meet a friend, Lorenzo doing his best to guide me based on landmarks we passed. Needless to say, it didn’t do me a lot of good in learning my way around the city but one of the things that I remember from that night was this little “library” we passed that was so full of young Italians that they were spilling out onto the street. Lorenzo explained that it was some kind of library but it was also a bar, and he said it was a place he had always wanted to see but was too afraid to go to because he didn’t really know how it worked being a hybrid. I laughed at his silly remark and decided I would go there on my own. It took me about six months to get there the first time, one hot summer day I headed in with a friend of mine for a couple of glasses of Prosecco and was pleasantly relaxed surrounded by old used books and comfy couches. Then it closed for a few months over the summer and I never seemed to get around to going back. These past weeks I have done a lot of thinking realizing that I tend to get more work done when I am outside the comfort of my own four walls. So, I’ve been hopping around local places that offer internet and I chose La Cite as my Friday destination. A friend of mine said they offered amazing, giant mugs of gourmet hot chocolate, so I opted for a packet of ginseng-infused chocolate on my first proper visit. The barista was pleasant and offered me the internet password and directed me to the stairs behind the bar for more seating options. I found a table and sat down with my hot chocolate, deciding I would fare better to avoid the couch where there was a particularly happy couple groping each other. Then I made the mistake of lifting the mug to my…

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Why Hello Rome…

This week I have been beyond blessed with a schedule chock-full of work hours! This job has taken me from Florence to Rome and back, then on to Perugia and in the end I’ll come out pretty clean for it all. I keep getting down on myself for not getting in more important posts, especially being that I just returned from a big trip and I have yet to mention Portugal on my site! Then I read Caz’s wonderful post, over at yTravelBlog on lack of motivation and inspiration and, as always, was inspired by her words. Then, I lost motivation and I just got busy. Wednesday, I was blessed to be assigned work in Rome. After a long day at school orientations the old crew of the company decided we would all stick together and head out for dinner. They have all been working together since the start of the company seven years ago; they are all either Italian or have been in Italy for seven years and they all are at least seven years older than me. I was shy and weary for the dinner, but thankful as they all took turns filling me in on the past and the Italian words that I didn’t understand. After dinner we moved on to a little bar and I was beginning to feel more comfortable… Then we wandered down the the banks of the Fiume Tevere and all leaped onto the red leather sofas like happy toddlers. I settled in to the dusty leather pillows, beer in hand and looked around one more time at my company. They chattered on in Italian and I laughed along. No, I didn’t suddenly understand fluently, I just finally felt the perfect fit into the group. My tensions relaxed and I watched as they pulled up chairs, kicked off their shoes and talked about old times. Then I looked around me, there was a slight breeze as the city began to welcome fall, and I followed plastic bottles tangled in God-knows-what float by my perch and on it’s merry way along the Tevere. But in the midst of it all I suddenly had a realization. This was Rome. I am lucky to say I have been able to see Rome three times, of course it was always for work. In my last visit, however,  I did get a chance to explore almost all the…

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Lesson #3: They ARE Romantic!

Ok, I know this section is supposed to be for proving those hilarious Italian stereotypes right and revealing new ones but I can’t really pass this up. Yesterday evening, I returned home from a much needed Monday at the beach; a day full of talking about relationships and the “little things”. Little surprises you know, like maybe flowers, never happen to me. My friend Georgette was talking about the importance of surprises to show you care in a relationship. This isn’t really a new subject in my relationship, I’m always thinking how it would be nice to get a little something now and then. At the same time, I appreciate just his words and how much he is there for me, no matter what. It’s the battle between material and emotional. In reality, they are both nice and I can’t talk because I haven’t done my nice share of thoughtful surprises either. Anyway, I push open the fifty-pound door, which feels fifty-pounds heavier after an hour standing on a stinky train. Sunglasses still on, I walked into a seemingly pitch-black room. Then, I pulled up the shades. I have to say I was a little in shock at first. I mumbled a few confused phrases. Here’s what I saw. The most beautiful flowers, bug spray, refills for the mosquito-murdering wallplug, and a CD. Along with a sweet little note. The bug spray and mosquito armor might seem a little strange to many but it’s really the way to my heart. I suppose he realized that when for the third week in a row this morning I woke up with an evil glare in my eyes as I scratched the new mystery wrist I had grown over night. There is something about these Italian mosquitos, but just like the men they love that American blood (hahaha, just kidding!!). Anyway, I promise next week to get back to my usual posts and expose the true Italian-style, but really aren’t they stereotypically romantic too? Just can’t get away from those Italian Stallions.

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