One week left in Italy

I feel busy, almost too busy, but I know I’m not really. I wish I could find that happy medium, but I know I’m happiest when I have either no responsibilities (ie: traveling) or super busy. Right now I feel “in between” and it really doesn’t suit me. I’ve traveled a lot in these past two months – only in Italy, but man, I really think it’s possible to live in Italy forever and never run out of totally new places to discover.What’s my favorite thing about living in Florence? The fact that if I take a train for 2 hours, I am in a different region with different food, different landscape, different accent. I can also ride my bike for an hour and more or less be in the country, that kind of Tuscan countryside setting you have in your mind. That totally exists, and it’s beautiful. I love that I get get to Rome in 1.5 hours. I love that this country seems small by fast train and huge by slow train (because the train I take to get to Rome takes 4 hours, but costs a fraction of the price). My other favorite thing is the food, and here is where I will freely admit that the food in Amsterdam is generally awful. Sure, it’s possible to eat well in Amsterdam. There are great markets with fresh fish and veggies and seasonal fruit, I love the pastries and apple pie, there’s tons of ethnic food available, but the normal dutch attitude toward food is just simply best described as your average american attitude toward food, which is a shame. Going to a (normal, not-fancy, not-bio) supermarket in Amsterdam is a depressing experience and I can’t count how many times I’ve gone in and out without buying anything because there is nothing that appeals to me. This sucks, because ok, I can go to the markets, but what if I don’t have time? What if I just want to quickly go to a non-fancy supermarket and get inspired to make something for dinner? That doesn’t happen in Amsterdam, I have to go to the fancy supermarkets (ie: the dutch version of whole foods).

In Italy, the normal supermarket is not a depressing experience. I can buy food at my local supermarket that makes me happy! I love this! and I love italian food. I love Tuscan food. I love the meat and cheese and wine and everything they produce here.

What’s my least favorite thing about Florence? The fact that my boyfriend isn’t here. And other than that, this city is an awkward size. It’s too big to feel like a “town,” it’s too small to feel like a real city (about 350,000 people or so). there’s not a big alternative scene that I have been able to find. I think I might love it more in the summer – I can tell this city was meant to be enjoyed outdoors, in the squares with people drinking beer, on the banks of the river, etc. The weather is good for Jan/Feb, and when it gets really warm (it was about 65 F the other day), everyone is out, on the grass, having picnics, drinking wine, enjoying. The sounds of the city are beautiful. I also don’t love the fact that it is such a touristy place, and my god, I hear so many americans. The americans that live here are as closed of a group as the japanese are (there are tons of japanese as well), and I kind of feel that in the city, and I kind of don’t like it. In Amsterdam, being a foreigner is just that – you’re not dutch. that’s all. in Florence, it’s “you’re american, you’re japanese, you’re spanish,” etc. In Florence we spend more time talking about where we’re from which is a conversation that does become pretty boring after you have it ten thousand times.

I am very much looking forward to returning to Amsterdam. It’s not that I’m as crazy in love with the city as I was a few years ago, it’s just that that’s Amsterdam is where my life is, and I like my life there. I have great friends and a great bike and I somehow managed to find work as a freelancer, and I have health insurance and the cinemas are amazing and there is an alternative scene that isn’t very hard to find and people aren’t very snobby or exclusive and it just works for me. I don’t know. I have no idea where I’ll live next, as I expect Amsterdam won’t be the final resting place, but who knows, maybe it could be. maybe. But… ok, the food thing I can kind of work around, but the lack of consistently hot summers is a bigger and bigger deal. I mean, I like that the winters are mild(er than New York), but I need hot summers. The first year I was in Amsterdam, it was hot. I wore shorts to work, I went to the beach in June, it was great. But that’s not something you can count on, and this is really not okay with me. I want to tan in the summer and stay tanned all summer and sweat and have to only eat salad and fruit because it’s too hot for anything else.

This past weekend I went to Venice and it was a bit sad to have the waiters and hotel people switch to english with me. I get that it’s the most touristy city in europe, but still, that never happens in Florence. However, I could hold a italian conversation with the funny indian guys we met (another story), and on Sunday I went to my friends’ parents for lunch. It was really warm and enjoyable and I spent 4-5 hours with them only speaking italian (they don’t speak english at all) and it worked.

I’ll end this without an ending, but a picture. What a country.

Antique Venice