The Florentine’s top 10 list

Things you need to know (That italians assume you already do know, should know, and are stupid for not knowing)

Adriana Varela
November 17, 2005

10 The Price of Leisure

 

You’ve just finished your morning cappuccino at a quaint café near the Ponte Vecchio, you go to pay for it and are shocked to discover  that you’ve been charged 5 Euro. No, they’re not ripping you off. Sitting down and drinking (or eating) anything at a table will cost you three times as much as having it at the bar.  So next time, do it like the Italians do, order and drink your coffee at the bar.

 

9  Red Tape ‘Til You’re Blue in the Face

 

All that you’ve heard about Italian bureaucracy is true. It takes ages (and unlimited patience) to get anything done. Be prepared to stand in lines, ask questions that no one wants to answer for you, be put on hold forever when you call, and make at least 2 trips to an office to complete any paperwork necessary. All of this for something as seemingly simple as getting the internet hooked up in your apartment...

 

8  Calling All Cars

 

As a general rule, parking in Florence is a nightmare. Street parking is limited, different coloured lines mean different things, there’s street cleaning to consider, and it’s not cheap either. Your best bet is to use city-run garages (marked with a blue P) like the ones under Santa Maria Novella or the San Lorenzo Market.

 

7  A Load of Trouble

 

Doing a load of laundry can be a 24 hour ordeal: the washing machine takes 2 hours, and there are no dryers, so line drying takes all night. Then, of course, you have to iron your clothes once they’re dry. So plan your outfits accordingly...

 

6  Strike This!

 

It’s Tuesday afternoon and you’ve been waiting for the bus for what feels like years...what’s up? Sciopero! It’s probably a bus strike. People in Italy love to strike, whether they be bankers, rubbish collectors, students, teachers or anyone else you need on any given day. Strikes happen often and are a huge inconvenience. Check out www.ataf.net and www.trenitalia.com for the latest on bus and train strikes... that way you won’t be left stranded again.

 

5  Lonely Ladies Travel Better

 

If you call a cab to pick you up, don’t be surprised to find that the meter is already running, there’s an extra fee for calling and for service at nights and on holidays as well. You can always check the price list posted if you’re unsure about costs. Remember, women travelling alone at night are entitled to a 10% discount.

 

4  Big Brother is watching you...

 

Or at least your speed on the roads in Florence. There are automatic machines peppering the roadsides to check your speed. If you exceed the limit, expect a photographic souvenir to reach your home along with a fine. Until you memorise their locations, watch traffic around you for sudden slowing down.

 

3  Ready, set, shop!

 

It’s Monday afternoon and you’re in the centre ready to shop when you see that most of the shops are closed! Many shops close Monday and Saturday afternoons for inventory (and of course most are closed Sundays). Generally they’re open from 9am to 1pm and then reopen from 3:30pm to 7:30pm.

 

2  Tipsy?

 

Most restaurants in Italy charge coperto for each person at the table, so technically you’re not expected to leave a tip. But if you’ve enjoyed your meal and the service, it’s considered polite to leave something (about 60 centesimi per person).

 

And the NUMBER ONE thing you need to know when living in Italy is...

 

1  Ask and You Shall Receive

 

You can always ask for a sconto (discount) when you’re purchasing something, whether it’s tomatoes at the Central Market in San Lorenzo or shoes at a pricey boutique. Italians do it all the time, and you’ll usually be surprised with the results.

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