You decided to live abroad in Italy for the entire summer and chose Florence because you’ve always dreamt of walking around the tiny streets of the historical center while eating some delicious gelato as you pass by Renaissance buildings and monuments. These months are going to be great, but life is not a movie and you are not the youngest Olsen sister taking on Hollywood with a leading role in a blockbuster film. In Italy, practically every twenty-something from the South lives in a major central-northern city to study or work, and there are high chances that a bunch of them will be your coinquilini (aka roommates).
So, here are some tips and tricks to be loved by your new roommates and get the best from your time abroad in the Culla del Rinascimento.
If you’re an English mother tongue, bear your incredible good fortune in mind, but don’t take advantage of it. Remember that the Italian language has dialects that change from area to area. Sometimes they are completely different languages, like Neapolitan or Sardinian. Ask your roommates to teach you some key dialect words. They will prove very useful if you’re planning to visit Rome or the breathtaking Costiera Amalfitana.
Italians are very picky about food. We don’t really know what Fettuccine Alfredo or Mac and Cheese are, and we definitely do not drink a cappuccino in addition to or to finish meals. But that doesn’t mean we’re not open to new food experiences. Organize a dinner with your roommates in which everyone cooks a recipe from their hometown. Share your special chocolate chip cookies (yes, it’s hard, I realize) with your coinquilini and, in exchange, ask them to do the scarpetta, literally, mopping up anything leftover on your plate or whatever your fork can’t pick up. That is why Tuscan bread is not very salty—it’s more of a utensil than a foodstuff.
Florence city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its museums preserve the widest collections of Renaissance art on the planet. There is so much art to see in town and you will probably spend your first few days—or weeks—visiting the Uffizi and Accademia and Instagramming the views from piazzale Michelangelo. Ask your roommates to show you the little-known monuments and galleries. Visit the beautiful (and sadly underrated) Orsanmichele church museum (open only on Mondays). Spend some time together in Fiesole, a small town very close to Florence. If you are in the mood for sports, go hiking in the hills around Florence.
Landlords in Italy, especially in towns like Florence, full of international students, workers and tourists tend to be a little bit sneaky. You may be the newest member of the house, but that does not mean you can’t ask him to fix the boiler once and for all, so you can get your first hot shower weeks after your arrival. You weren’t there last December when all of this started, but it’s your duty to join the protest and support your roomies.
Get out of the city
Tuscany is not just Florence. It is actually the third largest region in Italy and areas like Chianti Classico, Val d’Orcia and Maremma are totally worth a visit.
Visit Siena, a sublime city not far from Florence, famous for its cuisine, art, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a bareback horse race held on July 2 and August 16. In Arezzo you can discover Tuscany’s Etruscan roots and learn more about what life was like before the Renaissance. Along the Maremma coastline, sandy beaches alternate with rocky coastline, perfect for a day trip on those hot, hot summer days.
Your coinquilini are probably not from Florence, so plan a visit to their hometown and ask them to be your tour guide. They will show you all the hidden treasures of their origins and how to live like a local. The food is likely to be out of this world and Southern Italian family hospitality is unforgettable. A nice day at the seaside on one of the tiny beaches of Amalfi sounds like a good plan, right?
Friends for life
Spend time with your coinquilini. Grab a drink with them after work, enjoy some aria fresca in piazza Santo Spirito during the summer nights, help them with their English and ask them to help you with your Italian. Get to know them, enjoy new experiences together, and very soon they won’t be just your coinquilini but real friends. It’s not going to be like in that famous TV show, but it might be even better.