During my Reading week, I traveled to the Tuscan city of Florence. Because I now call two places in the world home, I not only compared Florence to Boston, but I also compared it to Dublin. Because of the relative proximity between Dublin and Florence, the juxtaposition between them was more fascinating; such a difference between the North and the South of Europe emphasized how diverse the continent really is. This diversity, to say the least, hit me as soon as I landed in Florence.
When I got off the plane, I noticed almost immediately that this was a very different place. I could speak Italian, so the language barrier was almost non-existent; however, the culture barrier was still keeping me from crossing cultures and secretly blending into their community. Unlike the Dublin cabs, Florentine cabs started at a disturbingly high 8 euro at night. Moreover, the taxi driver must have been very fond of my presence because he had the aim of giving me a tour of the city before he brought me to my hotel; luckily I’ve been to Florence before on some foreign exchange programs, so I politely told him that “fare un giro” with my taxi driver wasn’t on my bucket list. The relatively long ride to my hotel did have some interesting outcomes, though; I got to relive experiencing the absolutely horrendous driving style that each and every Florentine citizen apparently had to have before acquiring their license. The fact that I ticked him off by giving him directions within his own city didn’t make anything better, either.
As one could notice, I’ve been saying “Florentine” rather than “Italian” when I’ve been characterizing Florence’s inhabitants. This is because the Florentine community blatantly refuses to characterize itself as members of Italy over its old city-state. One of my best friends, Cosimo, is from Florence; however, I’m not exaggerating when I say that he gets genuinely angry when I call him an Italian. Whereas the people of Dublin happily call themselves members of Ireland and then members of Dublin, the people of Florence refer to themselves as Florentine, Tuscan, and then Italian if they absolutely have to.
When I woke up for my first morning there, I was greeted in the cafeteria with a wide selection of sweets, plates with deli meat and cheese, fruits, jams, breads, and juices. Along with this, I got the espresso that tipped off the Italian nature of this breakfast. This meal was much more noticeably different than my own back home in Dublin, where I got eggs, bacon, sausages, pudding, beans, and a roll. The culinary difference didn’t stop there; throughout the day I could choose between Florentine food, Tuscan food, Neopolitan food, Roman food, and even Milanese food. Yes, they’re all relatively the same, but the restaurants were everywhere I looked, literally begging me to eat inside them. This contrasts with the relatively small and diverse culture of eating out in Dublin, in which a tourist or Irishman (unconventionally) could tour the world’s cuisines at the Jervis center.
The architectural style in Florence was also a little less quaint. Embodying the southern European style of housing, every roof was a shade of red or orange and every building was a shade of tan, white, grey, or yellow; this contrasts heavily with the cool shades of color that paints the buildings of Dublin. Also, there is a quite obvious difference between Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo, and the smaller, relatively simple Christ Church Cathedral of Dublin.
From aesthetics to community behavior, the hand-rattling, bouncing Florentine culture juxtaposed with the calmer, more introverted Dublin culture; I enjoyed revisiting Florence and immersing myself within its culture, but the difference between it and Dublin really emphasized how much I appreciate the calmer culture of my second home city.
– John Miranda