Florence Part 3: Settling in, first 3 weeks, language school

Florence 19/1/2013 – 19/4/2013

On Saturday the 19th of January the journey began. We were picked up and taken to Manchester airport early in the morning. We would fly to Florence via Paris. Due to the bad weather conditions we had a lot of delays and didn’t arrive in Florence until late that night.


Short stop in Paris. Picture taken from http://parisbytrain.com/files/2008/12/cdg_rer_sign.jpg


Finally arrived in Florence after long delays. Picture taken from http://www.italyairports.info/aeroporti/slides/images/aeroporto-firenze_3.jpg

When we got off the plane we all had to ring our respective landlords to tell them that we had arrived and we were on our way. Luckily my landlord (also the guy I would be living with) spoke really good English. I got a taxi to my new home where I would be staying for the next 3 months, I was really excited. I would be living in a really nice apartment above a bike shop right in the centre of Florence. My new housemate was really cool and welcoming.


Me and my Italian housemate. He’s an absolute diamond geezer!


to the left is the bike shop, to the right is the door to my block of apartments

When I arrived me and my housemate got to know each other for a bit and established some early ground rules, this was very good because we both knew where each other stood from the start. We both agreed it was important to show respect to each other. After chatting to him a bit he then left to go to a party with his friends. Therefore, I was on my own for the first night. I was tired from travelling all day but I was also hungry so I went out to try and find a shop. Most of the shops were closed I managed to find one that was open but they didn’t sell much food so I had to settle for chocolate and crisps for my first meal in Italy. Knowing what I know now I should have got a kebab, there are loads of kebab houses in Florence! I just did not know where they were at the time.


The shop I went to on my first night in Florence. 19/1/2013

I finished unpacking and then it hit me that this was actually happening, it was real now. I was finally in Italy after months of waiting for the 19th of January to arrive. The first night I had in Florence I have never felt so alone in all my life. I was away from my family and friends for the first proper time. I was also not with the rest of my group who I came to Florence with because they were all at their apartments even then I didn’t know them that well at this stage either. I had never been in a situation like this before, the whole thing was alien to me. I was also worried about the language and whether I would be able to pick it up quite quickly and settle in. I couldn’t wait for the next morning to come so I could meet up with the others and start to explore Florence, so I just went to bed.

The next morning came, I met up with the others and we went for a walk around the town. We seen the Duomo (which is only a 5 minute walk from my apartment) and the Ponte Vecchio for the first time. The Duomo is the main church of Florence. The construction was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. It is free to enter the Duomo and it is a really spectacular building. For more information on the Duomo please visit http://www.visitflorence.com/florence-churches/duomo.html


The Duomo

In English the Ponte Vecchio is translated to’Old Bridge’. The bridge goes across the river Arno  It is the only bridge in the city that survived world war two intact. Apparently this was because Hitler claimed it was too beautiful to destroy. The bridge is now occupied by jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. For more information on the Ponte Vecchio please visit http://www.italyguides.it/us/florence/ponte_vecchio/old_bridge.htm


Me at the Ponte Vecchio

We also went to check out the main station which is called Santa Maria Novella to see where it was. The transport in Florence is very good and reliable, you can buy bus tickets from Tabacchi shops which will be marked with a blue sign outside with a white T. You can not buy the tickets on the bus you have to buy them before you get on. A single bus ticket costs 1.20 euros you must stamp it when you get on the bus otherwise if you don’t stamp it and get caught you will be fined. You can use it as many times as you want up to 90 minutes after you have stamped it. Monthly tickets cost 35 euros. For more information on buses in Florence please visit http://www.ataf.net/en/ataf.aspx?idC=2&LN=en-US the website is available in Italian and English.


The blue sign with the white T. When you see this sign you can buy bus tickets from there.


What a single bus ticket looks like. Remember to stamp it!

We also went to see where our language school was so we all knew where to go the next day because lessons were due to start. Our school was called the Accademia Europea di Firenze, it was located in a block of flats near Piazza Liberta. On the Monday we all arrived at the school to start our 3 weeks of Italian lessons. We met our tutor and our teacher they were both really nice and welcoming from day one. Our lessons were 2pm till 6pm Monday to Friday so we had the mornings and weekends free to explore Florence and go sightseeing. We had a different teacher from the one we had in Llangollen, he also made the lessons fun and enjoyable and he was a top bloke.  For more information on the language school please visit the website http://www.aefonline.eu/


The school plaque on the wall outside the building.


The front door of the school.


Our classroom.


Left our tutor and right our teacher.

After the first days of arriving in Florence I started to settle quite well and I adapted to my new life. In my last blog I stated that I was disappointed to be living away from the group. However, when I started to settle I realised it was a blessing in disguise. I had an Italian housemate who could help me with the language, he was born and bred in Florence so he told me all the good places to visit. He was really helpful and a pleasure to live with. I was living in the best apartment out of the 9 of us in our group, it’s true they all agreed! As a group we were spending all day with each other before, during and after our lessons so it was nice to have my own space. Also I lived closest to the town centre and the school so I always had the least to walk when we met up.

The weekend after our first week of lessons a few of us decided to go to Pisa. We went there by train it costs about 16 euros for a return from Florence. The journey can take between 45 minutes and 90 minutes depending on which train you catch. (For more information on trains in Italy please visit http://www.trenitalia.com/ the website is available in Italian and English.) Ever since I was a little boy I wanted to go to Pisa to see the tower. I remember learning about it in school when I was about 7 or 8 and from that moment I always wanted to go there. We got off the train and took a short walk to the tower. When I first saw the tower it was a proper ‘WOW’ moment, I was really impressed. We took a few pictures by the tower and had a good day out. Apart from the tower there is not much else in Pisa. (The funny thing is I ended up going to see the tower 3 times because friends who came to visit me wanted to go, I am now fed up with the place!)


Me and the leaning tower of Pisa.


Me with some of my group at the tower. Awful photography!



The second week we continued with our lessons, which were going well. The next weekend our tutor organised a group walk to San Miniato which was really good. You get an astonishing view of the city.


Group walk to San Miniato with our tutor minus one of the girls.


View of Florence from San Miniato.


Florence Emblem in a flower bed in San Miniato.

During our last week of lessons each of us had to go to our individual work places with our tutor to meet our bosses, and to find out where we had to go. We all had different work placements except for me and one of the girls, we would both be working in the court but in different departments. The two of us went together with our tutor to the meeting, the boss didn’t speak a word of English so we had to try and speak Italian but our tutor ended up translating for most of the meeting. The staff we met on that day seemed really friendly even though it was hard to make conversation because they were always smiling. Lessons finished and on the weekend before we all started work the teacher we had in Llangollen came to see us. He was in Italy because he publishes his own magazine, he came to sort some stuff out with that so he paid us a visit whilst he was in the country. His magazine is about chess, boxing, chess boxing and rugby. You can check the website out for yourself at http://www.spqrnews.com/ After the lessons had finished we were all about to start a new chapter of the programme, it was time for the work placement phase of our scheme. I was a bit nervous but also looking forward to it and testing myself.


(Florence Part 4: The work placement – coming soon!!)


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