Five years ago, I became interested in the Renaissance, and I decided I wanted to vacation in Florence, Italy. Moreover, I decided I wanted to see it as Italians view it. So, I enrolled myself in a total emersion Italian language school in Florence. I took a two-week beginner’s class and rented an apartment for a month.
My first surprise was how economical it was. The month's rent on the apartment was less than half that of a decent hotel. My second surprise was that my wife thought it a great idea. Group tours are great, but I like to explore a city. Many tours were available if we wanted to tour the Uffizi, the Accademia, and many others.
The apartment was our home base. We had to be in class at eight o'clock sharp, and the class finished at eleven o'clock. We loved being up early and walking to school in a city alive with people walking to work and few tourists. We stopped on the way for a cornetto and a cappuccino at a coffee bar in our neighborhood. We would see the same people every morning, and soon we were practicing our Italian with them. They would help with our pronunciation, and many spoke excellent English. It didn't take long before we became more than acquaintances and looked forward to seeing them every day.
There were about thirty people in our class from all over Europe. College students on summer break, grandparents with their teenage grandchildren, Older single women traveling alone or with a girlfriend. Every day was a signup sheet for activities after class. A walking tour of the city with our instructor or a private tour of Palazzo Vecchio. One evening eight of us signed up for a cooking class at the culinary academy of Florence. We all discussed the various places we had visited when not in class. One evening our instructor took us around the city using the transit system, showing us how to buy a bus ticket. We learned the best places to eat and where the locals shopped. One weekend our instructor arranged a day in Siena.
It wasn't long before my wife and I were extremely comfortable exploring the city independently. We found many interesting little museums and shops. Someone in class would share a place they found by accident, and we would head there right after class. Then, after two weeks, the school finished. We were on our own with a solid basic knowledge of Italian culture.
We used our apartment as a home base to tour outside the city. We took the train to Rome for a two-day trip. Then a trip to Lucca. We signed up for a tour of Cinque Terre. These trips were much more enjoyable because of school and the knowledge we required there. Information from our instructor gave each a deeper understanding of and history of each place from an Italian point of view.
I cannot say enough about this type of vacation. After a week, the apartment feels like a second home. To be able to wash your clothes and prepare a lite meal if you want. To wake up in the middle of the night and raid the refrigerator was terrific. For me, the best part was living in and among local Italians. The smells as people came home from work and started preparing dinner and the sound of children playing, I will never forget.
About the Author
Gary Smith’s first romance thriller, The Willing, debuted with a 4.8 stars average rating by independent reviewers who asked for a sequel. He is on the case!
Gary balances life between business and a love of arts. He founded a small electrical contracting business and grew it into a multimillion-dollar national business. At the same time, he writes and is an award-winning fine art photographer. Operating within both business and artistic communities introduces him to a wide array of characters and experiences, from which he draws for his writing.
When Gary is not writing, he travels. Most often, Gary will be spotted in Italy, searching for more characters and experiences for his stories to come. To follow Gary, visit www.garysmithauthor.com.