Saturday, October 9, 2010
The first day and finding an apartment
I had such a good sleep the night after my arrival. I woke up that morning Saturday, Oct 2 feeling energized and ready to experience Florence despite having to wear the same outfit from the days previous. I stopped by the nearby supermarket I spied from the taxi the night before and was plunged into busy Italian life. I grabbed some water, fruit and almonds(organic!)for breakfast and resisted temptations to look at all the foreign things on the shelves. After eating I asked the woman at the front desk of the hostel for advice on finding an apartment in the city. She couldn't really help me but at least she was able to show me where the library was located. I set out on the streets of Florence sightseeing and apartment hunting at the same time. I struggled to ask the newspaper vendor for the classified ads magazine, by saying 'voglio vedere appartmenti?' (i want to see apartments?) and gesturing lists. Once we understood each other I paid him 2 Euros and poured through the Florence apartment and room rentals (in Italian...)in La Pulce, circling potential ads, especially ones with balconies or terraces:)
After walking quite some distance I realized I was walking in the opposite direction I thought I was, and I asked a nice old man with a child for directions. 'Scusa. Dove` ____?' (Excuse me. Where is __(the street name)__?'). From there I figured out where I was on the map and headed in the direction I had originally intended. I walked around with chills and tears as I encountered the familiar sights of Florence which I hadn't seen in 5 years. So beautiful! A man was playing music in front of Uffizi, it seemed so magical.
From there I passed by the Duomo and saw a stand selling fresh fruit smoothies and stopped for some more nourishment. I found the library shortly after and tore a bunch of numbers for apartment room rentals, a few in English from bulletins in the courtyard. Before heading inside though I decided to pass by the street I lived on in 2005 for 1 month which was nearby. Just as I remembered it:) In taking a connecting street I found a caffe that said the words 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' in the window, so of course I had to go in and investigate. I ended up with a salad and soup, both vegan, although the salad had organic spelt(gluten!)which I decided to try anyway. As well I had a blend of herbal tea, 7 fiore (7 flowers).
After eating I asked the woman at the counter for any advice apartment hunting but she said she couldn't give me any and said I needed to deal with an agency. I sensed some political issues she didn't want to get involved with. So I thanked her anyway and headed back to the library, already feeling a bit fuzzy in my head, the effects of gluten unfortunately:( I asked the librarian if there was free internet and she said there was if you had a library card, but I couldn't get a library card until I have an address. So I asked if there was a telephone instead and she sent me over to the hospital across the street where I found a pay phone in the corridor.
I made a few calls to the number's I had taken and finally got through to one of them. I managed to speak in Italian that I wanted to see the apartment for rent and she asked 'quando?' (when?) and I said 'subito' (right away). Then she proceeded to give me the buzzer name, but I couldn't figure out what it meant. I kept asking 'che campanella?' (what's campanella?) but she kept repeating 'Signora Toriti', so I wrote it down anyway and set off to the address on the ad. On the way it dinged on me! Campanile is a bell tower, so campanella must mean the doorbell? Sure enough at the address one of the bell listings was 'Signora Toriti'.
From there the woman showed me a lovely apartment in a great location near San Lorenzo market, but when it came down to details things got tricky. I realized I spoke Italian better than she spoke English so it was up to me. She spoke a LOT which didn't help. Anyway, we managed to figure out that she would rent it for a minimum of 6 mese (months) for 600 Euros. For me this was too much. The ad said 300 Euros but that's because there's 2 beds in the bedroom, so for a couple, 300 each. I asked to rent for just one month but she said no. So it's all good, I carried on my way. I questioned if I could afford it but since that didn't include expenses I knew I didn't want to over extend myself. Plus part of me preferred to have a roommate so I wouldn't be all alone in a new city.
Proud that I'd managed to communicate, I called up a few other Italian numbers but didn't have so much luck. One was frustrated with the difficult communication and hung up, many didn't answer, and one who spoke English wouldn't be able to show the apartment until Monday. I figured my next move was to use the internet to look at English ads on craigslist and ventured back to the hostel to buy an internet card. I jotted down the potential ads and called up my first choice on skype. The key word on this ad was definitely 'terrace'.
The woman answered and I told her I was interested in the room, she asked if I was a student which I said I wasn't, and she said the landlord only wanted to rent to students but that I could come look at it anyway and perhaps we could work something out. From there I hit the pavement again, asking for directions before leaving the hostel to ensure I wouldn't take the wrong street this time. I also remembered to ask if my luggage had shown up as it was expected today, to which the guy said no followed by something sarcastic like 'supposed to, yah right'.
Since the doorbell didn't work in the building, the woman was waiting in her window overlooking the piazza. She let me in and took me to the apartment with a BIG terrace connected to the bedroom. I LOVED. The other room in the apartment was rented to a previous tenant, Rosie, who she spoke well of and would be arriving the following day. She said that she was helping the woman who owned the building because she didn't speak English and that if I wanted it, she would just tell her I was a student at Dante Alighieri Italian School, no big deal. She said she herself wasn't a student but the landlady allowed her to live there because she liked her. So...I said if she thought it was okay, I agreed. It's not a total lie as I will likely be studying Italian at A school here, although I'm not signed up anywhere yet. Immediately we met the landlady on the street and made arrangements to move in the next morning,and pay first and last months rent at 10am as I had to be out of my hostel at 9:30am.
I left feeling great and excited to have a place of my own in Florence. I wandered a bit before landing at a restaurant in Piazza Santo Spirito nearby to treat myself to a nice dinner. I had a mixed salad (insalata mista) followed by the zucchini risotto with CHEESE. I contemplated asking then to leave out the cheese, but figured I'd try it and see how it went. It was delicious, however not worth the trouble in the following days, I'll try to avoid that situation again:S As I was solo, they sat 2 nice Polish women with me. We chatted about traveling and food and they gave me a few names of nice cities in Poland to see if I visit. After having asking for the bill many times and being forgotten about, I paid inside and then headed back in the direction of my hostel, stopping to watch a street concert on the way. A few guys setup in a tiny dead end street singing popular English and American songs. The singer has a really good voice and managed to pull off a pretty good cover of Yellow by Coldplay.
I made it back to the hostel and started preparing my things to head out the next morning. Then hanging up my coat I noticed in the corner of the room, it had arrived.....my luggage.