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5 Things You Learn Fast in Florence

 Some of the gelato at La Carraia.

1. Gelato - Gelaterias are the Starbucks of Florence; they are plentiful and found everywhere. It's the best news for my taste buds and the worst for my wallet. I'm attempting to become a gelato connoisseur, but they all taste absolutely delicious. However, La Carraia has become my recent favorite because of its reputation as the best gelateria in Florence and its very affordable price of 1.50 euro for a scoop. As recommended by my friend, the biscottino (cookie) flavor is a must when you study abroad in Florence!

2. Mosquitoes - Unfortunately, while I've been eating gelato, the mosquitoes are eating me. Luckily the farmacias (pharmacy) have a section of bug sprays and creams that I've been raiding. Some farmacias even devote a small display stand to everything mosquito related. The keys to minimizing mosquito bites include copious bug spray during dusk or dawn, wearing long clothes if possible, and keeping the windows closed at night.

 Fruit and vegetable stand at Mercato Centrale.

3. Markets - Though you can stop by the supermarket to pick up food, the markets turn an errand into an experience. Even if you can't speak Italian, the people working at the markets are friendly and make you feel like a local. Mercato Centrale has a huge variety of produce, meat, pasta, wine, and anything else you need to cook. One special shop makes fresh pasta and you can watch them make it. If you get hungry from looking at all the delicious food, you can eat on the second floor of the market from an array of shops offering sandwiches, pasta, pastries, and other delicious meals.

4. Beautiful sights - If your phone doesn't take nice pictures, make sure to bring a camera with you when walking around the gorgeous city of Florence. The first day I walked around, I couldn't believe the buildings and cobblestone streets were real. It honestly felt like I was in Disney World and someone fabricated the city. Everything looks like a scene from a movie, from the bridges crossing the Arno River to the narrow streets with quaint little shops and restaurants, there is beauty everywhere.

5. Roads - Coming from Davis where the bicycles rule the road, it surprised me to see pedestrians, mopeds, bicycles, and cars all share the narrow roads...literally. Florence doesn't restrict people to sidewalks, bikes to bike lanes, or cars to roads. People walk in the street with cars passing by close enough to bump into, while mopeds squeeze past like the night bus in Harry Potter. At first I got startled every time a car passed, but you quickly get used to it. Everyone takes the stop signs and signals more as suggestions instead of laws and carefully looks before crossing. It seems a little scary, but it works well because you don't wait as long and no one drives that fast. Be careful of the bus mirrors, though, because they stick out a little and can swing by a little too close for comfort.

Stephanie Ino is the Fall 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Florence, Italy. She is currently a senior at UC Davis.

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