Amusing the Locals (Tara Lovdahl)

Here’s another new thing for me, the garbage situation in Florence: instead of kicking it to the curb once a week like in Wisconsin, I have to carry my filled trashbag around until I find a silver bin that leads to an underground waste system. The first time I took out the trash for the apartment I was wandering for quite some time because I turned down the wrong street (before I came here I was told there is often only one way to get to some places… it’s true). It was then that I noticed how many people were carrying garbage. When I tried finding the correct term for the silver bins on the street I googled “italian garbage” (aren’t I a talented googler? SO many different things could have come up…) the first and main thing coming up was photos from the piles of garbage stinking on the streets of Naples. Good thing I’m meeting a friend there for fall break.

Tonight we went out to get some gelato and I tried ordering in Italian I had just learned. Except when I meant to say “piccolo”, which means small, I said “polito” instead, which translates to “polished”.

“Yes, I’ll have a polished frozen dessert, please.” I’ve been studying Spanish for so long that I think it translates closer to Italian than it actually does. When I try my Italianish or Spanglian the locals always do the same thing. First, they look very confused (their faces look like they’re trying to read a blackboard from really far away). Second, they laugh because I am not even speaking a real language. Third, they spend a lot of time trying to teach me…

Me: Piccolo
Local: No, is PICcolo
Me: Piccolo
Local: PICcolo
Me: PicCOlo
Local: PICcolo
Me: PIColo
Local: Ah, bene!

The Italians I’ve run into always want me to speak the language properly and instruct with a smile until I have it right. When I tell them I am a quarter Italian their faces light up and they ask me from which part of Italy. And then of course, they tell me it’s pronounced CosENsa, not Cozenza and it’s CaLAbria, not CalaBRIA. Oh, Florence…

Tara Lovdahl is studying abroad at Florence University of the Arts in Florence, Italy.