I have been in Florence, Italy for a couple of weeks now, and my experience has definitely been a rollercoaster. Before arriving in Florence, I was expecting a series of tremendous highs and did not even think there was a possibility for some lows. Florence is amazing. I could go on and on about all of the wonderful food, scenery and fun activities. However, I feel like that is what most people write about, so I’m going to give you a feel of reality, focused on the Italian diet and the real Italian food.
The Real Italian food is different from what you expect…but fresh!
Italian food is my favorite type of food, at least that’s what I thought in the U.S. I came to Florence expecting to be wowed with tastes and flavors, but I’ve found myself being somewhat disappointed. I realized that real Italians foods are not like those in The U.S. at all. Italian people use fresh ingredients like olive oil, salt and pepper, and basil instead of butter or garlic or other spices. Don’t get me wrong, the fresh dishes are amazing, but Italian American restaurants gave me expectations about “Italian food” that really isn’t Italian at all.
Once I realized that I’m never going to get an Americanized Italian dish in Florence, I’ve enjoyed the food so much more because I started to expect, and look forward to the freshness of local Florentine cooking. My favorite food here is probably the bruschetta or anything with pesto in it. Bruschetta is such a perfect appetizer that gives you a savory taste of Italy: bread, olive oil, and the freshest tomatoes you’ll ever have. The pesto here is to die for. It was originally invented in Italy so you know they do it right. Again, it is so fresh tasting and absolutely delicious. So, if you’re heading to Italy soon, expect fresh tasting food.
Come here with an open mind and disregard all the things you think you know about Italian food because Americans don’t know how amazingly fresh Italian food in Italy truly is.
Lots of Carbs in Italy!
This might sound like a shock to you, but I am getting tired of Italian food. After two straight weeks of eating every meal that is Italian, I’ve been craving something else. That is one of the main reasons I am excited to go home at the end of my program. I miss the variety of food I can choose from and also lower carb meals!
It is very difficult to not eat carbs in Italy. For breakfast, Italians eat pastries like croissants, lunch usually consists of paninis, and dinner is either pizza or pasta. At home, my diet is very healthy and balanced. Coming to Italy and obsessing over all of the amazing food every meal did not treat my body well. My stomach felt sick sometimes because the only thing I was eating was carbs. My body was not used to this kind of lifestyle. Once I took the time to find places that sell healthier options, I have enjoyed myself here a lot more. Though, it is very difficult to pass up a good panini or pasta!
Getting used to the grocery store
One healthier option in Florence is to buy food at the grocery store and cook for yourself. However, the grocery stores are extremely different from the ones I’ve shopped at in America. It took me a very long time to figure out how the stores are laid out and how to do everything correctly. When you want to buy fresh produce, there’s a machine next to the produce. You have to weigh what you put in the bag, push the button with the corresponding number of the produce, and it prints a bar code, which you then scan at the cash register. Store clerks in Italy don’t do the scanning at the register for you like they do in the U.S.. Also, I couldn’t find eggs for the longest time until I realized Italian markets don’t refrigerate them, so they’re in a completely different section. It took some time to get used to, but it was worth it to eat some home-cooked meals.
Missing large iced coffee
Last but not least, the biggest hardship of them all: coffee.
Coffee menus consist of espresso, cappuccino, and straight coffee. There is some variety but nothing like the U.S.. All of their options come in tiny little cups that are two sips, which is not enough coffee for me. I am so used to a venti Starbucks iced coffee in the morning, but here in Italy, the largest coffee you can get is smaller than a tall at Starbucks. Also, it is so difficult to find a cup of iced coffee! Italy is very hot and humid, and all I want is a cold coffee, but I have to deal with a hot, tiny coffee. The coffee here tastes amazing, but I miss large iced coffee.
I can’t say it enough how amazing Florence has treated me. It might seem like I don’t like it here because of everything I’ve said about the food, but Florence is truly a wonderful city. I am just an American girl who is use to American food and came here and experienced a huge cultural shock. Once I settled down, everything was perfect. I’m just trying to give everyone a heads up about the differences in food here. I hope this helps you to know more about the real Italian food!
Read more blog posts from Italy!