So last Monday was our first day of Italian language classes at Scuola Leonardo da Vinci. It only takes us about 5 min or less to walk to school and as soon as we arrived we took a written and oral test to see in what level we'd be placed. We knew we'd be in one of the beginner classes, which we were - but it seems that we are on the higher level of understanding in our class in general. It really helped that we learned most of the basics before we arrived. There is a girl in our class that had no idea that the entire class is conducted in Italian, so she looked over at us wide-eyed the first day and mouthed "I don't know a word of Italian". Whoops. Everyday so far we come home saying how much we love our school, the staff, teachers, and the people we're meeting there. We're really having a wonderful and productive time. There are 2 main classes we attend each morning - grammar and conversation. Each instructor is so animated and patient so even while they're teaching Italian in Italian, it works - and actually is helping us just get used to the language more and start to associate an idea or object with the Italian word directly (rather than hearing the Italian word, translating it to English, and then associating the English word with an idea or object). We have about 11 students in class each day (although a couple people have changed classes or started late) and we're astounded at the diversity of nationalities just in our class. The list of nations represented in our small group: Korea, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Iceland, Holland, England, Mexico, Argentina, and the U.S. We were the only 2 from the U.S. until the 3rd day, when a younger girl joined the group (obviously American) - so we asked her if she happened to be from Florida because she was wearing a University of FL shirt. She said, "yes", so I quickly asked, "Where at in Florida?". She said "the Jacksonville area" - we laughed and said we were from St. Augustine! She actually lives on the border of Jax and St. Aug about 20 minutes from our house! Of all the people in class - the only 3 from the U.S. are from right around the corner from each other!
On the first day we talked a bit with the girl (M.) next to us who is from Sweden, (who speaks perfect English). She was so nice and said that we should get together with her and her boyfriend (G) sometime, so on Wednesday evening we made a date and met up for an apertivo at a popular local place, Negroni. Her boyfriend is Florentine and so it was wonderful to be with a local who knew where to go, and tell us about the town. They also picked us up in his car - which was a treat for our legs since we've only walked for the past 3 weeks. They communicate together in English now, but she's learning Italian so they can start speaking together in his native tongue -but we were all able to practice Italian a little during our date. G and Chris hit it off talking about work, because he is a freelance graphic designer, but mainly does websites - so they've already started talking about possible collaboration. M & I have hung out several times since then, including several hours of shopping and chatting on Friday afternoon. Last night we went out with them again and also met 2 more Italian couples, which we had fun trying to speak with as we took in the chic local weekend scene. We've already made several more plans with them because they want to show us the countryside near Chianti, and a town near the sea in Tuscany where his family has a house. We can't say enough of how much of a blessing it's been to already have found some friends (and it's a bonus that they are so familiar with the area as well). I've also talked with Melinda (who I've gotten to know over the past year through her blog - and who has given invaluable support and helpful tips to us as we made the transition) several times since we've been here, and will hopefully get to meet up with her soon!
It is funny how the world is already starting to feel smaller now that we're here because of all the International people we've met, and the connections to home - my sculpture professor from college is Italian and is currently at his home just a little bit from Florence. We've exchanged emails and talked since we arrived, and hopefully can find a time to meet up. Then next month, a couple from St. Augustine who I've mentioned before (they live in Italy for part of each year, and have been very supportive of us and also introduced us to some other Florentines who visited them in St. Augustine) are coming to visit and we'll probably be able to visit their town of Nettuno as well! The first night we were here, we met up with Katie for a quick walk around town and introductions to some of her favorite hang-outs and friends. We'd exchanged emails over the past year from our blogs while she was in Firenze - and our first night here happened to be her last for a while as she headed back to the states. It was nice to finally meet her though, if ever so briefly!
To give an update on the logistics so far - we were able to finally turn in our permesso di soggiorno on Tuesday afternoon after lots of backtracking, phone calls, and prayers! It seemed to work out ok up till now - and hopefully in a couple months we'll get the registered letter in the mail to schedule the final meeting and turn in our photos, etc. We have an appointment for the technician to come and hook up our DSL (hopefully) on Friday the 28th, and work is for the most part back on track (minus the sketchy Internet situation). Our daily routine is normalizing - school until 1pm, lunch then work until about 8pm, then dinner and a nightly outing into town! We've found most of the necessary stores that we'll need in our neighborhood, and I've even found my favorite bakery (something I really wanted to do while we were here was to be a "regular" at some sort of shop where I could get to know the worker). So now I go here each day during break at school to get a small piece of foccacia - and the older man is already recognizing me and we're having (super) small conversations! Chris is still trying to find his "regular" morning bar for espresso. Even after only 1 week at school, we can see improvements in our understanding (and speaking) of Italian - so that's very encouraging! We also had an eventful, yet relaxing, weekend which I'll update about soon...