I'm getting ready to go to Florence for a four-day stay, and I'm curious to see what it will be like, after living in a completely different kind of setting. Now that I've been living in rural Zagarolo for a month, I've been able to evaluate how life here contrasts with my life in Florence last fall.
Noise: Here in rural Zagarolo, tranquility is a constant. No sirens, buses or the constant sound of foot traffic and late night revelry to deal with. Instead, I hear birds singing throughout the day, roosters crowing, dogs barking, the wind in the trees and the music of wind chimes. Lawn mowers, weed whackers and tractors can often be heard. But mostly, it's quiet here, and I love it. The sounds I miss most from Florence are the chiming of the church bells, and the sound of bicycles rattling along the streets.
Nature: I'm also surrounded by nature here, in all her glory. Verdant green and rolling hills provide a backdrop to a way of life that is still largely agricultural. One of the things I found most painful about living in Florence was the lack of green space, and the difficulty of finding a place to enjoy the sun, due to the closely built, tall buildings. I feel more at home when I'm in a natural setting, and can't imagine living in a city for long stretches of time due to that fact.
People: In Florence, I often saw more tourists and stranieri (foreigners) than I did Italians. Here, I never see tourists, sometimes see foreigners, but mostly, I'm surrounded by Italians. And though the Zagorolesi are not openly friendly, they readily respond to my "buon giornos." I've seen many an elderly person's face light up when I greet them on the street, and their pleased reaction is always welcome.
Culture: In this respect, Florence wins, hands down. There is little culture here, but Rome is in close proximity, with culture galore, if I want to partake of it. However, I prefer the Florentine brand of culture: it's more creative and elegant. I miss having easy access to unusual, often spontaneous creative events that occur daily in Florence.
Clothes: Out in the country, there's no great need for elegant clothes, and in that way I feel more at home here. In Florence, I was more concerned about my appearance when I went out walking. Here, dress is more casual, and less creative, but more comfortable! I've noticed that long pants are the norm, and my capris always seem to stand out when I go into town. But I miss seeing the elegant, creative style of Florentines, and will enjoy having the chance to view their spring and summer attire this week.
Driving: In Florence, I enjoyed living in the centro storico, amidst the main events going on. I had no need of a car, and could easily get around via public transportation, when necessary. I routinely walked for several hours a day, which was both good exercise and a social outlet for me. Here, my walks are more enjoyable due to the scenery and the serenity of the setting. I've also come to enjoy driving the winding roads, and being able to explore nearby towns.
Temperature: A big plus of life in the country is the fact that it's cool and fresh at times when the city is uncomfortably hot and the air is polluted. I'm so thankful to be living in a setting where it stays cool. In Florence, temperatures are already in the 90's, and with no AC, there's no way to escape the heat, except to leave town.
All in all, the life I have here in Zagarolo is probably more suitable to me for a long-term stay than living in Florence. If I could have live in a country setting closer to Florence, that could be the perfect solution. But for now, I'm eager to be in Florence again and see what's new.