Before I go ahead and learn you all some knowledge, I have a confession to make. Of all the smart people I know, I say some of the stupidest things. If you don’t believe me, ask me one day what the first thing I ever said to my husband was. It’s a pretty good story.
[Italian Friends Please Stop Reading Here]
But that’s not the confession. What I need to admit before stepping up onto my soap box is that when I first flipped through a study-abroad brochure and picked out Florence because of the pretty pictures of the Ponte Vecchio and happy students eating gelato, I honestly did not know that Florence is actually called Firenze in Italian. I blame American Exceptionalism, and the fact that I’m pretty sure they didn’t mention it in the European History text-book in high school. What I’m basically saying is that I started from the ground up with this “moving to another country” thing.
I’m about to explain a very simple fact, and it’s hard to explain something that should have been obvious without sounding like a pretentious jerk. Now that I’ve revealed my humble beginnings I hope you can read this snarky PSA and giggle instead of just thinking that I’m an asshole.
[Ok Italians You Can Start Reading Again]
The Only Thing You Need to Know:
There’s really only one thing you absolutely must know before traveling to Tuscany. Even if you step off the plane never having touched a guide-book, confused about whether ciao means hello or goodbye, and ready to order Spaghetti Alfredo at every restaurant, all can be forgiven if you just learn this one thing.
It’s best expressed as an SAT-style analogy:
Tuscany : Florence ::
California : Los Angeles
Assuming it’s been a few years since you studied for the SATs, that means that Tuscany is to Florence as California is to Los Angeles. Tuscany is a region, like a state or province, and within it are cities such as Florence.
Almost every single tourist that I’ve met has not understood this. The conversation is always a variation of the following:
Me: “What do you have planned for today?”
Well-meaning Tourist: “We’re going to Tuscany”
Me: (dying a little bit inside) “Oh, nice”
The fact is you are IN Tuscany. If you were in Boston, and someone asked you how to get to Massachusetts, that would be ridiculous.
I think the problem is partly because of how successfully Tuscany has been marketed as a destination, so much so that it seems to be its own special entity that is greater than the sum of its parts. By all means, when you go home tell everyone that you went to Florence AND Tuscany because it sounds awesome.
Just while you’re in Tuscany, remember that you’re already here. If you’re leaving the city, you can say you’re going to the countryside, or to Chianti/Lucca/the specific name of the quaint little town you happen to be headed to.
Unless it’s San Gimignano. Best not to try to pronounce that one.