I came to Florence not entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I felt a balance of excitement and fear as I embarked on a journey to a foreign land halfway across the world. Who would I meet, what would I do, what would I learn? I was so in my head trying to find answers to questions only time would reveal. I tried to find one thing to do. One task I could focus on. One problem I could solve.
I was hungry.
Such a simple issue I could solve by walking into any one of the shops around Florence. However, this posed its own challenges, what to eat, how much to spend, how to communicate. I decided to take a walk and try the first place that caught my eye. I walked down Via San Gallo and eventually came to Sandwichic! An almost unnoticeable shop in the side of the wall. It seemed so narrow as if it hadn’t belonged there and someone had squeezed it in between the neighboring stores anyway. There was no wrangler out front trying to persuade me to come in, just some stools and a sign welcoming me inside. I decided this was where I’d eat.
As soon I set my foot in the door I was met with three separate “Ciaos” by each of the workers. I replied timidly and tried to blend in as I analyzed the menu. I didn’t understand most of it and almost felt like leaving but before I could the cashier, Andrea came up to me and asked if I had been here before. Hearing I had not, he explained how the store used to be an old tailors shop for decades. Unfortunately the old owner had passed away so Andrea and his friends had bought the place, turning it to a sandwich bar. They left many of the old shelves, threads and tools of the tailor out of respect to the previous owner.
Feeling more comfortable I explained I was new to Florence and was going to school up the street. They all smiled and asked what I was studying and where I was from. By the end of our short conversation I felt like I had been attending the shop for months. I asked for their recommendation and received one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had in my life. The melted cheese, fresh bread and bold pepper jelly complimented the sbriciolona so well I ordered two the next time I went.
Each time I go back I ask Andrea, Marco, and Mateo more questions in Italian. Although it’s filled with errors they kindly answer and then offer the correct version of my question for next time. With one decision I was able to meet three locals, explore a little bit further than I had the day before and most importantly eat some delicious food.
I solved my problem.
On to the next.
Matthew Klein is studying Sustainable Product Design at the University of California Berkeley and is a study abroad student with SRISA for the Spring 2018 semester.