Baby, It’s Cold Outside. And Inside. I’m Basically Dying Of Hypothermia In Florence, Italy
Let’s start this winter post about Italy with a short apology: I’ve been sort of absent lately. Not because I want to be but because Francesco was laid off after 3 weeks at a new job (the CEO decided to close the branch, you know, for funsies), and we had to move for the second time in ONE MONTH. He finally found a new job that is totally awesome and started yesterday, we move yet again next week, and all the while I’ve been editing my book with two completely badass editors who have worked for a bunch of fancy publishers and it’s been glorious. Unfortunately, I’ve been pulled in so many directions, and my head has been lodged so far up my own ass, I’ve hardly had time to be here, with you guys, doing what I love. However, my beloved COSI GROUP was all, “Nuh-uh, bitches,” and they collectively pulled all of us out of our slumber (there’s been a few of us struggling lately…this summer/fall has been a real pain in the ass), to get back on the COSI bandwagon and blog. This month’s theme? WINTER IN ITALY. And guess what? This subject could wake me from the dead because there’s nothing that causes me more suffering, or makes me whine like a toddler, than the cold.
I hate being cold. I hate it almost as much as I hate Seaworld. And I fucking hate Seaworld (even more so after watching Blackfish the documentary). My body wasn’t built for cold, the slightest chill makes my feet numb, my back ache, my skin itch, like I’m actually allergic to it. Winter in Florence has me walking around my house dressed like an Eskimo. Why? Humidity, winter, CEMENT BUILDINGS, and heat that is so goddamn expensive that in order to afford it you have to auction off your grandmother. Watch out Nonna…
WHY ITALY SEEMS COLDER THAN UTAH IN THE WINTER (TO ME)
Romans actually invented Roman concrete using lime and ash because they’re geniuses. Their amazing, innovative technique for construction proved the test of time. All the way through the renaissance people within Italy used Roman cement along with bricks, stone and terracotta for roof tiles. The buildings in Italy seem to last forever, they’re beautiful, they can withstand dozens of generations, earthquakes, and floods. However, cement, bricks, and stone, heat up like ovens in the summer and trap the cold like a fridge in the winter. They’re not really made for, uhm, comfort. So, naturally, things like air conditioning and heat are a must except you’d pretty much have to be a Lord or Duke to afford it. And, for reasons I can’t understand (yes I can, corporations are assholes), governments are hardly utilizing natural energy which could over time lower the cost of things like heat, air conditioning, etc, so that people could actually afford it. Francesco and I can only turn our heat on for four hours per day. 4 Hours. In 35 degree winter temperatures, because it’s so insanely expensive (especially when you factor in that the average salary in Italy is 1,200.00 euro and heat is like 100 euro per month for 4 hours per day. That’s huge!).
My in-laws don’t even turn their heat on because it’s costly and also because they’re cheap (they can afford it but grew up during the depression so they’re like, “fuck heat”). Instead, they wear puffy coats in the house and drag around a gas heater that has a massive fuel tank attached to it. We huddle around it day and night when we’re at their home and Oliver gets so cold he tries to lean against it to warm up and lights his hair on fire. So the house smells like gas AND cooked poodle. Delightful.
Florence winters are beautiful. There are Christmas lights and seasonal events throughout the city like the German festival in Santa Croce. However, it’s also rainy, humid, and often cloudy, so everything can feel wet and the apartments get a little moldy and it’s depressing and I’m like, “maybe I should stab myself in my own face.” Being outside can be a bit of a challenge too because that humidity just cuts to your bones. After my first year or two I found ways to cope with the winter, winter depression, and freezing inside my cold ass apartment.
WHAT YOU NEED TO PREPARE FOR AN ITALIAN WINTER (For students or expats)
- Crazy warm slippers. Socks will not cut it on stone, marble, or hardwood floors in a building made of cement or stone. Invest in really thick, warm slippers.
- Spaceheater. Yes, they’re anywhere from 50-100 euro but you need it. Electricity is cheaper than turning on your heaters most of the time. Get a spaceheater and try to use it in the rooms where you’re at the most. This will also help with the humidity in your apartment and help your laundry dry faster (cause you’ll be line-drying your clothes in your living room like the rest of us).
- Get a warm, thick, plush robe to wear in the house over a really cozy set of matching pajamas. You’re in Italy, embrace the culture of matching pajama sets. Sure you’re 40, but it’s never too late to pad around your house in flannel ensemble. I’m sure Francesco finds my bright pink fuzzy pajamas to be super sexy. I’m sure he always dreamed of having a grown ass wife dressed like a fourth grader every December.
- Buy a cleaner with rosemary or citrus in it. It helps get rid of mold and makes your house smell nice instead of that earthy moist smell. Yes, I said “moist,” and I hate myself for it.
- Water-proof your shoes, bags, and get a rain-proof coat. Wool and cotton are cute but you’ll end up feeling wet and smelling like you just humped a sheep. That’s not cute. I always wear water boots and bring my other shoes in a little linen bag in my purse or whatever. Otherwise, everything nice gets wrecked.
- Buy ten umbrellas from the street venders and keep them in your bags at all times.
- Think about getting a heated blanket. Yes, it uses electricity, but you can turn your radiator heat off at night while you sleep to save it for the daytime. The heated blanket will keep you toasty and is an excellent way to stay warm while you wait for your radiators to heat your apartment in the morning.
- If you struggle with seasonal depression, go visit the tanning salon once per month or get one of those tanning lamps for just your face (seriously, my friend’s therapist recommended it and it really helped his seasonal depression). Make sure to take vitamins, and try to take some short vacations to warmer clients. Vueling and Ryanair have cheap tickets for travel around Europe and Flipkey or Airbnb have really affordable vacation rentals all over the world. This is what I use to travel, and how I stay sane during the winter. It’s a must for me.
- Buy lots of tea. Have fancy tea parties with your friends and pretend like it’s warm in your house.
- Get your pets waterproof jackets. Otherwise your dog will be soaked for three months and stink to the high heavens.
- Think warm thoughts.
HOW TO PACK FOR A VACATION IN ITALY IN WINTER
Now, this isn’t to say that winter in Italy is bad. It’s actually great and I prefer visiting in the winter over the summer. The winter, especially in Florence, is romantic. You snuggle up with your sweetie or you family, wear warm clothes, drink hot cappuccinos, or SPICED WINE (can we all cheer for the invention of this delight?). Rates throughout Europe are cheaper, it’s easier to book your stay because hotels and flights don’t fill up the same way. And, let’s also point out that when you’re renting an apartment via Flipkey or airbnb, or when you stay in a hotel that there will be heat and your place will probably be gorgeous and cozy as hell. One December Francesco and I stayed in a tiny little place in Tuscany with a massive fire place, stone walls, and huge fuzzy blankets and it was one of the best little weekend trips I’ve ever taken. Plus, if you visit Italy in the winter you can go skiing in the alps or near Rome at Campo Imperatore, Prati di Tivo, or Roccaraso. Seriously, can it get more fun than that?
December is a particularly nice time to visit Italy. Throughout the country you’ll see adorable Christmas lights, and every region has really cute traditions for celebrating Christmas. I love Christmas in Italy. Despite freezing my ass off, the entire country is festive, fun, and affordable. If you’re taking a trip to Italy this winter. Here’s what you’ll want to pack:
- Warm clothes and lots of layers. Plan on most of your shirts being layered. So bring tank tops, t-shirts, and sweaters that can be worn on top of each other. Cardigans are excellent for both men and women in Italy. And don’t forget your scarves! Bring a few! Women, you’ll want to bring warm tights if you plan on wearing any dresses. I’m also a HUGE fan of American Apparel’s thigh-high socks. They go all the way up to your crotch and I’m telling you, once you wear those over your skinny jeans, tights, etc, you will want to wear them every day. Plus, I get tons of compliments on them because they are cuuuute. Also, bring gloves.
- Boots. The streets are wet and you’ll spend most of your time outside walking around. Pack comfortable boots that can withstand water and keep your feet warm and dry. My go-to shoes in the winter are knee-high or thigh-high flat boots, short heeled booties (the wider the heel the better), and loafers or some other type of similar shoe. Tennis shoes get wet and your ballet flats will fill up with water creating an uncomfortable bog foot. Nobody wants to hangout with someone with bog foot. For men, think boots, or some other kind of winter-friendly shoe. Again, your Nike’s will get dirty and gross and soaked.
- Bring a few different jackets of varying warmth. Some nights are absolutely freezing while the day can sometimes be warm enough for a sweater and light jacket.
- Where to shop for your trip to the glorious Italy? Honestly, Zara.com is probably the best bet. In Florence, this is where a lot of the locals shop. You’ll fit right in!
- Locals typically wear black and gray in the winter. Pack like you’re going to a funeral and you’ll be ready steady.
- For hair and cosmetics, pack humidity-fighting hair products, and I’d go light on the face. Think, water-proof mascara, eyeliner, and a tinted moisturizer. Your full-face makeup routine will slide off in the humidity and rain.
CHECK OUT THE REST OF C.O.S.I AND SEE WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY ABOUT WINTER IN ITALY:
Rochelle, Unwilling Expat – http://wp.me/p2pBNK-1fz
Rick Zullo – How To Enjoy Winter In Italy
Andrea, Sex, Lies And Nutella – Surviving the Italian Winter
Pete, EnglishMan In Italy – Bagna Cauda and Wine
Georgette, Girl In Florence, What To Expect When You Visit Florence In The Winter.