Kari in Florence: The city after sundown
    Kari will be in Florence, Italy until Dec. 17.

    Florence is a difference place by night. The streets in the residential areas empty completely while the city downtown comes alive. Throngs of young adults crowd the steps of the Duomo, finishing off bottles of wine and beer before heading to the bars and the discotheques.

    The bars and clubs are packed every day of the week. Unfortunately, the only places I have been to are frequented mostly by Americans. Certain bars specifically cater to American study abroad students: For example, one accepts dollar bills and another allows the playing of beer pong. This does not mean, however, that no Italians come to these bars. Italian men between the ages of 20 and 40 visit them as well, many of them for the sole purpose, it seems, to try to pick up American girls.

    Before leaving for Italy, I’d been warned by countless people, including my hairdresser, about the Italian men. “They’ll catcall you. They’ll try to take advantage of you. Be careful.” Unfortunately, most everything I’d heard is true. I’ve learned to keep my head down and avoid eye contact with men when walking down the street, but I still hear comments being made to me in Italian. Traversing the streets at night, even in groups of two or three people, is not safe. Larger groups of girls can still attract trouble. Five other girls and I were harassed by men on motorbikes one of the nights that I was in Sorrento. They kept blocking our path as we tried to walk back to our hostel.

    The men are particularly aggressive at one club I’ve been to before, called Central Park. A group of girls will be dancing together in a huddle and the men will circle like wolves around sheep, trying to pick off the vulnerable girls on the outside. Often, they will try to grab your hand or arm and pull you away to dance, usually not taking no for an answer. One of my friends has adopted the method of repeating “basta” over and over, meaning “enough” or “cut it out.” This tactic works eventually.

    Otherwise, the clubs here are much more fun than the Keg, Hundo, or the Deuce (huge understatement). And there’s one other perk to being out late in Florence: While most shops and restaurants close for the night, Turkish eateries stay open into the early hours of the morning. Their grilled kabobs are fantastic and a nice change from Italian food. There are also places called secret bakeries. They provide pastries for many of the restaurants in Florence, but do not open until two or three in the morning. The bakeries are unmarked, with frosted glass doors, so the only way to find them is either through hearsay or by following your nose. There’s nothing better than a warm, freshly baked chocolate-filled croissant late at night.

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