See, I learned Italian out of a book this summer. As a result, my grammar is okay, but my vocabulary is tiny. Also, it's one thing to read Italian (I can do that pretty well, or, if I have a good dictionary at hand, pretty much perfectly albeit slowly), but it's a completely different thing to speak it or understand spoken Italian.
After lunch, my friend and I visited the tower briefly (I'd been there before) and then took the train to his apartment in Livorno, just south of Pisa. There we met some of his Italian friends, who all understood English fairly well and speak some, but were too shy to use it much. So I had the enjoyable experience of listening to rapid-fire Italian, which is impossible to understand (my friend, who is fluent, says it took him three weeks to be able to handle a regular conversation), picking up every tenth word or so, waiting for a translation, deciding whether I knew how to answer it in Italian, realizing I usually didn't, and answering in English.
Saturday night at dinner (which we sat down to at 9:30; we left the restaurant at 11:30, at which time I imagine people at NU, seven time zones back, were starting to think about dinner - what a quintessential Italian experience) I was told by an Italian that my Italian was very good.
Sunday afternoon I was told by another Italian that I have a perfect lower-class accent. Oh well. (This occurred at the "American breakfast" that my friend cooked for his Italian friends and me, which started at 1pm and ended at 4pm - also typically Italian.)
(All of these Italians, by the way, are friends of my friend and therefore students about my age. I've found that every educated Italian knows English - theoretically. Whether they use it well is another question.)
Anyway, so I spent some time with some real Italians, which is more than most people in the Centro can say. Also I can say that I successfully navigated the Italian rail system alone during a train strike. See, the Italian unions are not like American unions. Strikes are announced in advance, short in duration (this one was 24 hours) and never really followed through on completely, since the really long-distance trains keep running, and oftentimes individual train workers will decide they don't want to strike and so a train will run. All very confusing, and so all a strike really means is that your trip is a lot more complicated and confusing than it has to be.
Also, Florence on Saturday, just as beautiful as I remembered it, although I definitely did not remember being charged admission to so many places, such as churches, or the whole thing being so controlled. I swear, there have been some changes made in Italy since I was here last, and I don't like them in the least.