Tips, directions, and ‘elegant economies’ for future students living in Florence — because I figure that you already have to concentrate so much more on basic day-to-day living stuff that every little bit helps.
…May be useless, but we’ll see : )
The ACM Student’s Quick-Guide to Living in Florence
The program directors take care of most of the tricky aspects of bus-riding for you, but here’s what it would have been good to know off the bat:
- The buses are almost always late. We routinely have to wait an extra five (and once up to 38) minutes for the bus to arrive, so make sure that you give yourself enough time to get where you’re going. Also, I specify *almost* always because one time out of ten the bus will be on time, and if you’ve been allowing yourself to come late because *it* is always late, then you will miss it. Yet more proof of the world’s wretched lack of justice.
- The first time you ride the bus, you need to validate your bus pass (and if you haven’t got a bus pass, you need to validate every new ticket). Just look for the validation machine (pictured), and insert your ticket into the slot at the bottom — it stamps it once and you’re done. Oh, but if you forget to do this, you don’t need to sweat it overly much. There are apparently really hefty fines if they find you riding the bus without a validated ticket, but I’ve only seen them check it once.
- The bus has certain scheduled stops, but it’s not going to make every single one of them. For instance, I live on Via Masaccio, and there is a Via Masaccio stop — but if the bus driver doesn’t see anyone there, he keeps driving. To keep yourself from riding in an indefinite purgatorial loop, all you have to do is push one of the many many ‘stop’ buttons placed between the windows; wait for the name of your stop to come up, push the button (you should hear a ‘ding’), and you’ve got your exit.
With other people on the trip:
- Wind store cell phones are kind of rage-inducing, but you should still get one, because we do end up using them a lot to keep track of everybody. Just go for the cheapest option, and prepare yourself for some possible frustration.
- If you want physical mail exchanges, stick strictly to letters; packages can slam you with customs fees, the Italian postal system is notoriously bad about losing international packages (and also just mail in general), and besides that there’s a list longer than I am tall of what you can’t even send in the first place, including weird things like anything with stitching. However, a friend who’s sending/receiving letters here says they get to and from the U.S. in about a week or a week and a half; discounting the couple letters that never reached her here, that seems like a pretty good deal.
- Email, of course, is your best bet. Blessed, blessed email.
- Skype, while great, is *not* the best, because it’s just not terribly reliable; I’ve had great calls, and the next day I’ll try again and the video and audio won’t match or the screen will freeze or the audio will fall into a 30+ second lag behind the speaker. So emails for actual exchange of information, and skype when you just want to see some friendly faces and can bear to shake it off if your call quality sucks.
- Further note: PLEEEASE use courtesy when skyping. All the students on this program have to spend a great deal of time together, and roommates especially are forced to *really* share a space, because it can often be the only place in your host family’s house that you are truly free to occupy — so just be as considerate as possible. Don’t keep your roommate up to unreasonable hours, don’t have fights with your boyfriend/girlfriend that everyone else has to listen to, keep your voice down as much as possible — just basic respect, yes?
Highly doubt anyone will need to be reminded about this, but make sure you bring some comfort material from home — iPod, a couple favorite DVDs, a book (although an e-reader would be better), whatever floats your boat. Nothing much, of course, but just make sure you have something you can fall back on in case of homesickness/boredom.
As far as what you can’t bring from home:
- Watching TV on the internet usually involves piracy, and piracy is wrong, so we’ll skate over this one. Just make sure that you never go to watchseries-online.com, or to watchseries.eu, and especially avoid the novamov links, which are very reliable and therefore extra-evil. Also, fun fact: downloading drains an internet key, so stream responsibly.
- The Odeon theater is pretty popular with ACM students, because unlike almost every other theater here, it actually shows films in their original language — so you occasionally get some new releases in English. This is one of your better options for actual movie-going.
- For books, you can ask the program directors to lend you some reading material, you can skim through the ACM library, or you can try your luck with the Oblate public library. For non-academic stuff in English, though, you may have to fall back on actual bookstores; I tend to like the bargain bins at the Paperback Exchange, and I will also confess to having ordered myself something through Amazon.it once.
On FOOD and feeding yourself.
The basic day-to-day eating procedure:
- When I first got here, I really wanted to go grocery shopping about once a week, make my lunch beforehand, and then just bring it to school everyday. This immediately turned out to be impractical, because the stuff you can make at home just doesn’t keep that well — and bread especially goes hard very quickly. So, what I do now is just go to the grocery store every other day or so; bags of rolls are incredibly cheap and offer some variety, so I usually just grab one of those (or a piece of fruit out of the produce section) and consider myself good to go. Other students also buy cheese and meat and toppings with their bread to make sandwiches; you can keep these in the refrigerators at your homestay overnight, and then store them in the ACM fridge during the school day.
- As far as where to go to get stuff, most people just end up hitting the grocery store (Conad, although the big sign says ‘Sapori & Dintori’) on Via Nazionale every day, because leaving the Linguaviva school you literally just have to walk one block and turn right to get there. The Mercato Centrale is also within a 10-minute walking distance, and offers fresh fruit, ready-made panini, and whatever else you can find in a stall. (Unfortunately, other stuff near the school is fairly expensive [and, if ready-made, often unhealthy], because since we’re so close to Santa Maria Novella and to the train station we get a lot of tourists and shops adjust themselves accordingly.)
- I consider myself within budget if I spend no more than 3.80 Euro a day on lunch. Normally I end up spending 1.00–1.50 Euro every other day, making the daily cost about 0.50–0.75. Eating here should not cost you an arm and a leg.
- Should probably mention also that the eating schedule can be a little hard to adjust to; as I’ve said before, Italians offer big dinners and almost nonexistent breakfasts, and for someone not used to that it can make you starve during the day and become painfully full at night. Since those are the two meals covered for you, you’ll still have to roll with it, but the best way to handle the middle period seems to be to A) add a bit onto your provided breakfast and then skip lunch, or B) eat a light breakfast followed by a light lunch in the late afternoon. Ultimately you’ll probably have to work it out yourself, but that’s what does it for me.
- Also, a final quick note about utensils: I’ve been able to get by just fine with a bag of plastic knives and spoons, but if you’re like many other students and make actual sandwiches (or, in fact, aspire to anything more complicated than the bite-and-chew variety of food), you’ll probably want to invest in an actual knife. Anti-air storage bags are also good to have.
And now GELATO, which gets its own category because it’s gelato.
- ‘Bad’ gelato (if you believe that there is such a thing) has a couple giveaways:
- It’s heaped up in the display cases. What you want is a relatively fresh batch, and if it’s heaped, it’s pretty much certain that they let a lot of it just sit there for a really long time without replenishing.
- It’s got unnaturally vivid colors. When gelato is made with natural ingredients, as opposed to artificial flavors, the colors are more muted. For example, if you’re looking at banana-flavored gelato, you want something kind of pale yellowish-white, like actual bananas; if it’s fluorescent yellow, that’s an additive. Bananas are an extreme example, but it holds for a lot of flavors — strawberry gelato should be deep pink but not blazingly red, etc.
- The ‘gelateria’ looks like an afterthought added on to a restaurant. This is a bit finicky, but only get gelato from places that are strictly gelato shops. Common sense says they’ve got to be a little more invested in their product, and a few too many snack shops sell stuff that’s over-priced and not-so-decent.
- Recommended gelato shops:
- “Gelateria de Medici.” Elegant, good variety, fairly cheap (1.50 Euro for the smallest cup/cone), and definitely off the typical tourist trail. Also the Crema de Medici is awesome.
- “Perche’ no!” A little pricier (2 Euro for the smallest), but good traditional flavors. The trade-off is mainly that it’s much closer to the Linguaviva school than G.D.M.
- “Grom.” A newer one that comes highly recommended by most people, but again, expensive. Very close to the Duomo and to the school, but often has a long line when it’s warm out.
- “Vivoli.” One of the oldest gelato shops in Florence, frequently referred to as “the oldest and the best.” In the Santa Croce area, and good but somewhat overrated. When entering, go over to the counter and pay for the size of cup first.
- “Gelateria dei Neri.” Good gelato with a small offering of non-traditional flavors (I tried the spicy ‘messicano’ with pistachio), just down the street from Palazzo Vecchio.
- “Vestri.” A chocolate shop that also has excellent gelato — limited flavors, but all chocolate-based so it’s not like you can go wrong. Again, flung out in the area of Santa Croce and Casa Buonarroti.
- [“Giolitti.” This place is in Rome, but you go to Rome, so if you’re in the neighborhood of the Pantheon make sure to swing by — this was the best gelato I had while in Italy.]
- As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, hot chocolate here is not the normal liquidy stuff but rather a very thick concoction that you can just about eat with a spoon. It is indisputably fantastic. Some places for it include:
- “Rivoire.” This is an old cafe located right on the corner of Piazza della Signoria, and it’s known for its chocolate. You’ll have to drink it standing at the bar, as anything you order here becomes ludicrously expensive the moment you sit down, but it is indeed excellent. Order with or without cream (“con o senza panna”)* at the bar, and then just pay (2.50 Euro without cream) on the way out the door.
- “Caffe Gilli.” Located in the Piazza della Reppublica, and a very beautiful antique cafe. A somewhat weaker variation on cioccolata calda, and seemed a touch more syrupy than Rivoire. Caps at 3.50 Euro with cream, but 8.00 if you actually sit down at a table, so there’s your final warning about that price jump if you don’t drink at the bar.
- “Vestri.” Doesnt’ actually start serving cioccolata calda until very late in the season, when the owner has decided that it is really and truly cold out, but you can still get gelato (see above) or a cup of cioccolata fredda (liquid cold chocolate). Otherwise, awesome, and relatively cheap to boot.
- “Hemingway.” A cafe/bar across the river that opens at 4:30 pm. Very particular atmosphere, and specializes in chocolate in general, so that’s always happy.
- “Arte del Cioccolato.” A place tucked into its own side alley near Santa Trinita, and definitely worth a look no matter what because it’s an amazing chocolate shop and the smell alone can induce happy dazes. However, it is also about twice as expensive as most other places, so make sure you keep that in mind going in.
- “Robiglio.” Primarily a pastry shop, with several locations around town. Thick hot chocolate, but everything can get a bit pricy.
- *I recommend without cream; cream is more expensive, tends to be way too thick, leaves very little room in the cup for any of the actual drink, and on top of that it basically detracts from the taste. But hey, I like all my drinks as simple as possible, so ymmv.
- Trains are the most common way to get around, and happily they’re also very easy to use. You can wing it or look up schedules online beforehand, and either way you just have to go to the ticket office in the train station (usually fairly obvious, but just look for the “biglietteria” label if not), ask for the desired destination, and then pay — normally around 5 Euro one way within the Tuscany region. In the large stations, you can also just use the self-service kiosks; the first screen gives you the option of language, and it’s straightforward from there. Then just take your ticket to one of the yellow validation boxes hanging around the platforms somewhere, insert your ticket to get it stamped, and board the train. (Heads up, though — always try to have a friend with you when going by train. It’s not dangerous, but on the other hand it’s not particularly safe, so just be smart about it.)
- If you want to travel on fall break, as most people do, you’ll probably be wanting a flight, and your best bet here is undoubtedly Ryanair. (Seriously, some people here used it to get a flight to England for six Euro. Six Euro.) There’s a tradeoff for the cheapness, of course, which is that you’re allowed an extremely limited amount of luggage, but that seems only fair. And again, Ryanair.
- Internet access here is difficult. Your host family may or may not have it (mine didn’t), and even if they do you may or may not be able to use it all that much. Wi-fi is available at the school, but it’s a touch unreliable (and necessitates that you drag your laptop to Linguaviva every day, which is easier for some than for others). You can also use internet cafes — one example is Cafe Deluxee on Via Nazionale, but most places will do the job.
- If you don’t have internet at home and decide you want it, you need an internet key. Available at Wind stores, an internet key looks like a thumbdrive and costs about 40 Euro at minimum. (The more expensive ones give you faster internet, but the slowest has worked fine for me.) You pay per month (15 Euro), but there’s actually an unfortunate catch — after paying, you’re guaranteed internet for the whole month, but you still have to be careful not to go over your data limit. *All* the internet keys I saw have the same limit (about 10 GB), and once you’re over that, it can be said from experience that your internet becomes basically worthless; it slows to a crawl, and you’re lucky to be able to open an email. So don’t download much, don’t watch too many videos, just…don’t go over.
On MANAGING MONEY.
- Generally speaking, you want to keep your card out of trouble by paying for as much as possible in cash, but you also want to avoid carrying too much around in loose change — the sweet spot seems to be somewhere between 50 and 100 Euro on your person at all times. There’s a secure ATM down the street from the school on Via Nazionale, and you can just take your credit/debit card there every couple of weeks or so, make a withdrawal as large as is responsible (keeping in mind that you do get ATM fees and foreign exchange fees every time you use the ATM), and off you go.
- Also, I cannot overstress the importance of keeping records and holding on to your receipts. It’s very easy to get into the habit of flinging money around here, and we’ve already had a couple students who needed to make emergency calls to the parents because they started ‘unexpectedly’ running low on funds. And it’s not just a straightforward problem of overspending, either; if you don’t keep records, it’s also possible to get 20-50 Euro stolen without being able to positively swear that you didn’t spend it yourself. So just make a budget, and then keep a log of your spending to make sure you’re sticking to that budget; ultimately you’ll earn yourself and your parents some unparalleled peace of mind.
- You may also want to check into whether you can get reimbursed for some of your spending — if you keep receipts for food and school supplies especially, you may able to get some of that back.
On PACKING and what you need to bring.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, packing is too personal a matter for any pre-made lists to be all that useful. That being said, it’s still nice to have some pros and cons and general information to make your choices with, so here’s that stuff:
- CLOTHES. Pack for both hot and cold seasons. Just a reminder, because some people didn’t. Other than that, you know what you find comfortable, so simply make sure to have good walking shoes, house slippers, and preferably plenty of things that can mix-and-match layer with each other — and yes, Italians do dress a little nicer than what you’d typically find on an American campus, so there’s that. Also, I would recommend one of those packable down coats if it’s a possibility for you; they’re obviously very easy on your storage space, they keep you perfectly warm when it turns bitter, and it turns out they’re worn by many Italian women so you can blend right in. Oh, and while it’s still hot out, shorts are okay. More Italian students are wearing them, and the place is flooded with American tourists anyway, so it shouldn’t be a big deal if that’s what you want.
- TOILETRIES. Personal products are expensive here, and especially when it comes to things like conditioner and lotion, which are not only expensive but come in really small bottles. It all depends on what you’ve got room for, but annoying things to buy here include the following: shampoo, conditioner, hairspray/hair gel, face wash, body wash, toothpaste, lotion, make up, eyeglass cleaner.
- SCHOOL SUPPLIES. Things like notebooks and folders are surprisingly hard to come by, or at least it certainly seems that way when you first get here and need to buy them. I’d still recommend waiting and getting stuff here (if nothing else, supermarkets tend to have everything, and it saves a lot of weight in your luggage), but they are a bit expensive, so up to you. Ultimately, just make sure you’ve got notebooks (e.g. a big one for Italian and easily portable ones for other classes and on-site note-taking), pencils, a couple folders to keep everything straight, and a small Italian-English dictionary. Also, of course, make sure you have all your textbooks for classes; some you *have* to buy in the States, and books in general here are way more expensive, so try to bring as many as you’ve got room for. (Bonus advantage: at the end of the trip you can leave the boring ones and free up weight for souvenirs.)
- OTHER STUFF. Have a watch. Have an umbrella, or plan on buying one when you get here. A gift for your host parents upon arrival. Something you can use as a travel alarm clock. Outlet converter and/or adapter. Flashdrive. Map (see below). Possibly a laundry bag, possibly a small pair of scissors, maybe a calculator. Bug spray probably a good idea, but more necessary to have anti-itch cream, because the mosquitoes mostly get you when you’re asleep and couldn’t be wearing repellent anyway — and just so you know, yes, the bug problem should be taken seriously.
- Specific Recommendations:
- The Berlitz Italian Compact Dictionary. A good balance between portability and actual word coverage, and I like that its cover is sturdy enough to be basically un-rippable.
- The Knopf MapGuide to Florence. It covers most of the city in section-by-section maps, helping you to understand the different neighborhoods, and each map is just a small fold-out, meaning that you get zoomed-in closeups but never have to walk around with a map bigger than a sheet of looseleaf paper. Each section map also comes with a list of attractions and recommendations (some more useful than others), and there’s an index of street names at the back if you’re looking for something in particular. I love the hell out of my MapGuide, and I’ve used it just about every single day since I’ve been here.
- Bargello — Sculpture gallery, free entrance with museum pass. Great history behind the building itself, excellent collection, and not typically crowded. Has the original test panels of Ghiberti and Brunelleschi for the Baptistery doors as well as Donatello’s bronze “David” — although what you should really go for are the carved ivories.
- Baptistery — Smaller building right in front of the cathedral, home to Ghiberti’s famous doors and to the scandalous tomb of ‘Pope’ John XXIII. Going with a class is probably sufficient.
- Boboli Gardens — Adjoining Palazzo Pitti, and a great sprawling space filled with statues but especially greenery, which is a nice change of pace within the city. Offers some overlooking views of Florence, and is also a wonderful place to hear all the church bells ringing at once; free entrance with museum pass makes this a definite must-see. (Oh, and go while it’s warm to see the flowers still in bloom.)
- Casa Buonarotti — Not Michelangelo’s *house,* but a property owned by his family that was converted into a museum of his early works. Fascinating place, and even though your card doesn’t get you in for free it’s still worth the price of admission. Little hard to find, though — it’s smack in the middle of a quiet little minding-its-own-business neighborhood, is differentiated from other houses by nothing but a little brown sign, and I once took a break and leaned against the building for 5 minutes without realizing where I was. So be prepared for some confusion about that.
- Duomo — The great domed cathedral. You need to (and will) see this from both inside and outside. Try to take an opportunity to get up to the top, both here and in the bell tower.
- Fiesole — Not part of Florence, but so close that you can take the number 7 bus going both ways (or even walk it). A small, quiet town with an Etruscan history, way up on a hill overlooking the city: amazing from-a-distance view, a relaxing place to spend an afternoon or evening, and home to an excellent pastry shop called Alcedo’s.
- Galleria dell’Accademia — The museum known almost exclusively for having Michelangelo’s “David,” although it also has a number of other sculptures and paintings along with a mini-museum for musical instruments dating from the 16-1700s. Free with museum pass (which is a relief, because there is always an obnoxiously long line), and it’s a good time no matter what but happens to be way more fun with a know-it-all professor or two to show you around. Also, heads up that the museum attendants will really hammer home the whole ‘No Foto!’ thing (although that doesn’t have to stop you from trying).
- Mercato Centrale — The main food market, awe-inspiring for the aromas alone. It’s indoors, two stories, and packed with stalls and vendors selling both fresh produce and alarmingly fresh meat, as well as actual restaurants where you can buy pre-prepared food. They also sell flowers here : )
- Mercato Nuovo — Open-air market for souvenir stuff, T-shirts, scarves, leather goods, little sculptures and ornaments, etc. Smaller and pricier than San Lorenzo. Mainly famous for having that lucky statue of the boar.
- Museo Archeologico — Archaeological museum, including Etruscan, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities. Worth a look, but really only hits home when you’ve got someone around who can tell you what it is you’re looking at.
- Museo dell’Opera del Duomo — The museum housing works originally found in or on the Duomo, and found immediately behind the Duomo. Features work by too many famous sculptors to name, and also has artifacts relating to the building of the cathedral itself. Favorite find would be either the original models of the cathedral, or Michelangelo’s unfinished Pieta (aka The Deposition). Fantastic museum, although you’ll probably come with class.
- Museo di San Marco — A church + convent built by Michelozzo for Cosimo de’ Medici. Famous for the many frescoes and paintings by Fra Angelico, and also for being Savonarola’s seat of power. Again, certainly worth a look, but you’re likely to go (several times, actually) with class.
- Orsanmichele — A grainery converted into a kinda-church and then into a small sculpture gallery. Very interesting place, and great works by Donatello and Verrocchio especially, but it’s better when you have a professor around to explain everything.
- Palazzo Davanzati — A preserved house of the type that would have been more-or-less typical for wealthy Florentine merchants. As always, probably more fun if you’re with a professor (and certainly more fun if you know the story of the Chatelaine, found here painted in the bedroom), but a funkily beautiful space in and of itself. As far as I’m aware, only free if you come with class, but most expensive ticket price is only 2 Euro.
- Palazzo Medici-Riccardi — The old Medici homestead, built by Cosimo and re-decorated in the baroque style when it was sold to the Riccardi family. Looks like a fortress from the outside, looks like rich people on the inside; highlight is the Chapel of the Magi. You’ll probably go with class.
- Palazzo Pitti — One of the more palace-like palazzi; originally built by the Pitti family, and taken over by the Medici when they became actual rulers. Houses the Palatine Gallery of paintings, the Royal Apartments, the Costume Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art, and something else that I’m forgetting. Joined to the Uffizi by Vasari’s corridor, and adjoined to the Boboli Gardens. Access to everything free with museum pass, and highly recommended.
- Palazzo Vecchio — The very imposing town hall. Overlooks the Piazza della Signoria, immediately next to the Uffizi, and filled with a lot of impressiveness. Possibly you’ll go with class.
- Piazza della Signoria — One of the prettier public squares, and here you’ll find Palazzo Vecchio, one of the outdoor copies of Michelangelo’s David (this was the original location), the open-air sculpture gallery called the Loggia dei Lanzi, close access to the Uffizi, and the well-known cafe Rivoire. Usually filled with tourists, and known as a good place to people-watch.
- Piazza della Reppublica — Considered to be the center of the city, and the site of a lot of used-to-be-here’s (the old market, the ghetto, etc.) that were cleared away during a clean-up effort in the 1800s — something our professors consider tragic. Now the site of a carousel, the bookstore Edison, and Caffe Gilli.
- Piazza Santa Croce — Possibly my favorite piazza. *Just* far away enough from the city center to not be constantly swamped with people, and often occupied by musicians. Has a statue of Dante, the Santa Croce church, and lined with gold and leather stores. On the far side, also has a couple plaques marking how high the flood waters have been.
- Piazzale Michelangelo — A site known entirely for its great up-close view of Florence (including a look at a preserved section of the old city walls). Highly popular tourist destination, and you’ll probably pass through with class early in the trip; if not, buses 12 and 13 make regular runs through. Also near San Miniato.
- Ponte Vecchio — The last remaining occupied bridge (meaning that buildings still line both sides), and sometimes known as the ‘river of gold’ because it is home to the gold-makers. Steeped in history and offers a really beautiful view of the Arno River on both sides. Extremely close to the Uffizi and to Piazza della Signoria, and Vasari’s Corridor passes overhead on its way to Palazzo Pitti.
- San Lorenzo — A church designed for Cosimo by Brunelleschi, and a terrific sample of Brunelleschian architecture (although interrupted by later touches). Sits immediately next to the Palazzo Medici, and houses the tombs of the Medici as well as the tomb of Donatello. You’ll almost definitely come with class.
- San Lorenzo Market — This would be the market known for its leather. Sprawling from the Mercato Centrale to the basilica of San Lorenzo, it’s an open-air market with lines of stalls sitting in front of leather stores; aside from leather jackets/journals/wallets/gloves, you can also buy scarves, sweatshirts, jewelry, souvenir-y stuff, etc. Packed with tourists and people used to selling to tourists, but a fun place to walk through and fairly competitively priced — certainly way cheaper than Mercato Nuovo. This actually is where I ended up doing most of my souvenir shopping.
- San Miniato — A beautiful Romanesque basilica on a hill overlooking Florence, quite near Piazzale Michelangelo (and with a similarly spectacular view). This was one of the first places we went as a group with ACM.
- Santa Croce — Wall tombs, including those of several of the super-famous. Have to pay to get in if a class doesn’t take you, but worth it.
- Santa Maria Novella — The church right next to / associated with the station, which means ACM’ers see it every day. This is the church that features in the “Decameron,” so there’s some trivia for you, and it’s also got beautiful frescoes and works of art by Giotto, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio, and Filippino Lippi. No free entrance, but you come with any art history class.
- Uffizi Gallery — One of the most famous art galleries in the world, and you get free access with your museum pass (use door — ‘porta’ — #2 to get in). Originally the offices of the Medici family when they became royalty, and joined to Palazzo Pitti by Vasari’s Corridor. As far as paintings, filled primarily with early Renaissance works, and gets into the later ones mainly with Botticelli; it then skips straight over to Mannerism and later styles. Also lined with sculptures, most of them antiquities collected by the Medici family. A beautiful museum and an obvious must-see, but I found it a little underwhelming compared to other sites. And, of course, jam-packed with tourists — although sometimes, if you can get yourself in there around 6:00 in the evening, it empties out significantly.