Culture clash doesn't begin to describe it. ''Jersey Shore'' den mother Sallyann Salsano details her adventures in Florence with Snooki & Co. — including car accidents, crying, and cobblestone wipeouts
If you know anything about me, it’s this: I’m up for a challenge. As a result, I happily took on the dare that MTV put in front of me: Take eight kids whose main concerns are fighting, smushing, and fist-pumping on the road to Florence, Italy. Now, I grant you that this was a daunting task, as most Americans don’t understand the Jersey Shore kids, never mind a bunch of Italians who don’t speak English — but like I said, I enjoy a good challenge.
To be honest, at first I figured this would be pretty easy. I came up with what I thought would be a good plan. Step 1: As soon as we got to Italy I’d just explain, ”Listen, this is a tight-knit group of friends, they happen to be Italian just like you lovely people, and they’re planning a vacation to the motherland.” Seems kind of tame and harmless, no? Step 2: I would introduce them by their proper names, and by that of course I mean ”Snooki,” ”Situation,” ”J-Woww,” and ”Sammi Sweetheart,” all of which I assumed would be fairly common names in Italy. Step 3: I would then explain that they are all very interested in education and as a result they would like to visit and learn about the Italian culture — ya know, tanning salons, nail salons, Laundromats, nightclubs, bars, limoncello, and pizza.
Despite my easy-to-follow plan, things did not get off to a good start. The more I tried to tell our new Italian friends that these kids would figure it out for themselves if you just pointed them in the direction of a tanning bed, a gym, or a club with insanely loud beats, the more they offered up options that are the typical ”must-see” places for visitors. Everyone in the city seemed to think I should be showing these kids statues, paintings, sculptures, museums, churches, fancy restaurants, bridges, historic ruins, and architecture. Apparently they haven’t seen the show.
It was at this point that I decided to stop using the language barrier as a problem and instead use it to my advantage. I’m fairly confident everyone there thought I was just not understanding what they were telling me, so that became the new plan. Let’s just say I started nodding and smiling a lot. This new attitude resulted in pretty much what I expected: 50 straight days and nights of car accidents, clubbing, fights, random sex between cast members, screaming, crying, gelato, and, of course, tons of pizza. Along the way, I’d like to think the cast learned a thing or two, because in addition to liking a challenge, I’m also all about the education. Here are a few lessons my Jersey Shore brood picked up:
? If you sleep straight through siesta, it doesn’t ruin your day.
? There is no chicken parmesan in Florence.
? You can’t get a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich with salt, pepper, and ketchup anywhere.
? Italian women aren’t so easy to lure back to your pad so you can ”get to know” them. These guys had to work for it. (MVP will agree when I say thank God for American exchange students.)
? ”Taxi sono qui” means ”Cabs are here!”
? A fairly harmless pair of stripper shoes are not your friend on cobblestone streets. This was learned the hard way. A lot. (Enjoy!)
While you’re watching all the insanity this season — and believe me, there’s plenty to go around (maybe more than ever) — remember that I had the staff and crew working 24/7 for the entire shoot to make sure our fans wouldn’t miss one second of the action. Our team is the best and hardest-working group in reality TV, and they picked up some tips for living what the Italians call ”la dolce vita,” or ”the good life,” but what I like to call surviving a Jersey Shore shoot:
? Do an espresso shot every hour (just to keep up with our cast).
? Eat pizza every day. Actually, that’s my personal rule.
? If you shoot in Italy, you will finally have a show where the crew doesn’t bitch about catering. It was so good, I’m still on carb overload.
? Stop trying to explain to the cast that the Pope does not live in Florence, because it’s fun to watch them look for him.
? Stop trying to explain to the cast that it’s call the ”Vactican,” not the “Atican.” The cast was three weeks into the trip when they realized it wasn’t in Florence and the building they were looking at was actually the Duomo.
? Accept and learn to love that the cast calls me ”Mom.”
I have to admit it was a pretty crazy ride, but I had one goal when I left the U.S. on my pilgrimage to Italy, and I’m proud to say I returned to America with all 123 staff members I left with and eight living, breathing, slightly orange roommates in tow and — better yet — in one piece. In the end, geography means nothing. Jersey, Miami, Italy, it just doesn’t matter. These kids are who they are, and we f—in’ love it. I told everyone in Italy who would listen what I tell myself every day: Don’t try to understand it, don’t try to make sense of it, just go with it. And, more importantly, tune in Thursday nights at 10 p.m. All I know for sure is I’m damn lucky to have the best job in the world.
For the record, I feel like a third-rate Carrie Bradshaw writing this.