Snooki

They came, they smushed... but did they conquer? While Italy somehow survived its Jersey Shore invasion when the cast of MTV's reality smash relocated to Florence for Season 4, Snooki, The Situation et al. didn't have it so easy. Two months away from the comforts of their home-away-from-home in Seaside Heights left the guidos and guidettes in a serious state of GTL withdrawal. That's right: The eight stars — Deena Cortese, "DJ Pauly D" DelVecchio, Jenni "JWoww" Farley, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, Vinny Guadagnino, Ronnie Magro, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi and Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino — found their signature gym-tanning-laundry ritual tough to pull off across the Atlantic.

"We rarely made it to the gym," says Vinny. "That's unheard of for us. But it's not really a big thing there. And these little weird streets that were built in the 1000s... going to the laundromat, you have to haul your luggage through friggin' Italian villages. That made us stop doing certain things in our routine." The girls might've had it the hardest: "The worst thing was the cobblestone roads and walking in heels," gripes Sammi. "I had to buy a lot of flats, which I would probably never wear in Jersey."

Woes aside, the men and women of the Shore — with no friends or family nearby — relied on each other abroad. And of course, with that codependency came some havoc: "You'll be surprised to see the drama that sparks this year," says Pauly. In fact, the stars and producers promise a dramatic season that's even more intense than the last one. "The dynamic is supercrazy and explosive and yet more caring," says executive producer SallyAnn Salsano.

Everyone's tight-lipped about the biggest source of tension during this go-around, but Salsano hints it's not the usual suspects. "It's not the same conflict you've seen, like [on-again, off-again flames] Ronnie and Sammi fighting," she says. (For the record: The pair were not a couple when they first arrived, but they did rekindle.) In fact, it appears that the guys were the source of more conflict in the house than in the past. "They were doing the catfighting," says JWoww.

When they weren't at each other's throats or partying at local clubs, the roommates clocked in at a pizzeria. Although no one appears to have broken a sweat on the job, some labored more than others. "When it comes to work, everybody knows I'm going to slack," says The Situation, who spent most of the time drumming up business outside the restaurant. Deena brushes off the unfair division of labor: "I guess that's just how it is," she says. "The boys are out there getting people and us girls are inside cooking and cleaning. I didn't mind it."

Meanwhile, despite reports that Italy was less than happy to welcome the cast — no grazie, jersey shore signs were apparently hung up in some eateries — Salsano says the production didn't encounter any unusual problems. "It was really overblown," she says. "The city was absolutely amazing." The biggest issue, according to Salsano, was the same as always: finding a way to shoot the show surrounded by crowds, paparazzi and fame-seeking Americans. "We had to close down the streets — it looked like the Macy's parade," she says. "It turned out that it was just as crazy there as it is in the U.S."

With so many Yanks visiting Florence, the cast admits that they didn't exactly get a full-immersion experience. "Jersey girls still found us," says Pauly. Salsano points out that the dudes should be grateful: "American college students are far easier to get home at night than Italian girls," she says. Notes Ronnie: "The guys, we went hard in Italy. There were a lot of entertaining nights."

Also overblown, according to the cast? Snooki's well-documented car accident with local law enforcement. "My brakes gave out," she says. "I was only going 10 miles per hour, thank God. So instead of hitting the cop, I ran my car right into the guard rail."

There won't be much rest for the weary octet. Once home, the Jersey Shore stars immediately started shooting Season 5 back in Seaside. "I was so excited to get them to Italy and see how they react to being in a foreign country," Salsano says. "I imagined it was going to be equally funny to watch them get back to what they call civilization."

First step: some GTL. "I'm going tanning," Vinny says. "I don't even tan, but I'm going to — just because it's a normal American thing to do."

Jersey Shore premieres Thursday, 8/4 at 10/9c on MTV.

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