The smell of jasmine follows me down the river as I cycle home. On any given night, you can find my husband Rami and I at the park across the street from our place, sitting with our French Bulldog, looking out onto the city that I’ve chosen to call home.
Turrets of towers spear the skyline and Tuscan hills glow in the yellow sunset. The Duomo rises above it all…towering above the terracotta roofs and yellow stucco walls, it almost seems to float.
The Italian city of Florence is everything that the world dreams it is: winding cobblestone streets, fruit markets spilling their produce onto the sidewalks, laundry strung in between buildings…and when I see that big ruddy-red dome of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore come into view, I know this is where I belong. Here’s just a few reasons why…
1. Everyday Excitement
Florence is a beautiful mix of international and local events that allow you to travel the world without leaving the city. One night I strolled through an art exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi. Another night, I passed under the arches of the Uffizi Gallery and met a local painter who helped me with my Italian as he showed me his work. Weeks later there was a sagra (food festival) and the week after that, a free concert in Palazzo della Signoria. Even the great outdoors beyond are easily accessible—with organisations that coordinate walks and hikes throughout the country. Yoga, painting classes, public lectures and a sophisticated food culture…you name it, Florence has it. It’s yours to enjoy.
2. A Rich Food Culture
Events are everywhere downtown, but the food culture is inescapable wherever you go in Italy. Just yesterday at the dog park, the topic of conversation revolved around the new harvest of porcini mushrooms (and recipes for them) that have grown in the early autumn rain. On another occasion, a tow-truck driver got chatting to my husband about lambrusco (the local fizzy red wine) as he jacked up our car, which led to us being treated to dinner at his friend’s local restaurant. Food is how Italians communicate…and it’s a wonderful language.
3. The Locals are Helpful
Italian is a language of love and the words satisfy your heart as much as the food satisfies your appetite. My Italian still isn’t perfect after five years, but I’ve come a long way. Learning is easy because of the kindness of Italians who want to help. When you show that you’re earnest in your attempt, you’ll find the most patient neighbours and shopkeepers in the world.
4. There is a Wonderful International Community
Florence has its local lingo, but it also draws in languages and people from around the world. Whenever I like, I can turn to the international community to relax in an English-speaking setting. Meeting international friends here is incredibly easy. They are all here for a different reason, but enjoy the same laidback lifestyle. Pick up a newspaper, like The Florentine, and see if there are any language exchanges, go to a lecture or go volunteer in a local garden. You’re sure to meet someone that shares your interests.
5. The Slower Pace of Life is a Breath of Fresh Air
It sounds cliche but it’s entirely true. If you have an early flight to catch, the only coffee you’ll find before 7.30 a.m. will be at the airport. Schools start later and dinner reservations are normally placed for 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.
Leisurely Saturday afternoons usually find me at La Grotta Parri, a simple restaurant with wood-panelled walls and dusty wine bottles. First course dishes cost $7 a plate. The menu is handwritten each day and everything is delicious. For $35, my husband and I savour two courses with wine and water. On Sundays, I see my local shopkeepers out with their families picnicking in the park and I always makes sure to stop and smell the roses in the Boboli Gardens…
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