The smell of jasmine follows me down the river on my bike ride from work. On any given night, you can find my husband, Rami, and me at the park across the street, 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.
I left the U.S. because travel taught me that there was more to the world than the Pledge of Allegiance and the American Dream. Whenever I stepped foot in another country, I realized that I wasn’t sure I wanted to live my life inside one line of borders. Italy felt comfortable to me from my first trip.
Five years ago, I had hit my limit of 9-to-5 after a mere nine months in a stuffy office outside of Boston, MA. My boss would monitor each of my sales calls. Her boss would shut himself in his office and guffaw at videos he found online. The break room had no windows. I’d had enough.
I was only supposed to stay three months in Italy while interning as a tour guide and herding American students through Europe. During that summer though, I fell in love with coffee, and the man that served it to me at the local cafe. Three months turned into five years and now we’re three years married and I don’t think I’ll ever go back home. The pace of life is relaxed here and because of that, I finally began to seriously focus on my writing.
In college, I was lucky enough to have a memoir class with Meredith Hall, a bestselling author. At the end of the semester, she held my last piece in her hands and told me not to get a job…just to write. I wanted to believe her, but with the strain of U.S. expectations and stereotypes, it wasn’t until I went to Italy that I’ve attempted to do as she wished.
In Florence, I discovered a writer’s group that I now acknowledge as some of my closest friends. Translators, copywriters, and poets surround me. They have succeeded in writing for a living.
I still have a position as an administrator within a study abroad program here, but much of my time there is spent writing—speeches for the director of the program, content for their website, and much of the printed material given to the students. I write for multiple websites in my down time and collaborate on projects with some of my writing friends which takes up my Sunday mornings as we write and sip on cappuccini in the piazza.
My husband and I live in a neighborhood just outside the old walls of Florence. After a year-and-a-half of searching, we finally found our little one-bedroom apartment with a garden for $780. We can easily walk into the center, but it’s off the beaten path of the tourists in town.
You can find me at La Grotta Parri on any given Saturday afternoon. A simple restaurant with wood-paneled walls and dusty wine bottles, La Grotta has first course dishes for only $5.50 a plate. The menu is handwritten each day and everything is delicious. For $28, my husband and I have a first course and a second of meat or fish…complete with wine and water.
The open and friendly culture of Florence has helped my freelancing breathe. I can feel just at home using the local cafe in the piazza as my office (the waiters never asking me to leave as long as I’m courteous to order something every so often). If I stop by a local spot long enough, I’ll be welcomed like a long-lost friend every time I walk through the door. There’s a support system under the Tuscan sun, and I thrive off of it.
Freelance writing and living in Italy has given me the confidence to work while doing what I love.
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