During my year and a half as a tour guide around Europe, I visited most of the cities and countries that you’ll find decorating travel agent offices. Now I live in one of them.
Home of the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo, Florence stands out as the warmest place in Europe for me…and it’s not just because of the summertime weather. When I see that big ruddy-red dome of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore come into view, I feel like I’ve come home…and here is why…
Florence Will Excite You
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 Signoria. Even the great outdoors beyond are easily accessible—with organizations 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.
The Food Culture Consumes You
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, Rami, 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.
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 neighbors and shopkeepers in the world.
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.
The Slower Pace of Life is a Breath of Fresh Air
It sounds cliché but it’s entirely true. On Sundays, I see my local shopkeepers out with their families picnicking in the park. 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. This schedule and routine is the ideal situation for freelancing. Late-opening cafés and night-owl events mean that I can work at whatever time I like. And coffee shops actually like my presence—so long as I sip on an espresso every now and then. My lifestyle thrives here, and because of that, I even have time to stop and smell the roses in the Boboli Gardens.
My life in Florence isn’t always perfect, but for me Italy has a heartfelt atmosphere. I love to see the ruddy terracotta steaming in the sun—colors that reflect the people that live here, and the intercultural community that has been created in their shadow. The old and new in perfect harmony…you can’t find that just anywhere.
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