“You can’t dislike your job when you’re riding across the Ponte Vecchio on your bike with a Shitzu in the basket,” explains Maryanne Day, the founder and owner of TuscanHound, the first dog care business in Florence, Italy.
I had asked her if there was a defining moment when she just knew that Tuscany would be home, and she said it was that ride over the most beautiful bridge in the world, on the way to a job that she had created out of nothing but love and passion.
She had arrived in Florence, after needing a break in her career with animals, to do something more creative. With experience in costuming for TV and movies back in the U.S., she decided to learn how to craft Florentine leather. She applied and attended a leather school in the city center and began to fall in love with Florence.
One thing she didn’t realize, however, was how much Florence loves dogs. And what the residence of Florence were missing was someone like Maryanne to take care of their canines when they’re away. She put an ad in the paper, and the rest is history. Soon Maryanne was crisscrossing the city with more and more clients. She realized walking dogs and visiting cats in Renaissance palaces certainly wasn’t something to complain about, and began to wonder if this was a potential new life plan.
On the evening after that inspirational bike ride, she rode her vintage Vespa up to Piazzale Michelangelo to contemplate her decisions. Her time in Florence was supposed to be temporary, but if you’ve been to Florence, you know how strong the pull of this city can be, especially from that piazza. Seated above the city, the panorama stretches from the Arno River below to the Tuscan hills that hug the city. It’s a backdrop to weddings, photoshoots, engagements, and general life-changing moments. At sunset the light becomes trapped in the valley, slowly pouring its rose-colored warmth over the city. The famous Duomo broods like a queen bee, calling out for those that visit, to stay.
Inspired by the scene, Maryanne’s fate was finalized. “I realized I love it here. I was determined to stay.”
Ten years later, TuscanHound is booming with clients for their cats and dogs, offering walks, daycare, or house visits, and their customers are everyone from locals, to expats, to visiting movie stars. Now that her business is well established, she gets to spend a bit more time enjoying her personal life in Florence, though sometimes dogs are still in tow. Thankfully, they’re welcomed almost everywhere in the city, from restaurants to the movie theater.
When she has down time, Maryanne enjoys visiting the city center, spending many afternoons sipping on a cappuccino and watching grandparents strolling through piazzas with their grandchildren. In Florence, there is no separation of generations, Maryanne adds. “I have friends that are younger than me and friends in their 70s.”
Maryanne also notes the great sense of community in Florence. “Each neighborhood that you live in is its own little community, where your local butcher, florist, and baker get to know you—and even your pet—on a first name basis.” Through these budding friendships, she’s learned even more secrets as to how to live life to the fullest in Florence.
At a regular family-owned trattoria called Casalinga, she gets some special privileges. “Once you’re a local in Florence, you’re treated like one. They will often give me an osso buco (veal shank) bone to take home to the dogs. They serve the best fegato (liver pâté on Tuscan unsalted bread) and they are always welcoming to me.”
Her favorite local secret? A way to get back into nature without ever leaving the city: “Being a resident of Florence, you are allowed to go into the Boboli Gardens for free. I love to get lost in the gardens with their beautiful statues and fountains.”
Her true passion, however, is on full display when she’s with her pets and her business. “My day to day can be walking in front of the Duomo to go check on a cat. That just can’t happen anywhere else,” she explains, as she holds a mini Pomeranian on her lap in a local coffee shop, in view of the Palazzo Vecchio.
“You know, this life is just something that’s really amazing to me.”
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