3 things you love about Florence
1. The beauty around every corner. Florence is packed to the brim with more loveliness than can ever be processed in one lifetime. It does wonders for the weary soul.
2. The vibrant expat community. Being repeatedly rebuffed by purebred Florentines (see below) is more than compensated for by all the fellow bon vivants drawn to reside here from abroad.
3. The combination of comfortable size and wealth of world-class events. Big enough to provide anonymity yet compact enough to master spatially within days, Florence always offers a rich variety of ways to pass your time.
3 things that drive you crazy about Florence
1. The haughtiness of the natives. Florentines like to think of it as sprezzatura—a respectable, Mona-Lisa-style sense of composure, but their snobbishness towards foreigners (even Italian ones) gets old really fast.
2. The provincialism. Florence seems blissfully unaware that a full five centuries have passed since Michelangelo and the Medici made it a cultural world capital. Efforts to bring it firmly into the 21st century routinely die on the vine, despite the earnest ambition of certain eternal optimists.
3. The tourist hordes—the inevitable downside of living in a fairytale city.
A Florentine stereotype that’s true.
That walking through the cobblestoned streets is like stepping back in time.
A stereotype that’s sooooo wrong.
That Florentine food is fancy—it’s essentially peasant cooking.
The best thing about your neighbourhood
Up until 15-20 years ago Isolotto was known as the “Bronx” of Florence, and some ignorant Florentines still think of it this way. Thankfully it has managed to avoid gentrification, even though its oldest part (“Isolotto Vecchio”) has become quite charming with its tree-lined internal streets and daily produce market. It’s also devoid of tourists with nary an English word to be heard. But the best thing is definitely all the parks and trees—so refreshing to come home to after working in the concrete-and-cobblestone jungle that is downtown Florence.
Describe the view out your window
Many apartment buildings just like the one I live in—built in the 1970s—all a good distance away, and interspersed with cypresses, palms, and other trees. I’m on the fourth floor, almost as high as you can go in Florence if you don’t count the tops of medieval towers, so the Tuscan hills are also just barely discernible in the distance.
Something you can’t live without daily, what/where?
Going out. Florence feels like an impossible place to hole up in. Just leaving your home, walking out your door here is therapeutic because of all the natural and manmade beauty everywhere.
Book/movie/poem/song that captures the spirit of Florence for you.
It’s a hackneyed choice, but the Merchant-Ivory film A Room with a View. It just never gets old and perfectly portrays the classic romance of this city. A close second would be the novel The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga about an American paper conservator who comes to Florence to help clean up after the flood of 1966 (a “mud angel”) and falls in love.
If you were the boss of the tourism board of Florence what would the city slogan be?
It will steal your heart when you least expect it.
And if you didn’t live here, where would you live?
Paris. That’s where I was headed next before falling in love with a Florentine.
Michelle lives and works as a writer in Florence and runs a thoughtful and candid blog about ex-pat motherhood.