I begun this blog with a sunrise photo, so thought it was fitting to close it with a sunset.
Three months have absolutely flown by, and with that comes the close to my time in the magical city of Florence. I really mean it when I say magical; the city is in its own bubble of a world. You have the layer with all the tourists that come and go, but hidden beneath this are the slow and steady lives of the inhabitants. They aren’t really hidden, but there is a knack to finding places only frequented by Florentines.
After 12 weeks, I think I began to scratch the surface of this part. To begin with I crammed in the big tourist attractions: the Uffizi, the Duomo and the Academia. Then, I started to wander. I found little pockets of the city untouched by the tourist traffic, with no British or American accents in earshot. I stumbled upon picturesque lanes with local craftsmen, smaller bars and panino hole-in-the-wall shops, and tiny churches still filled with jaw-dropping art. I was the obvious tourist in all of these spots, but it meant I got to practice my Italian.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, there are certainly things that I missed whilst living there. Although the list doesn’t amount to much length-wise, I realised that these few things were important to me. For one, Florence is a very small place. I like to get out and explore as soon as I move in, so I’m not sure I could live there for an extended period of time as I got to see a lot of the city in just three months. Saying that, it is very easy to escape and explore other parts of Tuscany; you just have to hop on one of the snazzy, and very regular trains.
It is easy to get caught up amongst the tourists: quite literally. They are everywhere ALL the time. I know I just mentioned that there is the local side of things, but you really have to make an effort to find it. This sort of introduces my biggest problem with the city, the lack of variety in one way or another. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of attractions, but if art galleries or museums aren’t your thing, you’re not left with much choice. This is also a city of buildings and narrow streets, without too many trees, parks, or large quiet spaces (minus the piazzas). The food is fantastic, but it is also all Italian; I’ve written about this before and how I think it is not a bad thing in itself, but every so often I get a craving for something different. All in all the things I found problematic aren’t really problems, they’re just minor things I’ve realised I look for in a city that I want to call home. And of course, these things change from person to person.
There are things I am going to miss about the place. Having a delicious sugary croissant and a coffee every morning; did I mention good coffee is literally just €1! Walking past the workshops of sculptors, artists, or jewellers whose doors are wide open. Just being able to walk everywhere and anywhere; this city honestly feels so safe to be in. Jazz, jazz and more jazz. Art work in one form or another on every single surface and pieces by some of history’s greatest right on your doorstep. Fantastic architecture and magnificent buildings everywhere (I can only remember one hideous one, and even this had a certain charm amongst its older counterparts). The Florentine people: they might appear gruff on the exterior, but they are some of the most generous people you will ever meet. The food. Yes, I complained about variety, but what they do make, they make oh so well.
I wasn’t just in Florence to have fun though, I also had to work. Luckily my internship mixed the two together, and I think that’s why I learnt a great deal from it. From the moment I arrived, all of the staff at The British Institute of Florence welcomed me with open arms. Whenever I bumped in to one of them they greeted me with a smile and said ‘hi.’ This may sound stupid, but there aren’t many workplaces where you’re treated this way, especially as an intern. My main role was social media, but they allowed me to get involved with so much more. From going on the history of art visits, to attending a book launch and transcribing a documentary for the director Roger Graef. More importantly, by attending these events I was introduced to some truly amazing people; from a Scottish artist, to university lecturers, to the fantastic members of the Institute who attended events in the Harold Acton Library every week without fail.
The experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I learnt to be more independent, to be more confident, and to push myself to go well and truly beyond my comfort zone. To boot, I fulfilled one of my life dreams: to live abroad. I can now speak (or sort of) a second language, which is something I have always admired so much about others. Out of everything this was my favourite part. Learning a language in the country of its origin is a whole different kettle of fish to the way it’s taught in British secondary schools. You pick things up so much faster, because you have to, but also you can practice 24/7 if you choose. Most importantly, you learn about the culture as much as the language, and the two go hand-in-hand. I feel like I’ve left Italy having gained something priceless.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who made my time in Florence special. I don’t know if I’ll ever live permanently in Florence again, but I’m definitely not saying goodbye, just a dopo!