Expat Life Travelogue

Arrivederci, Florence. A Love Letter.

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Here we are!  The day I always knew was coming, but at the same time didn’t think it would actually happen.  I’ve been here before.  I remember the first time I said good-bye to Florence, Italy.  It was May 3rd, 2001.  I was 20 years old and had just finished my semester abroad, a whole 3 months of the most wonderful thing I ever did for myself.  As happy as I was to go home and see my friends and family again and get started on the rest of my life, I was also burdened with a feeling of something more than just sadness or nostalgia.  Living in Florence changed me in a very permanent way and I liked what I had become over here.  More adventurous, more laid-back, more tolerant, more enlightened, tougher, and made enough friendships and memories to last a lifetime.  My experience as a student here was a huge turning point for me.  Now I didn’t exactly know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life or what I wanted to be “when I grow up” (I still don’t), but I knew it had to involve traveling, living and working abroad, and if I was lucky enough, a return to this amazing city that I fell for, hook, line and sinker.

Living in Italy has been a dream.  But, my partner-in-crime and I have decided to move on.  We have both been here for a very long time.  We both love this city, but it really is time to go somewhere else.  In short, we have out-grown this place, as much as we love it still.

The way I feel about Florence is the way a lot of us feel about an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.  You may love that person very much for the rest of your life, but it doesn’t mean that you are in love anymore.  Maybe this has happened to some of you.  Where you are madly in love with someone for some time, and then one day you realize that you just don’t feel that same love anymore.  I feel that living in a place like Italy is a lot like being in a relationship with someone who is right for you in some ways but all wrong for you in other ways, but it’s so hard to leave that person because he or she continues to seduce you.  Then one day you wake up next to that person and realize that you no longer feel seduced, just tired of their crap, and all your flaws are not compatible with each other anymore.  This is how my fiancé and I feel about Italy now.  I feel like we are breaking up with Florence.  The love affair is over, but I will always love this place and it will always be a big part of who I have become.

photo credit:  National Geographic's Instagram

photo credit: National Geographic’s Instagram

So arrivederci, beautiful Florence.  Don’t ever change.  Ironically, part of the reason I’m leaving is precisely because I know that you won’t change.  I’ve gotten everything I can out of you and now I don’t think I can grow any more than I have here.  I’ve enjoyed wandering through your streets and alleyways, steeped in mysteries, hauntings and history.  I’ve enjoyed every Aperol spritz and glass of prosecco that I drank while watching the sun set behind the Ponte Vecchio while sitting at my favorite outdoor bar on the Arno River.

The sunset behind the Ponte Vecchio

The sunset behind the Ponte Vecchio

I have loved the most beautiful running path, leaving my house, going up the stairs past the Porta San Niccolo, and all the way up to my favorite church, San Miniato al Monte, and down the Viale Michelangelo with the sprawling city below me.   I think if I had tried to start running in an uglier place, I never would have been successful in running more than a couple of minutes, but damn you Florence, your amazing vistas made me like running.

Beautiful Florence

Arrivederci old cranky bitches that work in the Post Office where I set up my bank account and yell at me whenever I come in and ask a question.  I won’t miss you at all.  In fact I hope you step on a Lego barefoot.  But at the same time, thank you for making me one tough bitch as well.  Now when someone is mean to me like you were, I don’t get scared or nervous.  I yell back and damn straight, I get my answers from bitch-faces like you.  So there.

Arrivederci Duomo.  Arrivederci Ponte Vecchio.  Eight years living here, and you still take my breath away when I look at you.

Arrivederci over-crowded, tiny grocery stores.  I won’t miss shopping at you either.  But I will miss how cheap the food costs and above all how tasty it was.  You can keep your elbow-ing old nonnas and pissy, unhelpful cashiers though.

How I always feel at an Italian grocery store:  Errybody get out of my fookin' way!

How I always feel at an Italian grocery store: Errybody get out of my fookin’ way!

Arrivederci to my favorite pizzeria.  I have sworn that I would make a special trip to Italy just to eat the Pizza Scuiè-Scuiè, and I probably will keep that promise.

La Scuiè-Scuiè at Tarocchi.  Nothing comes close.

La Scuiè-Scuiè at Tarocchi. Nothing comes close.

Arrivederci to one of my favorite little lunch spots in Sant’Ambrogio market, with Rocco, the adorable little old guy who calls everyone Amore and in-between carrying plates out to his customers, he goes in the back to either grope someone, take a drag of his cigarette or a big swill of cheap red wine.  Sometimes all three at the same time.  I love him.

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Arrivederci to Vivi Market, the place that made me survive all my serious ethnic food cravings in the land of simple carbohydrates.  Thank you for selling me tortillas, sweet potatoes, avocados, peanut butter, maple syrup, oatmeal and thai chili paste.  I would not have made it here if it wasn’t for you.

Arrivederci to all the old people of Florence who walk their dogs at all hours and then never pick up after them, leaving the rest of us to dodge your little land mines that your dog left behind.  I will not miss you.  And you will probably never learn.

Arrivederci, San Niccolo neighborhood.  I loved living here so much.  The apartment was small, cramped, unbearably hot in summer, full of mosquitos and the noise outside was loud as hell, but I loved it.

Through the tower of San Niccolo after the rain. Sigh.

Through the tower of San Niccolo after the rain. Sigh.

Arrivederci, favorite bicycle.  A horrible scum-bag stole you from me, and then we found you on the street, tied to a pole with a crappy lock, and we stole you back.  Thank you for getting me to all my places that I have to go, sometimes barely on time.  Thank you for resisting the abuse I put you through when I was always 5 minutes late for work and I would ride like a bat out of hell over what seemed to be every pothole and lose cobblestone in this town, running over unsuspecting tourists who would just stop in the middle of the street for no reason.  I loved that, that was awesome.  I named you Beyonce because you were black, beautiful, and according to Keith, looked like a lot of fun to ride! 🙂

My faithful steed

My faithful steed

Arrivederci charming town.  You stunner you.

Arrivederci to some of the most simply delicious and deliciously simple food I have ever had.  There is almost no way in hell I will be able to replicate anything I had here anywhere else because Italy just grows better vegetables than anywhere else.  All other tomatoes will pale in comparison.

Beccelli e Pecorino... Fava beans with Pecorino and Olive oil, my favorite Tuscan appetizer.

Baccelli e Pecorino… Fava beans with Pecorino and Olive oil, my favorite Tuscan appetizer.

Arrivederci best coffee in the world.

Arrivederci horrible Tuscan bread that is dry, tastes like styrofoam and makes me choke.

Arrivederci rolling Tuscan hills.  The past eight years on two wheels have been an amazing way to get to know you.  Thank you for kicking my ass so many times.

Rolling Tuscan hills... or commonly known on a bike as ass kickers you'll never forget.

Rolling Tuscan hills… or commonly known on a bike as ass kickers you’ll never forget.

Arrivederci stifling and crippling bureaucracy.  You are the main reason I am leaving and I hope that one day when I come back to visit, you will have changed, or even gone away.  It is the one thing that was impossible for me to accept here.  At first it was something I took in stride until I realized how bad it is for the young people who live here.  How can you make it so hard for your own young people to grow up and do something they really love and showcase their talents?  How can you say “no” to so many people so many times?  How can you make someone pay 65% of their income in taxes, or make someone take out a loan to pay for their taxes?  How can you make it impossible for someone to be successful?  I will never understand that.  I’ll come back, maybe after the revolution.

Arrivederci awesome weather, splendid seasons and Mediterranean breezes.

Arrivederci rude people who work in stores, restaurants, offices, banks, post offices, and gas stations.  It’s called Customer Service.  Learn it.  Live it.  Love it.

Arrivederci relaxed way of life.  It’s been great.

Saddest of all, arrivederci, amici.  The friends I have had and the friends I still have.  The ones that started out here in Italy with me and the ones I am leaving behind.  Friends from Backroads whom I seldom see but always remember, friends and acquaintances I have met along the way who have celebrated birthdays and holidays with me, and to the best bunch of friends and colleagues a girl in Firenze could ask for, the crew at Walkabout Florence.  Saying good-bye to you is the hardest part. It’s not really good-bye, it’s just arrivederci.  Until we meet again.

The Crew at Walkabout Florence... I miss you guys!!!

The Crew at Walkabout Florence… I miss you guys!!!

I’ll be back to visit and for vacations of course… and if we decide to move back, it’s somewhat comforting to know that we will find you exactly the way we left you.  Partially stuck in the 15th century and only slightly in the here and now, with new cafe’s, restaurants and bars to grab our attention as always.  I loved living in Italy.  I love Florence.  I’ll miss it so much.

Hittin' the road.  See ya Florence!  Thanks for the good times.

Hittin’ the road. See ya Florence! Thanks for the good times.

“But the time now has come and the road has begun to move beneath my feet…” -Amos Lee

And now… A One Way Ticket to Ireland!

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    angelarsalazar
    March 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Best of luck on your new adventure(s)! You amaze me and I can’t wait to hear about all things Ireland–though Florence will miss you greatly!

  • Reply
    Jesse
    March 28, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    Awesome post, Bea!!

  • Reply
    sheninejoon
    April 1, 2014 at 5:18 am

    I can vouch for those damn mosquitos. Bastards! Love this post, excited to hear about your new adventures in Ireland!

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