Riding my bike over the Ponte Vecchio, I stop to look across at the Uffizi Gallery or the church of San Miniato on the hill overlooking Florence, and say to myself,
I live here! This is my life!
I had, at last fulfilled my long held dream to live in Europe. Florence was my life for four incredible years. Pedaling through the streets instantly and intimately connected me with the past and present of this unique city; cycling by the palazzos, churches, museums and galleries, I admired the legacy of its long-ago Renaissance, only to have my head turned by the well-heeled Florentines popping in and out of designer stores and chic café-bars.
The life I discovered in Florence fully embraced the old and the new of the city. With my husband, Tony, and our Italian partners, I set up The Florentine, a newspaper for ex-pats living in Florence, as well as for the many English speaking tourists who visit this beguiling city every year. I was the editor-in-chief and at the center of all the action. I reveled in the opportunity to meet so many new and captivating people; excited that they all seemed to want to meet me! Everything that was enticing in the city’s history and vibrant present was waiting for me to discover and share with the readers. I had a mission, and a bike…and already more than I’d hope for.
It was usually my bicycle that transported me to the unexpected stopping points with which my life in Florence was abundant. Some days I could be seen pedaling to the office to meet my talented, confounding and gorgeous Italian business partners; or to interview politicians, designers from fashion dynasties, members of the Florentine nobility or visiting celebrities. Other times I’d throw on a black dress and saddle up to attend a special event: maybe the opening of a gallery; or a privileged sneak-peak at rarely viewed treasures in the company of distinguished patrons of the arts; or perhaps a fashion show…that I may have been officially invited to or about to crash. And, on other days, I would take a short and leisurely ride to meet my girlfriends at a piazza café or hotel roof-top bar - to talk, laugh and cry over friends, family and fashion and come up with ideas as to how we could make a difference within the Florence we loved and adored.
Every day proved an adventure; the highs were certainly high. But there were lows too, make no mistake. Saying goodbye to my husband when he returned to the US after a year, soon to be followed by my daughter Montana, was acutely painful. The trials of adjusting to this physical separation required us to re-assess our relationships and work out new (and eventually better) ways to connect, relate and share our love for each other. There were moments of real isolation, when still figuring out how I weave my way into the tightly knitted Florentine circles, I’d cry with longing for my own family and nurturing US girlfriends. On top of all this, a lack of money - to fund me and the newspaper - was a constant source of worry, requiring much juggling and negotiation. And while I was in awe of being in Italy, loving my discovery of its history, life and people, I also had to face that there were just some aspects of its culture that left me frustrated, upset and feeling far from home. Yet, those times I stopped my bike on the Ponte Vecchio and took in the wonder of it all, I had no doubt whatsoever that the highs, certainly in number, by far exceeded the lows. It is on a circuitous, and not strictly chronological, journey through both ups and downs that this book will take you.
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