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Locals I Love – meet Gina Baxter

gina

(That’s me with a very tasty beer in my hand at Eataly in Bologna.)

This week’s local I love is Gina Baxter – California girl turned tour guide, study abroad office assistant, waitress extraordinaire. She is a hard worker and a lover of animals, especially now that just got an adorable new {rescue} puppy! I met her a few years ago through my friend Gianna, another local i love :-). She has an incredible wit and is a great writer , plus … she makes a mean salsa dip which obviously is the number one way to win me over.

Let’s get to know Gina! 

Details:

Nationality: Mixed American (I’ve got interesting roots…Mexican, Russian, Native American, Canadian..you name it, I’ve probably got it somewhere in my family tree.)

Profession: Writer, waitress/bartender/cocktail enthusiast, occasional tour guide and world dominator. Sometimes in my spare time I make money, too.

Favorite Drink: Tequila. And beer. Obviously.

How long have you lived in Florence and where are you from originally.

I’ve lived in Florence permanently since 2010, although I’ve spent the past 5 years traveling back and forth between California and here. I was born in the armpit of San Diego county, and lived for about 5 years in Orange County, so I am very much a southern Californian at heart.

HA! The armpit of San Diego needs a little love too, eh? What brought you to bella Firenze and why did you decide to stay

I decided to come to Florence in the summer of 2008 after a friend of mine told me about a month-long program my university was doing in Italy. I ended up doing the program, going back to California, working my ass off for 6 months and coming back to Florence to study for 6 more months and see if I liked living here. I’m not sure that I “decided” to stay, but that Florence decided that I should stick around a little while longer. It’s been working pretty well for me so far.

What are you up to in Florence? Work, daily life, passions?

I’m currently trying to write a book about life here in Florence, so I spend as much time as I can just living, experiencing, and writing it all down in my spare moments. Daily life means working for the man, so I am pretty busy most days with my various jobs, but I do have a new passion in my life: my little rescue pup, Zola (full name Gorgonzola) that I adopted a few weeks ago. She’s such a rad dog, and she keeps me pretty entertained so that I don’t just sit around with my thumb up my butt all day. She’s a good little motivator to get out there and enjoy life.

(Pictured: The fantastic Miss Zola!)

That is one book that I cannot wait to read. What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth! 

Where do I even begin? The insane heat in the summer, the heaving masses of tourists making it impossible to walk around during the day, tiger mosquitos that only come out at 3 AM when you’re trying to sleep, people who don’t pick up their dog poop on the sidewalks, drunk Australians passed out on my doorstep…the list goes on. Luckily, I happen to have an extraordinary amount of patience for the insanely stupid things in life, so most days I find all of these things quite amusing.

Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you?

That’s an interesting question. I think that most people have this perception that people who live here are on some kind of perma-vacation.  Once you break that bubble, Italy becomes a reality.  Bills, jobs, family obligations–they’re all still there. It works for me because I am already content with myself and where I’m at in my life.  You know the old saying, “Wherever you go, there you are” ?  Italy’s kind of like that.  It’s a beautiful place, inside and out, but unless you make a choice to accept both the positives and negatives of the place, you’re never going to be really happy. Also, you probably won’t like living here if you don’t like loud noises, weird inappropriate gestures or invasion of personal space, crowds, or ridiculous people.

I really like that quote. I think you have a very healthy way of looking at life. What advice would you give a newbie?

Be patient, be kind. If you’ve never lived in a cosmopolitan city before, then Florence might startle you a bit with its rudeness. It’s a hard place to break into, but once you’re there, it’s amazing.

Three finds/places everyone should know about in Florence?

Well I don’t really like giving away my Florence secrets to people I’ve never met, but since you asked:

1. Visit the ortolana on Via dei Cerchi for the most amazing, fresh produce in Florence.

 

2. Take a drive or, if you’re insane like me, go for a run up the Viale that takes you to Piazzale Michelangelo. There are some beautiful views from up there, and if you follow the road all the way up past San Miniato, you’ll hit Forte di Belvedere which is pretty cool to visit too.

 

3. Stay up all night and visit the Duomo late or early in the morning when there’s no one there. You can do a cartwheel on the steps of one of the most famous churches in the world and nobody cares. It’s awesome when it’s not overrun by people.

(Firenze: Ti voglio bene!)

What’s the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced in Italy?

Oh god, there are so many things. Cultural things, like naked people on the beaches or old men in Speedos, or purely insane things, like people pooping on the floor in bar bathrooms or old ladies in fur coats during the middle of summer. Some of my most hilarious moments in life have happened while living in Italy.

Woah, wait a second right there. Pooping on the floor in the bar bathroom? I guess that’s one way to ‘leave your mark.’ What can you do here and nowhere else?

Pee outside next to a dumpster that also happens to be around the corner from Dante’s house. JUST KIDDING (well, kind of.) There’s a lot of cool shit here in Florence, from the history to the architecture or the art. Florence has a pretty amazing past, and it’s nice to be a part of it, even if it’s only for a short while.

How did you make friends and assimilate?  

My boyfriend is a very social guy, so once I started hanging out with him and his friends, the door just kind of opened and I started making friends from all different walks of life.  Learning the language definitely helped, and so does working in a bar. I’m not sure I’ve quite “assimilated” to the whole place–I’m still very much a California girl at heart, and I will rock my flip-flops with pride even in the middle of winter and the accusing stares of little old Italian nonnas–but I’ve definitely made a bunch of great friends and met some interesting people along the way.

(right: chest-bumping at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. left: Planking at a villa in the Tuscan countryside)

Favorite food {or recipe}?

Italian food? Sunday morning food? Tuscan food? Hangover food? I love all kinds of food–I’m a closet fatty. Don’t really have a favorite recipe, but give me a plate of panzanella or fresh schiacciata with olive oil and salt and I’ll go nuts over it. I also love anything barbecued and my friends who let me hang out on their terraces and use their grills for family dinners

If you had to make up a tagline for the city – what would it be? 😉 be creative!

Florence: The City That Winks At You, But Not In That Creepy Molester Way

(That’s me, walking the streets of Florence. And that is an old dude on the right scratching his boob while wearing plaid. I told you this city was weird.)

Check out Gina’s Blog “Diaries of a Tour Guide’,  and you can follow Gina on twitter here and stay tuned about her book about Florence – or rather, I will and just tell you all when it’s completed ;-).

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0 Comment

  1. Jaime Lynn (@laviejaime)
    07.08.2013 at 15:19

    san miniato al monte and piazzale michelangelo are so beautiful…must see views!

  2. Gil
    07.08.2013 at 21:42

    Great post! Is the Pisa picture missing or is it my computer?

    1. ggnitaly84
      08.08.2013 at 0:14

      what pisa pic?

      1. Gil
        08.08.2013 at 0:19

        See: Caption under picture in this area: How did you make friends and assimilate?

  3. cnels2
    23.10.2013 at 4:37

    My impressions of Florence have been expanded thanks to you:) I was highly entertained while reading this post and I thank you! Just got back from Italia and Florence was awesome!!!

    1. ggnitaly84
      23.10.2013 at 9:57

      thank you!