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Locals I Love – Alexandra Lawrence

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While it’s taken me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things regarding my Locals I Love series – interviewing people I know who live and work in Florence and around Italy. I am super happy to finally interview Alexandra Lawrence, a wonderful art guide who I met via The Florentine, and who has shown me the Vasari Corridor and how to paint frescoes, two amazing days that I will never forget and which have provided me with much more Florentine street ‘cred’. She is a person who knows her stuff and makes art fun for anyone, even for someone like me – who must be the only person in Florence to not have studied art & art history. Without further ado, let’s talk to Alexandra!

Name: Alexandra Lawrence- Nationality: American – Profession: this is a tricky one! Depending on the day I can say that I am a guide, university instructor, editor or translator. Favorite drink: Negroni sbagliato

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

I have lived in Florence for the better part of 15 years. There was a short stint in the middle when I went back to the States for further study but my heart was always here. I was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in Sonoma, California before attending university in Charleston, South Carolina. I went to grad school in San Francisco. These are my cities.

Both very beautiful places Charleston and San Francisco, you are a lucky girl! What brought you to bella Firenze and why did you decide to stay

Alex 1I studied here as an undergraduate. From the second I stepped off the plane I knew this was where I wanted to live my life; even the way the garbage bins opened thrilled me! Of course I was also thrilled by the beauty, but I even loved the smell of the tap water, everything. I knew I wanted to work in study abroad, so after I graduated I came back to Tuscany—following a six month stint as an au pair high in the Pistoia hills I moved back to Florence and started working in international education administration.

Even the smell of the tap water? Now that’s pushing it ;). What are you up to in Florence? Work, daily life, passions?

I’m up to a lot…Florence offers a lot of opportunities for a person like me who is curious about art, language, culture and history! I have been lucky to be able to focus my guide work on leading very small groups; I love the interaction that comes with looking at art with different people every day. I also started an initiative with The Florentine, called “So You Think You Know Florence?” which includes visits to some of the lesser known places in town—there are so many wonderful stories to tell!

It must be said, though, that my biggest passions are my two Florentine boys: my 4-year-old son Giacomo and his babbo, Francesco. We have a good old-time together.

Props for being able to juggle a lot of amazing things, you inspire me! What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth!

The everyday aggressions are a bit tiresome, I’ll admit. Getting elbowed when picking my kid up from school, for example; surely they can’t be in that much of a hurry?

Elbows are the ‘human bumper’ in Florence. Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you?

No, life in Italy is definitely not for everyone though I would never discourage anyone from giving it a try. It works for me because I happen to enjoy a challenge.

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Same here! What advice would you give a newbie?

Learn Italian. Don’t be lazy about the language, it will reward you in so very many ways.

Three finds/places everyone should know about in Florence?

The frescos in the Chiostro degli Aranci at the Badia Fiorentina.
Betty Soldi’s And Company on via Maggio—the coolest store in town.
Trattoria Armando on Borgo Ognissanti.

I don’t know any of these places and now you have just given me more fun things to discover, you rock! What’s the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced in Italy?

I have never been able to get over the beach ritual here. Honestly, the outfits, the kids changing their suits after every swim, the regulated water time…the whole thing freaks me out.

Um yeah I use one bikini a day when swimming, changing after every swim? really? What can you do here and nowhere else?

Yesterday I had a meeting at the Società Dantesca amidst 14th century frescos, popped into the Palatine Gallery to do some reconnaissance for an upcoming visit, and had tea with a friend whose bilingual book of poetry I will be presenting next month. I am not sure that I could have had that kind of day in another city.

Florence is absolutely amazing just for that reason, you can live an extraordinary life if you are ok with not making really good money. How did you make friends and assimilate?
I’ve made most of my friends through work and through other friends; being a mom has also opened up new opportunities for assimilation.

Favorite food {or recipe}


I could eat the schiacciata from Guasti every day of my life.

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Thank you so much Alexandra for letting me pick your brain a bit, I know you are super busy. Connect with her on twitter or see what’s next on her ‘So you think you know Florence’ fun tours around town – I can personally say the tours are intriguing, interesting and fun! She 100% has my stamp of approval :).

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There are 19 comments

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    • ggnitaly84

      More normal than you think, I find all sorts of strange things beautiful that perhaps I never noticed before. it’s the Florence ‘effect’. You are a great interviewee, I am psyched to check out your 3 suggestions around Florence!

    • ggnitaly84

      Thanks Lucy :). I think its really important to share the lives of real people who actually live & work in Florence like her! Plus you are spot on with the Claire Danes comparison, I think so too!

  1. msellick

    Thank you four posts, blogs etc which I really enjoy and keep my memories of Firenze alive. Have you considered interviewing Freya Middleton, Freyas Florence Tours? We had two fabulous art tours with her.

    Keep up the great posts etc.

    Maureen Sellick

    From: Girl in Florence Reply-To: Girl in Florence Date: Wednesday, 29 January 2014 5:26 pm To: maureen Sellick Subject: [New post] Locals I Love ­ Alexandra Lawrence

    WordPress.com ggnitaly84 posted: ” While it’s taken me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things regarding my Locals I Love series – interviewing people I know who live and work in Florence and around Italy. I am super happy to finally interview Alexandra Lawrence, a wonderful art”

    • ggnitaly84

      Hey no problem! The great thing about living in Florence is that you can really meet amazing people from all over the world, its my favorite kind of educated melting pot of a city.

  2. Teresa

    Guarda bella Alex! I got to know her while taking classes to become a certified city guide of Florence, she definitely is one of the best tour guides around. Ciao, che bel blog che hai, un sacco di consigli anche per chi già conosce Firenze. A presto, Teresa


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