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Locals I Love – Corinna ‘Coco’ Matthes

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Locals I Love is back, this time I interviewed someone I personally know very well who has recently taken the plunge to move her whole life to Florence, Italy from Berlin, German. Have you ever met one of those souls who are just amazing and almost divinely meant to be in your life? Coco is one of those people for me, she has been there for me for all of my own Florentine ups & downs and even showed me around Berlin a few years ago, such a sweetheart! She took some time to answer my questions {and gave some great advice} and without further ado, let’s get to know my German schwester aka sorella.

Important details

Name: {Corinna Matthes (a name that I’ve nearly forgotten, because everybody accept my mum calls me Coco)

Nationality: German

Work: Receptionist (& more) in a very cute B&B, Villa Landucci.

How she describes herself: creative mind, photographer

Favorite Drink: Everything with Tequila and of course un bel Cappuccino ;-)

 

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

Let’s start with the easier part of your question: I’m originally from Germany, just refer to this famous quotation of J.F.Kennedy: “Ick bin ein BERLINER!”, I’m a 100%, a Berlin girl, from the eastern part of Berlin (for the ones who are interested in history) and it wasn’t simple for me to leave this beautiful city behind me.

My first time in Florence was in 2000 during a school trip… seven years later I decided to return to this little Italian town for my studies with the help of the ERASMUS-Program. This period changed my whole life…I met the man of my dreams, also fell in love with Firenze and the Italian Culture (including the divine FOOD & WINE) in general and after having finished my studies at Berlin I finally moved to Florence this year! So you could call me an “old Newbie”

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I think many can relate to what brought you here and Berlin is such an amazing city, I can see why it would be hard to leave! What brought you to bella Firenze and why did you decide to stay?

I always wanted to live abroad, don’t ask me why but since I was 12 years old I was dreaming about that, sul serio! Why I have chosen Firenze was because of its beauty and history that is hidden behind every angle. My first impression of Florence was the breath-taking view from Piazzale Michelangelo and every time I go up there I fall in love again and again. I decided to stay because my future-husband lives here (after nearly 5 years of long-distance relationship, I’m so fed up with this ‘there and back’ lifestyle all the time, bastaaaaaaa!!!) and also because my Italian is at least at this moment better than his German ;)

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I was there when you two meet, sweet memories! What are you up to in Florence? Work, daily life, passions?

How I just mentioned above, I work in a very cute Bed & Breakfast, Villa Landucci, in Florence for a fantastic woman Debora – the owner of this little gem. I started to work there only one month ago and I love it! You cannot imagine how much you have to do to run even a tiny B&B with only 5 rooms.

Everyday you meet new wonderful people from all over the world which are your guests for a few days and you could help them get to know Florence a little bit better. I love to help people, you can ask everyone who knows me, but sometimes I’ve learned – you have to be more selfish and care about yourself every once in a while.

When I need some time to myself, I just escape into the Tuscan hills with my camera in my purse and take a long walk with some hopefully beautiful views. But don’t think that I’m an antisocial person, I’m the opposite! I love to hang out with friends & my new italian family. I love to cook and especially I love to make desserts (like cakes, cookies, muffins, traditional italian dolci ecc.), you could call me the “Queen of Sweetness” :D

 

I am so happy for you and I can personally attest to your ‘dolce’ making ability. Ps. My birthdays in July ;-). What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth!

I don’t want to claim that everything isn’t how I’ve expected it by comparing it to my experience in Berlin, because that wouldn’t feel right or fair! But there are still some things that I cannot manage with my German mentality. I will only say: Florentine bus drivers and the public transport in general, disorganization in all kind of situations and a lack of bicycle paths and wide sidewalks in the city. But don’t forget that I love ITALY, especially Florence!!

 

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

Starting a new life in Italy is definitely not for everyone. You have to have “palle” [Italian word for balls] and a lot of patience to survive here! When I first got to Florence, I experienced a total culture shock…I thought people on the streets were fighting just because they were talking to each other so loud that everyone could hear them, instead they were talking about the bad weather or about the annoying neighbour that doesn’t clean the stairs like he should. Another lesson I had to learn was to spend nearly 30% of my life running from one office to another because in Italy in general the word “organisation” isn’t part of the vocabulary. But however living in Florence does work for me because I love challenges and I’m very open-minded and also a little bit crazy…Which you kind of have to be

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We are so alike its scary ;-). I thought my Italian ex-boyfriend parents were constantly arguing but instead they were just talking about food or whatever. Hilarious! What advice would you give a newbie?

I would say: Don’t have too high of expectations if you really want to live here because I’m sure you would be a little bit upset about the reality of italian life in Florence. It’s not always the famous “dolce vita”, instead it’s really hard to find a well-paid job, an acceptable apartment with an affordable rent that you don’t have to share with 5 other people. But if you really have the dream to live in Italy/Florence once, you can do it, you only have to go through a really hard-working process to fix everything in your new home-town and don’t forget that you will miss your family and friends that you leave behind…I know that all too well.

 But don’t worry you will make new friends who will become your “family” in Florence!! Maybe the first time you could come to Florence try doing a language course. By the way, according to my experience, knowing ITALIAN is a very important aspect for your permanent stay in Florence, especially for finding a job and making (italian) friends ;) So, what are you waiting for??

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Three finds/places everyone should know about in Florence?

That’s a really difficult question, because there are so many places in Florence you should check out!

a) One of my favourite Cafés is “La Cité” in Borgo San Frediano, 20! Here I had the best Hot Chocolate in Italy and while sipping your hot or cold drink you could read a book out from their library, play any kind of game or simply listen to their chill music.

b) If you are searching for a breath-taking view far from the tourist crowds at Piazzale Michelangelo than take the bus number 7 directed to FIESOLE and have a 10-minutes-walk up to the monastery of San Francesco. It isn’t only a good work-out but the silence and peace you feel up there together with the wonderful view over Florence and the Tuscan hills are totally ‘affordable!’

c) One of my favourite places in Florence is “Piazza Santa Croce” and its beautiful church. Here you can sit on stone benches and have your afternoon snack while observing tons of people crossing the piazza and taking pictures. I love to do that all the time, especially when the sun is out and shining.

 

Brava Brava Brava, couldn’t have said better myself! What’s the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced in Italy?

My only answer is: an invitation for a glass of red wine that ended up in a weird foot-massage…if anyone wants to know details…just…please…don’t ask…I don’t want to remember myself. 

 

I think you just made my day {and week} with that answer, I love you Coco! What can you do here and nowhere else?

You can decide at 11p.m. to eat a delicious ‘bombolone’ or ‘cornetto alla crema’ if you know the secret bakeries in town which work all night long ;) — in fact, I would work there too, if I could take my 10 pastries for free at home to have a long breakfast. 

 

How did you make friends and assimilate?

My first year in Florence I made many international friends through the Erasmus-program, going to parties, events or even by searching for a room! I get to know my better half on one of the best birthday-parties hosted by a crazy but very nice English guy (A big “Thank you” to Ben for the invitation!!!). In addition I have to recommend the events of YELP (the community-manager of Florence is our wonderful Kristina), a very interesting organisation in Florence where you can meet wonderful people from all over the world and try so many new locations (pubs, restaurants, gelateria, shops etc.), just check out their homepage!

I also started to take part of a very nice GOSPEL CHOIR directed by the fabulous Nehemiah H. Brown and met so many wonderful people who love to sing, like me, and transport a message to the crowd through their music. By the way, we are desperately looking for locations where we can organize our concerts without paying any kind of contribution or rent, so don’t hesitate to contact me, also if you want to join us à our rehearsals are every Wednesday starting at 8 p.m. at a small ‘circolo’ in the area of Firenze Rifredi.

 

Favorite food {or recipe}.

I love food in general…and that’s also one reason why I’m in Italy because here you have the best food in the world referring to the favourite phrase of my future father-in-law: “Come si mangia in Italia, non si mangia da nessuna parte!”.

Besides Italian food (favourite: FAGIOLI ALL’UCCELLETTO) I also love Indian dishes (Favourite: CHICKEN CURRY with Naan bread), the spicy Thai Cuisine (Favourite: TOM KHA GAI) and sometimes also SUSHI, especially the California Roll, yum!

 

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

My dear Florence, you might be tiny, but you have sooooo much to offer!

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A big thank you Corinna, Coco, sorella mia for answering questions that I am sure you are asked every single day at the B&B.

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There are 8 comments

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  1. Kaley

    I love that saying of her father-in-law’s, because they say it in Spain too: “Como en España no se come en ningún sitio”!!

    • Cindy

      Es la verdad! Yo aprendi a comer en espana. Pero aprendi como amar en italia. No creo que es una casualidad que tantas muchachas se enamoran del hombre Italiano!!!

    • GirlinFlorence

      Thanks for commenting! I also think they are very brave, especially in a very challenging-to-find-decent-work place like Italy, its very interesting for me as well!


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