As the weather storms, it reminds me to keep my ‘locals I love’ series going, interviewing people who have chosen to move their life abroad and sharing their story. It helps me learn even more about people I have already met and listen to their own insights and advice on how to live happily in Italy. This weeks ‘local’ is actually the wonderful Maryanne who watches my dog, Ginger when we are away and whose sense of humor I can really appreciate (and miss from the states). Maryanne also lives in the oltrarno side of Florence and runs a pet day care, my pup is always happy to see her and play with the other dogs, trust me – she is a real find in Florence! Let’s see how she came to Florence and get a few tips for those who have pets in the city while we’re at it.
Name: Maryanne Day
Profession: Owner of a doggie day care, transport and pet care facility.
Favorite drink: licorice mojito at Art bar
What originally brought you to Firenze and why did you decide to stay
I can feel my husbands eyes rolling from here. Like almost every big decision I ever made, I gave myself two seemingly desirable options. Before I arrived, one of those was a secure, killer position in a research facility in Seattle which was my back ground and the other was an art program for leather working in Florence. I worked in research during the day and film and tv at night in wardrobe and production so both options seemed possible to me. I am one of those ridiculous people who think that if they want to be a broadway actor at 55, well, its possible. It may be a complete failure but I like getting excited about possibilities.
I was one month away from moving to Seattle when I found out I received a scholarship to the school in Florence. I quit my *not yet started* new job, put my “life” in storage and got on a hot, packed Lufthansa flight with literally hundreds of people to a country I had never been to, knew no one and didn’t speak a word of the language.
I decided to stay because I absolutely knew I made the right decision the second I called to quit my new “killer” job in Seattle. I literally would have been putting rats to sleep on a daily basis and I just couldn’t take that anymore. Everything in Italy I learned, every mistake I made, every person I heard speak, was NEW and I wanted to stay for that. You grow as a person when your terrified and over come your fears. You also grow when you experience hunger, pain and loneliness. Which I did. People always assume you stay for two things only if your a woman here. One is a man, the other is work. I guess it always offended me because both aren’t that easy to catch. Insert rolling of Lorenzos eyes here. HA HA!
Maryanne with my dog, Ginger taken by Kirsten Hills, I adore this photo!
What are you up to in Florence? Work, daily life, passions
My daily life in Florence is generally based around my business and the schedule that the animals tell me I have! We don’t leave animals alone for any unreasonable period of time so that means Im always at my shop with them, on walks, or scheduling help to stay with them when Im out. When I can schedule a free day, its very exciting for me! Seriously, I spend so much time with dogs that Florence looks new again when I go out. Chatter between friends and my husband is newly appreciated and cherished. I quite like vintage cars and scooters so we go to the different rallies when we can. We have a severe problem with sagras. Oh, sagra of cardboard boxes you say? WE WILL BE THERE! Mostly, I like to catch up with the fantastic mix of odd folks I have made friends with over the years. Then I just wait for the mille miglia to come. One of my dreams is to gather a team of women mechanics and drivers to run the rally for charity. No woman has ever won the rally much less a crew of women only. If anyone is interested, let me know!
I too would attend a sagra of cardboard boxes, sounds fun? What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth!
Georgette demanded the truth so I must give it to you! I’m over the sidewalk battles I now like to call *umbrumbles* which is simply a rumble between two people on a sidewalk with umbrellas refusing to go in either direction. All though the inability to form a line of any kind to create peace and order within any public facility still makes me grind my teeth, Im mostly bothered by the lack of humanity here in Florence. Generally, the rest of the world acknowledges you as a human being during conversation. I find that Florence is a cold, closed self serving community which only forces long term residents, citizens and new comers to fold into their own groups just as Florentines do. Florence is not the ONLY beautiful place in the world, there are thousands. So if Florentines could open their minds a bit and stop riding on the backs of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, Dante and Galileo, that would be helpful to get to know other parts of the world a bit more.
You do make some valid points. Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you?
No, I definitely don’t think its for everyone and it doesn’t always work for me. Its visually a more beautiful place to struggle than say Detroit or Syracuse, Ny for example. I force it to work for me. I always have extra odd jobs that I take on to make living here financially work. The background is nicer and you can always make Florence what you want it to be if you establish friendships and relationships. I think expats can spot someone who can generally *make it* living here and someone who “can’t” a million miles away.
What advice would you give a newbie to the city?
I didn’t speak ONE word of Italian when I arrived and I cant tell you the amount of loneliness and solitude I felt. I never studied a language and had 3 weeks to prepare before coming to Europe, however if I spoke the language, it would have made a world of difference. Also, don’t over compare where you come from to where you are now. There is no comparison. Take a break, remember your life before and ask if its really what you want. If so, Be resilient and get back up on your feet if things don’t go your way. Its Italian style and you’ll learn not take no for an answer at the questera soon enough. Find a good support system *they exist!* and remember what YOU wanted before you arrived. Then GO GET IT!
Don’t take no at the questura, SOUND advice Maryanne! Three finds/places everyone should know about in Florence?
1. There is a wonderful vintage shop located at 13r Via die Fossi. They will literally sit you down and SHOW you what looks right and what doesn’t. If you don’t like what doesn’t fit or look good, they show you to the jewelry! HA HA! I go where people are friendly and I make a habit of it. Life in Florence is easier that way.
2. Art Bar is another of my favorites. The days of drinking to excess are over and drinking for pleasure is in! These cocktails take ten to fifteen minutes to prepare and are absolutely gorgeous as well as delicious. Its one of those european moments that make you realize why you did it wrong for so many years. Drinking should be like this, full of fruit OR salt, sipped slowly between friends, then deciding where to eat dinner. Beautiful.
3. Every summer the fancy terraces of fancy hotels are open to the public. Its worth the reservation and hosts beautiful views of the city. There is a list published annually of the locations in the florentine.
I have to try that vintage shop out though I am slightly scared of what they might tell me. Any advice for dog-owners in Florence, parks you recommend, shops or rules they may not know?
Florence is a FANTASTIC place for dogs. I have clients from all over the world and everyone says how *dog friendly* Florence is. Its true, As a dog owner, I couldn’t be happier with the fact that my dog can literally go anywhere with me. Also, off the leash dogs aren’t looked down upon. Keep a reign on your well trained dog and bring him to the piazza near by. Prepare yourself for the influx of questions regarding whether or not your dog is male or female and what a world of difference that makes. *I have yet to figure that out* Test out the places near your home that allow pets *everywhere, im sure* thats a good way to start a conversation and get to know neighbors and business owners. Florentines generally love dogs and they lighten up when a dog is around.
There is a great dog park at the corner of Ponte san Niccolo and Lungarno del tempio. Its enclosed surrounded by a nice park along the arno. Complete with cafe and tables along the river for lunch. I live in S. Frediano so I find Piazza S. Spirito to be a meeting place for dogs at all times of the day. Bring your dog with you everywhere you go, its an ice breaker and where else in the world can you bring your dog literally everywhere! I highly recommend two veterinarians in town. I recommend them because of experience only and they both serve a unique purpose.
Dr. Tanzini has an impeccable standard of animal care and humanity. He does not speak English, however I recommend him highly over any other vet and has a level of integrity that you rarely see in any country these days.
Ambulatorio Veterinario Cimabue
Dott. Giampoalo Tanzini
Via Cimabue 9A. 50121
Ospedale Veterinario Petrarca
Viale Gramsci 65 50121 Firenze
Open 24 hours emergency vet.
Doctor Pellegrini speaks English and his team is available 24 hours a day for emergencies. We have had good experiences with him and he is in the city center as well as Doctor Tanzini.
What’s the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced in Italy?
I don’t think I have enough space for this answer. Things I thought were weird before, aren’t weird anymore so I have to think of recent events. There are too many small things recently to note so I’ll say the biggest thing that was weird. When I went to sign my rental agreement I specifically did not want my boyfriend on the lease. Ya know…just in case. I had NO worries about our relationship but was savvy enough to realize..hmmm..single woman here, no family, bad language, no *real*job at the time. I need a roof over my head should things go south. I might as well have been crucified for such thoughts!
There I was sitting at MY, yes, MY kitchen table, just moved in, while the land lady and my boyfriend discussed the weirdness of my request, stating that “I had bad thoughts and no positivity towards family!” to say these things. I was literally at a loss. Because it was two against one. One being a foreigner and four fingers pointing at me saying “ma Dai! Questo e molto negative allora!” I stood my ground and got my contract but I fought hard over it and was left to not “feel” but “understand” that here in florence, I was wrong. To this day our land lady still bases everything on my now husband. That’s so weird to me!!!! So weird!
Wow, what is more surprising is that this doesn’t shock me.. What can you do here and nowhere else?
I can ride my bike in 5 inch heels with a proper outfit dressed to the 9’s and nobody asks “why are you dressed up?” They only say, “you look nice!”. Now, that I LOVE!
How did you make friends and assimilate – was it difficult?
It was extremely difficult for me. I’m not super sociable and didn’t speak Italian but once I got desperate, I forced myself to go to places to meet folks. Christ. Literally, I went to an Anglo church. I’m not religious in that way so that was a stretch for me. I felt uncomfortable but that’s the point I guess. I made one or two contacts and it happened from there. It took a LOT of time. More time in Florence means having better relationships. If you live here part time, don’t expect the same. Like anywhere, really.
Florence is full of amazing food, what is your favorite dish and foodie hideaway in town?
Florence IS full of amazing food and I love all of my regular go to places that serve and thrive and do great at Italian food. However I love AL NOOR, Indian restaurant. They deliver and the delivery is just as good as their shop in s. ambrogio. They are lovely Pakistani and make the BEST Indian style food I have ever had.
I love that you know and use Al Noor! It’s one of my favorites and I have it on my list of awesome take-out delivery spots in Florence. If you had to do it again (start a new life abroad) would you and why?
Yes, I would. I would not have learned as much, met my husband, friends, started my wonderful business, etc. But Im always ready to “go and grow” So now I’m prepared to start abroad anywhere. Italy is the best place place to see if you “have the balls” or not.
If you had to make up a tagline for the city – what would it be? 😉 be creative!
Florence, A beautiful place to struggle!
One of Maryanne’s dogs enjoying the Florentine life, the treasured ‘passeggiata’
A huge thank you to the wonderful Maryanne for being so honest and open,I really this interview! If you are looking for a pet-sitter in Florence, she is the one you want to go to, check out her Florence Pet Sitting Facebook page here.
I also had to include this absolutely adorable video made by Kirsten Hills, www.hillsfilms.com and The Florentine that Maryanne used Ginger for, too adorable and shows you just how connected the local community is.