Locals I Love is back (yay) and this week I am interviewing a close friend of mine who I have been itching to feature here for some time. Julia from South Korea, my German friend Coco and I, your resident ‘Tuscan Texan’ often have girly lunches or international aperitivi at each other’s houses. We all come from vastly different areas of the world, do completely different jobs, which makes the fact that we have so much in common, even more interesting. I love these girls like my sisters and Julia is one of those super talented artists that makes you want to take up a passion in the arts. Hopefully I can mildly coerce her after a bottle of wine to do a photo-blog of some of her awesome works for GirlInFlorence. Let’s get to know my shy, beautiful friend and her thought’s about life in Florence.
Name: Julia Park
Favorite drink: wine, tea
How long have you lived in Florence and Where are you from?
I came from the city of Seoul, capital of South Korea. Before, I studied graphic design and worked in Korea teaching art to younger students but now live in Florence to continue my art studied. I’ve been here for six years (wow) and for me, life here is always continuing.
What brought you to beautiful Florence, and why did you decide to stay?
You know, I still haven’t finished my studied here (which is very Italian, I know) which means I still have to stay some more. But because of love, I could stay in Florence perhaps forever, only time will tell because at the end of the day work is what will keep me here or send me away.
Since I am still a student, I spend a lot of time studying. When I need a break, I take a walk in the center of Florence, meet with friends, play with my cat called ‘Leopold’ and when I can, I travel. I have passions for painting, music, fashion and food. All things that in Italy it is easy to fall in love with.
What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth
The main thing is probably my permesso di soggiorno process (permit to stay) because unfortunately I am not part of the EU. Even though I have to renew every year as a student, which at this point should be fairly straightforward – instead there are always problems, I never know what to expect anymore. Last time when I renewed my visa, I was never notified when it was ready, I just sort of had to ‘guess’ when to come pick it up. Also if I am 100% honest, the university system here has a lot of issues. Just imagine plenty of disorganization and rudeness. I am Korean but often they refer to me as ‘Chinese’ and speak to me in a manner that isn’t really necessary. Often professors don’t show up to class or change the class location last-minute and it is hard for students to get the information, it is also very difficult to get any one-on-one time with professors.
Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you?
I don’t think it as at all the right place for everyone. Obviously in my case, I must finish my studies but I really think that for those who desire to live and work in Italy,, they need to think about all of the seemingly small but important everyday things that involves living in a foreign place. Life here, especially in Florence can be very expensive. Also finding a good, steady job is extremely difficult. Many people are not paid very much and that can strongly affect your quality of life.
What advice would you give someone who has just arrived?
Well I think the main thing is learn to be open and trust. Italians are very nice and generous so if you are in trouble, they will often try to help, which is so valuable. Also Italian food is so wonderful, you will find yourself thinking, dreaming, imagining your next meal. I think we all become a bit like that. So try everything, even if you have no idea what it is. Also don’t forget that gelato is acceptable any time during the day so buon appetito! Also don’t even get me started on wines from Tuscany..
Great advice! What are three places that everyone should know about in Florence?
I know it sounds cliché, but the Duomo cathedral is something that cannot be missed. When you first turn the corner and see it in front of you, it is nothing short of amazing. Also literally because it is the center point of the city. Centuries of history that every visitor should take a little time to learn about before they come to truly cherish the experience of exploring it the first time, check out this short documentary about the dome on National Geographic, it is hard to imagine that Filippo Brunelleschi was able to build this dome (with no central support system) which no-one had done before.
Also everyone should visit the central market near San Lorenzo where you can pick up fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish and then hop on up to the first floor to try Italian specialties in a new fancy food court. It is really wonderful because visitors can have access to so many tasty Tuscan foods all in one spot, fresh pasta, fresh fish, mozzarella, gelato, wine from Chianti, Tuscan meats and traditional dishes, organic products and much more!
Also a short walk from the center will take you to the majestic Palazzo Michelangelo, Florence’s panoramic spot which leaves everyone speechless. If you go a little further up, you can visit San Miniato al Monte church which probably has am even better view, with fewer people.
What is the weirdest thing you have seen or experienced in Italy?
I would probably say the amount of gypsies and people in the street asking for money, which for me as increased a lot since I have been here. Sometimes walking in the narrow streets of the city at night, I don’t always feel that secure so I always tell people to pay attention to their bags, especially on the train or bus. Especially right now that spring is coming and thus more tourists are arriving, there is a higher risk of being pick-pocketed.
What can you do here, and nowhere else?
The fortune of living in the historical center which means I have close contact with so much valuable art is wonderful. It sometimes feels like a dream to wake up in the morning and realize that I live alongside these works of art, especially for art student like me is an amazing experience. Also by living in the oldest areas of the city, it means I often stumble upon historical shops and feel like I really live like the Italian lifestyle.
Favorite Food? It doesn’t have to be Italian.
I like all Italian food, and if I am honest I do not miss Korean food, the typical Florentine specialties are my favorite. I adore the pasta here, there are so many interesting variations and the meat is excellent here, although sometimes a good American takeaway from Starbucks is something I miss (don’t judge me).
If You Had to make up a tagline for the city – what would it be? 😉 Be creative!
visit, taste and love our petite florence!
Thank you Julia for taking the time to answering my questions, you are a sweetheart and I appreciate your honesty. Keep in touch with Julia on instagram where she continues to make me hungry daily.