Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life

Locals I Love – Jo Bertolino



Introducing this week someone I have worked with for a number of years for whom I have a ton of respect. She is full of life – a person I can only describe as solare (Italian for ‘sunny’), you can see gorgeous photos of the Tuscan weddings she does here. Her perspective is quite unique being that her father is Italian, her mother is American and she grew up mainly in Italy. Sit back, relax, grab that glass of red wine {who cares if it’s 10:30am} and get to know Jo Bertolino!

Name? Jo Bertolino (Giovanna on my ID). Nationality?  Italian-American. Job title? Translator, teacher, celebrant. Favorite drink?  red red wine!

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

I was born near Rome from an Italian father and an American mother, and have lived in Italy in various towns, including Palermo, Sicily; and for very short periods in Colorado, where my mother is from. I moved to Florence in 1979 when I was 19, so that makes it the place where I have lived the longest, namely 34 years, I’ll leave the calculation to you!

What brought you to bella Firenze and why did you decide to stay?

Right after high school in Palermo, I went to Boulder Colorado, trying to decide what to do of my life. At CU I met an Italian girl who told me about the Interpreter School in Florence, so I decided to move back to Italy, and loved Florence so much that I decided to stay. In the meantime I met the father of my two children, who are now 29 and 26; we’re no longer together, but Franco and I are great friends!

That is really interesting! What are you up to in Florence? Work, daily life, passions?

I work a lot, all through the year, what with having three jobs, there is never a dull moment. Which doesn’t leave much time for daily life! Summer is when I work most, I have a great job that puts me in contact with happy people in beautiful places on their best day! Check out what I do on I used to sing with a lovely a cappella group, the Merry Maidens, but that is on hold at the moment: I miss singing very much! I give wonderful massages, it’s something I adore doing, to friends and family. I actually took a course, it’s called Massaggio Armonico. And I offer free treatments of Applied Cosmic Energy: 3-minute treatments to balance your energy centers.

What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth!

I positively HATE the traffic, and unruly parkers who think they are smart… I try to bike everywhere, but that can prove hard too, sharing a sidewalk with hoards or tourists is not exactly easy.

Traffic in Italy is a nightmare.. I concur! Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you?

As I said, I am half-Italian, so I should be used to Italian ways, but in fact I am not. Every time I travel abroad, it’s hard to come back and accept the complication of things; I’m sure a less complicated life would agree with Italians too!

What advice would you give a newbie?

If you are planning to become a local, listen a lot, learn as much as you can, be respectful and don’t take things for granted.

Three finds/places everyone should know about in Florence?

Museo Bardini if you want to see some beautiful pieces standing off magnificently against the famous Bardini Blue; Parco di Villa di Rusciano, an unexpected view on Florence; the wonderful Art Nouveau houses on via Scipione Ammirato.

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

Hard question, I guess the lack of freedom I experienced when I was a teenager in Palermo, that’s partly why I decided to move to Florence, life was so much easier for women!


I would like to know more about your life in Palermo! What can you do in Florence and nowhere else?

I’ve never experienced a time warp like I did the first time I walked the streets of Florence, when I was 16… I truly felt I incarnated a Florentine Madonna, and I had the same experience walking the Vasari Corridor a couple of years ago.

How did you make friends and assimilate?

I went to school in Florence, so that was easy, and assimilating was not a problem for me, I am an outgoing person, and pretty enthusiastic about everything!

Favorite food {or recipe}?

I wish there was something I didn’t like, I’ve even started appreciating truffle!!!

Last but not least .. If you had to make up a tagline for the city – what would it be? 😉 be creative!

Help Florence remain Florence!

Thank you so much Jo, it was a pleasure talking to you as always! You can connect with her on facebook or her website Tuscan Pledges.

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3 Responses

  1. It’s always inspiring to read stories about individuals who have found their calling. It is obvious that Jo is extremely engaged and busy with her work. But, it appears that all of her interests have been rolled up into her “work” making it all that much more enjoyable and less like work. And no, I would never be hesitant about opening a bottle of wine at almost any time of the day 😉

Georgette Jupe

Welcome to my personal blog by a curious American girl living and working between Zug, Switzerland and Florence, Italy with my husband Nico, our newborn Annabelle and Ginger the beagle. This space is primarily to share about my love for Italy (currently on a 13 year romance) with a fair amount of real talk, practical advice, travel suggestions and adjusting to a new culture (Switzerland). Find me on IG @girlinflorence @girlinzug

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