I’ve never been happier to ring in a new decade, 2020 is the hopefully fresh breath of air we need after a trying 2019.
This past year, however horrible it was, and it really was for us, was a test in true adulting.
Of how to be there for one other in our marriage and taught me what true grief really is, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Grief, like love, changes you, but often I believe this is for the better despite the circumstances. It has made me more aware of the bullshit that preoccupied my life before and how I should be paying attention to what truly matters. Like appreciating my family, friends and erasing the fear of trying new things and going after what I want. Easier said than done, naturally.
I am a stability seeker at heart, like many who had upbringings that were anything but, however at the same time I like a good old-fashioned challenge. I’ve been lucky to have a career that is entirely self-created in Italy but I would be lying if I didn’t say that is very stressful to work for yourself and I have always been averse to asking for help and being a burden. But to grow sometimes that is exactly what you need.
So, if you love this blog and have particular stories you would like to cover, let me know by commenting on this post or emailing me. If you have advice, I’d like to hear it! I love this little space of mine which has been running since 2012 and will forever be online as long as I have the time and energy. I am extremely thankful for you guys for following our lives and being supportive through the ups and downs, thank you.
What I think is missing in many posts that talk about life in Italy is just how taxing self-employment and day to day life really is. The taxes, the hustling, affordable housing, finding your community – impossible? Heck no, difficult? Heck yes. Beware my friends of anyone telling you/trying to sell you that living here is easy. Following your dreams is a worthy goal and if Italy is that dream, wonderful, but it pays to be realistic about your possibilities and whether you can transfer your skill sets/work legally to another country. Ie: Read this post.
Expect the weather to be cold, even frigid with temperatures averaging around 45 degrees (7 celsius) with lows of 37 (3 celsius) of course you may be laughing at me from Boston, Canada or anywhere truly cold but here the houses rarely are as warm or inviting, the humidity can make it feel as if it is much colder than it actually is so pack a good coat, scarf and gloves. Today January 5th for example, it is 45 degrees farenheight (7 degrees celsius) with my fingers burning after an hour outside this morning. Many people would call this month “low season” but in reality, it is very crowded the weekend of Befana/Epiphany and the week after because of Pitti Uomo. After Pitti Uomo things do die out a bit but Florence being Florence, there are always going to be a fair number of people/groups milling about.
AS PER USUAL, A LITTLE BIT OF JANUARY 2020 LINK LOVE
- Australia is burning and myself, like many of you, is beyond horrified by the loss of life, wildlife and devastation of property etc. New South Wales has been hardest-hit, with 3.41 million hectares scorched over the past few months. In Canberra, the nation’s capital, air quality has been so bad that the postal service has stopped delivering mail. Firefighters in some areas have been forced to crowdfund for basic equipment while until recently the federal government remained steadfast in its refusal to back-pay volunteers for their time, even as the prime minister praised their “spirit” [Source]. More info on how to donate to fundraising efforts can be found here.
- I’m on the hunt for variations of minestrone, Italy’s vegetable-heavy chunky soup and this green version by food writer Elizabeth Minchilli looks deliciously healthy!
- I find the Vatican City’s official website terribly outdated (because they don’t need to upgrade, they always have visitors) but luckily this new website: Vatican Tips, is a breath of fresh air with all sorts of advice on how to plan your visit. THANK YOU!
- When it comes to 2020 workshops this one hosted by Emiko Davies, Kathryn Davey and Marta Abbott involves a few days foraging for, making and playing with natural ink and fabric dyeing in the beautiful, serene setting of one of Tuscany’s prettiest B&Bs, Valdirose, near Florence, May 20-23 2020. Seriously this would be well worth visiting for!
- Instead of traveling more often, perhaps it’s best to just travel smarter. This article offers some great tips for visiting Italy in 2020.
- Fans of Renaissance art will appreciate this fab list by ArtTrav detailing 5 exhibits in Italy worth saving in your diary for 2020!
- I always love sharing this post by Laura of the blog “My Corner of Italy” detailing all of the kinds of coffee you can find in Italy.
- Why don’t a lot of second generation immigrants in the USA speak their parent’s mother tongue? This could explain why.
- Gigi is one of my favorite bloggers and I love her keep-it-real posts like this one explaining how she DIDN’T quit her job to travel. A lot more realistic than 99% of what you see on the internet regarding traveling and blogging.
- “Did my seemingly loyal husband have a double life?”
And a special note to those of you who might be new to Italy or Florence. If you are checking out my blog for the first time, first of all benvenuta!
Feel free to browse my list of recommended eats around town here or get beyond the obvious tips on exploring the city here. I was featured last February in Forbes with tips for discovering Florence. Also, check out my work at Italy Magazine, Lonely Planet, and other publications on my press/portfolio page.
Many people extend their holiday until the Epiphany on January 6th so those who are in town should expect a crowded Florence as people come out for their daily passeggiata and enjoy the sunny, yet very cold weather along with spotting a friendly old witch “Befana” that brings nice kids candy and naughty kids coal. She also visits the vigili urbano with gifts of panettone for the local traffic cops, in fact you might see some in Piazza Repubblica on the morning of the 6th along with vintage cars!
As per tradition on Epiphany in Florence, on January 6th there will be a historical procession of the Florentine Republic including the Cavalcata dei Magi (a reenactment of the three wise men) that will leave at 2pm from Piazza Pitti to parade through the streets of the historic center, arriving around 3.30pm in Piazza Duomo, where, after the greeting of the figures, the Magi will deposit their gifts at the feet of Jesus at the Living Nativity scene.
I cannot think of a better way to reset yourself for the New Year than by planning a few self-care sessions whether it be a great massage, Pilates, yin yoga and ashtanga, meditation classes mindfulness lessons and more. Luckily my friends Relax Firenze do all of these things in a calm, relaxing environment smack dab in the center of town. If you want an intro on their classes/offerings they are hosting an open week from the 13th to the 19th of January – just call +39 055284683 to reserve your spot.
It’s time to official resurrect “Pitti the Fool” – same joke I used every year, sorry – because the Pitti fashionistas are back in town for four days from January 7-10th as part of an annual menswear trade fair at Pitti Imagine Uomo, now in its 97th edition. This time around it has been revealed that flags will provide the starting off point for the season’s proceedings. Working with the Italian photojournalist Franco Pagetti, renowned for his documentarian-styled images, his photo of a fluttering flag will be brought to life throughout the four-day-long event. Using flags as a symbol of identity, belonging, thought, and feeling, Show Your Flags at Pitti will take place at Florence’s Fortezza da Basso, with art direction by Angelo Figus and set design by Alessandro Moradei. As the 97th edition of the event, this time around the project will aim to explore the question of what is formal today, with a selection of garments and looks from Italian and international brands being displayed [source]. So while the fashion frenzy is exciting in some ways (great looking people everywhere you go) and very annoying in others (pea-cocking is rampant, traffic sucks and taxis are nonexistent, plan ahead!). Unless you work in the field, you can’t actually go to the show sat the Fortezza but there will be plenty of afterparties and men in sock-less loafers, looking fashionably chilly, as they mill about town. My advice? Get out your cameras and join the fun, I know I will! Or you can follow me on Instagram as I will attend at least one or two events for the shear voyeur-ness of it all. You can check out the full list of events on the official website here.
During Pitti Uomo 2020 The Student Hotel Florence Lavagnini will be hosting a unique edition of our signature BedTalks event featuring game changers of the fashion world. Curated by fashion and luxury expert Susanna Nicoletti, this three-day event will delve into the lesser-known facets of the industry. Tickets are available here.
- January 7 / 5-5.45pm Farah Liz Pallaro and Barbara Bonner “Beyond the Fashion Business: Fostering Creativity and Spirituality”
- January 8 / 5-5.45pm Luca Ferone – DMR and Susanna Nicoletti “Behind the Scenes: Social Media, Influencers and Return on Investment”
- January 9 / 5-5.45pm Angelo Ruggeri and Susanna Nicoletti “Life of a Shoes Designer”
Meet new people and practice your language skills at the Speakeasy Happy Hour on January 8th at Italian Tapas. It is a chance for people to get out of their usual bubbles and meet all kinds of people, practice languages, and have fun. Forty to eighty people come every week from a dozen countries. English and Italian dominate but smatterings of many other languages can be heard. The vibe is casual. 7:30-10:30pm.
Love artisan beer? Head out to a special event dedicated to the best Italian artisanal beers at “Birraio dell’Anno” from January 17th to the 19th at Tuscany Hall (reachable via the number 14 bus). Tickets cost around 10 euros and you can try upwards to a 100 different producers all in one place. More details can be found here.
On January 18th (2:30-5:30pm in Piazza di San Lorenzo) the local community will unite for the fourth annual Women’s March Florence to reaffirm our commitment to dismantling systems of oppression through nonviolent resistance. There will be live music, inspirational speeches and materials to make your own protest sign. If you’d like to make a speech yourself or participate in any way (English or Italian) we welcome your ideas.
You may not know this but during the nineteenth century, the Rificolona farmer’s market was traditionally held in Piazza SS. Annunziata on the occasion of the birth of the Virgin Mary. From 1984 onwards this tradition has seen a revival and nowadays multiple ‘Fierucole’ are being held every month, dedicated mainly to small-scale organic farming, crafts and rural life, involving small family farms and local artisans. This January, head to Piazza Santo Spirito on the 19th of January for a peek into one of my favorite, and most traditional, local markets where you can buy organic honey, kombucha, parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar, and a bit of local people-watching.
Karaoke in Florence. The fine folks of St. Mark’s Church have organised a special karaoke night at my favourite local Cafe degli Artigiani on June 19th themed around music from your favorite films or musicals! The fun kicks off at 8pm – 10:30pm
Another reason to love January is that it marks the start of “saldi” aka sales season in Italy and this is the prime time to pick up anything major you need for your house as prices are slashed all over the city (typically from 30% – 70%). It’s hard to think about spending money right after Christmas but I will say, this would be the time I would purchase pots and pans, sheets and linens, jackets and shoes (and you can see my tips in Italian for this short video for the local newspaper La Nazione!). Pickings can quickly become limited for popular shops like Cos or Coin Casa, but you’ll see discounts up until mid-february. Make sure also to pay a visit to local artisans that can’t always afford to give big discounts – you’ll find my list of recommended places here.
The British Institute of Florence offers a wide range of interesting events that are often open to the public. It’s a great way to meet people and feel part of the community (joining as a member is a great idea as well), here are some of their offerings this January.
- Jan 8th: A special concert by The Orion Piano Trio, who will play Dvorak and Smetana from 6-7pm at the Harold Acton Library
- Jan 9th: Join them for the first Afternoon Tea of the season. Tea and freshly prepared cakes and pastries will be waiting for you in the Sala Ferragamo of the British Institute library. Afternoon Tea is open to all and is from 4:30-6:30pm.
- Jan 9th: With its glistening marble, graceful tracery and soaring views the Florentine cathedral’s bell tower has summoned worshipers to the Piazza del Duomo for nearly seven centuries. Join Head of History of Art Jeremy Boudreau for the first installment of ART STORIES 2020 as we explore the building and decorative history of Giotto’s final enterprise and one of Florence’s most important monuments. 7-8pm at the Harold Acton library.
- Jan 15th: This talk will examine the contested commissioning of a mausoleum dedicated to the memory of Donato de’ Medici, Bishop of Pistoia (1436-1474). 6-7pm at the Harold Acton Library.
- Jan 16th: Visit their newly renovated Family Room on the first floor of the Library and celebrate our new Storytime season with a fun-filled afternoon of stories, games, crafts and a bingo. Come and enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake! 6-7pm!
Dozens of shoe models, from those worn by ancient Romans to those designed for Hollywood stars, are currently on display at the Museum of Fashion and Costume in Palazzo Pitti in Florence for an exhibition titled “Ai piedi degli dei,” At God’s Feet until April 2020.
Florence is now home to the longest ice skating rink in Europe (really – 300 meters ya’ll) and it is open daily from 10am to midnight. Quite honestly it looks like a barrel of fun. You’ll find it at the Fortezza di Basso’s garden area or just look up Piazzale Oriana Fallaci.
Otherwise you can head to the Firenze Winter Park basically an ice-skating rink (less impressive than the one above) and besides ice-skating they also have a fun “snow tube” experience where you can fly down a man-made ramp. Great for families or masochistic adults. Open until March this year. Costs around 8€ (per adult), + 2€ for renting the skates. you can take the number 14 bus from the center of Florence, it’s located along the river at Lungarno Aldo Moro, 7.
Every Second Sunday of the month Piazza di Santo Spirito hosts a flea/antique market from sunup to sundown. There is much to browse including old maps, doorknobs, frames, photos and furniture!
Want to meet other English moms? Join this organised meet up on January 18th at the Children’s Lending Library on Via Rucellai 9 from 4:30-6pm. Open to all, come grab a coffee and meet other international parents!
The Vintage Selection fair 35 is back from January 22-26th for a few days of vintage fashion held again at the Fortezza da Basso, in the Cavaniglia Pavilion. The entry fee is 5€ and I’d pair it with happy hour which coincidentally could be dangerous because you’ll certainly want to buy more after a drink or three. Keep in mind, animals not allowed (boo).
On Saturday January 25th and Sunday the 26th Manifattura Tabacchi, Florence’s dynamic new space, is hosting its first eco-friendly vintage shopping market hosted by German company VinoKilo. They are bringing a variety of exciting treasures from the 60’s to the 90’s (40€ per kilo) and there will be a DJ set and food/wine. This is simply awesome – I definitely want to go!
You guys may or may not know that I am a gal who loves to go to the movies and this is a great month to escape #FrigidFlorence in the comfort of one of its most magnificent cinemas smack dap in the center of town, I’m talking about the Odeon cinehall in Piazza Strozzi. This month you will find the films “Sorry We Missed You” and the blockbuster “Little Women.” The full program can be seen here. Tickets cost €9 a pop or you can take advantage of their membership of 7 cinema entries for €45,50. Movies are in their original language with Italian subtitles.