Girl in Florence aka Georgette Jupe

I started this blog as a writing outlet for me to share what it is I adore about the beautiful city of Florence and Italy also sharing travel tips and stories along the way. Now 'Girl in Florence' includes advice for Florence, artisan features, interviews with locals, tips for life in Italy and travel posts from all over Europe. I'd love to think of myself as a fearless badass but If I am keeping it 100% real on this blog a quote that I sort of live by is"I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I hope you enjoy this journey with me.

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Moving to Switzerland from Florence, a few thoughts

01.08.2020 14 Comments

The day I found out we were possibly moving to Switzerland it was a cold day in the French mountain town of Ax-Les-Thermes. It was late February and Nico and I were on a short trip to his childhood vacation home in the mountains, a beloved place of low-ceilinged bedrooms and walks to the chairlift. I was on a mission to learn how to ski and had signed up for a few days of skiing lessons with a chain-smoking tan ski instructor named Matthieu who taught me how turn my skis without killing myself and made me feel almost as if I could tackle a blue slope (intermediate) on my own. After one particular difficult day on the slopes Nico stared at his phone intently on the faded couch seat by the fireplace and said “they accepted my offer.”

Right then, time seemed to stop immediately.

The coronavirus was known at the time but in Italy it was thought to be concentrated mostly in the north and essentially under control. Everything happened so fast, from the first moment we even heard of a possible “Patient one” in Codogno to the feeling that things were getting darker, much quicker, than anyone had anticipated. If you read my posts from that time, you can see how quickly we went from “I think we’re fine…” to no, it’s really not.

At this time in late February I wasn’t yet convinced that the world would change or maybe it was just a bit of old-fashioned denial. When it came to discussing the possibility of moving it wasn’t completely out of the blue but it was a conversation we had started last year. We had talked about different opportunities that could be on offer for Nico in regards to work and came to the realization that we had to be open to leaving Italy as hard as that would be. 

Truth be told, I didn’t think it would happen or more likely that we would spend some time in France if anything was to truly transpire. However, as 2020 has proved to us all, life can be utterly and completely unpredictable and sometimes the best way to prepare for that eventuality is to simply adapt, react and embrace. That has been my survival motto for life but we had grown quite comfortable in our existence in Florence. I had carved out a career created from a pathway of blood, sweat (from walking up three flights of stairs daily) and permesso-di-soggiorno tears and I certainly did not feel ready to give that up in any capacity.

Switzerland, however, was on the horizon. Oh, and not any of the areas where we could actually speak the language (Italian French etc.) this was going to be in the Swiss German area where we both of us were starting from zero. Damn. you. Nico. 

Before we came to Zug — land of Bitcoin, lazy afternoons at the lake and an extraordinary number of Porsche automobiles. I hadn’t even set foot in the country save for a trip to Zurich airport. I do remember telling Nico that if I had to live in any airport this would be the one. Oh baby, if there was a f***, marry and kill version of airports. Zurich’s would definitely be the spouse. So organized with workspaces and comfy chairs, shower facilities, coffee stands, they have it all. You can take a selfie with Roger Federer or hire equipment to go on a hike between layovers. It is as lovely an airport as one could expect.

Of course, I had the same presumptions many people seem to have about Switzerland. That it is expensive, maybe a little cold, rules rules rules (especially about trash) and did I mention… expensive? I knew it was beautiful (who wasn’t obsessed with Johanna Spyri’s Heidi) and the standard of living was high for those who worked there but I was terrified of making a series of faux pas, one after the other, in this pristine new place. I felt comfortable to be my flawed self in Italy. 

The area of Zugerberg channels “Sound of Music” from every orafice.

From March to May however, we were in hunkered in our house, part of Italy’s lockdown. When I saw lockdown, I don’t mean stores were closed and all we could do was take walks and eat take out. We weren’t able to go further than 200 meters from our home and it seemed like it would never end. The days were long and the thought of Switzerland slowly faded from my brain. It seemed as if the world, at least our world, was thrown into such a tilt that considering the future and a future move seemed impossible and almost selfish. 

Survival in the present was the only thing that mattered. Or rather accessing printer ink to print out the many auto certificazione we needed to have on daily errands seemed much more important. Italy isn’t/has never claimed to be perfect but it did what it had to do and it did it with pride and humility during this pandemic and I am proud of the country I have called home for 13 years.

Eventually as things started to get better in May and early June things were thrown into overdrive. Nico’s start date was July 1st and we needed an apartment, residency permits and all of that jazz. Thanks to the help of a relocation agency, we managed to check out via WhatsApp a few places in Zug and around Zurich, all sight unseen of course as travel was still forbidden between countries. Apparently, apartment competition is a thing here in Switzerland so we had to make fast decisions and trust that the relocation agency had our best interests in heart and wasn’t going to bankrupt us in a 4th floor walk-up. 

the beagle is settling in quite nicely in our new place!

Come July, everything moved so quickly. Nico finished his last day working for the same company for 12+ years, drove five and a half hours to Switzerland and started the following week at his new job on his own while I settled things back home in Florence. Saying goodbye was extremely difficult to say to his colleagues especially during these dark pandemic days, but they are nothing short of family to us and I hope it always remains that way and I believe that it will. You know the decision you made is probably a good one when most people give you that playful nudge of “I’m surprised you stayed here so long.” 

For me, it was always going to be harder and it is still quite difficult. There was no ill will to leave Italy “screw you” moment or feeling like I had to leave for any reason. This was simply an opportunity we couldn’t pass up and we are at a point in our lives where we needed to think about the next thirty years. Being here, now I feel partly as if I’m on “vacation” and just working remotely; taking daily swims when the weather permits but I do miss my friends, my community, the ability to understand the grocery store sales flyer. This likely won’t change anytime soon.

One strong advantage for us coming here and not going elsewhere is that Switzerland is that it’s close to Italy and I come back and forth for work. In fact, one big milestone for us recently besides this move was also buying a house before we left. A small apartment with only one bedroom near Piazza Tasso, but it is 100% ours.

I’ve never owned a home before and we have been looking for years.

A house we had our eye on a few years ago fell through last minute and it led to some pretty down days for us both. Property prices aren’t cheap in Florence, especially when you have to come up with 20% down payment yourself on a modest salary. I love our new place, it’s small but modern. Our living room might not have any lighting installed yet and only a second-hand couch gifted to us by a friend, but this is all a work in progress and we are fumbling our way through it as we’ve done before and can do again. What is does mean is that we will always have a place to call home in Italy a place to cherish for years to come.

I arrived in Zug on my birthday, ringing in 36 years with a visit of our new apartment (what a dishwasher? Che lusso!) and an afternoon inaugural lake swim. This town is small, sure, but is relaxing in a way I didn’t even know I needed.

It’s well connected to Zurich and Ginger the beagle loves the access to well-maintained green spaces and additional places to walk . Swiss German is hard to understand but we are able to communicate in a variety of languages in a really surprising way as Zug is very international. We speak English, French and Italian and pathetic German. It’s funny, here people living in close proximity may speak markedly distinct, sometimes nearly mutually unintelligible dialects of Swiss German and I feel extra tired at night constantly trying comprehend menus/signs and well anything. It brings me back to those first few years in Italy. Back to square one and saying penis instead of pasta

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So we did it! After what was an amazing/stressful/tear-inducing weekend in #Florence we made it to Zug yesterday afternoon with time for an inaugural jump in the lake. Moving on your birthday brings about so many emotions but I’m happy that we are not too far from Italy and the people we love. After all, growing up in Texas our road trips within the state would be the equivalent of crossing several countries in the EU. __ I love that there are so many “badis” (public bathing areas) around here and including a few nudist ones (not quite that brave yet). Considering I’ve perched on razor sharp rocks to have access to water – it has made my entire birthday to be able to jump in the water so close to “home”. Happy to be here ❤️ 🏊‍♀️ 🇨🇭 #girlinzug

A post shared by Georgette Jupe (@girlinzug) on

Fast forward to today, it is Switzerland’s birthday. Fun fact, it was formed in 1291 by an alliance of cantons against the Habsburg dynasty—the Confoederatio Helvetica (or Swiss Confederation), from which the abbreviation CH for Switzerland derives—though only in 1848, when a new constitution was adopted, was the present nation formed. Coronavirus has stopped many celebrations this year but there is still the iconic square flag omnipresent on local buildings with fireworks being sold in small stands.

Swiss flags on a restaurant in the Landsgemeindeplatz (trying saying that 10 times)

Thanks to the local tourism account and sites like Zug4You, we are slowly discovering our canton through walks, boar rides and trips to various locales. The plan is to create a special section for the blog to cover life and travel in Switzerland and of course talking about adjusting to this new language and culture. I’ll still cherish and write about my beloved Florence, supporting local businesses any way I can (especially right now!) as we will be back frequently but I’m going to give this new adventure a proper chance and I hope you guys will enjoy it as well. 

Family day out in Rapperswil on Lake Zurich, follow more on @girlinzug

Thinking about it all, In 2005, I could have never imagined that I would eventually call Florence home for most of my twenties and a fair chunk of my thirties. This leads me to 2020. I couldn’t imagine a global virus pandemic and trying to and eventually moving to Switzerland the same year. This all serves as reminder that I’ve always been shit at predicting my future but now I’ve finally learned to stop trying…. 

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GirlInFlorence

Georgette Jupe is a 'Tuscan Texan' digital social media marketing maven based in Florence, Italy. When she's not at her day job as social media manager and content editor at ITALY Magazine, she's creating social strategies for international clients and providing travel, foodie & life tips via her blog 'Girl in Florence'. Hobbies include plenty of reading, hiking, beagle cuddles, the hunt for the 'perfect' Moscow mule and laughs with the girls.

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14 Comments

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    Debbie Latham 01.08.2020 at 13:31

    Can’t wait to read more about your new adventures x

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      GirlInFlorence 01.08.2020 at 16:46

      We’ll definitely be sharing more <3. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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    PEGGY COULTER 01.08.2020 at 13:57

    Best wishes to you, Nico & Ginger ! Peggy

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    Sue Giallombardo Walker 01.08.2020 at 14:32

    Auguri!!! from a FB friend in Dallas!!

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    JeffB 01.08.2020 at 15:08

    Wow, Georgette. I never thought you’d leave Firenze. But life does go on, doesn’t it. Sitting here in Seattle, reading this, I felt a heavy heart knowing that when I read (most of) your writing from now on you won’t be walking the streets of my beloved city anymore. If I’m feeling so sad for you from so far away, I can only imagine how you and Nico feel. But good for you. Sometimes the hardest moves ultimately can be the most rewarding.

    All my best to you and Nico (and Ginger). I’ll keep reading if you keep writing. Deal?

    By the way, what job has Nico landed? I’m not sure if you’ve talked about it before. If so, just point me to the post. If not, and you two are willing to share, I’d love to hear about what his new work situation is.

    Thanks, Georgette!

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      GirlInFlorence 01.08.2020 at 16:46

      It felt a bit like a punch in the gut when I thought that I wouldn’t be waking up in Florence every day and I was almost in mourning the last week if I’m honest. Part of the reason we bought a house in Florence was so that I could come back and work and just be when I needed to, as I have to be honest, Italy has been more “home” than anywhere else has ever been. I appreciate your very kind words and I’ll keep writing, no doubt! Nico is a biomedical engineer and is working for the research and development of a Swiss company that makes medical devices here (he’s a manager) – feel free to email and I’d be happy to share!

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    Coral Sisk 01.08.2020 at 15:24

    beautifully written my love, I devoured every morsel. I’m so happy for you and sounds like you have the right attitude, as per usual! xo C

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      GirlInFlorence 01.08.2020 at 16:43

      Thank you Coral and I cannot wait to welcome you here very very soon. Love you!

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    Cindy 01.08.2020 at 15:38

    Oh how exciting for you guys!
    I’m sure life there will be terrific for you and Nico. You have a piece of Florence to go back to whenever you’d like or need a fix! My husband grew up in lake Zurich, Illinois… and we’ve never lived beyond an hour of where we both grew up. He worked in Zurich for a month and lived it I think he’d like to work anywhere in Europe at this point! I really hope our life can have some kind of unexpected twist in form of out of country move soon like yours did lol. Enjoy the baked goods and fresh lake swimming!!! Ciao ginger😋

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    Inbal 01.08.2020 at 15:58

    Georgette! What a delight to read your posts and see through your eyes. No joke, especially with the Shelter in Place (we live in California and were supposed to be in Italy this summer), every time I see a new post, my heart skips a beat, and I feel as though I’m going on a mini vacation! Thank you for sharing your life and your journey and all your adventures and may Zug treat your right.

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      GirlInFlorence 01.08.2020 at 16:43

      Thank you for taking the time to read and I’m sorry about your missed trip to Italy. I know how devastating that must be… We’re enjoying this new chapter in life and I look forward to both Italy and Switzerland being my countries. Let’s just work on my pathetic German lol.

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    Gail 01.08.2020 at 22:55

    Wow! I’ve followed your blog for years. Having visited Florence roughly twice a year for about 20 years your blog always cheered me up when I was missing one of my favorite cities . Hopefully the U.S. can get its act together and I can return next year. Best of luck to you, Nico and Ginger.

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    About Me

    About Me

    Hi There!

    Ciao, I'm a curious American "Tuscan Texan" who calls Florence, Italy home for the past 11 years. I am the editor at Italy Magazine and I also work as an established digital social media marketing strategist (5+ years) as well as a freelance writer. My bylines have appeared in Lonely Planet, Luxos Magazine, and International Living. This blog is my way to share what life is like living and working abroad, as well as provide up-to-date true advice on traveling and living in Italy, weekend trips around Europe, and a monthly roundup of interesting events. I'm married to a wonderful Frenchman and we have a Florentine beagle who rules the household. Keep in touch with our adventures with your favorite glass of franciacorta or espresso!

    Georgette

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