Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life

Zug switzerland

Moving to Switzerland from Florence, a few thoughts


The day I found out we were possibly moving to Switzerland it was a particularly 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 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 those fateful words “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 ever happen or more likely that we would spend some time in France if anything was to actually 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.

This has been my survival motto for life but I have to say that 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 to get a handle on the rising coronavirus numbers. When I say 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. Literally that man is a machine. Saying goodbye was extremely difficult to say to his colleagues especially during these dark pandemic days, as they are nothing short of family to us and I hope it always remains that way. Luckily, 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. I have always been stubborn for my unwavering support and love for Florence and Italy as a while. There was no ill will to leave Italy, poignant  “screw you” moment or feeling like I had to leave for any reason. This was simply an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. It sounds cliche but the truth is that are at a point in our lives where we need to think about the next thirty years. Being here, now, I feel partly as if I’m on “vacation” and playing house in a new place while working remotely It’s been a joy taking daily swims in the lake a few minutes from our house 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 next to Italy and where we live provides each access to go back and forth for work. In fact, one big milestone for us recently besides this move was  buying a house in Florence before we left. A small apartment with only one bedroom near Piazza Tasso mind you, I’m not Diane Lane from Under the Tuscan Sun with funds to renovate a crumbling villa, but it is 100% ours.

This is a huge deal because I’ve never owned a home before and we have been looking for years.

Speaking of, 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. I just couldn’t understand why at the time. Property prices aren’t cheap in Florence and especially so when you have to come up with 20% down payment yourself on a modest salary. I love our new place though, it is small and modern. Our living room might not have any lighting installed yet and our living room is empty save a second-hand couch gifted to us by a friend, but this is all a work in progress. We are fumbling our way through this all but luckily we have friends willing to help when we’re not physically there. 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.

I appreciate that it is 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. I think I read somewhere that 128 nationalities are present here. 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

Fast forward to today, 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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41 Responses

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

  2. 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!

    1. 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!

  3. 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

  4. 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?

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

  6. So inspired by you Georgette. If you do for Zug what you did for Florence they will be very lucky indeed!

  7. What a lovely turn of fate! I admit, I too was saddened to hear you were moving from Florence. But so happy to hear you’d bought a home and would continue to live there part-time. I look forward to learning more about Switzerland through your experiences! So fascinating so far!

  8. I can’t wait to see and read about more of your adventures in Switzerland! I’ve been to both Florence and Luzern recently, and loved them both! Best of luck to you and Nico on your new life!

    A San Antonio, Texas girl like you!

  9. Lovely to read about your new home and the promising future this obviously holds. For me, my home is with my man, wherever that is, we moved to Tuscany from England 16 years ago with our dog Bosun. Life is one big adventure and as long as our health remains good, there is no holding us back. I can’t imagine life outside of Tuscany now, but who knows what the future might hold. Embrace this new start whilst you are young, there’ll be lots more adventures to come and with the man you love. Molto Amore June xx

  10. Change is certainly challenging but how wonderful for you and Nico to start a new venture! Florence is forever in your heart. Wishing you both the best of luck in Zug and, as always, we look forward to reading all about. Your a terrific storyteller and an inspiration!

  11. Hi there girlinflorence, ok girlinzug!
    I have a lovely time reading this particular blog. It brought me back to sweet memories of distant places I never thought I would ever visit in my lifetime!
    I love Axle-les-thermes, never had the chance to go up the slopes and learn how to ski. Maybe next time. I spent a little time there, just for lunch on our way to Andora from Baga, Spain. I was on tour then from Barcelona. I was thinking how it would be like during winter, it’s on my bucketlist.
    Rapperswil, Lake Zurich and you are correct with Zurich airport! My favorite airport ever.
    And of course another favorite Florence, Italy. I’ve been there thrice already. Oh, I hope David Is healthy & safe in Piazza Michaelangelo! ?
    Must be very hard to leave Florence. But Switzerland is equally beautiful too!
    I wish you well and goodluck on this new adventure. Buon compleano!


  12. 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.

  13. Dear Georgette – happy belated birthday and congratulations to you on this new adventure! I have been reading your blog for the past couple of years, as I bounce back and forth from Florence and Big Sur, Ca., studying painting and pursuing my jure sanguinis citizenship. I have always been in love with the Zürichsee and I hope it will be the same for you. I have family in Richterswil – in fact, keep your eye out for the Cinema on the Lake (my cousin, Barbara, founded it!). I’m happy for you (and a little bit envious ;). Best wishes for your new adventure! I hope I get the chance to meet you one day!

  14. Georgette, you don’t have to answer if this is too personal, but I was wondering if this move will permit you to continue your professional responsibilities in Italy, such as your work with Italy Magazine and The Florentine. It would be such a shame to forgo those opportunities after years of developing close and personal relationships with so many who love and promote Italy. Hopefully living in Switzerland will expand your prospects.

    FYI – Being a dog lover, I truly enjoy reading about Ginger’s escapades!

    Wishing you the best with your new adventure!

    Auguri! Meilleurs vœux! Die besten Wünsche!

    1. Not at all – my work has always been from home and since we’re next to Italy, I can go back and forth frequently and still have my connections back in florence. It’s not a problem at all thank god (also because I’ve built at least 10 years into my experience etc) and I enjoy the chance to actually focus for once being here instead of being pulled in so many directions when back in Florence. Ginger the beagle is loving her new home! Danke for the kind words.

  15. Hi Georgette
    As first well done for making such a big decision to move to a new country! I know is never easy to say goodbye but I’m sure another beautiful chapter will start…
    I grew up in Florence but I’m currently living in London since the past 5 years and always thought of moving to Switzerland too, would you have any recommendations?
    Thanks ?

  16. Hello from the girl that recognized your coffee mug. We live in Fargo ND now and have been to Florence 6 times. We love it and miss it. Have followed you forever. Yellow Bar is one of our favorite Florence restaurants. I will continue to follow your Zug adventures with Nico & Ginger.

  17. I read your blog obsessively during the year I planned my move to Florence, to that point that you feel like an old friend, even though we have never met. I’ve been in Florence 5 years now, loving every minute! The many tidbits of information gleaned from your many blog posts helped me to feel at home here almost immediately. So here is a long overdue “thank you” for all of that! Congratulations on your next grand adventure and all best wishes for success and happiness in CH!

    1. Thank you Robin! I really hope to convey the friend vibe because that’s kind of what this blog is meant to be about. I’m really happy to hear that my tips have been useful over the years. I appreciate your kind words!

  18. Noo anche io expat da Firenze da due Anni in Svizzera ?what a ride!
    Vivo a Coira e insegno Yoga in inglese ✨se passate da Coira la mia casa è sempre aperta ❤️❤️❤️

  19. Excited to follow this life change for you! 🙂 I loved Switzerland when I visited last summer – it’s so insanely clean and the hiking is amazing (and so is the beer and cheese lol). One question – was it hard to find a flat to rent with a dog? My husband works for a Swiss company in the states and the idea of internal transfer to Switzerland has come up but we wonder if our little doggy would make it more challenging.

    1. Thank you Sarah, I appreciate the support. So regarding the dog, we asked the relocation agency helping us to only share places that accepted dogs so it did feel that there was a fair amount of options that were pet-friendly.

  20. Having moved countries several times I totally empathize with the stress, but it really looks like you’re loving your new home and that’s great! At the very least it looks absolutely amazing – both the town/social areas and the OMFG stunning nature around it. One thing I dont buy tho is that Ginger loves having MORE space to walk. Come on, this dog is #lazygoals for all of us :))))

    1. It is super stressful and since it had been so long for me, I was completely unprepared. However, we did have time to organize these two dual country lives and I am very happy here. haha you are right about Ginger. She is currently laying under the table begging me to get her a treat. She’s too lazy to walk to the kitchen.

  21. Wow. It seems that the perfect opposite happened to me at the very same time. I am Argentinean, have been living in Switzerland (Geneva) for two years and in March I found out that I had the possibility of moving to Firenze… which I did on 1st August! I have been looking at your blog for tips during the last weeks and couldn’t help but to leave this comment when I landed on this post. May we both adjust happily to our new homes <3

  22. Oooof I finally just clued into this, Instagram breaks can be good but also mean you MISS big things happening. Such an exciting move, I’ve been around for a while and can’t wait to see the Swiss life.

  23. Congrats on a big move. My husband, daughter and I moved almost 2 months ago now to Lucca, Italy from Los Angeles. Talk about a change, like you during the midst of the pandemic. My husband is Italian, but has been in the US for over 20 years. My daughter doesn’t speak much Italian, and is attending a bilingual school. I speak a little, and have been working hard and taking classes to get up to speed. We are actually thinking of moving to Firenze or Roma. My husband owns a martial arts school in LA, and I teach there as well. We’re currently surviving off his online licensing program through martial arts. We need some high level training and more martial arts schools in our area, which Firenze and Roma have. He’s from Vicenza, so neither of us are that familiar with Firenze as far as living. We need to move to keep our careers moving forward and to make more money, but of course we are nervous to move somewhere and not like it. Lucca is beautiful, but very small and touristy. I know Firenze is touristy as well, but I feel like outside the center they might be less-touristy areas? Sorry for downloading my life on you. I have read a few posts (pre and post moving to Italy) and have appreciated your perspective (and your writing style is just fantastic). If you made it to the end I applaud you, and ask if you happen to have any neighborhood recommendations for families. Our daughter is 11, and I’m also pregnant. We are thrilled, but it adds another layer to everything! I’m not overwhelmed at all… Thanks in advance and I am excited for your newest adventure.

    1. Ciao Candace, wow that is quite the big move! I lived in Los Angeles before coming to Italy so I remember how big that transition was/is. I would definitely suggest spending some time in all places. Lucca is very well connected to Florence which is nice and has the added bonus of not being far from the seaside and of course lovely Lunigiana if you’re into nature. Florence is quite touristy but it is what you make of it. There is also a vibrant and lovely creative community that could be some valuable support since you guys are new. The one thing I tell myself since we too made a drastic move is that nothing is permanent. We could decide tomorrow that this isn’t the place for us and that’s ok too, but we owe it to ourselves to give it a proper shot and not play the “compare” game too much. I would say you definitely want to find a place that perhaps has a little outdoor space but that is close to schools/parks/shopping so you are not too isolated or depending on your partner. Congrats on the pregnancy by the way too! It sounds like your kids are going to have an amazing opportunity to best enjoy both countries. There are plenty of expat Facebook groups that you can scour for more specific info on Lucca and Florence and rome but also take it all with a grain of salt as everyone’s experiences are so different depending on their support circles and willingness to adapt. I wish you the best of luck and I’m here anytime you need to talk.

  24. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time (thank you so much for all you do!). Florence is one of my favorite places in the entire world; when I arrive in Florence, I know I’m home, and for a minute, the whole world seems brighter. I’ve loved reading about your experiences, and your tips have come in handy on more than one occasion. Though I only know you through your writing, when I read this entry, I felt a little pang. How sad it must feel, despite the fact that Switzerland has its own beauty and culture. When I read further and saw that you had purchased a home in Florence, I felt myself relax. Congrats on the move and the new purchase! Best of luck! I look forward to reading more about your adventures and experiences.

  25. I have been reading your blog for a long time and now…it is time to my husband and my newborn baby to move to Zurich ! We currently live in London and the brexit-covid situation makes this move a bit challenging ! I would love if you could share the details of your relocation agency or an agency that you would highly recommend. Grazie !!

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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