Well, hello there, Samantha here, and welcome to our weekly segment of the 5 in 10 where our experts answer five of your questions in ten minutes or less to help clear up all that misinformation out there and keep you on track.
Well, hello there, Samantha here, and welcome to this episode of the 5 in 10. Our expert guest today is Alice Guernieri. It’s not the easiest last name to say, Alice, for foreigners, but you’ll be happy to know that her first name is spelled like Alice.
But in Italian, we say Ah-lee-cheh. Alice was born and raised in Florence, and for the last 20 years, has become one of the most connected and respected tour guides in the area. So, she knows pretty much everyone and everything that you can do in this city and beyond.
But what our listeners want to talk about was what it’s like to live in Florence from a local perspective. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today in this episode of the 5 in 10.
Ciao Alice, welcome to the show!
Buongiorno a tutti, welcome and thank you!
Thanks for coming, Alice. I know you have so much to talk about because you are a born-and-raised Fiorentina, so I thought maybe we just start and you can let people know a little bit about yourself.
Yes, thank you Samantha for your question! So, I was born and raised in Florence, and I completed my education in Florence. We can say that I am a little narrow-minded because I’ve never moved from here. And in 40 years I’ve never found, so far, a place that in my opinion was better than Florence.
And I love my city and my entire family is from here. And I’ve been a tour guide for 20 years and I’ve really traveled the entire country and a big part of the world, but my heart is always here and I always have a big feeling of going back home. And this is where I would like to spend the rest of my life.
And still today, I work as a tour guide and I’m trying to concentrate on my job in Tuscany now. Now that I am kind of adult, I don’t like to travel as much as I used to do in the past.
Wonderful. Fantastic. Well, I know, you know I live part of the time in Florence, and I know what you’re saying. This is truly one of the most beautiful cities ever. So, our questions, are you ready for our questions from our listeners?
Sì, of course!
OK, let’s start with question number one. What is the best and worst part about living in Florence?
OK, let’s start with the best. The city is beautiful, as probably everybody knows. Just if you google Florence of the iconic pictures of our beautiful monuments and historical buildings, and I have to say that besides the art and culture, it’s a very convenient city for several reasons.
First of all, Florence and Tuscany, we are in the middle of Italy, so you are never too far from anything. We are not too far from the mountains, but not too far from the shore. And we are right in the middle between Rome (the capital city), and Milan, which is the fashion capital of Italy.
And it’s just a very convenient location and the food is great. And besides that, within a short driving distance, you can be in so many different beautiful scenarios like the countryside. So, the Chianti hills and the beautiful cities like Siena and Pisa and everything is so close by.
And, so in my opinion, this is really the plus of living in Florence. The, what is the worst part of living here? Florence and Tuscany is a major attractions, and we attract visitors from all over the world.
And of course, it has become a very beloved place for many non-Italians that would like to move here, and this side of that is, of course, the increase of the prices of housing. So, for us, so for the locals living in certain areas, it has become really prohibitive and very, very expensive compared to our average wages.
Besides that, the other, let’s say inconvenience, can be that in the peak tourist season it’s very hard for us to enjoy our city center, to walk around, because of the big crowds of tourists.
But anyway, of course, the tourists bring a lot of wealth to the city, and the other bad thing can be, let’s say the temperatures. So, Florence is beautiful, the cradle of the Renaissance. And actually, if you look at Florence from the distance, you see that Florence lies in a valley almost totally surrounded by hills.
This means that in the summer, it can be very, very hot and not easy to live in the city. So, these for me, are the main aspects of living in Florence.
Right. And the best part being that it is so incredibly beautiful and convenient and has so much to offer is actually, leads to the worst part.
It’s because it attracts so many people so that is on the downside, which actually leads us to question number two. I’m worried about being overrun by tourists in Florence, is there a good place to live that is close by but more local?
Sì! There are many districts that are very close to the city center within a short bike ride or 10 minutes by bus or probably 10 – 20 minutes on foot. And they are residential areas where the life goes very smooth and normal as an in any other ordinary city that is not overwhelmed by tourists.
And if you have a map of Florence, if you look at the map to give you some references, the first ring outside of what we call the viale, the avenue, there is a ring road which goes around the city of Florence.
These are the residential districts, where of course it is busy, but not with tourists, and where you can really feel the authentic lifestyle of Florence.
Perfect. Excellent. OK, so number three. Do I need a car to live in Florence?
Yes and no. It depends on what you, how you want your life to be. If we are talking about living in Florence… no, you don’t really need a car, but it’s very recommendable to have a scooter, probably, or at least a bike. Because anyway, even though the distances are never that big, you’re still, you would like to have some independence and you don’t want always to rely on the public transportation, especially at night.
But I do suggest having a car, because in our lifestyle, during the weekend, we go out for the weekend or just for a day trip.
As I’ve said already, the distances are very short, so it’s very common for us on a Saturday or on a Sunday. We drive one hour and we go to Lucca for a day or we go to the shore or we go on the hills and we go to San Gimignano, we go to Volterra and many other little destinations where you can spend the day of. And for that, you really need a car because you cannot rely on public transportation.
OK. That’s a really good answer, because most people experience Florence first, obviously as a tourist, and they love the walkability of the city, which it is. But when you live here full time, you start to realize that there’s a lot more outside of this beautiful city, and getting there can be obviously a lot easier if you have a car.
So, let’s go to number four. I don’t speak Italian, do most people speak English in Florence?
Yes, most of us now speak English and things have changed a lot, not only in Florence but in Italy in general. Anyway, if you are in the city center, having so many visitors from all over the world, any shop assistant, any bartender in any café, in any restaurant you go you will always find someone speaking some English. Sometimes it’s kind of broken English, but they really try very hard to have a communication with visitors.
And all over in Tuscany, I have to say, we have become such a beloved destination, that everyone, not really everyone, but most of us working in the, let’s say, hospitality business do speak some English. And also, thanks to the fact that the Italian system of education has changed and now English is mandatory from primary school already. So, in the future, next-generation, all of us will speak some English.
Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s really good to know. Hmm… OK last question, question number five. What is your favorite place? Where, is a better way to say this, where is your favorite place to sit for coffee with friends in Florence?
So, I do have several places. And also, my favorite places have changed through the years because, in the past, my favorite place was sitting when I was a child with my parents in the Signoria Square in front of our beautiful City Hall, sitting at Caffè Rivoire, drinking hot chocolate with whipped cream. And that was a very common habit we had on a Saturday afternoon. But now, because of tourism, that chocolate costs like eight euros, sitting at a table. So, it’s not my favorite place anymore for, you know, for like a weekly habit.
So, most of our families have changed their habits. I do have a little place which is called Il Torino, and it’s along the river and it’s a very casual place with a very nice outdoor, and a garden by the river where you see all the people, all of the men playing cards and discussing politics and soccer. And you just go there and you can have a very convenient drink. You can have an aperitivo for 3 – 4 euros and you can sit with your friends.
And another one that I really suggest is called Caffè del Verone and it’s part of a library, and it has a very nice view over the Cathedral of Florence. And also that one is not overpriced because of tourism. So, the locals look for places that are not overpriced too much.
Right. Those are amazing places. I’ve been to all of those places, and what we’re going to do, in the show notes, is we will put links and addresses of each of those descriptions. So, if you’re looking to go and try them yourself, some of Alice’s recommendations, you can find them there.
Well, thank you, Alice. That is the end of our five questions for this episode. So much information to take in, and I’m sure those listeners out there who are thinking of making Florence their home, are that much more excited about the journey.
So, thank you again and we will talk to you soon. Ciao, Alice!
Ciao, thank you for inviting me. Ciao, ciao!
Well, my friends, our time is up. But remember, if you’ve got questions, we’ve got the answers. All you have to do is ask. Go to smartmoveitaly.com/5in10 and send us yours.
Until next month, ciao for now!