Issue 288 – Back to Florence, back to life

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Spring’s here, the sun’s out, and Florence’s friends from around the world are back in the piazzas. All it takes is a walk along the likes of via Faenza or borgo La Croce to hear the contented chatter and glasses chinking to realize that the tourism season has started early. Yes, international travel might have been brought forward due to concerns about the war in Ukraine in an embracing of carpe diem, but it’s equally true that Americans in particular have been champing at the bit to return to Italy at the earliest possible opportunity. Booking.com, perhaps unreliably, informs us that accommodation in Florence is 91 per cent booked over the Easter weekend as prices hover around 150 euro per night for a three-star hotel. Like all cities reliant on tourism, Florence has considerable ground to recover, given that data from the municipal statistics office for 2021 showed 66 per cent fewer overnight stays compared to pre-pandemic days in 2019. There’s innovation afoot on the tourist front, however. This May, Florence, alongside neighboring tourism boards for Chianti, Empolese Valdelsa e Montalbano, and Mugello, is set to implement a monitoring unit, which, it is hoped, will enable hospitality pros to analyze the destination’s tourism flows in real time from a qualitative. and quantitative perspective in order to plan the months ahead.

“Big news on the immigration side for digital nomads!” is how international lawyer Michele Capecchi reached out to me before explaining everything currently known about a new visa scheme in an article on page 4. Although details are still emerging, it seems likely that people who can work from anywhere will soon be allowed to move to Italy outside of the prohibitive annual immigration quotas. Newsbytes like these inspire excitement about the future of Italy, despite these dark times (and the Azzurri’s failure to qualify for the World Cup: let’s all avoid that topic of conversation for a while!). Another interesting tidbit landed in my inbox this month: Tuscany now boasts the largest tunnel in the whole of Europe and the third biggest in the world. Galleria Santa Lucia opened on March 19 and runs 17.5 kilometres along the A1 autostrada between the Barberino and Firenze Nord exits, ensuring a yearly 2,000 tonne reduction in CO2 emissions and reducing travel times by almost one-third.

More important than legislation and infrastructure has been our community’s boundless generosity in reaction to the Ukrainian crisis. Students, writers, churches, groups and individuals are all organizing collection drives and fundraisers that continue to make a difference to the refugees arriving in Tuscany. See more on page 5. As of March 25, more than 6,000 women and children had been registered with local authorities in the region and given shelter in reception centers and families’ homes. Tuscany is also doing its part by providing free healthcare to Ukrainian children suffering from cancer: a 16-month-old baby is currently receiving treatment at Florence’s Meyer pediatric hospital, while other kids are being looked after at Pisa’s Santa Chiara hospital. It’s times such as these that bring to mind EM Forster’s inspiring words about our city in the required reading of A Room with a View: “The well-known world had broken up, and there emerged Florence, a magic city where people thought and did the most extraordinary things.”

These extraordinary people and things are on full display in this month’s issue of The Florentine. SOTTO al British opens its doors this month (page 11) after a protracted, pandemic-induced gestation. It will have been worth the wait as The British Institute’s contemporary creative space on the ground floor of the lungarno Guicciardini palazzo is inaugurated with a “trippy immersive experience” involving an illustrator and a musician on April 2. By the same token, Linda Falcone has assembled an exemplary events series this spring, titled Oltrarno Gaze. Turn to page 11 to find out about the exhibitions and walks organized this month thanks to a grant from the Advancing Women Artists Legacy Fund, in partnership with The British Institute and the Il Palmerino Cultural Association. Of course, the one art show that everybody is aching to see this spring is Donatello, The Renaissance at Palazzo Strozzi and the Bargello. “Special”, “absolute art” and “immense” were the words my colleagues used to describe their reactions to the press preview. Alexandra Korey places the show in context, while conveying her awe at the curatorship on page 8.

Florence continues to exert its siren call to many, including Lisa Brancatisanowho speaks about turning her passion for painting into a successful business (pages 22-23), and Mandy Ginsberg, the former CEO of Match.com, the Fortune 500 company that owns Tinder and Meetic, who moved to our city last summer as a life change. Read the interview on pages 26-27.

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