A taste of local Italian life in Florence
Tell us about your experience with your guests Emily and Mallory from the USA
We had a lovely time together. We chatted mostly on the first night when they had dinner with us. We talked about what they had studied and the differences between the Italian and USA school systems. We gave them advice on what to do while here. They thought that it would have been better to stay longer, because there were too many things to do in just three days.
I cooked a meal for them on the first night. We had spaghetti in tomato sauce, then roast chicken and potatoes with salad, then fresh fruit, then homemade banana gelato. I like to cook for my guests and sometimes involve them in making homemade pasta. I especially like to make stuffed pasta.
Describe your home city Florence
Florence is a city that offers so many possibilities, that it's impossible to do it all. It's the city of museums, but also very active in the theatre and night life of all types, free concerts, street artists, city races. If you like food there is an infinite variety to chose from. The local morning markets are lively and the fashion in the stores is at maximum world levels. Sometimes it's just a little overwhelming. That is where our little house in the country comes in.
What do you love about being a local in Florence?
I can jump in when there is something going on and, when I've had enough, then go home where it's calm and quiet. Florence is a place that attracts creative people from all over the world and my friends are just that.
What is your perfect day in Florence?
My perfect day is to go to the market early and buy beautiful vegetables and fruit from Leonardo and his mom, see what fish Mr Rosi and his son have that day, see what gossip the butcher's wife has for me and have breakfast at the cafè where Roberto knows my favorite pastries and how I like my caffe latte. Then I go home to make lunch for my family, who all work nearby. The best thing about Florence is that it's the right size to keep in touch.
As a local, what do you recommend visitors to Florence should check out?
See the Santo Spirito and Sant Ambrosio morning markets. Check out the Davanzati Museum, the Galileo Science Museum and the Uffizi. (Leave out the Academia with the real David if you're in Florence for only three days). In the evening go to the aperitivo at the top of the Oblate Library where you can almost touch the top of the Cathedral. Castiglioncello is a nice little seaside town for a day trip. The beach is just a few steps away from the train station.
Describe yourself and Fabio
Fabio and I are both artists. In our youth we have both done a lot of adventurous traveling. When the kids were younger we did home swaps and vacationed in homes in Spain, France , Greece, Sicily and Calabria. We have three kids, two of which are on their own now. One is living at home to finish college. All five of us are or have been scout leaders.
Why do you host?
We started out of necessity, but have never stopped since. Every time we talk about Florence or have our guests taste something, it is like living it anew ourselves, seeing through their eyes. The only language barrier ever experienced was with a Chinese girl who never spoke, at all, even with direct questions. We have had all sorts over the years, lots of big food problems, but the silence was the hardest for us. Usually language is not a problem. We throw a mix of languages out there until something comes out, at least a laugh! We are so used to the different culture part that it's hard to remember what culture difference is. If you had lived in Florence you would understand. What is left is the fact that no one knows how to use a top sheet, turn off lights, or chat at the table.
What have been some of your most memorable hosting experiences?
There was a girl that had had a stomach ache every time she ate since she was 9 and was resigned to it. We were told to let her take her own very small servings and "let her be". She was with us 3 months and after only a few days she realized that food was good and didn't hurt anymore! She is one of our biggest fans!
Describe your experience working with Homestay.com
Homestay.com is a great organization that fills a need to live your travels in a different way. Especially in Florence where it's almost impossible to see the Italian people buried under the masses of tourists. It's also a way to keep the youth "grounded" and away from dangerous things like pub crawls.
Can you share any tips for other hosts based on your experience?
I find it essential to have dinner with the guests at least the first night. That way you know who is living in your home. It's also a good time to talk about where to go and what to do.