Florence is home to many expats: those who have longed to live here, those who have found love and moved here, and those who have come to Florence and felt immediately at home here. Many people arrive here at a point in their lives when they seek to redefine themselves: whether they were not completely happy, were searching for something new, or were looking for love, it seems that those who come to Florence are reborn. Florence will always be the ‘cradle of the Renaissance' for the art world, but it also welcomes people of all walks of life who are seeking to follow their hearts.
Born in Japan, Atsuko Kato decided to move to Italy after taking a family vacation to Europe in 1992. During that trip, she visited Venice and Milan, but not Florence. Yet within three years, she was studying hotel management at a school in Florence.
Even though Atsuko studied American literature at university in Japan, her plan was to work as a hotel receptionist. After telling her boss in Tokyo that she would like to one day teach hospitality, he placed her in a training job almost immediately, even though she had hoped to continue working in reception for a few more years before teaching others.
While working in Tokyo, Atsuko made a few steps toward her dream of living in Italy: she studied Italian in her free time and applied to the Istituto Internazionale di Scienze Turistiche in Florence to earn a hotel management diploma, which would give her the necessary credentials to work in Italy.
After the first few days at school, Atsuko was disappointed that she didn't understand more of what was being said in her classes. She considered dropping out and attending an Italian language school instead, but then she came up with the idea of bringing a tape recorder to school to record the lectures. Every evening, after she returned from school, she listened to her recordings and jotted down notes. Within six months, her Italian improved greatly and she was able to understand her classes much better.
Upon graduating two years later, she found a job as the hotel receptionist at a family-owned four-star hotel in Florence. After a year, she was approached by the Excelsior Hotel, where she had done her first tirocinio (internship) a few years earlier. Hired to work in reception, she remained for eight years. In 2007, Atsuko was approached by Villa La Vedetta to become the events manager as well as the front office manager.
Last year, she was hired to be the guest relations manager at J.K. Place (www.jkplace.com), a luxury boutique hotel in Piazza Santa Maria Novella. This charming hotel with only 20 rooms treats its guests as if they were family. Atsuko offers the guests assistance and guidance for enjoying their stays in Florence. Her specialty is shopping: she is able to point guests in the right direction, whatever they might be looking for.
Now, after living in Florence for 15 years, Atsuko considers herself not only at home here but also a part of the city. Having let the city influence her, she now notices that she has taken on many Italian traits, like being more flexible and living in the moment. She also recognizes that her appreciation of her Japanese culture has increased as well. Her time in Florence has not only allowed her to make her dream a reality, but it has also helped her blossom into a vibrant and confident woman.