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 come at a point in their lives when they feel a desire 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.
Lisa McGarry, who has been living in Florence for the past four years, says that the moment she arrived, Florence felt like home. It already was, in a way: while studying architecture at university, she fell in love with Florence and its history. As a result, she knew Florence very well before her first visit, in 1996. She had imagined Florence to be a visually stimulating and fulfilling place to live, as she now knows it to be.
On her first trip to Florence, Lisa decided to stay in Fiesole so she could take in the entire city from afar as if to embrace it. Knowing from that first visit that she wanted to live here, she returned each year for a holiday. The lengths of the visits became longer and longer until she made the permanent move to Florence. She is now a full-time resident in Florence with her 11-year-old daughter, Ella.
While growing up, Lisa had also lived in Brazil as well as parts of Europe and Asia. Even though she had many places that she could have called home, Lisa felt that Florence was ‘a good fit’ for her, not only as an artist, but also as a writer.
Last year, Lisa published her first book, Piazzas of Florence, a travel memoir about her experience in the various Florentine piazzas. She details much of each piazza’s history with interesting facts as well as her relationship with each one. Her love of the city’s piazzas is a daily affair: she lives above one of the most significant piazzas in Florence, Piazza Pitti.
‘Intimacy,’ she says, ‘is inevitable in Florence.’ You can’t avoid contact with other people when walking around town. Without the confines of a car, you are forced to interact with others.
Her joy of living in Florence has a lot to do with keeping her eyes open to the opportunities that present themselves. As an artist, she finds that ‘just walking out the door is an inspiration.’ She loves being able to navigate the city on foot and appreciates the city’s attributes-both visible and obscure. She appreciates how ‘richly layered’ Florence is.
To enjoy Florence, Lisa says that one must ‘enjoy the process.’ It’s not just about arriving to a destination, but rather the journey in getting there. One of her favorite pastimes is sitting in a piazza to watch the goings-on and overhear people talking about their reaction to her city. Lisa’s love of Florence is unconditional: she may notice its faults, but chooses to focus on its abundant number of attributes and gifts.
Currently working on a children’s picture book about Florence’s piazzas, which is narrated by a young girl who lives in Florence, Lisa also continues to paint in oil and make collages in her free time, finding inspiration in daily life was well as the city’s rich architecture. Check out her new website at www.lisa-mcgarry.com