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.
It’s easy to understand why Rebecca Milner is so happy: she has already made two of her dreams come true. The first was to live and work in Italy and the second was to have her own business and work with her hands.
When she was in her teens, she moved with her family to Naples, where her father was stationed on a naval base. Initially, she didn’t want to leave England, but once she set foot in Italy she was smitten with the new sights, sounds and smells around her. Two and a half years later, they moved back to England, but Rebecca never forgot Italy. The memories of her time in Naples were so vivid that she vowed to ‘live and work in Italy forever.’
After finishing her A levels, Rebecca studied at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where she ignored her love of textiles and focused on another outlet of her creativity: graphic design and illustration. Upon graduating, she was hired at a publishing company in London, working with textiles as a leisure activity. For 10 years, she put Italy out of her mind because she thought it might just be too difficult a dream to realize. It wasn’t until she began travelling for pleasure that her desire to make her dream of living in Italy a reality became too strong to avoid.
In 2004, Rebecca decided on a whim to book a flight to Florence and stay one month to see what would happen. She chose Florence because it has so much to offer: it’s walkable, the countryside is close by, it’s not too far from the sea and it’s centrally located in Italy. Rebecca contacted everyone she knew who had a link to Italy, enlisting them to help her find work in Florence. One person told her about a job opening with a publishing company, and after interviewing for the job, she was hired on the spot. After a 10-month stint at the job, there were layoffs for financial reasons, and she was among those let go. Looking for work again, Rebecca found a business card of an Italian lawyer whom had she met by chance at a movie theatre; he had said at the time that he was looking for an assistant to help with his English-speaking clients. She contacted him and was hired immediately. After working with him for a year and making her own contacts, she decided to become a freelance translator.
In the summer of 2008, she created Paripassi to make her second dream of working with her hands a reality and no longer just a hobby. She designs patterns for wallpaper, textiles, clothing and furnishings; gets fabric printed and sews her own handbags, scarves and other accessories.
She maintains that Florence has assisted her greatly in moving her creativity to the foreground, finding the city so beneficial to her work: ‘There isn’t that sense of being overwhelmed by so much information in the streets by advertisements and billboards.’ When walking around town, she feels more centered, able to think without distraction.
Rebecca introduced her first collection of designs and accessories this year. Her work is not only about beautiful colors and unique patterns, but about adding joy to people’s lives. Her next dream is to bring color, patterns and laughter to the world. And because she has already realized two of her dreams, this third one will most likely come true as well.