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.
Before coming to live in Florence, Natasha Garland had only visited Italy once, with her family for two weeks, before moving to Istanbul for a year. Ten years old at that time, what struck her most about Italy was that ‘children have such a good life here.’
Natasha studied anthropology at Smith College in Massachusetts and then went to England during her senior year to complete a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and geography at the University College London (UCL). She began her professional life in television production in Boston and New York. Later, she moved to Los Angeles, where she helped Jayni Chase establish the Center for Environmental Education (www.ceeonline.org). A few years after becoming a mother and getting divorced, Natasha moved back to her hometown of Hancock, a small artist’s community in the southern part of New Hampshire, with her son Connor. There she worked on the board of many nonprofit organizations focusing on environmental and educational issues.
When Connor was nine, Natasha decided that she wanted to have an adventure with him by living overseas for a year. Recalling her first impression of Italy, she decided that Italy would be the ideal destination for their escapade. Her decision to live in Florence came about when a friend informed her of an apartment available for rent. With that one aspect taken care of, she had to find only two other things to begin their new life: a job for herself and a school for Connor.
Upon arriving in Florence and looking for ways to engage her son in the Renaissance capital, with its rich history and impressive art, Natasha discovered a great passion: discovering a new place and sharing it with others. Her interest led to several writing assignments, most focusing on children, for Faces by Cobblestone Publishing and the Time Out guides.
She was hired to work for Exclusive Resorts in Chianti, which she saw as a good challenge and an opportunity to learn and continue to share her passion of engaging others in Florence. Natasha now works as an external liaison for Palazzo Tornabuoni (www.palazzotornabuoni.com). She enjoys assisting its members in having meaningful experiences in Florence. She likens the members of Palazzo Tornabuoni to the Grand Tour visitors at the turn of the century, who stayed for extended periods of time to deepen their relationship and understanding of the city.
Because living in a different culture and language allows expats to have the unique opportunity to view their identities and define themselves, Natasha says that she has come to not only appreciate the Italian culture, but also her own American culture. ‘It’s a wonderful experience to be an expat,’ she says. ‘You’re always conscious of the many cultural differences and you can decide which ones you want to assimilate and which ones you do not.’
Now that Natasha has been living in Florence for many years, she finds the city stimulating and intimate. ‘Florence is a neighborhood,’ she says, ‘where small and local mix with worldliness.’ She has found enriching opportunities here and has created a full life for herself and her son. What started as a one-year adventure has now become an eight-year stint in a place she continues to delight in.