My lullaby of cricket chirps soon became one of passersby’s shouts and wailing ambulances. Rendered sleepless by the noise, I could not help bitterly questioning the necessity of shouting at three in the morning—after all, what relevant information could passersby possibly be sharing at this hour? My room had shrunk to half the size and my backyard had disappeared into a cobblestone maze of side streets. We had given up our peaceful country house for this? Three years later, I would not want to live anywhere else.
Why the sudden change in opinion? For starters, I bought earplugs (it is amazing how much better a situation seems when you have actually slept). More importantly, I quickly discovered there is nothing quite like the convenience of living in the city center.
As my friend Shifra points out, anything city dwellers need is within a few minutes’ walk (peril is reduced the better your motorino-dodging reflexes get). Not to mention, teens who live downtown generally have much more independence. I am allowed to stay out later than I would be if I lived in the country. Opportunities also seem more within my grasp: I can walk to the tennis club or the preschool where I volunteer without having to rely on pricey cabs or eternally late buses. There is also the educational aspect of living in the center. As my friend Brooke explains, ‘When you live in the center and you’re always surrounded by different types of people, it teaches you how to be street smart; whereas if you live out of the center you can be sheltered.’ Even though some parents may assume that their teenagers are more exposed downtown, they are actually helping them learn the realities of city life, a life they may very well lead as adults.
There are downsides, of course. I could not help feeling a pang of jealousy when my friend Will moved from the city into the country and was finally able to bring his dog over from America (our apartment contract, like many, does not allow pets). When summer rolls around, my pal Brooke will have a deliciously refreshing countryside pool to jump into, while I will be holed up in my apartment with some chilled limonata, trying desperately to ward off the heat. And, as my countryside-pro friend Fernanda points out, city dwellers like me do not have easy access to go for a peaceful run, a comment my friend Henry counters with, ‘There’s this amazing theory called a gym.’ Guess that takes away my excuse for not going for a jog.
As teens, we may not get to decide where in or around Florence we live, but we can make the best of wherever we find ourselves. Both being in the countryside and in the center have their benefits, after all.
‘I’m never leaving!’ I announced proudly to my mother as I took in the view from the house we had rented in Impruneta. I could not imagine a better living scenario than the peaceful one we had found in the Tuscan countryside. I had a comfortable room and a picturesque backyard—what more could a suburban Ohioan ask for? As if I had a choice in the matter. Two months later, I was biting my tongue as my parents announced we were moving into the city center.