Sex and the City’s writing-by-the-window sage “couldn’t help but wonder” about a lot of things, rarely speaking in the cadence of certainty. One of the exceptions was her oft-quoted proclamation that New Yorkers are “always looking for a job, a boyfriend, or an apartment.” If the shiny story arcs are to be believed, early-2000s Manhattanites hunted for each with targeted efficiency, enabled by Blackberries, gallery openings, and only writing one column per week.
Many transplants to Florence are similarly on the lookout for those three anchoring forces that can clinch the deal. But—and don’t fall off your chair, now—as a group, we are a little less practical and expedient.
Hack it here long-term and you’ll notice that jobs and partners often appear through the combined currents of accident and evolution. Apartments, meanwhile, must be aggressively researched, seized, camped outside—approached with the belligerence of Jordan Belfort (or Samantha Jones, to stay on-theme). Even in 2018, only rookies, masochists, and new money expats can reasonably confine their searches to the Internet. Vis-à-vis exchanges and vaguely predatory behavior are key for the rest of us.
One caveat to this tenacious, Manhattan-style treatment of the search: in Florence, it only works with places already on the market. In every chat I have with house hunting friends and acquaintances—is it normal to average two per week?—I feel burdened by the weight of the inexplicably empty first-floor flat above me. To mention or not to mention? It’s been unoccupied since long before I landed here, but the unhurried owners do seem haphazardly interested in renovating and renting it when I remind them it exists.
Deceitful. That’s how I feel sitting on (well, under) such a secret when Florence’s market is so dire. Yet bringing it up and passing off the owner contact is a false lead, sure to evaporate sooner than what was said during a late July meeting or what was written on a naked form (the kind with no marca da bollo affixed).
And in the interest of full transparency, the raging narcissist in me—I did clock a lot of time with Carrie Bradshaw in my formative years, after all— does kind of enjoy dispensing this non-tip. There’s the dopamine rush when someone gasps in gratitude, the fleeting existential satisfaction of appearing relevant, well-connected. Knowing all the while, of course, that I can default to “just the messenger” when it inevitably leads nowhere.
Still. Yet. Biting my tongue seems the smart thing to do. The empty apartment is spacious, light-filled and probably the same price as mine. New Yorker I am not, but programmed to gun for upgrades, yes. Is there a chance that, Florentine-style, some collision of happy accidents will cause a renovation to happen in my lifetime? I can’t help but wonder.
Read all Rental Diaries columns by Mary Gray here.