Is any love purer than that between pet and padrone? Numerous studies have shown that four-legged (or two-winged) friends can enhance one’s quality of life, providing companionship, love and plenty of laughs. For foreign-born people in Florence (and around the world, for that matter), these benefits are arguably tenfold: when asked to share stories of how their “expets” impacted their international lives, TF readers and community members responded with touching tales of how their animals, as fellow adventurers, have helped them feel more anchored here than they thought possible.
Expet: Baci the beagle
Human: Catherine Camarda
“Baci the beagle and I moved to Florence in 2015. Baci was a paid model in New York (Ann Taylor catalog, Simplicity Pattern) and now spends her days posing around Florence just for fun. She has helped me meet a lot of people during our walks. It is quite common for her to stop in front of someone approaching us and look up at him or her, wagging her tail just waiting to be noticed. It always brings a smile to the person’s face and is a great icebreaker for a new conversation.”
Expet: Flora the cat
Human: Helen Bayley
Ph. Christine Juette
“Flora is an exceptionally sweet pussycat and notorious food thief. She was found in the rubble of the Amatrice earthquake at about two months old, with badly damaged eyes and a pre-existing break to her leg. Emergency veterinarians treated her and I discovered her picture online when she was ready for adoption.
I was hesitant, as I already had an older cat who had ruled as Princess for three years, Artemisia “Misia” Gentileschi. The small charitable organisation “Raising Funds to Feed the Displaced Pets of the Italian Earthquake” posted pictures of animals on Facebook as they were ready for adoption.
I spotted Flora and her damaged eyes and thought she was the kitty for me. One Monday in mid-September 2016, I received a call that little Flora could be delivered the following day, around lunchtime. And that was that.
Flora arrived with no name. I named her “Flora Simonetta”. Flora, goddess of spring—symbolizing new beginnings and new life; Simonetta, after Simonetta Vespucci, Botticelli’s muse and probably the inspiration for the Goddess Flora in La Primavera. Flora was immediately treated by my vet, received a very warm welcome from Misia and just a year ago, underwent surgery to reconnect her damaged leg.
Raising Funds to Feed the Displaced Pets of the Italian Earthquake are still taking care of the abandoned animals in the Amatrice area and welcome donations (find them on Facebook). Winter is always a difficult time for the homeless animals.
Flora, Misia and I now make up a little family. Without the kitties, my life would be rather empty. I have always loved animals and will never be without them. Flora and Misia greet me when I arrive home after a busy day and I know I have company each evening and into the night. They make my life richer. As an expat in Florence, I have many friends come and go; saying goodbye is always difficult. The kitties are my constant, my sweet, ever-loving companions.”
Expet: Tippy the Pomeranian-Affenpinscher mix (“narrator” here)
Human: Orsolya Janosdeak
Human: Orsolya Janosdeak
Tippy in Siena / Ph. via @tippy_expet
“I was concerned when I heard that my humans were moving me this summer (yet again). Where could I possibly live as nice of a life as I was having in Switzerland? It turned out my next city was Florence! We’ve been here since September 1, so I’m still getting used to the crowds and the noises. I miss lush green parks, but I am allowed to go to the butcher (can’t have everything, right?) I recently celebrated my fifth “re-birthday” as an expat dog. I’ve lived in four different countries on three continents, have flown on airplanes, travelled across Europe, obtained an EU passport and Swiss dog citizenship. My parents love me to the moon and back and I am happy to share such an adventurous life with them.”
Expet: You-You the Senegal parrot
Human: Laurie Feldman
“You-You, a 12 year old, trilingual Senegal parrot (Italian, English, and “parrot”) is the love of our lives. We adopted him in Turin when he was one year old. We’ve been in Florence now with him for two and a half years. He impacts my life hugely, as when I’m in Florence, my husband is away at work all day, and he is my companion at every moment, following me from room to room and sitting with me while I do my work, chattering away, preening himself, or napping (his favorite activity).
His cage has a beautiful view of piazza Ognissanti and over the river, and he spends hours looking out at the square, people-watching. He loves it when the horse-drawn carriages go by, and gets excited when he hears the “clip-clop” of the horses.
You-You came from a hatchery in Piemonte’s Canavese region and indeed, he has some quirks that speak to his roots there. He loves hazelnuts and is extremely partial to cool weather (the hot Florence summers are not fun for him). Most of his Italian vocabulary is pronounced with the very contagious Torinese cadence and vowels. He’s extremely sociable and loves meeting people and dogs. He always makes friends when we are wandering around Florence (with him in his custom-made front-pack). And yes, he bites (everyone but my husband, his “Papi”, who he calls Papi, Papino and Saverio Papi). His facility with language is amazing.”
Expets: Keaton and Imogen the cats
Human: Samantha Vaughn
“I’d been wanting to get a cat for many years, but it was never possible for a variety of reasons, most of which had to do with my precarious living situations. I finally decided to get a cat after six years of living in Italy and it was a total game-changer. What I didn’t expect was that it would alter my mindset about my life as a transplant here. I suddenly felt a sense of stability that I thought I had, but apparently didn’t.
Whereas before I loved the fact that many Italian apartments came furnished, now I wanted my things in my apartment. And this past spring, I decided to work on getting an Italian driver’s license, even though for years I insisted on public transportation always being enough to live my life here. I’ve now added a second cat to our family, and I can’t remember a life before them.”
Article in partnership with TuscanHound Florence
TuscanHound, Florence’s first full-service pet care company, was established in 2009 and is headquartered in the heart of the Oltrarno. Their professional English- and Italian-speaking staff members are certified in Animal CPR and First Aid and offer services including in-home pet sitting, overnight stays, dog daycare, walks and more. www.tuscanhound.com