Florida-born, New York-lived and now Florence-settled Samone Rich sits down for a chat with us at Hotel Savoy. With over 120K TikTok followers and 3.5 million likes, this viral content creator/jetsetter has created a safe space on her platform centered on authenticity and positivity. Sharing both the roses and the thorns of life in Florence, her background as an international flight attendant has helped her gain tremendous insight into travel and how to feel truly at home away from home.
Can you tell us about yourself and your story of how you got to Florence?
I’m from Boca Raton, Florida and lived in New York for 15 years working as a flight attendant. Then I met my fiancé, Michelangelo, when visiting Italy for a mutual friend’s birthday party in San Gimignano. (His name is super Italian, I know.) I was entering my single phase and wasn’t looking for anyone when I found him. A few months later, that same friend recommended I visit Florence and message Michelangelo. He hosted me and spent the week showing me around Florence on the back of a motorcycle: super romantic. Since then, I’ve kept coming back.
You have created such a safe space on your platform through your authenticity and honesty about life in Italy. What has helped you feel at home in Florence
Florence is like a foggy forest. When the pandemic came, the fog dissipated and the trees that remained were already there before; everything else was an illusion. Once it all cleared up, I was able to find a community here. Through this process, I started to really understand Italians. In the US, it’s more common for families to move around and for there to be new kids at school. Italians, however, don’t move around as much, so they’re not used to meeting new people. My fiancé is from Puglia and, despite him living here for his entire adult life, he’s still an outsider. This made me realize I had to take the initiative to meet new people. Now I have a community called Fiori di Italia (because flowers are the one thing that travels). We are a group of international women who live here long-term. We go on “Prosecco Prances”, which are basically pub crawls, but fancier. The main thing for me was deciding what I wanted: friendship, love, and to be loved. I had to love Italy in my own way, for the good and bad.
What are the best and worst things about living here?
The best part is the beauty. I like waking up in the morning and seeing smoke coming from the hills amidst the fog; just that moment of coffee and peace. Sometimes things can seem chaotic when really it’s all under control. Florence is like a ballet. There’s chaos, but it’s beautiful; it’s controlled. Florence reminds me of Boca Raton in the sense that there’s a mentality that everyone prefers to enjoy themselves rather than cause trouble. It’s more common to see an old man drinking grappa at 10am, living his best life than to see people brawling.
The double-edged sword is that, as a Black woman in Italy, I deal with a lot of things that other people don’t. Italy has its own race problem, but Italians also isolate themselves from foreigners, despite there being so many. Italy is well-loved internationally, yet it’s not always appreciated. I have to share the things that are not so dolce about the vita, like microaggressions and gaslighting. In reality though, I feel safe in Italy. I feel like I can relax here, whereas in the US, I’m constantly nervous. The other bad part about living here is the mosquitos. They, for sure, don’t discriminate.
What is the reality of having a TikTok following that people might not realize?
The pressure to keep doing it. I feel a social responsibility that other content creators may not because society doesn’t always allow people of color to just exist. There’s always a nasty comment about “going back to where I came from” the moment I say anything negative. I try to continue on, but it can be hard. It also takes a lot of energy to dig deep and create something meaningful rather than having a regular job where someone tells you what to do all of the time.
Aside from the cities where you’ve lived long-term (Boca Raton, New York and Florence), is there somewhere else that you consider as home?
I was an exchange student in Florianópolis, in southern Brazil and I’m still in touch with the exchange family. I have a deep connection with Brazilian culture. I love the passion of Brazilians and, much like Italians, they’re unapologetically themselves. It’s good to have a little connection everywhere in case you need to run away for a change.
Florence quickfire questions
Favorite place in the city?
Sant’Ambrogio market has great restaurants, bars and markets. The vintage market has amazing eclectic pieces. For both tourists and locals, you feel like a Florentine during the Renaissance.
Favorite place for a date night?
My favorite place tends to be my terrace. In Florence, I like Koko sushi restaurant. There’s a great wine selection and it’s a nice break from Italian food. I also love rooftops like Plaza Hotel Lucchesi or Osteria delle Tre Panche. Also Floret, which isn’t a rooftop, but has a beautiful atmosphere.
Favorite lunch spot?
I have three: the first is Gilda Bistrot. The owner is great and they serve classic Tuscan food. The second is Colle Bereto, for when I want to feel a little swanky. I love it for an early aperitivo, preferably before the younger crowd gets there. At lunch, they’ve got a great selection of fresh food. My third favorite is Tamerò pasta bar in Santo Spirito.
Favorite place to visit in Tuscany?
Elba Island. It was the first real vacation my boyfriend and I went on as a couple, so it has a special place in my heart. The route driving there is really scenic. Then arriving and being surrounded by hills and beaches: you feel like you’re in your own little oasis.