Joëlle is a brand new expatriate in town (she just moved to Florence in October 2009) but she is already very well connected with the local life... Partly because of her job (Wedding planner) she has contacts with people all around Florence and Tuscany and partly because she is a very nice, sociable, intelligent and fun-loving girl…
Not to forget also her recent collaboration with the local #1 English speaking magazine “The Florentine” where she is publishing interesting articles about her new city and new neighbours through the eyes of new English resident…
1) How old are you and where do you come from?
I’m English born and bred and soon to be 32 years old (the 24th of June, on San Giovanni day!)
2) When did you come to Italy for the first time? And to Florence?
My first trip to Italy was when I arrived in Florence in 1997 as a student. I went straight to my school in a taxi, it was closed!
3) Why did you choose to move to Florence? What was your job in your home country? What is your current profession here?
Fascinated in languages since I can remember, I decided to start learning Italian at University in the UK and had to choose a city for my second year of study to really get to grips with the language. Florence was my first choice because I had heard how beautiful it was…and how much fun was to be had.
I also remembered how passionately the poet Robert Browning spoke of Florence when I was studying English Literature at college. Finally, my beloved grandfather was a civil engineer and artist who spent some time in Florence during the second World War.
He adored this city and I remember some of his wonderful pictures of the Ponte Vecchio surrounded by rubble. Lots of students requested Florence so I was lucky to be granted one of the three places available.
For the past three years I’ve been based in London, working as a wedding planner for British couples getting married in Italy. Having spent most of my working hours with young couples in love, in incredibly romantic places, last year I decided to follow my heart and move to Florence for my own romantic reasons!!…and to continue as a freelance wedding and event planner, based at the heart of the action!
4) What do you like the most about your Florentine and Italian experience?
The warmth of the people, the sun and the wine and the fact that, like an English cup of tea, a good coffee can be the answer to many problems! I have to say that La bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine T-bone) comes pretty high on the list!!
5) Which three places are the most magical for you in the city that you want to share?
San Miniato church, Boboli Gardens and the magic bakery which serves the most amazing fresh pastries and pizzas at the end of a night out. I think it’s close Piazza Peruzzi but I’ve never been able to find it during the day!
6) What would you like to improve in Florence and what do you not like?
I’d improve the cleanliness of the pavements (there are lots of dogs and not many bins!) and the uneven streets to make a scooter journey in the city smoother and safer; as it stands, a very good bra is as essential as a crash helmet! I’d also improve the city parking!
What I don’t like is the fact that in every bar you have to essentially queue twice; once to pay for your drink, and again to order it…bizarre! I’d also make bus tickets available on buses for the same price.
7) What is your relationship with the Italian bureaucracy from your point of view?
Planning weddings for British couples means that I deal with several public offices, Consulates, town halls, police departments etc..on a regular basis and the fact is, yes there are lots of procedures and lots of differences compared to the UK, but once you know how it works it gets easier…I no longer ask why!
Time frames are something I find hard to get used to – last month I received a parking fine for 3 years ago!
8 ) 5 restaurants, 5 bars, 5 monuments, 5 tourist destinations taht you’d suggest to family and friends who visit Florence:
Restaurants: Le Carceri, Il Beccaio, Boccadama, Teatro del Sale, Ristorante Borgo San Jacopo
Bars: La Cite, Bar Zoe, Obika, Bar & Sky Lounge at Hotel Continentale, Il Rifrullo
Monuments: Chiesa di Santo Spirito, Il Duomo, Palazzo Vecchio, Ospedale degli innocenti, Giardini Boboli
Tourist destinations: Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo, Santa Croce, Mercato Centrale, Fiesole
9) What’s in your opinion the “Bar of the moment”?
I would have to say Cafe Sant’Ambrogio seeing as I hear the buzzing crowd every night from my flat until the early hours…It’s heaving and there’s always crowds of people in the square – great atmosphere!
10 ) How would you define the cultural scene of the city? And its NightLife?
In the city centre many places cater for the huge number of tourists and foreign students that visit each year so there is a very international feel.
It’s also interesting to note how quickly new nightspots change popularity.
The city is small enough to have a new “bar of the moment” every month. I wonder how long Cafe Sant’Ambrogio has got left..!
Florence also offers a rich cultural calendar with music, theatre, exhibitions and films all year round. There’s plenty of fabulous evenings to be had if you know where to look!
11) How do you move around Florence? Which means do you use? Your relationship with the public transportation means…
I walk everywhere in the city which, after London, is a great luxury. Rail travel is also about one third of the price compared to the UK and the high speed freciarossa service is superb.
12) Compared to the first time you came to Florence, has your perception of the city changed after living here?
I have to say that little has changed in terms of how I perceive the city. I was fortunate enough to get to know Florence quite well when I first lived here, but I am discovering more and more all the time.
If anything, I notice a more progressive ambition in the new generation.
13) In what other Italian cities would you like to live in for any period of time? What about other cities in the world?
I’ve also lived in Palermo and am fascinated by the island of Sicily, which is beautiful.
I used to want to live in Rome, although, much like London, which I found such a vast, transient city, I don’t think I could ever settle there.
14) What do you miss most from your native country? What do you miss from Florence when you are in your native country?
I miss my friends and family more than I expected, having always been living abroad or away from home. I also love music and miss the London gig scene…of course I miss the good old BBC and lazy Sunday Roasts in the pub, and I would love to say I missed my dad’s home brewed wine…but there’s time!
Surprisingly I find myself craving a curry when I go home!! When I am away from Florence, I just miss being here…rather than any one thing in particular. I love this city!
15) Your relationship with the Florentines…
I’ve met some great people here, including my Florentine boyfriend, so I need to be careful…!
As a foreign girl it’s not always easy to integrate into new social groups in Florence but in general people are incredibly warm, welcoming and witty! I admire the pride they have for their city and their desire to share what it has to offer.
16) What suggestions would you give to someone who wanted to spend a period of their life in this city?
I would say firstly, learn the language and spend time with the locals. Secondly, explore the city from every level, from the crypts, and the backstreets to the tall towers and the hilltops, and discover a new place each day.
Most importantly, resist the temptation to ask for your steak “well-done”..let the masters do their work! It’s a whole new experience!
17) Any particular experiences you’ve had in this city…
Falling in love!
Joëlle ‘s articles published by TheFlorentine.net:
1) “A Landmark en passant”
Biography: Joëlle Edwards is an English event and wedding planner, working in exclusive venues across Italy. She recently moved to Florence from London after having lived and worked in Switzerland, Palermo and Barcelona. She’d like to sing like Fiorella Mannoia, write like Andrea Camilleri, dance like Ginger Rogers and cook like zia Anna Maria! You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Interview by Marco de la Pierre :: Communication manager of