While Milan has recently been named “City of the Book and of Reading 2015” to coincide with the Expo 2015 world’s fair, over the course of the last year Florence’s artists and literati have rather carved a niche for themselves on the internet. Expatriate visual artists and writers have exploded into the blogosphere with a smorgasbord of websites and facebook pages. Integrating artistic workshops, studio visits, literature and literary events, self-promotion, humor, interviews, and information to help newcomers to the city navigate everything from where to eat cheaply to how to deal with marriage: Italian style, the artistic Florentine expat blogosphere is well established.
Seems like it all started with a facebook group page called Creative People in Florence (www.facebook.com/groups/318589264834446) and, as I write this, the group has just exceeded 15,000 members! Creative People has also grown into a lovely blog (creativepeopleinflorence.wordpress.com) with a monthly calendar, announcements of workshops for those who want to learn the arts from professional practitioners, studio visits and openings, a directory of artists and writers of all types, and spotlights—pages given to locals to present themselves and what they do. (I blush to report that I was honored to pen the very first spotlight about my own work and why I self publish.) Brainchild of artist and jewelry designer Sara Amrhein and photographer Birgitte Brønsted (later joined by visual artist Anna Rose), the Creative People group also sponsors a get-together aperativo three or four times a year—a wonderful moment to enjoy a drink and a schmooze with fellow artistic expats and native Florentines.
Straight outta the Creative People collective, Nardia Plumridge’s slick and informative blog Lost in Florence (www.lostinflorence.it) acts as a gorgeous introduction to Florence for hungry and thirsty expats. It features dining tips, watering hole suggestions, secret places to visit, and profiles of local artists and artisans. Similarly, Georgette Jupe’s Girl in Florence (girlinflorence.com) gives you the lay of the land cuisine-wise and a series of interviews with “Locals I Love” from another committed, Florence-loving expat from the Lone Star State.
Since this is supposed to be a literary column, allow me to introduce you to Florence Writers, its facebook page (www.facebook.com/Florencewritersitaly) and the group’s excellent blogists. Florence Writers is the brainchild of Mundy Walsh and sponsored by St. Mark’s church as part of their community outreach program (which also includes concerts and lectures) and, besides its informative facebook page, hosts a series of readings/encounters with writers in the fall and spring, and has a workshop group that meets once a week to critique one another’s latest works and to keep up morale in the lonely business of putting pen to paper. (Write to Mundy directly for more details: email@example.com)
Mundy, along with poet and book-arts professional Lyall Harris, also edits The Sigh Press (thesighpress.com) a themed, quarterly literary journal featuring English-language poems and fiction from Tuscany. Check out the submissions page for this quarter’s theme and the next submission deadline.
Besides Mundy’s journal and my own humble presence in the group (www.leefoust.com/index.html), The Florence Writers have three literary blogists of note. M. Elizabeth Evan’s Surviving in Italy (survivinginitaly.com) is my personal favorite Florentine expat site—not because she is a former creative writing student of mine or because she is a dear friend, but rather because she is such a great writer. Surviving in Italy is mostly whimsical and self-revelatory, therefore often raunchy and hilarious. Misty’s candor, combined with a sharp intellect and her keen observations regarding the interactions of us expats with the Italian/Florentine worldview creates an informative and thoughtful look at the expatriate experience—one very close to my own. The death threats in the comments section are a testament to how Misty’s tellin’ it like it is!
Lest I be accused of singling out expats from the English-speaking world only, allow me to give a shout-out to Romanian-born Ela Vasilescu’s blog and facebook page Writer in Florence (writerinflorence.com). Ela is a short story writer of extraordinary power who also teaches storytelling strategies to English-speaking children and whose blog is more personal and reflective than travelogue-ish. She, too, posts her interviews of local artists and expats, but is currently in the middle of a project inspired by those photographers who snap a single subject every day for a calendar year: “365 Days of my Life.” I’ve grown so accustomed to Ela’s daily ruminations that I’m sure to feel empty and sad when the year is up.
The latest addition to our Florence Writers group is Marisa Garreffa, a perky Perth-born Aussie who comes from the theatre milieu of, as she puts it, “the world’s most remote city.” Marisa’s personal site, A Curious Illness, (acuriousillness.com) features occasional texts both thoughtful and personal, as well as excerpts from the memoir upon which she is currently working—fasten your seatbelts before reading, she hits hardest on the toughest subjects. You can also get a look at her theatrical accomplishments at Mondo di Corpo (mondodicorpo.com.au).