So now you are back home…alas, so am I…but I plan to visit Florence again soon.  Meanwhile, how do I keep that Tuscan vibe alive? By vowing to try and live like a Florentine at home? How? By walking everywhere; living with the sun and seasons; eating fresh and seasonal foods; hanging my clothes out to dry; reducing landfill waste through recycling and composting; appreciating beauty and history; and enjoying just plain living.  Oh yes, and enjoying every meal – especially Aperitivo!

Walking

Florence is a walkable city. To preserve the foundations of many of its center city treasures, Florence began a program of Pedestrian Zones which are open to bikes, scooters and pedestrians. Walking isn’t limited to the Pedestrian Zones. Sidewalks are available on every street and people are walking everywhere. Want to live like a Florentine, go for a walk, take a map and meander here and there – you may discover something or someplace new.

  • Ride Your Bicycle: It is clear from the number of bicycles stored around Florence that many ofGetting Ready to LeaveTheGrocerythe locals ride bicycles on a regular basis. When you get back home dust off your bike or go out and rent a bike one. I use mine to do errands and to explore. Don’t forget – wear a helmet, ride on the right, watch out for traffic and lock up when you park.
  • Ride Your Scooter. Scooters haven’t hit their stride in the US yet – in Florence they are everywhere. Rent a scooter and leave your car behind. Don’t forget – wear a helmet, ride on the right, watch out for traffic and lock up when you park.  I have to admit I haven’t tried this yet but it looks like fun.
  • Ride Transit: Tired of walking, take the bus or the train or the trolley! Transit systems cover almost every street in US cities and most surrounding areas. Ride and #StandUp4 Transportation!

Live With The Sun and the Seasons

Most windows in Florence have operable shutters that can be drawn to a close during the day to shield from the heat of the summer sun while letting in cooling breezes. Then at night the shutters can be opened to enjoy the evening’s coolness.

I have never seen so many ingenious designs for shutters. Many of Florence’s shutters are traditional ShuttersManyBloghinged ones that can be flung open. Many of these haveSplitShuttersBlog horizontal hinges within them that allow the bottom half or two-thirds of the shutter to be pushed out allowing more light, ventilation and a view of the street while maintaining privacy and sun protection. A more ingenious design is the sliding shutters that move along a track. These are great on lower floors so you don’t whack folk in the head when opening and closing. They are also window box friendly and they stay put in wind. I preferred these old wooden designs to the more modern roll-up shutter that have been installed on some of the newer Florentine buildings.WholeShuttersBlog

The shutters in the US often are decorative and inoperable but you can still semi-live like a Florentine by drawing your shades during the heat of the day and raising them in the evening. The good thing about shutters is that they are outside and shelter the window from the suns rays. Shades provide ‘shade’ from the sun but the warming rays first penetrate the glass and heat up the air inside behind the shade….shades aren’t perfect but they are a help in the effort to keep cool.

Eat Fresh and Seasonal Foods

Florentines love fresh, organic, locally grown foods. They are available in restaurants, markets, and farmstands. Grocery stores across America offer a range of fresh vegetables and fruit – some organic, some local.  Most grocery produce sports a little sticker that tells where it was grown and if it is organic. Take a magnifying glass with you to the store and read the label. If you haven’t been paying attention you may be shocked to find out how much is imported, let alone being grown in the US. Ask your grocer to increase the share of local and organic…or at least US grown.

If you want hyper local, start a garden in your yard.  I have lettuce, parsley and lemon balm growing now and hope to expand to tomatoes and potatoes soon. No time or seemingly no space? Sign up for a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) farm share, visit your local Farmer’s Market, go to central markets and/or seek out grocers who sell fresh, local produce.

Also, become a SlowFood member and rediscover how to cook with the seasons.  Cooking not your style?slowfoodstl_snail_only Find a #SnailofApproval, SlowFood’s rating, restaurant in your town – I just checked, there are 15 restaurant’s on the list in Philly, 116 in DC, and even more in NYC.  SlowFood started in Italy and has become a worldwide movement.  There are at least 15 SlowFood restaurants in Florence; I ate in two of them. When you are there next, make a special effort to go to Sergio Gozzi. Truly Tuscan, truly fresh and truly delicious.

Hang Your Clothes Out To Dry

We moved into the city last summer and have set up a clothes line to dry our clothes. I love the smell of air dried clothes. My mother recently said, “You can’t take the country out of the girl…what do your neighbors think?” I am not too concerned about that…I just hope that they get clothes lines too – the smell of air dried clothes is just too delicious.

Italian Clothes LineIn Florence, almost every rear and side window has two metal brackets holding clothes lines that can be one to four lines deep. Everyone hangs their clothes out to dry. This is for a very good reason – electricity is expensive in Italy and hanging clothes out to dry saves money on operating a dryer…actually, hardly anyone has a dryer.

In the US we look at not having a dryer as a hardship. I’ll bet that if you submetered your dryer and saw what it costs to run it, you would be hanging out your clothes too. Actually you don’t need the meter. Next time you plan to operate the dryer, turn everything else off, read the meter, then run the dryer and read the meter again. Take that number and multiply it by your electricity rate and then you will know how much it costs to run the dryer. Ouch! After that you may want to take another look at hanging out your wash.

Reduce Waste

Florentine’s recycle and compost an extraordinary amount of their waste stream.  Consequently very

Compostables collection bins in Brooklyn Compostables collection bins in Brooklyn

little ends up in the landfill.  The waste hauler makes this easy but it does take some effort to sort it all at home.  Most municipalities in the US offer recycling pick-up.  Very few offer compostable pick-up. So how do you live like a Florentine?

In Florence, if you have a garden area, the waste hauler, Quadrifoglio, will provide you with a free composter for your food and garden waste. No yard, no problem, Quadrifoglio offers centralized compostable pick-ups for its entire service area.  This material is composted, bags of compost are available for citizens to pick-up and the remainder is sold to farms. Composting doesn’t take much space, is easy to do, reduces the waste stream and provides you with great soil for your pots and garden. Here are some easy to use composters for your yard.

To really reduce the trash you send to the landfill set a goal of one bag a week and take the GreenBeams One-Bag-A-Week Challenge.  It is tough but doable.

Appreciate LivingNormalement

In my effort to be more Florentine, I am focused on being more open to the world around me; de-stressing, relaxing and smiling a lot more. I am trying to put aside the frenetic pace that says ‘must see and do everything’. What can you do? Go sit in your local park or a sidewalk cafe, sip a cappuccino or a glass of Chianti and remember what it means to live like a Florence local, taking things in stride. That will help you remember all that is beautiful in Florence and discover all that is beautiful where you live.

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