The Florentine is the best-known English-language news magazine in Florence. Also known as TF, it is so famous that Dan Brown mentioned it in his novel Inferno. It is published every other Thursday, is free, and is also provided in a rich and accurate online version.
TF is distributed throughout Florence, where it is enjoyed by English-speaking expatriates, foreign students, tourists, and internationally-oriented Italians. It features a very lively community made up of both the editors and the readers, as well as most of the English-speaking community in Florence.
The periodical was founded in 2005 with the aim of involving everyone who loves Florence and Tuscany. In fact, it is full of advice on what to do, what to eat, what cultural events to attend, and what are the most beautiful places in Florence to visit.
TF also serves as an up-to-date, in-depth city guide put together with the help of a very active community. Its articles sometimes reveal little-known aspects of the links between the city of Florence and those in the United States, in particular.
The following is a description of the types of readers that read The Florentine: they “read continually for medium-long periods; are interested in learning about artistic heritage, wine and food, crafts, fashion; wish to establish long-lasting relationships with the city and tend to return periodically; promote Italy among their friends, share advice and personal contacts”. This definition captures the spirit of the newspaper, which is in fact also appreciated by Florentines.
The headquarters of The Florentine is located on Via dei Banchi, close to Piazza Santa Maria Novella and the Duomo. We like this newspaper because it seeks to bring together the city of Florence and the English-speaking community in a continuous exchange that is beneficial for both.
Today, we are going to interview Helen Farrell, a member of The Florentine’s editorial staff.
Good morning Helen. Would you please describe to us your role at The Florentine?
I’m the Managing Editor of The Florentine, which basically means that I decide the overall content and manage the day-to-day running of the publication. TF is very much a team effort, however, and everyone is involved in ideas and content creation.
Well, thank you. Let us begin. First of all, do the tourists who discover The Florentine for the first time here in Florence, then continue to follow it, even online, do so to maintain a link with the city of Florence?
Tourists do read TF to a certain extent, having picked up a copy of the paper while on holiday in Florence. But, to be honest, our main readership is the huge English-speaking expatriate community in the city, people who live or have lived in Florence for extended periods of time as well as students on study abroad programs. In recent months we have seen an incredible increase in our number of Facebook fans. People come to Florence and they fall in love with the city, so they continue to crave that bond and stay connected by reading The Florentine.
Thank you. Do you think that Florence is an “open-minded” city whose inhabitants know how to come up with initiatives that meet the needs of many foreign residents, students, etc.?
I think that Florence suffers from having a reputation of being a closed-minded city, which isn’t entirely true. Florence has always been a cosmopolitan city and many associations exist that bring the Florentine and foreign communities together. The TAA (the Tuscan American Association) is one example of this. Every year in the autumn, the TAA and the Comune di Firenze hold a Welcome Day in the Salone del Cinquecento at the Palazzo Vecchio for newly arrived study abroad students.
And what about the foreign community? Do they like to mingle with Florentines and other Italians living in the city?
Lots of long-term expats are married to Florentines or Italians, so mingling is part and parcel of the experience! When I first arrived in Florence over 10 years ago, I made the decision to live with Italians (some university students from Calabria) so that I fully embraced the culture and could learn Italian by intensive immersion. Now that I’m married to a Tuscan, we spend our free time with our Italian friends and our English-speaking friends. It’s an enriching experience.
What can we do to improve the relationship between the different communities?
Improved tolerance and understanding on both sides. As expats living in Florence, it’s up to us to embrace and accept various aspects of Italian life that might seem odd to us. The Florentine tries to act as a bridge between Anglo-American and Italian culture. Many internationally minded Italians also read the paper, because they wish to improve their English and they enjoy TF’s fresh perspective.
Thank you. We know that your culture editor Jane Fortune is involved in a rediscovery of the works and lives of female Florentine artists. Could you tell us a little bit more about this? In particular, do you think that foreign women have played a special role in the cultural and artistic life of the city over the last centuries?
TF’s culture editor Jane Fortune and the Advancing Women Artists Foundation strive to protect, acknowledge and appreciate women artists and their role in the Florence and farther afield. Women, both Florentine and from overseas, have played a key role on Florence’s artistic and cultural scene over the centuries as explained in Jane’s book, published by The Florentine Press, Invisible Women – Forgotten Artists of Florence, whose documentary has won an Emmy Award, as well as in the book Santa Croce in Pink, which details the various women’s monuments in Santa Croce’s Gallery of Nineteenth-Century Monuments.
Finally, one last question. What is a real must to be able to say that one really knows Florence?
It’s all about the little-known places: the lampredotto stands, a bar where you can really amazing espresso, quiet rooftop terraces with extraordinary views. It’s about the people: grasping (or trying to grasp!) the Florentine sense of humour and the local lingo. It’s about loving the city in spite of the challenges that life in Italy throws at you, and that incredible quality of light that hits the buildings and makes you realise how lucky you are to be living in a city that is as vibrant today as it was in the past.
Thank you, Helen, for this great interview!
Pictures: foursquareitalia.org and helenfarrell.com