Blonde Ambition

A couple of weeks ago, my classmates and I were graced with the presence of Nita Tucker. She’s a writer, journalist, relationship-expert, consultant, and the founder of The Florentine — Florence’s only newspaper written in completely English. She is truly an inspirational woman, and if you don’t believe me, ask Oprah, who featured Nita on her show some years ago. One of our wonderful professors happens to be good friends with Nita, and thankfully she was in town and was able to stop by to share some of her wisdom. She shared a lot about her life and what she’s been through. At the age of 50, she realized that she had never lived in Europe (a dream of hers), and felt that it was “now or never.” Having been in love with Italy and particularly Florence, she made a decision to drop everything and come to Firenze with minimal cash and few people to call a friend. This, my friends, is cold, hard, precarious chancery. Her husband was not as supportive as he could have been, and her children were young, but she had a feeling in her gut that this was the right move. She told us about her struggles, and about her triumphs. She experienced things significant enough to write a couple of books about. Eventually, Nita took it upon herself to begin a newspaper in English—a brilliant idea, considering the second most common language spoken in Florence is English, after Italian, naturally. It was a huge risk, and certainly required guts on her end. She sacrificed a lot in order for the Florentine to work out, but today it’s read by English speakers and Italians alike. She told us that some English professors in Florence use articles from it to help teach their students English. Not only are their issues all over town, but they are present online, with an easy to navigate website. Evidently, things worked out for Nita, and this brought her to a socialite-status in Florence. She spoke about being friends with the Ferragamos, and on her website you’ll find photos of her posing in beautiful gardens, looking intellectual at book-readings, and speaking with Ted Kennedy. Nita is not your average American-turned-Italian.

When it all boils down, Nita is just an ambitious, curious, sweetheart. She’s got strong intuition, lofty goals, and an incredible drive. She’s got insight like you’ve never seen, and this has been displayed in her speeches and in her books (she’s published about 5). She was kind enough to inform us of her favorite hot-spots in Florence, which was definitely helpful for us students. Aside from all of this, she gave us some great, unforgettable advice.

Here are some things that stuck in my mind:

  • “If you see an open door, go inside. You never know what you’ll see or who you’ll meet.” We were told that people here are generally open-minded and inviting. If you receive an opportunity of any kind, take it! What’s the worst that could happen?
  • “Try to be interested, not necessarily interesting.” This reminds me to show people that you care about them and what they have to say, as opposed to superimposing your supposed “greatness,” and being selfish.
  • Florence is definitely not the place for shy/timid people. Everybody here is very outgoing and charismatic.
  • Italians are all about establishing relationships, through which people are overtly amiable and helpful. There is not so much customer service as there is kindness and personal relationships. If you’re nice, people will reciprocate. If you enter a store and simply say hello, you will be well respected.
Hearing Nita speak definitely opened Florence up to me, and explained a lot of the traditions and customs that I have seen but not quite understood.

Mid-October

Hey yall. I’m sitting home on a Friday night, writing my second blog post, after a tiresome week studying and living in Florence. Looking back on the past few days, it’s been pretty jam-packed. This past week was midterms, so you can only imagine our sleepless nights and our endless test-taking/project presenting. Renaissance Art required a ton of memorization and analytical thinking. We had a huge project due for The Business of Licensing class, so we were busy putting together a succint/informative physical presentation, and slaving away at our 28-page research paper on licensed goods. Leadership Development for Retailing had us quizzing each other with note cards non-stop, and I think we all basically know how to be managers at this point.

On Wednesday, we had one of our weekly FITSA meetings. We discussed some recent group activities, such as a hike through the mountains to Fiesole, our most recent potluck dinner, and a soccer game at Florence’s own “calcio” stadium. We also discussed things we’ll be doing together in the near future, ie: The Perugia Chocolate Festival (the BIGGEST chocolate festival in EUROPE and we are going TOMORROW!!!!!), more soccer games, cooking classes, and a trip to Venice for Carnival.

As I just mentioned, tomorrow we will be waking up bright and early to go to Perugia, where they hold a MASSIVE annual chocolate festival, called Eurochocolate. We are so extremely excited to stuff our faces with nothing but chocolate for an entire day. They apparently have some pretty groundbreaking choco-related things there, like a map of Italy (important monuments like the Colosseum/Duomo di Milano included) made ENTIRELY OF CHOCOLATE. As a big choco-head, I am personally excited beyond belief.

Today, we took a trip to Prato to see one of the biggest/most well known textile-industry locations in the world. It’s been producing yarns and wool textiles for over 1,000 years, so it was a pretty significant amount of fiber-observing/touching. We went to a Textile Museum, and did a lot of standing around, watching machines do their thing, spinning, stretching, manipulating and wrapping up long strings of fibers being spun into yarns. We saw the entire rainbow, every imaginable color of yarns. HOWEVER, I will be doing a separate post on this because I have so many fabulous photos to share from today.

Also, some of us were paid an in-class visit from Nita Tucker, who is an author, public-speaker, and is the founder of The Florentine, which is the only newspaper in all English in Florence. She was very inspirational, and has been on OPRAH!!! Perhaps that means as much to you as it does to me? She also told us some of her favorite places to go in Florence, which we are SO grateful for. Anyway, I will be wiring a special blog post just about her as well, so just put this thought in your back pocket.

So… to make a long story short, we finished midterms, went on a fun field-trip to Prato today, and will be going to the Chocolate Festival tomorrow. Things are swell for us here in Italy, to say the least. Also, I feel it’s worth mentioning that my friends and I found a GREAT Mexican restaurant and had delicious burritos (4 euro!) and a ginormous plate of nachos with salsa and guac (sort of hard to come by in Italia) (5 euro split b/w us!). I was feeling filled to the brim with Mexican, bean cheese and rice filled lovin’.

Below are some photos I took, hope you enjoy! Until next time, I’m Zach, 3rd year FIT student, studying abroad in Florence and loving life! xx

Vivi bene?

Chiaroscurro – a really good coffee bar

Across the Arno

Rainy Piazza Signoria

Mexican food in my belly!

A nice lil' tuscan country scene.

A nice lil’ tuscan country scene.

A medieval castle in Prato

This is how they make a heathered knit

some pretty cool yarns