A few months ago I read It Happened in Florence by Nita Tucker (with Christa McDermott), which I believe was self-published in March 2012. Readers of my Tuscany and Umbria book know that I love The Florentine, the biweekly, English language newspaper founded 7 years ago, so when I heard about this book -- written by the paper’s publisher -- I couldn't wait to read it. The Florentine can be found all around town and is targeted to the Florentine English-speaking community, both residents and visitors. It is positively the most thorough resource for events and activities listings and I wish there were publications just like it -- with its great mix of articles covering hard news, culture, politics, business, travel, food, and sports -- in all of the destinations I write about in my Collected Traveler series. Some of my most favorite regular features are "The Medici Archives," "Il Fatto Bello," and "Italian Voices." Additionally, the paper prints two special issues (Florence for Students and Summer in Florence) that are indispensable and it has a book publishing arm with some great titles (my friend Robin brought me back a copy of Florence con Amore that I particularly like).
Anyway, Nita Tucker is one very fortunate woman: she was part of a team that established this great periodical; she was able to live in Florence for four years; she has an extraordinary husband and wonderful kids; and she is aware of, and never takes for granted, that she has an amazing life. I would love to meet her. (Tucker is also the author of How Not to Stay Single, How Not to Screw it Up, How Not to Stay Single After 40, and Beyond Cinderella: The Modern Woman's Guide to Finding a Prince, none of which I've read but now I know that she's the perfect author for these kinds of books because she is filled with optimism and enthusiasm.)
When I started It Happened in Florence I was hooked by the second paragraph, which reads, "I live here! This is my life!" (and yes, the italics are hers.) I am admittedly drawn to this kind of enthusiasm. While I usually spend a lot of time sifting through "amateur" opinions from those that are more "seasoned," I'm really not very impressed by jaded points of view, and I like when people recognize they are experiencing something unique and special. If they didn't, there wouldn't be much point to traveling in the first place, and just because thousands of other people have been moved by Florence in the past doesn't mean that visiting the city can't be a life-changing experience for someone now. That said, however, I admit that there are a lot of italics in this book and they do become annoying; but Tucker's enthusiasm continues to win the day.
This is essenziale for anyone who will be staying in Florence or Tuscany for a length of time, but it's also useful and enlightening for anyone who wants an inside look into daily life in Florence (as well as for anyone contemplating starting a business in Florence). Especially helpful is the chapter 'Nita Tucker's Top Ten List of Things You Need to Know' ("that Italians assume you already do know, should know and are stupid for not knowing!") but there are other helpful phrases, cultural taboos, traditions,and etiquette tips that turn up in every chapter.
I enjoyed reading this book so much that I read another one she wrote, with Victoria Miachika, called Essential Florence: The Practical Guide for Living in Florence (also self-published, I believe, in 2010). This book is more like a directory (chapter 11 is an "Essential White Pages") and is super essenziale for English-speaking foreigners spending lengths of time in the city. However, I find it very useful for insight into cultural traditions Tucker didn't include in her other book. Chapter 9, 'Embracing Cultural Differences,' is eye-opening reading for anyone who wants more than a superficial knowledge of Italians (and the 'Superstitious Survival' article by Roseanne Wells, reprinted from The Florentine -- one of several included in the book -- is fascinating). I admit that a big smile crossed my face when I saw that the first edition of my Tuscany and Umbria book -- published in 2000 and entitled Central Italy: Tuscany & Umbria) was first on a list of 'Some Good Reads,' but I can't help making a correction to another recommended title: Made in Italy: A Shopper's Guide to the Best of Italian Traditions is not authored by Suzy Gershman (misspelled as Gersham) but is by Laura Morelli (and it's an excellent book, one that I also recommend often).
Tucker no longer lives in Firenze -- I won't spoil the story here -- but she does return frequently, and she hasn't lost any of her passion for it: "Before I hit the pillow that first evening, I feel as if I've never left and it feels great. Still enthralled with Florence's beauty, my spirits soar at the sight of the Ponte Vecchio or at the vision of Il Duomo lit up at night."
Visit Tucker's world at www.nitatucker.com