My apartment-hunting adventure

by Rebecca Bricker on April 14, 2013

I recently moved to a new apartment in Florence. I hate moving, but I decided to look at apartment hunting as an adventure – an opportunity to explore new neighborhoods in a city where apartment buildings date back to the 1200s (that’s not a typo).

I have a list of what the perfect neighborhood should have:

  • an alimentari (grocery store)
  • a bancomat (ATM machine)
  • a farmacia (preferably with a pharmacist who speaks some English)
  • a caffè/pasticceria (where they don’t mind patrons who linger, writing in their journals)
  • a gelateria
  • a ferramenta (a hardware store)
  • good bus service (I haven’t gotten up the nerve to ride a bike here yet)
  • church bells – Florence is full of them, thankfully :)


When I explore a neighborhood, I look at its palette, texture, layers and style…










Of course, its history is important: I enjoy stepping into the period and story of a place…

I saw an apartment on the mezzanine level of a 17th-century palazzo. The mezzanino is a half floor, usually with small windows, tucked between the ground floor and the first floor. In days of old, it was the servants’ quarters. I was imagining myself as Signora Hughes of Downtoni Palazzo when the landlord informed me that if I wanted to install a washing machine, it would have to drain into the toilet because of the ancient plumbing. So much for life at Downtoni.

I went to see a furnished apartment in the historic Palazzo Borghese, where Napoleon used to visit his sister Pauline, who was married to a Borghese prince. The apartment was part of the gallery above the ballroom, where the orchestra played for Pauline’s parties. The living room had a massive antique writing desk, which I loved. But the clearance above the bed in the loft was so low (Napoleon’s height) that I would have had a perpetual lump on my head.

And then, I found my new home – near Porta Romana, the southern gate (built in the 14th century) of the now-demolished medieval wall of Florence. Porta Romana’s enormous doors, still on their hinges, are propped open to allow cars, buses and motorbikes to zip around the traffic circle that lies just beyond.

My apartment is a block beyond the gate – fuori porta, the locals say (outside the door). It sits on a hill, next to villas and private gardens, with a view of the Apennine mountains beyond the city.


The neighborhood has everything on my list, including church bells. There’s even a lion at the end of my street and an ancient tower just around the bend.

And there’s a caffè named after Petrarch, the Italian scholar and poet. It’s the neighborhood hangout and a great place to write. :)




Next to the caffè, there’s a bank (with a bancomat) that has been in business since 1472…20 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. (Wonder what the ATM fees were back then.) 😉












Pat April 14, 2013 at 3:35 am

I enjoyed the delightful vicarious apartment hunt in Florence! I loved the perfect neighborhood must have list…made me feel like I was learning Italian. I will look forward to hearing about the actual move…that is always an adventure.

Jackie Lamothe April 14, 2013 at 3:48 am

Hope to have the chance to see the new digs this year!

Thom April 14, 2013 at 4:07 am

Another fun adventure. I am not sure your criteria was in the correct order of importance; wouldn’t gelataria be first, followed by caffe? 😉 You are fast becoming one of my top ten writers. Keep it up!

Rebecca Bricker April 14, 2013 at 10:55 am

I am ever practical when it comes to priorities: Food, money, drugs, coffee, gelato, hammers/nails, buses and bells. 😉

Peg Ross April 14, 2013 at 7:11 am

Glad you found something that you can settle in to-sounds lovely.

Céline Berthelot April 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm

What a great post !
Having had the chance to go to Florence, I think you are quite fortunate to be able to live there.
I always enjoy your pictures.
Thank you for sharing ,

Teresa April 15, 2013 at 6:04 am

A wonderful post, Becky. I’m loving your adventures, spirit-sister. Sending you endless hugs and wishes for bliss! Besos.~T

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