Finding Artistry and Clarity in Florence

Story for The Style Line Girl Abroad series

Before I get into the specifics of my trip (which I’m pleased to share was the equivalent of a *chef’s kiss*) I’d like to start by offering a brief back-story for those that may be in need of a little nudge, or guidance.

I was fortunate to have found success at a fairly young age working as an illustrator in the fashion and beauty industries. My career has offered me some incredible life experiences, a diverse range of projects, and has connected me with people and clients from all over the world. Though like any profession there are its downsides such as slow times in the industry, or proposed dream projects falling through. Moreover, transitioning from a green, twenty-something to a now seasoned-thirty came with its own unique set of challenges. Over the years, my tastes and relationship to the job has evolved resulting in me feeling somewhat detached to the work. In what felt like a sudden shift, I began an introspective look at my life taking into account what no longer felt authentic to me. While incredibly invigorating, this process in its early stages comes with an amount of uncertainty and a general feeling of coming up short. However, I also discovered that the more I edited the stronger my intuition became and things would ostensibly start falling into place. For the sake of theme, and because I love a metaphor, I can ascribe to this idea with a quote from Michelangelo in which he states, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Admittedly, I knew little about Florence upon arriving, but as an artist seeking inspiration I figured the birthplace of the Renaissance would be a good place to start. As a reader of The Style Line, you may have heard me mention the Florence Academy of Art on the Slow Stories podcast a few months back. Being a predominately self-taught artist, I’ve always romanticized the life of the art school student and was happy to learn the academy offered painting workshops throughout the year. Shortly after my discovery I was enrolled and would have the next couple of months to coordinate arrangements.

I arrived to the city by train around 9 a.m. (via Paris, via Los Angeles) after what I will describe as “24 hours of character building travel.” I find it’s easier to be pragmatic when traveling alone so with a “Universe take the wheel,” approach I was ready to let Florence unfold. My walk from the Santa Maria Novella station to my apartment near Ponte Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti was about fifteen minutes of genuine relief and bliss; there’s a certain kind of innocence you experience when arriving to a new place and it is then that I believe you are the most present.

 Too early to officially check-in, my host was kind enough to greet me, give me the grand tour and let me drop my bags. If this trip were a novel (in hindsight it feels like one) the apartment itself would be a main character. From a floral wallpapered master bedroom equipped with a stufa and floor-to-ceiling window dressings, the entire space was filled furniture and décor I imagine have been foundational pieces in the family for generations. As an old soul that favors antique over modern, it was in all its glory the old world setting I had been calling in.

Within an hour of arriving, I hopped on a bike that conveniently came with the apartment and headed to Zecchi, a historic art store, to pick up the materials I ordered for the workshop. I found this mode of transportation eased me into the pace and flow of the city, and within minutes I felt a true sense of belonging.

I love when travel has some type of structure, or purpose beyond the sake of “vacation,” and for a trip such as this, it was a glimpse into what my life could potentially be. For the next week, my days would involve an early morning bike ride along the Arno River to the academy where our painting sessions were from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. With sweeping, cinematic-like views my rides to and from class were some of my favorite and most heavily documented moments. The structure of the course was in the best way demanding that spritz stops on my ride home felt all the more deserved. At night I would explore the several dining options in the Santo Spirito neighborhood, or curate my own cheese and charcuterie plate from the local markets to enjoy from home (an equally desirable dining experience).

To aid in the overall feeling of kismet, my social life in Firenze also thrived. I wined and dined with friends who happened to be passing through and connected with prominent artists residing in the city. These moments felt all the more validating, as though I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

The funny thing about clarity is that in the end it’s always so simple. I’ve often struggled with bouts of perfectionism, over thinking my approach, asking, “What’s the point?”  Yet here I was having profound experiences in a city built on mastery, visited and adored by millions for its aesthetic beauty alone. It’s these principles that have always been of core value to me serving as a channel in which I can connect with my self and individuals on a level beyond the physical, giving life a greater meaning.

In retrospect, there’s something wonderful and strange about the coming together of the trip. At a time when I would have described my creative flow as fleeting and very much seeking guidance, Florence presented herself to me. And while one’s own unique experience can’t account for the make-up of an entire city, I can’t help but owe what feels like the beginning of my own personal renaissance to her.

TravelJeanette Getrost