Yes, We’re Heading to Florence

Writing about it makes it sound more real, and it’s true. We’re going to Florence after the holidays to live there for a few months. While it was hard announcing it the first time (it does sound a little ridiculous at first), the more I think about it, the more assured I become.

While it does seem random, I am more convinced that the steps that led us here to this place were not, and I am looking forward to what’s coming next.

Here’s what happened up to this point:

We made the decision for Doug to take a year off from work. He had just turned 40 years old, and he has worked hard for 25 years. We thought it sounded like a good idea to step back and figure out what he would do for the next 25 years, as well as take some time together.

With our apartment lease ending, we were hoping to go live in a different city without having to consider where Doug needed to work. Without being tied down by a mortgage or a long-term lease, we could try a few of the cities we thought sounded like a nice place to live.

We thought about cities here in the States:

New York City
and so forth.

We looked at cabins, cottages, and corporate apartments. We thought about living close to the beach in Florida and freezing our buns off in a cabin in Maine.

What we found is that renting a furnished place for just a short time here can be really expensive. People want you to pay a lot to sit on their furniture. So one night when I was supposed to be finishing my ebook but instead I was checking Craigslist rental listings obsessively for what was probably the four hundredth time, a thought occurred to me:

“Why is it so expensive to rent a furnished apartment during the off season? For that much money we could go live in Italy or some place.”

And then it hit me. We really could go live in Italy.

This was in the middle of the night, so of course it struck me as a good idea, just like how rearranging the furniture and coloring my hair sounds good at 2 a.m.

We had already talked about moving overseas, and I had wanted to, but it sounded like more of a challenge than we were ready for with two small kids and Doug working constantly before he quit his job.

As I looked then again at other countries, I thought that we could really do this. And when I found a village farmhouse in Tuscany renting for less than a remote cabin in the Texas Hill Country, I didn’t see any reason not to go for it.

We expanded our search, and it wasn’t easy.

We needed a city that we could live in without a car and one with plenty of food options to accommodate special diets. I needed to be able to pick up the language enough that I could communicate our special food needs for our daughter with celiac and our family’s other diet restrictions.  We wanted a short-term rental that could provide us with a kitchen, internet, a washing machine, a second bedroom for the kids, and even a bathtub would be nice. We wanted it to be a city that we could enjoy, that we knew we wouldn’t get tired of, where we could settle down and live for a bit instead of being tourists.

And then I remembered Florence, and how the last time I was there I wished I could spend a few months living there to see everything. Later we finally found one: a reasonable apartment that seemed to fit our wants and needs. You can see it on the map above.

The last time I went to visit that city I had only a guidebook, and this time I am floored by the resources available online. With every bit of knowledge we shape our next few months, and this shot-in-the-dark idea starts making more sense.

I do plan to blog about it, although I don’t expect this to become a travel blog. I think the content on Small Notebook will continue much as it has before – about living simply and making a home in a temporary place. And for now, I have some catching up to do, because I spent so much time looking for apartments until I couldn’t sit still in front of my computer anymore, and my inbox shows it.

But there’s a lot to look forward to.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Thats very exciting. We spent a month in Europe and a little in Florence. Its beautiful, rich in history, exciting, who couldnt enjoy Firenze!!! Our children are 8 and 4 and they loved Italy (we were there in June/July this year). My in laws rented a villa in Tuscany for 2 weeks. It was so peaceful and relaxing.
    What I love about Italy is that you can literally go anywhere and the coffee is excellent. Yes, I have an addiction…
    I am enjoying following your adventure. What a girl you are!
    Hugs, Sara (Sydney Australia)

  2. What a decision! You are one brave family. And I think you couldn’t have chosen a better city to live in!
    Florence is so beautiful, and I think Italy in general must be a great place to live in especially with children.
    I’m looking so forward to read about your adventure!
    Bianca from Germany
    Bianca´s last post…Feiertags-Countdown Tag 35 – Holiday Countdown Day 35

  3. Living abroad has been one of the greatest experiences in my entire life. There’s no question!

    I’m so excited to hear you’re taking this step for a few months. I’ll be here cheering for you.
    Katie at´s last post…No New Clothes Challenge – Oops

  4. Rachel, I’m so happy for you. It must be such an exciting time, daydreaming about the changes afoot.
    Florence sounds beautiful.
    Thank you for including us in your journey ;)
    Meeks @ Juggling Motherhood´s last post…5 Great Finds- Mini Calendars- Online Pumpkin Patch Sale- Felt Finds- Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas- iTRY

  5. Absolutely fantastic! So looking forward to hearing about your adventure :)
    angelvalerie´s last post…house guests…

  6. I spent nine months living with an Italian family in Firenze when I studied abroad, so as you can imagine the city holds a special place in my heart. I look forward to reading about your experience!

  7. I love that I can understand your map :). I am so jealous, I hope we can do something like that one day! (again, I guess, as we have lived in a different country…)

  8. How exciting! I’m looking forward to hearing all about your adventure.

  9. BEST meal of my life there. We’re in the middle of a move, so I know I can’t put my hands on the card right off the bat. But I will find it and I will get it to you! Loved that city. You are very fortunate!
    Andrea´s last post…Commissary Deals- 11-11-10 – 12-1-10

  10. I’m planning on moving to Europe in about four years when my military contract is up, with the boy, possibly with a baby and toddler (depending on how far along we get in the baby-making process before deciding to go). Very exciting, and I’m interested to see how it works out for you!
    Tara´s last post…Reading Great Material Makes you a Better Writer

  11. Italy seems to be a very gluten-free-friendly place. I read this on the About page of Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef (

    “When we were in Italy for our honeymoon, we were both astonished to discover how easy it was for me to eat gluten-free. All I had to say was “Io sono celiaco.” Waiters and chefs understood. They pointed out the dishes I could eat, and then brought me plates of black-truffle risotto, or sizzling beefsteak, or a saucer of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes so vividly colored that I had to blink twice before looking at them. And that was it. No explanations or apologies. I simply ate gluten-free and went onto other conversations around the table.”

    You are going to have the most amazing time in Italy, I’m so happy for you!
    Laura´s last post…Sad news

  12. Yeehaw! So excited for you.

  13. I spent a couple of nights in Florence a few years ago and loved it!! I have not been reading your blog for very long but I am so very happy for all of you. My husband and I dream of taking the kids to live in Europe for a year someday in the not so distant future. What a wonderful city to experience for a few months!

  14. I really admire you for following this dream. I look forward to reading about your adventures. I’ve never been to Italy so will have to use “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “House Hunters International” as my points of reference. Sad, I know. Best of luck!
    Kim McCallie´s last post…Coconut Bread

  15. Florence is a lovely city, no doubt. Your time there will fly by.

    I’m one of the people who commented in your earlier post about the need for a special permit to stay longer than 3 months. It sounds like you will be shy of that – which is good. At least here in Switzerland, without a residency permit, you need to be on your way out of the country within 90 days or you are penalized and fined.

    God bless your plans and the journey ahead.

  16. Truly a Grand Adventure!!!
    I Live in an Antbed´s last post…Mom Years

  17. This is so exciting Rachel and will be brilliant for you all as a family; I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  18. How very exciting for you! What a terrific experience for you and your family. Congratulations…I can’t wait to hear more about your journey.

  19. It looks like you’re going to be right by Giardino Bardini, one of my fav places in Firenze. You can get a one year Uffizi family pass for 100 Euros. While you’ll only be there 3 months or so, this is well worth the $ as entry into Boboli Gardens and to Giardino Bardini, the Uffizi, David etc. is about 10 Euros a pop anyway.
    Tepary´s last post…Health Food aka Chocolate

  20. Wow! This is so cool! I can’t wait to hear (read) all about it. Sounds fantastic!
    Paige´s last post…Sunday fun-day with the girls

  21. Oh My Goodness – this is so exciting and I don’t even know you! I just read the blog sometimes. How very exciting. My husband and I talk about living overseas in a few years. What a neat thing for your family to be able to do! And it looks like you’re right next to the piazza michaelangelo – one of my favorite places in Florence. If they set off a firework show for some reason (I was there for San Giovani Day) you must go stand at the top of the piazza – there is nothing better!

  22. What a lovely adventure!What fun!! I can’t wait to follow along via your blog :) Good choice not picking Portland. I spent most of my life there, but do not miss it. There is so much hype around that city now, but it’s just hype. I think you’d have been disappointed. Besides, Portland vs. Italy, is that even a question?!

  23. What an amazing opportunity! And how great it is that you and your husband have worked hard and made good decisions along the way so that this is possible!! I love it! I can’t wait to follow along on your adventure..

  24. I just want to say how excited I am for you and your family. I have wanted to move to Italy for 10 years now. I am dreaming of being able to retire there one day, so I’m saving all my pennies! In bocca al lupo!

  25. I am so excited for you!! I love your blog, and I can’t wait to see how your year goes!

  26. I’m so excited for you guys! I hope you find plenty of gluten-free options for your daughter. It’s hard to communicate dietary restrictions in any language, even your own, but I know you will find a way. I hope you have a wonderful adventure!
    Frances´s last post…Curried Pumpkin Soup- How To Make A Curry

  27. Lily (from Italy) says:

    URGH. Live in Italy, like, LIVE? Please read some articles about the current political/economical situation – it’s hard for natives to get a job, let alone foreigners – the most brilliant youth go abroad, more and more of them. And not without good reason. Paychecks are lower than the European average but gas is higher, rents are still high*, taxes are high, women are mistreated and underpaid…

    *For example, a teacher is paid €1200 and rents rarely are lower than €600 (I was paid even less – I have a degree, have experience as editor and used to work in a publishing house for €*750*!!)

    Italy is nice if you are a tourist, besides Florence is an expensive city.
    Sorry for being harsh – I hope you have a nice experience, but I wonder if you’ll want to stay.

  28. Lily (from Italy) says:

    I understand you mean “live” as “live for a while there” but in doubt… ;)

  29. Oh how I wish I was doing the same thing as you!

    Thought you’d appreciate this post by Robb Wolf on eating gluten-free in Florence. Apparently they test for celiac at birth in Italy, and the restauranteurs there know what to do (for example, gluten free dough, mixed separately, different oven).

  30. I’m so excited for you and will be following your posts about living in another country most diligently as this is something my husband and I are looking to do. Take time off and live somewhere new. In about four years his youngest graduates from high school and we are planning for that day.

    So excited for you!
    Karen´s last post…Holiday Give Away

  31. awww, so awesome! good luck with the new move! How amazing! And brave! And inspiring!
    Ammie @´s last post…Make It Happen Monday 112210

  32. What an amazing and exciting idea! Have you been to Italy before? I backpacked there after a collegiate study abroad in Oxford, England. I adored Italy. Make sure you take a day trip (or two!) to Venice and down through the Amalfi coast line.

    Eat LOTS of gelato for me! I had some every single day. :)


  33. vermontmommy says:

    Never been there before but am eager to see and read what you do. I am very excited for your family. What a great way to start the New Year.

  34. I am excited for you. It is nice to spend some time in another country – especially if you have to opportunity to do so. Lily offers some sage advice and I hope others dont see her negatively about it.

    I live in Italy also and I made the decision to move so I could stay at home with my daughter. When I made the decision I didn’t think about the difficulties that exist in living in a foreign country. There are huge differences between living in Italy and living in America. That is part of the good about living in another country and also part of the bad.

    I think that had I the opportunity to do it over we would have moved here for a few months before finally deciding where to finally live. As such we might to the states we might not.

    You will enjoy being in Italy though. Italy is a beautiful country and does have a lot to offer.
    Adrianne´s last post…Journaling vs Blogging

    • Adrianne, I think you are correct – it’s always good to try on a city for size to see if it’s where you want to remain. Or a country for that matter! When my husband had a chance to work in Switzerland, we decided it would be wise for him to try it for a year. We are still here in Zurich, 4 years later; we are close to Italy – but here, everything works really well!

      I think for the purposes of Rachel and her family, to live temporarily in Italy should be wonderful. Things that are not exactly “great” will be easy to brush aside, since it’s not going to be permanent. And all the wonderful things will be enjoyed to the last drop! or bite!

      I think my problem with Florence would be the lack of green space. It’s a great city, but I like more public parks at my fingertips. Of course, the beautiful Tuscan country-side will just be a bus-ride away.

      It’s interesting to read the different comments. I think Lily has some very good points, especially for anyone choosing to live permanently in Italy as an expat.

      • Lily (from Italy) says:

        Thanks. :)

        Yep, one should never think “XY is my dream country, so I’ll just go and live there”. Dream ≠ reality. It could be very far from what you’ve dreamt, or very close.
        A good friend of mine now lives in London and has definitely found her ideal life, but she studied there a year before taking this decision. She’s not paid a lot, but is able to use all her intellectual and artistic skills, which is very difficult here.

    • Lily (from Italy) says:

      Seen negatively? Who cares, I think my opinion should be taken positively, since I’m speaking of my own country, unlike most ;)

      Adrianne, what differences have you found from living in the US? I’m curious… I’ll visit your blog, now that I think of it.

  35. I am looking forward to reading about your experiences!
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith´s last post…National Adoption Day

  36. Marilyn Holeman says:

    We were blessed to be sent to Switzerland for four months by my husband’s company about twenty years ago. At the time, our four kids were ages 2-6. We had a MARVELOUS time. My husband worked during the week, while we lived in a small village for two months, and then in Zurich. We traveled every weekend–first around Switzerland, then around Europe by train. (Eurail passes need to be purchased in the US–or did at the time.) (Oh, and in Switzerland with a Swiss Pass, kids under 16 traveled free with an adult.) Unfortunately the littler ones don’t remember much (though the youngest, after we came home, saw the Eiffel Tower on TV and said, “I’ve been on one of those!”) But it was well-worth it. Have a wonderful time! Adventures await!

  37. Buono viaggio!

  38. LOVE LOVE LOVE that you’re going for it…stepping out…not letting ‘common sense’ dictate your future! What an adventure for you and your kids and what a place for your husband to recharge and evaluate what he wants! I’ve been to Florence and I too loved it. I look forward to reading more about your experience! TFS!

  39. Awesome! I love your stick figures! :)

  40. Ilaria (from Florence) says:

    Hi Rachel, I’ve been reading yor blog since 2 year ago and it’s really great. I also think the decision of a year off for Doug is a really great opportunity for your family… and what I read today? You are moving here, to my city. I think you will enjoy living here, it’s full of US people that came and decided to stay. You will have no problem for the family diet, there are restaurants all gluten-free and supermarket (one is called Natura è) where you will find all you need. If you need tips and advices I’m here.

  41. I’m insanely jealous and so proud of you.

    We will all be here, looking forward to reading about your journey.


  42. Congratulations! My family and I lived in Florence for about 6 weeks last summer, and it was wonderful. While you’re there, make sure you frequent the Gelateria de Neri… it’s some of the best, and out-of-the-way. Mmm, gelato! I miss it!

    Best of luck. :)

  43. Scenes from A Room with a View are going through my head! Many blessings for you on this adventure :-)

  44. I’m glad you’re not planning to go the travel blog route. But I am really looking forward to reading your musings and thoughts as you experience life in your new temporary town :-)

  45. How exciting for you all. I love Florence and one day my family will get to go there. I still talk about packing up my family and moving to the mountains of Ecuador. I know it will happen just keep the faith. I wish you all a safe and happy journey. I can’t wait to see pictures of your place and the surrounding area.
    Rana´s last post…Memories!

  46. That’s exciting! Good luck on your journey!

  47. I can’t help thinking that this is the dumbest decision ever, with two small children, in this economy…you’re not following the “rules” the ones that say you have to have a stable job, a house/apt and keep them both until the day you die. But oh to be able to freely decide to cut the strings tying you to a nine to five and try something new , go somewhere different and fresh and have your children experience new places, that is truly amazing and i wish you happiness.

  48. one of my all time favorite cities in the world! can’t wait to read about your new adventure!

  49. I am so excited for you all! I was laughing, though, about the thought of picking up a bit of the Italian language to get by for the time you are there. I took Latin in high school, because, although I can fake an accent like a native (according to natives), I have no idea what I am saying. I am linguistically challenged! Have a wonderful time!
    Peregrina´s last post…Lo-Carb Iced Mocha

  50. My husband is celiac and I have what I hope will be wonderful news for you!
    We were in Italy, Florence and Rome, a few years ago and almost everyone in the country knows about Celiac diets. Really. We did not find a single waiter who didn’t know what we were talking about. Actually we had to fight with them because they still thought Celiacs couldn’t have distilled vinegar and they wouldn’t let him have vinegar and oil dressing on his salads.
    Apparently Celiac disease is more common in people of Italian, French and Jewish descent.
    We found people to be more knowledgeable about Celiac diets in Canada also and were told it is because of the large french population.
    So, hope you have a wonderful experience and look forward to reading about it.

  51. Wow.. Am so excited for you.. I’m really cheering you guys on and keep discussing your latest plans with my husband here (yeah, doesn’t say much about my social life, I know!) but what you’re doing is so terrific and so unlike what I would ever do, that it is completely inspiring me to take a plunge to make a move myself!
    Prerna´s last post…Cool Clothes for Toddlers- Tommy Hilfiger Lands in India

  52. This sounds amazing! I don’t even know you but as I read this post I was really excited…that is great!
    sandy toe

  53. Wow! Sounds like you are living a dream! Cant wait to hear more about it!
    Melissa´s last post…Grateful

  54. Firenze is definitely a great choice. I spent some weeks there – it is a perfect city for walking. You won’t miss a car!
    Be sure to visit San Miniato. (It must be near your apartment, maybe up on the hill according to where you live). It is one of the coziest churches I know, with lots of very, very old beautiful ornaments – I think I remember an owl an a lion your children might like!
    Looking forward to your experiences! Best, Martina

  55. What a great decision. As someone who took the plunge and moved hemispheres nearly two years ago, I am all for people living where they want to live, rather than just sticking somewhere because ‘that’s what you do’ (though not sure my current neighbourhood is really what you would term a ‘choice’).
    Italy is fine if it is temporary. Have you finalised everything yet? Because I would suggest if you want something a bit more authentic (and cheaper! and less touristy!), but still with the amenities of knowing there are probably people around who can speak English in an emergency, why not Siena? Just as much history as Florence, nearby so you can still experience Florence, and absolutely beautiful.
    Whatever you choose, good luck!
    Natalia´s last post…Book Giveaway – The Just Bento Cookbook

  56. So exciting! You really work out what is important in your life when you have to fit it within air luggage weight allowance!

  57. Small Noteboook coming to Europe! Awesome! Greetings from Spain. I haven’t been to Florence myself, but I think it would be hard to beat. Looking forward to hearing all about it.

  58. What an awesome opportunity! Go for it! Enjoy every minute! And share with us the joy of enjoying a simple life abroad!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Focus on BE-ing

  59. Enjoy! This is our dream and it’s great to see someone else on the adventure to make our dream seam more realistic.
    You story of choosing a city was cute – you came around to our first choice – no searching for us! If it wasn’t for our connection to our family here we would be living there now!
    This will be so great for your kids.
    Best Wishes.

  60. I think it’s so great that you have savings to use for this endeavor. Such a great lesson that saving now provides freedom for the future. Can’t wait to read about your adventures.
    Rachel´s last post…Goals for the Winter

  61. This sounds heavenly! And congratulations to you for making it your reality. I visited Florence many years ago, and loved it. I was only there for a day, but I remember how I would have loved to be there longer. Looking forward to hearing how it goes for you!

    Dr. Laura
    Dr. Laura @´s last post…Dr Laura’s Tasty Tuesday – Lentil Dish…Again

  62. YAY – how exciting that you are coming to join us across the pond in Europe for a short while. It’ll be ace – sure there’ll be some different things – but that’s what makes it all the more interesting and intriguing. Italy is a fab place for kids – even teenagers stop in the street and babble about your babes :) Wonderful decision – go spread those wings!

  63. Dorothy @ Family Vacation Ideas says:

    Can’t wait to read your next adventure. I am more excited
    to your trip.Goodluck to your family. Great blog!!

  64. No offense but taking a year off sounds so ridiculous and funny.
    Vacation for a month – sure. But a year? How will he get back to work after that?
    But that is all even besides the point. The main thing is that u sounded like a Christian but not once did u mention in your posts about year off if that what the Lord wants you guys to do. What is His will?
    And besides that you are forgetting the most important thing – there is an eternal rest awaiting. In eternity you will have all the time off you need.. God bless you.

  65. How exciting! After reading this the other day I’ve been thinking about how fun it would be and then…all the questions that my detailed brain won’t let go of started coming. Have you considered creating a post that details how you arrived at Florence as your destination and the nitty gritty details of how you went about finding a place to live, etc? My family is in a position to possibly do something like this, so help from someone getting ready to do it would be so welcomed!
    Kelly Cook´s last post…My Friend Karrie

  66. How wonderful! I don’t think this is crazy at all, I think it’s brilliant. I look forward to seeing how your home keeping changes in your new environment!

  67. My husband has a sabbatical from his college teaching in 18 months, and we are beginning to make plans for him to briefly teach in Florence, and hopefully stay on the rest of the summer/fall. I’m excited to see what you learn about living there as we begin to dream about our sabbatical move there!

  68. Brilliant idea! Do it while you’re young before you have to think about the kids’ college costs, a ridiculous mortgage, and your retirement fun. Enjoy all that life has to offer in a new city, a new country, and hopefully a less complicated life. Can’t wait to hear more.

  69. Enjoy!

    I moved just north of Portland Maine last year. So far so good. It’s not THAT cold. But we did just get our first snowfall. My kids are thrilled!
    Bethany´s last post…My favorite price is FREE!

  70. We have some dear friends who live in Firenze and have a little two year old boy. They are from Dallas (I think you might be from the area too?!?). If you’d like, I would love to get y’all in touch with each other, they’ve been living there for three years now and absolutely LOVE it!

  71. I think it’s exciting! Rachel, have you read Halfway to Each Other by Susan Pohlman? It’s a memoir of an American family’s year living on the Italian Riviera. Their children were older and in school, however. The author has a blog,

  72. I am so inspired by you. Would you mind sharing a bit about the financial planning this took?

  73. Apologies if I missed this detail, but did you ultimately find your Florence apartment via craigslist? We are hoping to do something similar, and I’m not sure where to start. Any tips would be helpful! Thank you!
    Jennifer´s last post…Scarf knitting

  74. Wow! This is so exciting! I started digging around this evening and found this post. This was happening during the roughest period of my pregnancy, so I missed it. But it sounds so very exciting!

    I also wanted to say that I just downloaded your e-book and dove in. So good! Thanks for writing it!
    Tara @ Feels Like Home´s last post…Share Your Sunday Best – 3-27-11