Falling for Florence

Becoming a Local

After falling in love with Florence some travellers simply never left. These foreigners often went from tourists themselves to merchants of the tourism industry, opening hotels and shops that often catered to tourists from their home country. European immigrants to Florence used the popularity of guidebooks, and the frequency with which they were published, to their advantage by regularly advertising their services and wares. The majority offered services in English, as British and Americans made up the bulk of travelers to Florence during the 19th century, but many merchants also spoke French and German.

Those who chose to settle in Florence also became links between new travellers and the city’s social scene. On first arriving to the city, most tourists went to visit their foreign consulate, getting advice on where to stay, things to see, and people to meet. Bankers, one of the first stops made in the city to acquire the right currency, were also a wealth of information. As trusted institutions, banks were frequently asked for advice or recommendations. Soon foreign embassies and banking institutions were listed on the first page of many guides.

Health & Wellness

According to Florentine psychiatrist Dr. Graziella Magherini, “Stendhal Syndrome” or “Florence Syndrome” was overwhelming emotion – a kind of giddiness – caused by exposure to too much good art. This condition was named after the French writer Stendhal fainted after viewing Florentine art.

“As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce Palpitation of the heart; the wellspring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground” –  Naples to Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio, 1817, Stendhal (Marie-Henrie Beyle)

But some travellers came to Florence specifically in search of rest and improved health. Seeking a warmer and more humid climate as a way to cure illness, a number of people came to stay in Florentine hospitals. Doctors and surgeons that spoke different languages listed their services in the “Important Addresses” section of guidebooks. By the late 19th century the number and wide range of foreign doctors was significant. Those who travelled to Florence for health reasons or those who became sick on their journey were assured that they would be able to communicate their medical needs in their own language.

Eternal Rest

Unfortunately, some did not survive to take the journey home. With so many Protestants visiting Florence each year or choosing to stay permanently, accommodations had to be created for those who made the city their final resting place. Non-Catholics had previously been buried in Liverno, but in 1827 the Swiss Evangelical Reform Church purchased land outside of the city walls for an international cemetery for those belonging to all Christian faiths. The cemetery, referred to as the English Cemetery as the majority of graves belong to British and Americans, entombs many famous 19th century poets, writers, artists, and diplomats. One of the most famous graves, that of English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, encouraged some tourists to pay a special visit to the cemetery during their stay.

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