There has been a recent uptick in emails of people “RSVPing” for the walking tours featured on this site. Nothing makes Hannah and I as simultaneously happy and sad as receiving such a note–happy that someone thinks they’ll enjoy the tour enough to reach out to us, and sad that we can’t be there in person to in fact host it. We always explain that the walks we write are self-guided (although we still hold out hope that one day we can all stride along in Florence together!).
A slight bummer, yes. The silver lining, however, is that we then introduce that person to our delightful friend Suz of Florence in August. Hannah, Suz and I all went through graduate school together, so if you’re looking for a guide who matches the spirit of FFF, Suz is definitely for you. In addition to being an art history pro, she has an incredible sense of humor and specializes in breaking down complex happenings into stories you won’t forget. Plus, her sharp memory extends well beyond Florentine history, meaning she can jump from painting techniques to pop culture in no time flat. And she can help you avoid the sometimes anxiety-causing Italian/English bloopers.
So we thought it was time we shared Suz with all of our readers. If you’re headed to Florence and looking for a knowledgable guide who will also make you crack a smile, we’ve found your gal. Read on as she fills us in on her favorite spaces and daily life as an expat.
Name: Suzanne Myers
Currently kicking butt as a: Licensed Tour Guide for the city of Florence & Field Trip Lecturer for Syracuse University Florence.*
How did you first come to Florence?
I first came to Florence in August 2005 for my junior year abroad. I immediately fell in love with the city and vowed to one day make it my home. In January 2011, I returned for graduate school and haven’t left since.**
How did you decide to become a tour guide?
I had finished up my master’s degree in Italian Renaissance art history and wanted to have a career in art history that didn’t necessarily involve getting a PhD. As part of my graduate studies, I had been a teaching assistant for a few art history courses. I found I really enjoyed lecturing undergrads and introducing them to all of the amazing works of art and architecture in Florence.*** Becoming a tour guide seemed like a great fit, because it offered all the perks of teaching art history classes, but in a more relaxed and fun context.
What was the process like to become a tour guide in Florence?
In order to become a tour guide in Florence, you need to complete an 800-hour course and a rigorous set of exams covering everything from Florentine history to archaeology to food traditions.**** You then must pass a final written exam as well as an oral exam administered by a board of licensed guides for the city. It was definitely one of the more challenging things I’ve done, especially given the fact that the course and all of my exams were in Italian. However, the incredible breadth of knowledge I gained was worth every second.
What’s your favorite tour of the city?
My favorite tour seems to change all the time! However, I am currently loving the Palatine Gallery at the Pitti Palace. In addition to having once been the opulent ducal residence of the Medici family from the 16th through the 18th centuries, it houses one of the most incredible collections of Renaissance and Baroque paintings in Italy (including 11 Raphaels!). In comparison to the Uffizi, hardly anyone visits the Pitti and I think that their collection is just as beautiful. Plus, you avoid all of the crazy crowds.
What does your daily life look like?
In the high season I am usually giving two tours a day–one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I give a lot of walking tours on the historical center of the city as well as the Uffizi or the Accademia. Most of my clients are small groups and families. What I love about my job is that it’s different every day. Things can get pretty hectic, but I still sometimes can’t believe that it’s my job to tell people about Michelangelo’s David or explain how Brunelleschi constructed his iconic dome. I love that I help people fall in love with my favorite city every day.
What’s your favorite free thing to do in Florence?
One of my favorite things to do is visit the Chiostro dello Scalzo to see Andrea del Sarto’s fresco cycle of the life of St. John the Baptist.***** The paintings have this haunting beauty that still gives me chills every time I see them. It’s truly one of the hidden gems of the city.
If you could give our readers one bit of travel advice about Florence, what would it be?
Florence is often a lot more crowded and commercialized than people think it’s going to be –which means that upon arriving, sometimes it can be difficult to see its charm. My advice would be to head over to the Oltrarno and just wander its beautiful streets.****** You’ll escape the crowds and there are still plenty of museums, churches, cafes, and shops to enjoy.
Thanks for the insider info, Suz! If you’d like to get in touch with her to book a tour–or even customize your own–she can be reached through her site, Florence in August. Or, if you want to follow her guide adventures from afar, check her out on Instagram. And if you’d just like a see a list of our walks, head here. Ciao, pals!
Still reading? Then here’s some H&M running commentary:
*Her Instagram profile also notes that she is an “occasional ghost hunter in Florence.” Not sure why she would leave that part out?
**We always knew Suz was the smartest of us all! Why did we ever leave?
***Last time we were in town, Suz took us around the outside of Orsanmichele and quizzed us on all the saints and guilds associated with the statues. We didn’t do so hot. Needless to say, even if you think you know Florence well, she can still show a thing or two in the city you haven’t seen (or noticed) before!
****YIKES!!! Also, you go, girl! We never realized how rigorous a process it was until Suz went through it. Which is why it’s important to make sure you have a properly licensed guide when you come to the city–they have proven that they know. their. stuff.
*****Boom! Same favorite (semi-secret) place as us. Must be why we’re friends.
******What, you didn’t think we’d take this out to six asterisks? But we agree! Which is why we’ve written more than a few posts about it. Also, did we mention Suz does custom tours? So you can even have her show you around the south side of the city.