Originally built on an Etruscan settlement, Florence, or Firenze as only one who’s been will come to know it as, remains as beautiful today as the artworks that were born there hundreds of years ago. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence is also the birthplace of many of the great minds that would later contribute to this age of enlightenment.
Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Brunelleschi are just a few of the native geniuses whose imprints continue to overwhelm camera-happy tourists year-in and year-out; and as the Renaissance made Florence an endless place of discovery, beauty, knowledge, and romance, it continues to hold on tightly to its affluent past despite its current lack of wealth and depleting population.
It seems strange that the land of strict Catholicism and family togetherness would come to be known as the world’s leader in low fertility, but it’s true. Italy, and the city of Florence especially, is the first nation in history– except in times of war, famine, or plague, to experience such a serious drought in humanity. The main reason for this drop is based solely on a need for prosperity over familial struggle, and comfort is now what people believe in. The idea of bringing four children into a household that can only afford to support two is unacceptable amongst modern Italians. This may seem like a perfectly fine philosophy but it’s a double-edged sword as well. Because of Italy’s lack of money people are having less children. But this means there are less people to fulfill future jobs, which continuously keeps the economy low and people too poor to be able to afford more children in the future. This is where pets enter the picture.
Research now shows that pet guardianship in Italy is rapidly increasing and it is now the fourth highest European country to welcome animals into their hearts, homes, and hotels. The population of Italy is approximately 57 million and its pet population is a startling 58 million (according to the STAT-US Market Research Report: www.strategis.ic.gc.ca)! One reason for this growth is because pets have come to be known as friends, even taking the place of children because of their level of affordability versus a child. They have even come to be thought of as psychological necessities in most households. The elderly have also taken to owning pets because the increase in lifespan has made the need for companionship ever more present.
Dogs can be seen strolling alongside their guardians, or in this case adopted parents, as they take their daily walk past the Duomo Cathedral. They drool over the Ponte Vecchio as they pass the rows of gold and jewel shops that decorate it, and they sit outside cafés waiting patiently for Mommy and Daddy to finish their last sips of cappuccino or limoncello.
Dogs and cats are welcomed all over Florence. They run leashless throughout the San Lorenzo market place, take naps underneath the shade of carts, or play with other worker’s “babies”. They casually enter and exit tabbacchi shops, bars, and café’s just as the people do. They are trusted to play amongst the ancient cathedrals, statues, and tourists with complete faith that they will return home unharmed, exercised, and happy. The spacious piazzas and parks are the perfect playgrounds for the newest additions to the Florentine familial scene; and the narrow streets bearing minimal traffic guarantee humans the sense of security they need when allowing little Donatello the doggie to cross the street on his own for the first time.
The other benefit of a vast animal population is that again an Italian Renaissance has been sparked. This time, instead of finding new levels of artistic ingenuity, examining and hypothesising life philosophies and dogmatic theologies, the Italian market is being explored. With the dawning of the age of the pet, Italians have developed the need for a wider animal market. Suddenly the need for greater variety amongst food, toys, and other pet products have become quite the necessity and is having a steady effect on the Italian economy.
This revival has not only sufficed amid the native Italians but since word has gotten round of l’amore degli animali tourists have started packing up their pets as well when they feel a yearning to visit David or the rolling hills of the Tuscan Chianti vineyards. People are flocking toward the great boot in order to experience all the comforts of a true Italian holiday with their four-legged bambini, and in order to accommodate the influx of pets and their people most hotels in Florence have taken to being animal friendly. A few in particular are:
The Grand Hotel Baglioni
A 19th century building with typical Tuscan architecture, situated in the heart of Florence near Santa Maria Novella Train Station in Piazza Unita. Prices start at: $182.
Piazza Unita Italiana 6
011 39 055 23580
Hotel Villa Fiesole
On the border of ancient Etruscan hills, surrounded by woods, it is a peaceful stay for people looking for the beauty of Tuscany minus the bustle of Florence’s city center. A beautifully restored 19th century villa with frescoed ceilings, it offers the comforts of a world-class hotel with the appearance of a bed and breakfast. Also available are panoramic terrace views, a swimming pool, and it’s only minutes away from shopping, dinning, and sight seeing. Prices start at: $174.
Via Beato Angelico, 35
011 39 055 597252
This small hotel that used to host various artists such as George Eliot and Verdi is placed in the city center on Via Tornabuoni. It is near all of the main monuments and was recently refurbished offering a homey atmosphere. Prices start at: $158.
Via de’ Tornabuoni 13
011 39 055 2396464
A three star hotel located in Piazza Della Republica– the very heart of all that is Firenze. This hotel offers extraordinary views of Florence with spacious, well-decorated rooms that follow typical 19th century style. Some overlook the bell tower and all come with modern day amenities.
Prices start at: $77.
Piazza della Republica, 2
011 39 055 219781
It should be noted that in Florence veterinarians use a walk-in service rather than appointments. So if any sickly situations should occur just go into any of the following offices and wait your turn (with patience). Clinics are usually open from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and again from 4:00 pm till 8:00 pm. For nighttime, holiday, and weekend emergencies call Guardia Medica Veterinaria at: 011 39 055 722 3683, other wise here are a few places that you can take your precious pet during regular hours:
Animal Protection Society (Protezione Animali)
(F4) Via Ricasoli, 73r
011 39 055 213296
Viale Europa 64
011 39 055 684360
Clinica il Poggetto
Via Celso 4r
011 39 055 473009
There is also a very nice pet accessories store if you feel the need to buy your baby a treat or accidentally left the favorite chew toy at home. It is called Brilli L’Angolo del Mercato and it’s located perpendicular to the San Lorenzo Central Marketplace on Via Rosina.
Though Italy is very open to animal visitors there are a few regulations that guardians have to follow. Visitors of Italy are able to bring a maximum of five pets with them and they include any of the following: Birds (small, no parrots), cats, dogs, frogs, fish (small), lizards (common ones), mice, monkeys (maximum two), rodents (squirrel, hamster, guinea pigs, marmot, chinchilla), and turtles (small). Any of these pets can enter Italy if accompanied by a guardian and a health certification issued by a certified veterinarian in the country of origin no more than thirty days prior to departure.
If you would like to learn more about regulations concerning vacationing with pets in Italy go to: www.italconphila.org/english/animals.html