I have experienced the most fun in life whenever I have ventured off the beaten path. I also believe that it's fantastic to be a stranger - everywhere. That feeling of discovery, combined with a special vulnerability and an increased level of communication, allow for adventures beyond the ordinary.
Join me on this journey of discovery for a fresh new look at your city, your world and your life. And remember to always be a stranger, a foreigner and a tourist, no matter what you do.

The Pitti Uomo Diaries, Part 1

The past few days for me have been heavy. I’ve searched my soul for personal thoughts about the attacks in France and have still to figure out how I feel. I know I’m sad, I find the events tragic and discouraging, but beyond that, I don’t know.

Then, just as I was trying to make sense of it all through social media, and tweeted “#JeSuisAhmed,” I was called a “useful idiot” on Twitter, by a 60-something Pakistani-Canadian author with a pot belly. I am used to insults from young trolls with faceless avatars by now, but this was a published writer, a man who has a hefty following of equal haters, many of whom quickly retweeted his comment. For all I’ve written, for every step I’ve taken in trying to stay away from typical media negativity and inspire those who read my thoughts to watch films and read books as means to understand the Arab world better (in my opinion the easiest and only solution for the sake of humanity) I felt defeated.

And just then, at that crucial moment, that’s when a couple I call my angels of inspiration came to the rescue. Lisa Chiari and Roberto Ruta are a Florence-based duo in life and work who never cease to amaze me. They are the International Press and Italian Press Relations, respectively, for Pitti Imagine, which this week has infused Florence with the style of Pitti Uomo. Beautiful fashion, wandering around my home city, the food and hospitality of this place, and seeing Lisa and Roberto turns out to be exactly what my weary soul needs now. Right now.

My journey started with a train. It’s been years since I’ve taken one in Italy, I’ve grown accustomed to air travel. But flights were completely booked up on the day I wanted to set off and the train turned out to be an economical and very satisfying experience. Trains in Italy aren’t what they used to be when I was a child, that’s for sure. These days they are called things like “Red Arrow” and “Silver Arrow”, are fast, on time and full of well behaved adults — except for the one Italian man with the loud ringtone and even louder timber who thankfully sat at the other end of my car.

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