Texas Girl. I agree. Applying that same question to the US, I too would say Washington DC - it's an international city with people from everywhere in the world working or living close by, given the refugee communities, the embassies, the immigration communities, etc. yet it is also very much a small town, with a small town feel in some parts. (There is official Washington and unofficial Washington, or as it is known locally, DC.), it's got American culture in its museums and on its streets, it's got all the branches of the national government working - or not working - for all to see, it's got a Northern feel, but remains essentially a Southern town, and if you need to drive to see other places during your stay, it's got Baltimore to the north and Richmond to the south, with West Virginia, MD, and VA in between. Some very different places and cultures around that all come together in a sense to hash out their differences and get to their agreements in DC.
Sorry, for the tangent, but maybe that helps some in understanding the basis behind my question. I am asking for my son, in fact. He is 19. He was born in Washington DC, lived in DC proper, DC burbs, Rhode Island, Baltimore, and now going to school in upstate NY. His mother is West African. Meanwhile I am from the wild frontier that is known as Cape Cod. So yes, given his life circumstance, the amount of times we move, his personality, and the frequency at which he code switches, plus his love of national politics since age 5, I am going to go ahead make the assumption that he has a higher awareness of cultural and global issues than the average American. You can disagree with my opinion, but it remains, my opinion, and there is no need to question or disparage....my opinion.
At any rate, getting back to the question at hand, I am getting the sense that for most, it comes down to Florence or Rome, (or Venice as an acceptable alternative) if you want to do the big city approach. (If it's a small town approach, then that opens too many possibilities for discussing, I guess.) And when in Rome, you should do as the Romans do (sorry. Couldn't help it.) and take the good with the bad, the positives of the big city with the negatives. It sounds like with Florence, a smaller city, you get most of the virtues of an Italian city, with decidedly less downsides that you might get entangled with in Rome. Does that sound about right?
At any rate, I had him look over the answers, and I think he is leaning towards Florence right now, with an emphasis of getting out of the city whenever possible and enjoying the Tuscan countryside. He's like that. Loves the city, loves the country. Back and forth. Needs to escape one for the other. We do that a lot. Change it up. But for the question, it's good to force some rigor into the asking. Being based in 1 place means one gets to explore the one place and its surrounds more in depth than otherwise. Minimum time spent making connections and max. time getting to learn about and otherwise experience people from another country and culture.
But he is in college now, and needs a passport, and some disposable income. So we have a lot of time before we plan any further.
On a related note, he is also very interested in British culture, politics, governement, etc. Is there a place in place in Italy that has been marked by the Brits, and/or a place in Britain that has been influenced by the Italians?
Writing to you from my current home in Baltimore (bocce courts in Little Italy, anyone?) , ready to spend another working day in DC, enjoying the non-US views from my wife, and always in a love/hate relationship my Cape Cod home. I think my family enjoys cultural contrasts. My son was simply born into it. --C.
PS - The idea of exploring both city and country, and the internal need to do so, by him came about , I believe as a result of reading all of your answers. So thank you for forcing him to reevaluate his own thinking a bit.