It was a foggy October afternoon in 2013 when we arrived in San Francisco. Me, my husband Samuel, daughter Daria, now 11, a stroller, car seat and nine suitcases in a large taxi. We were driving from the airport to the City, the place we were about to call home. A few months earlier in Switzerland, where we were living, we’d made a rather quick decision to move to the Bay Area. New opportunities; a fresh start.
Our chatty driver seemed rather excited about our new adventure and was eager to inform us about what to expect in San Francisco. He started with Karl the fog (the fog has a name?) and the City’s unique microclimates. That dusky afternoon, jetlagged and quite nervous about this new chapter of our life, having left behind family, friends, house, and jobs his voice sounded like a remote buzz from the radio. My foggy brain was tuned into a different frequency, “What if I don’t like it here? Do we have a Plan B?”
Nine and a half years have passed. We never needed a Plan B, but rather a plan to manage the City’s volatile weather; the driver was right after all. Never forget to dress in layers! Although our early days were filled with the classic funny or stressful situations that occur when you move to another country/continent, we’ve been blessed with amazing friends, caring neighbors, incredible teachers, and plenty of unexpected sunny days that’ve brightened our way while we were adjusting to our new life. As they say, you need a village.
Potrero Hill is the neighborhood where we decided to settle down. Or rather the neighborhood that chose us. It has the best weather, views, and atmosphere in the City; I know my opinion is biased! Here our family grew as we welcomed our second daughter, Eliana, seven, who today is a proud San Franciscan!
San Francisco made it easy to fall for her. I’d already started romanticizing about the City many years earlier while reading about its social and cultural movements, Kerouac and Ferlinghetti. You can imagine how it felt to find out that Ferlinghetti lived on Wisconsin Street. I was meant to land right here in Potrero.
We’re delighted by the City’s multicultural soul. We, a multicultural family ourselves – Italian, Swiss, and American – have found our tribe here. It’s a comfortable environment where dichotomies naturally coexist and become fertile ground for new ideas. There’s a reason that San Francisco has always been an incubator for innovation. Here different backgrounds are welcomed, diversity is real, and inclusion isn’t just a word but an ideal that people strive for. Lately even more so. In a world that’s too often polarized and where extremisms easily flourish, we’re happy to raise our daughters in a City where “compassion” isn’t just a word.
We know San Francisco isn’t perfect and has serious issues that we all want to see resolved. Our own neighborhood is no exception. But no place on earth is perfect. The cities in Italy, Spain, Switzerland and France where we lived before moving to the Bay Area have their own struggles.
I hear people have lost faith in San Francisco’s ability to shine. The pandemic has hit the City hard. But this place is resilient. Its people know how to tap into their shared sense of community to provide solutions. Here you can build communities around a school, a neighborhood, a park, even around pets! In the other metropolises where we’ve lived, individualism is more in vogue. We as foreigners – who isn’t a foreigner in San Francisco – have benefitted from San Francisco’s culture of mutual support.
This feeling of belonging is the premise for people to be happy and thrive. This is possibly the true reason why we love the City. It makes us happy to know that our children are immersed in this culture. Every time I’m on my way back from the airport and I start seeing the City’s unique skyline wrapped in Karl’s arms from the freeway, I feel grateful to live here.