It was a foggy October afternoon in 2013 when we arrived in San Francisco. Me, my
husband Samuel, my daughter Daria, now 11, a stroller, a 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 had 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 unique microclimates of the city. That dusky afternoon, jetlagged and quite nervous
about this new chapter of our life, having left behind family, friends, house, jobs, etc…, 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 now passed. We never needed a plan B, but rather a plan to
manage the volatile weather of City; 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 have 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 had already started romanticizing about the City
many years earlier while reading about its social movements, cultural movements, Kerouac
and Ferlinghetti. You can imagine how it felt to find out that Ferlinghetti lived in our
neighborhood on Wisconsin Street. I was meant to land right here in Potrero.
We’re delighted by the multicultural soul of this city. We, a multicultural family ourselves -
Italian, Swiss, and American - have found our tribe here. It is a comfortable environment
where dichotomies naturally coexist and become fertile ground for new ideas. There is a
reason that San Francisco has always been an incubator for innovation. Here different
backgrounds are welcomed, diversity is real, and inclusion is not just a word but an ideal
that people strive for. Lately even more so. In a world that is too often polarized and where
extremisms easily flourish, we are happy to raise our daughters in a city where
“compassion” is not just a word.
We know that 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 who have lost faith in the ability of San Francisco 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 have lived, individualism is more in vogue. We as foreigners (who is not 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 to thrive. This is possibly
the true reason why we love the City, and it makes us happy to know that our children are
immersed in this culture. Every time that I am 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.
Mariangela has been living in Potrero Hill for 8 years with her family and has worked as an international journalist for over 20 years. She speaks English, French, Spanish, German and Italian. She is passionate and curious about different cultures. Storytelling and reporting are her main passions, with a focus on social issues.