Naomi: Art 925
- Recommended Expat Blogs: Italy
- Georgette: Girl in Florence/Firenze 2.0
- Shauna: italianliving1
- Kate: Driving like a Maniac
- Kristy: Status Viatoris
- Jasmine: Questa Dolce Vita
- Hayley: Molto Molto
- KFT: Arrivederci BKLYN
- Francesca: Burnt By The Tuscan Sun
- Misty: Surviving M.E.
- Rochelle: Unwilling Expat
- Jennifer: My Sardinian Life
- Pecora Nera and Mrs Sensible: Englishman in Italy
- Sophie and Ryan: Here We Go Again!
- Cherise: Four Seasons of Travel
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Italy, etc.
Originally from the Chicago area, I have also resided in Madrid, Seattle, San Francisco, and now live and work in Florence, Italy since 2000. Here I lead an eclectic life: I teach university-level jewelry courses, run 2 art galleries, do graphic design, write blogs, and try to find time to make my own work. A creative person attracted to the artistic and cultural splendors of Italy, I have degrees in painting, interior architecture, jewelry arts, and have exhibited and sold work in the US and Europe.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I initially started with a website in 2004 to showcase a sort of portfolio of work that I do: collages and jewelry. I resisted the blog scene at first, but I finally began one in March 2011 because I wanted to share my experiences that relate to my personal interests and being in Italy. I write primarily about local art, exhibitions, jewelry and other things I have found while exploring around that I think are interesting to share, sometimes promoting other artists. Occasionally, I present projects that I am working on, much of it inspired by living in Italy.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I recently made 2 posts about this year’s Venice Biennale which chronicle my favorite works that I saw during a 2-day visit:
- Venice Biennale - Part I: Giardini
- Venice Biennale – Part II: Arsenale
- I also like this more historic post about Guilds of Florence & the future of contemporary jewelry in Italy
Tell us about the ways your new life in Italy differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I think if I had returned to the US, I would have gone down a different path in many respects relating to both work and family. Here, I have carved a niche of creative work, where I began doing jewelry design by chance and now it is what I love to do and teach. Both career and family perspectives are different in each the US and Italy. Some things are easier to accomplish in one or the other country. I have adapted fairly well to my new culture and circumstances. I did not have much culture shock, but there are always a few things that are difficult to accept and adapt to, and I acknowledge that living here, as an expat, does have certain challenges, but also many rewards. For those of you who think we are living an Italian vacation, la dolce vita every day, think again. But yes, those moments do still exist here – it’s part of the charme and attraction.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Italy? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I feel like I was prepared, mostly because I studied abroad in Spain during college and travelled around a bit internationally. My Italian language skills were not so great, but Spanish certainly helped and I immersed myself into situations where I learned the language and now speak quite fluently, even with a Tuscan accent. I arrived here when I was 28, but did not have intentions to move here to live. It was just something that happened as the years flew by and I am still here after almost 14 years! I probably should have established a “real” career and family in the US instead of moving to a country where it is sometimes difficult to define what one does for work, and cultural differences really can affect personal relationships, but I do enjoy what I do and feel very lucky for that, even though salaries here are ridiculously low.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Of course there are the funny anecdotes when one is learning a new language. One mix-up I recall is eating at a restaurant in Milan, I ordered a pasta dish of what I thought was cauliflower (cavolo) but I misinterpreted the word and actually got cavallo…horsemeat! I hid my disappointment and ate it anyway.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Italy?
Learn the language, at least somewhat at first. Immerse yourself if the local culture as much as possible and make local friends. Get in the expat community for cultural support. Don’t expect to find a job here very easily, not even an entry-level one. Get ready for any type of surprise and don’t be surprised by anything. Many things here do not function, do not make sense, and will frustrate you to no end. Get ready for corruption, hidden fees, large taxes, and little customer service. And the best word of all that you will learn right away….pazienza (patience)!
How is the expat community in Italy? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I live in Florence where there is a large international expat community, many Americans, as well as people from all over the world. I know many local expats through my work with American university programs and tourism work, but I have also found some great expat groups on Facebook.
How would you summarize your expat life in Italy in a single, catchy sentence?
I live a rich life full of culture, art, history, and fantastic food in a foreign land on a tight budget… one foot in the past and one toe in the future, but mostly in the present.