Whether I intend it to or not, most of my trips seem to end up having a theme. And while I joked recently that this was the Italian boyfriends trip, the truth is that it’s much more the internet friends trip. More specifically, it’s the trip where I met a grand total of 19 people I’d previously only known online – and that’s not even counting my online friends who I’d already met in other trips to Italy.
I wrote about a couple meetups with “internet friends” from early in my trip on the BootsnAll company blog, because at the time I was surprised at how easy and effortless the meetups were. Now that I’m at the tail end of a month-long visit – and nearly 20 new real-life friends richer – I’m not surprised by it anymore. In fact, I think I’m going to be surprised now anytime a meetup isn’t easy and effortless.
Here’s a rundown of the folks I met on this trip for the first time, face to face, although I felt like I already knew them. They’re more or less in order of when I met them this past month, and I’m including links to their blogs and Twitter feeds (when they have Twitter accounts).
- Nicole of Zoomata – Nicole is someone I’ve corresponded with via email for quite awhile, but she’s a busy journalist based in Milan so although I’d been in Milan before we hadn’t managed to meet up before this trip. We got together for aperitivo not long after I arrived in Milan and tried to ignore the stifling heat over cocktails. In addition to her regular work, she writes a fun blog called Zoomata that features quirky Italian stories.
- Robin of My Melange – Robin’s a blogger with seemingly equal love for France and Italy but, perhaps above all, a love for the great foods in those countries. So when we met for dinner in Rome, I just followed her to the restaurant she’d chosen. And we ate well. Word of warning: her blog, My Mélange, shouldn’t be visited on an empty stomach – the food photos are too tempting. On Twitter Robin is @MyMelange.
- Christine of Miss Expatria – I think more than anyone else I met this month, Christine is the real-life person who most closely matches up with the online version I’d grown to know. In other words, if you read her Miss Expatria blog or follow her on Twitter as @MissExpatria, you are getting the real deal. I have Christine to thank for introducing me to aperitivo atop a posh hotel overlooking Rome, not to mention an afternoon where we were definitely “ladies who lunch.”
- Kelly & Austin of Travellious – These Seattle bloggers and I continue to joke about the fact that rather than meeting for the first time in the Pacific Northwest, where we live a roughly 3-hour drive apart, we met for the first time in Rome. Kelly & Austin were the ones who organized the foodie meetup I went to in Rome, and I look forward to connecting with them back in our neck of the woods as well. Their blog is Travellious, and they’re on Twitter as @kag2u and @aghman.
- Francesco & Fabiola of SaporeVero – Francesco & Fabiola are the Italian friends of Kelly & Austin who put together the tasting menu for the aforementioned foodie meetup in Rome. They’re currently putting (what I hope are) the finishing touches on their online store Sapore Vero, which will feature only authentic Italian foods from largely small producers throughout the country. I look forward to browsing their virtual aisles. They’re on Twitter as @SaporeVero, @fserra & @fabiola_italy.
- Erica of Moscerina – I met Erica at the foodie meetup, but I’ll confess that when she walked in I thought she couldn’t possibly be one of the expats scheduled to arrive. She just looked so very Italian. Turns out she’s got Italian heritage and dual citizenship, so I wasn’t so far off-base. On my second trip to Rome, she surprised me on the morning of my departure with an SMS saying, “Hey, I have to go to Naples today, too. Want company on the train?” Needless to say, the train ride went much quicker than it would have if I were alone. She blogs at Moscerina and is @moscerina on Twitter.
- Jessica of RomePhotoBlog – I’d long admired the sublime photos on RomePhotoBlog, so it was great to meet Jessica (nice name, eh?), the gal behind them. She was another foodie meetup attendee, and as she also works for Context Travel it was a good opportunity for me to learn more about the tour company I’d heard so much about. When I went back to Rome, Jessica introduced me to perhaps the finest caponata on the planet. On Twitter, she’s @romephotoblog.
- Katie of Parla Food – When I mentioned on Twitter that I’d be visiting Naples on this trip, Katie said it was one of her favorite cities on earth. So I was glad to meet her at the foodie meetup and then to have dinner with her on my second visit to Rome before I headed for Naples. And even though I now have big, official maps to Naples, I think I’ll always refer back to the hand-drawn one Katie left in my pocket notebook. Her mouth-watering blog is Parla Food, and she’s on Twitter as @katieparla.
- Linda of Milanese Masala – When I was planning this trip I was partly scheduling it around an AC Milan game, so when I finally had airline tickets I immediately contacted a fellow Milanista, Linda, to see if she’d want to go to the game with me. Thankfully, she said yes, so we braved the heat for Paolo Maldini’s last home game in Milan on my first weekend in Italy. Linda’s served as bookends for the trip, too, as I had dinner with her during my final weekend of the trip, too. She blogs as Milanese Masala.
- Paula of Vagablonde – Paula and I had tried to connect when she passed through Oregon earlier this year, but it didn’t work out. So it seemed fitting that we’d meet up for a walk and aperitivo near the Duomo in Milan – which is the city I’d first given her tips about when we found each other on Twitter. Paula’s blog is Vagablonde and she’s @vagablonde on Twitter.
- NYC/Caribbean Ragazza – I’ve emailed with NYC/Caribbean Ragazza (let’s call her NYC/CR for short) for awhile, and was glad to finally meet her on my second visit to Rome. She’s hilarious and energetic, and I love her positive attitude. I may have to call upon that as I attempt to follow in her moving-to-Italy footsteps. Her blog is NYC/Caribbean Ragazza.
- Linda & Steve of The Beehive – Linda and Steve are the American expats behind The Beehive in Rome, which is one part budget accommodation, one part organic/vegetarian cafe, and one part sustainable living endeavor. And if their hotel/cafe wasn’t cool enough, the two of them (and their three adorable daughters) are absolutely delightful. Linda’s usually the one behind @thebeehiverome Twitter account.
- Karen of South of Rome – Before my recent trip to Naples, Karen was the WhyGo Italy contributor on all things, well, south of Rome. Her enthusiasm for Italy was obvious in her emails, on her blog, in her photos, and in her lovely book on the foods of Sicily. I wasn’t surprised, then, when that enthusiasm was the same when I met her in person on my day-trip to Sorrento. Karen’s blog is South of Rome.
- Laura of Ciao Amalfi – Karen met me in Sorrento during a week she and her family were spending on the Amalfi Coast, where she’d been able to meet Laura of Ciao Amalfi for the first time. And since I’d exchanged a few emails with Laura as well, I was glad she decided to come to Sorrento, too. We all spent a lovely afternoon strolling at a snail’s pace through Sorrento’s tiny, colorful, sun-drenched streets before enjoying lunch under an umbrella in a piazza. Not too shabby. Laura’s on Twitter as @ciaoamalfi.
- Rene of Venice Kayak – Some time ago, I heard from a guy who said he led kayaking tours in Venice. The idea sounded utterly crazy and completely intriguing to me. Since then, I’ve corresponded with Rene via email and on Twitter, so when I decided to take a quick day-trip from Milan to Venice I was glad to have an opportunity to meet this crazy and intriguing guy in person. I’ll be writing more about Rene’s kayak tours soon, but in the meantime you can check out the Venice Kayak website or follow Rene on Twitter as @seindal.
- Joanne of Frutto della Passione – Even though many of the expats I know in Italy know one another, sometimes I’m amused by the connections. It turns out that my Milanista friend Linda and Joanne (who happens to be an Interista, but I don’t hold that against her) know each other best not through the internet and their blogs, but because they work at the same company in Milan. I met Joanne, whose Frutto della Passione blog is regularly quite yummy-looking, at at the dinner Linda organized during my last weekend.
Thanks to everyone on this list for taking time out of your schedules to meet me during the past month, and I look forward to connecting again – both online and off.
The picture at the top is of a shirt I am now coveting, from WilloToons.