For the third installment in the series of “best Italy expat bloggers,” I thought I’d highlight the people who routinely look askance at their surroundings and, no matter how long they’ve lived in Italy, are still able to see things from the point of view of the expats they are. These are the bloggers who are culture and language insiders, who teach me something about what life in Italy is really like on a deeper level, beyond all the pretty scenery in movies. I just hope I’m always able to look at Italy in the same way these people do, with a healthy mix of love and realism.
In other words, if you’re still in the “Tuscan Sun” phase of your love affair with Italy and can’t handle the gritty truth, then perhaps you’d better click away now. These bloggers aren’t afraid to tell it like it is.
>> Did you see the other posts in this series? If you missed them, here are the people I think are the most helpful Italy expat bloggers, and Italy expat bloggers who work in the travel industry.
Expat in Italy Blogs: Culture & Language Bloggers
(listed in alphabetical order)
At Home in Rome (@shelleyruelle on Twitter)
The blogger behind At Home in Rome, Shelley, lived in Rome for a couple years, married a Roman man, and started a family. I say “lived” in the past tense because Shelley and her family have since moved back to the area where she grew up in Washington State, so (sadly) this blog isn’t still being updated. But I’m including it here because I always enjoyed the way Shelley reported about her life in Rome.
If you browse through the categories listed on the left-hand menu of the blog, you’ll find titles like “Only in Italy,” “Do As the Romans Do,” “Ask Yourself Why,” “Meet the Locals,” and “Soak Up Italian Culture.” Shelley updated her blog regularly with vignettes about life in Rome, often humorous and usually full of pictures. Those aren’t the only categories that feature Shelley’s great sense of humor as it applies to Italian culture, but clicking through them will be a good start to understanding why At Home in Rome was one of my favorite Italy expat blogs.
(And, as an added bonus, there’s quite a bit of good Rome travel information on the blog, too.)
Countries Beginning with I (@DeirdreS on Twitter)
Deirdre’s was one of the first expat blogs I found when I started looking, and although she has also since moved back to the United States, her old blog (she’s still working on moving all her archives to her new site) is absolutely packed with some incredible resources on Italian language and culture. Her various posts on the Italian language are without rival – especially her comprehensive (or at least awfully close to comprehensive) directory of Italian slang and swearing and her growing archive of Italian song lyrics translated into English.
It should be said that Deirdre has lots of frustrations around the time she lived in Italy (nearly 20 years), and reading her blog around the time she moved to Colorado was pretty tough (her post called “Divorcing Italy” stopped me in my tracks, and you’ll see there’s a whole category on her new site called “Italian frustrations”). But even so, Deirdre’s been nothing but helpful and encouraging to me when I’ve gone to her for advice about my dream of living in Italy.
She’s a wealth of information, and she doesn’t hold back on her opinions. If you’re not ready for that (and I admit some days even I’m not), keep scrolling.
The author of this blog, Elizabeth, has lived in Rome for more than half her life. She’s married to an Italian man and they’ve raised two bilingual kids in Rome. Her blog, as you can tell by the name, is largely a collection of observations she makes – still! after all these years! – about what happens when cultures collide. Sometimes this is about her American upbringing and her adopted home in Italy, but it’s just as likely to be about more subtle cultural differences that even two people who grew up in the same country can have.
When she’s not blogging, Elizabeth works as a cross-cultural coach and trainer, so these “cross-cultural moments” are very much on her mind all the time. But one of the things I particularly like about the way she approaches the topic (and her blog) is – as she puts it in an interview – “I have found that the most interesting part of living abroad is finally understanding my own American culture in contrast. I no longer ask, ‘Why do they…’ and instead ask, ‘Why do I…’ … Cross-cultural communications begins at home – understanding your own culture before accessing another.”
Elizabeth took a bit of a blogging break over the summer, and I’m glad to see she’s back to writing now.
Living in Florence
Melinda is the blogger behind Living in Florence (as well as Dining in Florence and Florence from the Heart), and she’s lived in the Tuscan capital since the late 1990s. Where many of the bloggers I’ve met over the years are guarded about certain aspects of their personal lives (and I include myself on that list), Melinda seems completely open and honest. I’m sure there are things she’s not telling us, but I’m also sure most of her readers think of her as a close friend.
The primary reason I’m including Melinda’s blog on this list of culture/language bloggers, however, is that reading her blog about her life in Florence is like reading one of those dual-language books I have on my bookshelf, half in English and half in Italian. She sprinkles every single post with Italian words, and always helpfully puts the English in parentheses after – a practice I’m far too lazy to keep up with myself. If you’re not trying to learn Italian, you can breeze by the foreign words and still enjoy the stories. But if you are trying to learn the language, you’ll probably enjoy picking up a new phrase or two without feeling like you’re going to school.
Through her various websites, Melinda has also compiled some useful resources and links for both living in and traveling to Florence.
When you’re a journalist with an inquisitive mind who writes largely about tech and science stuff – and you happen to live in Italy – naturally you start a blog as an outlet for your cultural commentary. Such is the case with Nicole, the creator of Zoomata, where she’s been blogging about Italian idiosyncracies since 1999. The blog is a combination of useful tips for Italy travelers (and residents, actually), as well as odd Italian news items Nicole comes across.
Nicole has a great sense of humor and is always posting stories I haven’t seen elsewhere – and I have a pretty lengthy list of Italian news feeds I check every week. She has the benefit of living in Italy, however, and seeing (and writing about) things that don’t make the regular news. I appreciate not only that she’s providing another great source of newsy oddities, but also the tongue-in-cheek way she writes about them.
She’s lived in Italy for many years now, but she’s still able to recognize “offbeat” Italy when she sees it. And thank goodness for that.
Did I leave anyone out?
As I’ve said in my other lists of expat bloggers in Italy, I am by no means making comprehensive lists here – so if I’ve missed your favorite culture or language blogger in Italy, please let me know in the comments section.
photo by garryknight