When I first started looking around online for blogs and websites written by expats living in Italy a few years ago, I was surprised at how many there were. Since that time, the number has grown exponentially – and I’m still finding out about new (to me) sites every day. So when I sat down today to make a list of what I think are some of the best expat blogs, I should have known what a difficult task that would be.
In the end, I’ve decided to break the list down into a few articles, which I’ll post over the next few weeks. To start with, I’m going to highlight some of the expat blogs in Italy that I think are most helpful. These are the sites that aren’t just about “here’s what my daily life in Italy is like” (I love those blogs, and I’ll get to those in another article), but the ones that offer some kind of assistance to people who are traveling to Italy or who (like me) are hoping to become expats themselves. I’ve found the authors of these sites to be generous with their time and information, and in most cases they’re now friends of mine – either virtually or “in real life.”
As mentioned above, this list – indeed, the entire collection of lists – will by no means be exhaustive. Either Italy is attracting more and more expats every day, or more of the expats who are already living there are deciding to start blogs (or some combination thereof) – whatever the reason, the number of expat in Italy blogs is undoubtedly going to keep growing. Which means eventually I’ll have to update these lists. But for now, I bring you:
Expat in Italy Blogs with the Most Helpful Authors
(listed in alphabetical order)
Bleeding Espresso (@michellefabio on Twitter)
This blog is written by Michelle, an American living in her family’s ancestral village in Calabria (that’s way down in the toe of the boot), and although I can’t for the life of me remember how I first got in touch with her I know she’s been unfailingly nice and encouraging ever since. Michelle has a unique perspective on expat life in Italy, in that she hasn’t actually traveled widely throughout Italy. She moved overseas not to become a jet-setting expat (it’s the stereotype many non-expats have of expat life, however rare jet-setters are in real life), but to live like the locals do – and she’s done just that. She not only replies to emails she gets, but also to just about every comment she gets on her site – she’s truly engaged with her readers. Michelle has dual citizenship in the US and Italy, a law degree, a gig writing about law school for about.com, two dogs, three goats, and a serious affection for a good cappuccino.
Burnt by the Tuscan Sun
The author of this blog, Francesca, could be mistaken for one of those expats I mentioned above who is overly annoyed with life in Italy. The truth is a bit more nuanced, however, as she really does like being an expat in Italy – she just started her blog because she thought there was already too much written by those starry-eyed expats and not enough reality. (In other words, if you’re a starry-eyed reader who’s not yet ready for reality, you might want to proceed with caution. Or at least a sense of humor.) Francesca is an American who moved to Italy in 1992 and currently lives in Rome. I first connected with her via her blog, but then found out her “day job” involves things like language-learning tools for French and Italian and downloadable guided tours of major art attractions (mostly in Italy). There was a time when I wouldn’t have been prepared to hear about the less-than-idealistic aspects of being an expat in Italy, so I’m happy to have found Francesca’s blog when I was ready. If you’re ready, this blog is one not to miss.
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Ciao Amalfi! (@ciaoamalfi on Twitter)
As the name of this blog suggests, its focus is the beautiful Amalfi Coast of Italy. It’s written by Laura, an American with a background in art history who lives on the Amalfi Coast. This is an area of Italy I’m less familiar with than some others, so my contacts with Laura began when I was looking for information on the region. I’ve since met Laura and she remains my go-to girl for Amalfi Coast info. I particularly appreciate how good she is with advice for visitors to the area, trying to help them get beyond the typical tourist route. She’s enthusiastic and helpful, and she’s a really good writer as well. Her blog includes travel tips and general stories about life on the Amalfi Coast, but she also explores the web and has introduced me to Italy-related blogs and websites I hadn’t seen before, too. It’s like having my own personal talent scout and research partner (I just ignore the fact that she’s not doing all this for me alone).
Italy Chronicles (@newsfromitaly on Twitter)
This blog has as its tagline one of the best descriptions I’ve heard of Italy, and one I refer back to often – “Life in the Living Museum.” It’s written by Alex, an Englishman who lives and teaches English in Milan. One of the things I like most about Alex is his ability to balance the positive and negative aspects of living in Italy; there are expats who are so fed up with Italian life they can’t see anything good about it, and expats who are so starry-eyed that they pretend the problems don’t exist. Neither of these perspectives is realistic or helpful, but Alex sees both the forest and the trees – he remains enamored of his adopted country while also being well aware of its many faults. The blog is a mix of things, including but not limited to Italian news, politics, food, photography, and travel tidbits, and Alex is responsive not only to emails but also to the comments he gets on blog posts. He’s been a source of information to me for some time now, not just about Italian life in general but about Milan specifically, and he pointed me toward an English pub in Milan where I can get hard cider on tap. For that, I’ve been very grateful.
Living Venice (@livingvenice on Twitter)
I envy all of the expats on this list, because they’re expats in the country I want to be living in. But it’s possible I envy the author of this blog, Nan, more than the others – because she calls my beloved Venice home. Nan is an American whose blog is a bit more sporadically updated than some of the others on this list; still, I regularly find myself informed and entertained by Nan’s take on life in the canal city. She’s actively involved in her community, and is in the midst of making a documentary film about a uniquely Venetian style of rowing, but it was Nan’s book, “Italy: Instructions for Use” that first introduced me to her. Her fondness for Venice is undeniable, although she doesn’t write exclusively about the city, and in the brief time I’ve been communicating with her she’s been encouraging and giving.
Moscerina (@moscerina on Twitter)
The author of this blog, who goes by either Moscerina (which is Italian for “little fly”) or simply Moi, is a crack-up. She’s an American freelance writer with dual citizenship who lives in Rome, and since the time I started communicating with her she’s been a font of useful information. But more than that, she’s been a source of amusement – and that’s by her own design. She’s got a great sense of humor, and it comes through both on her blog and in person. Moscerina is at once utterly Italian and completely foreign. She sees the quirks of Italian life, but also fits so perfectly into Italy that at first glance it’s impossible to believe she wasn’t born and raised there. Indeed, when I met her at a party in Rome I assumed (before she started speaking) that she was one of the Italians in attendance. I have since vowed (though I’m not sure she knows this yet) to dedicate at least one future trip to Rome solely to going shopping with her.
Ms. Adventures in Italy (@rosso on Twitter)
This blog is written by Sara, an American living in Milan who has become quite a good friend over the last year or so. Her blog is primarily about food and travel, but it’s not all Italian food or travel in Italy. Still, some of her Italy-related articles are ones I continue to refer to (and send others to) – things like a growing list of places around Italy to get good gelato, how to order coffee in Italy, and a continuing series about how to live and work in Italy. In addition to that, she takes gorgeous photographs (some have been described as “food porn”), and is extraordinarily generous with both information and her enthusiasm. If she gets excited about something, she’ll work really hard to get you on board, too. Among other things, I have her to thank for introducing me to two of the best gelato places in Milan (and, I might argue, in Italy), which in my world means I’m probably indebted to her for life.
My Bella Vita (@mybellavita on Twitter)
This is another blog written by an American expat living in Calabria, and as you might expect the author of this blog, Cherrye, is a friend of the author of the other Calabrian blog on my list, Michelle of Bleeding Espresso. (They met in Calabria, after both were living there.) Cherrye and her husband run a B&B in Catanzaro, so in addition to writing about her life in general she’s got a great perspective on tourism and travel in Italy as well. In fact, she writes a weekly article with travel tips (not always Italy-specific) and her posts regularly include helpful hints for visitors to Italy and especially Calabria. I’ve enjoyed reading about her challenges with learning the Italian language (as I can totally relate), and it’s that kind of honesty and openness that makes Cherrye so helpful. Whether this native Texan speaks Italian with any kind of a southern accent is something I’ve yet to discover.
Parla Food (@katieparla on Twitter)
The author of this blog, Katie, is an American living in Rome. She’s a travel writer, tour guide, and tripe enthusiast who writes about travel more generally on her self-named blog (Katie Parla) and about her food obsessions (tripe included) on Parla Food. She’s one of those people who gushes when she’s excited about something, so she admits to having lots of “favorites,” but it was when she declared that Naples was one of her favorite cities that I knew I had to tap into her expertise. Since then, she’s been generous with information – I still have the hand-drawn map of historic Naples that she scribbled out for me over dinner one night in Rome – and I’m convinced I’ve barely scraped the surface of her knowledge base. I know, for instance, that she’s got an art history degree from Yale, she’s a sommelier, and she’s written extensively on traveling in both Italy and Turkey. If that’s not enough to intrigue you, I’m not sure what is.
South of Rome
Although the author of this blog, Karen, no longer lives in Italy (she and her family moved back to the US in mid-2009), I’m still including it on this list for a couple of reasons. First, the archives of the site are a treasure trove of information – not to mention gorgeous pictures – of southern Italy. Second, Karen remains a good source of travel advice for the region. She lived on the island of Sicily for a couple of years before moving to a city just outside Naples, and she’s got a real affection for the southern portion of the country – which is often neglected by tourists. In addition to what you’ll find on her blog, I also recommend picking up a copy of Karen’s book, “In Etna’s Shadow,” which is a collection of more of her lovely photographs along with market information, lists of typical local foods, and a few recipes from the eastern part of Sicily. (I’d lend you my copy, but I’m afraid you’d be offended by the drool marks on the pages. I should really stop looking at that book when I’m hungry.)
Did I miss your favorite helpful expat blog in Italy?
I said this was by no means an exhaustive list, and that new Italy expat blogs are popping up daily (or so it seems), but if you think I’m missing a blog that should be listed here please let me know in the comments. Despite having a long list of Italy-related sites I already follow, I really do enjoy finding out about new blogs that are written by interesting and helpful people.
photo by Ed Yourdon