I'm originally from California and moved to Florence in 2004. I am discovering more about my beloved city every day and enjoy all the gifts it brings me.
Where are you from, Melinda, and what are you doing nowadays?
I'm originally from California. I became an expat a few months after graduating university. I lived in Paris, France and then a small town just outside of London, England before coming to Florence. I worked for a software company in Paris as a technical writer and became a freelance database/web developer when I moved to England. These days, I am a blogger and full-time writer in Florence.
Why did you choose to expatriate to Italy?
I initially came to Florence to learn Italian and find my inspiration to write. I stayed for two years and then returned to the US for family reasons. I stayed in California for five years and moved back to Florence where I have been for the past 12 years. While I enjoyed spending time with my loved ones in California, I missed living overseas. I have always felt more stimulated living in Europe, especially in Florence.
As US expat, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?
I initially came with a student visa to learn Italian and now have Italian citizenship that I acquired through my paternal grandparents.
How long have you been in the country?
I have lived in Florence for a total of 14 years of which the last 12.
What has attracted you Florence?
I thought about living in a few other Italian cities, like Siena, Rome, and Venice when I came to study Italian. However, upon my arrival to Florence, I felt such a strong connection to the city that I chose to stay here. I'm especially attracted to Florence's creative energy that continues to reverberate throughout the city and inspire me.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
When I first arrived in Florence, I had already been an expat for many years, so I was used to letting go of my expectations, going with the flow, learning the local language, diving into the local culture, and adapting to local customs. The one thing that did surprise me about Florence was how much it changed rather rapidly. I didn't expect it to be such a dynamic city given its size and history, but it continually surprises me by just how innovative it is.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation that are available there?
I found it quite easy to find accommodation in Florence. There are all types of accommodation available here in the different areas of the city and in every price range.
What are the local labor market's features? Is it easy for an expat to find a job there?
As a freelancer, I have never really looked for a full-time job. However, I have been fortunate enough to always find work. My experience is that the locals want to meet you face-to-face and don't want to just read your CV without knowing you personally.
How do you find the Italian lifestyle?
I don't know if there is a specific lifestyle throughout Italy, but in Florence, I have truly learned what it means to go with the flow. When I arrive in front of a shop that is closed in the afternoon, I don't get upset about it. I just have to find another place to go to or go back later. I have also learned in Italy that there is always a way to achieve a goal. I don't stop at the first roadblock or give up. I persevere.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Absolutely! I think that being able to adapt to a country and its society is done through the expat's openness as well as his/her willingness to speak the local language fluently. I find that being fluent in Italian has definitely helped me to create a connexion with locals and dive deeper into the Florentine culture.
What does your every day life look like in Florence?
My daily life is pretty much the same wherever I have lived in Europe. In Florence, however, I enjoy going out for a morning coffee, sitting on a terrace in the afternoon for a drink, and walking along the Arno to catch a sunset. It's so easy to get around Florence on foot because the city-center is small.
Does living abroad inspire you better for writing?
Living abroad can be inspiring to any artist because it forces you to open yourself up to your surroundings and allow for things to reveal themselves to you. After all these years, Florence still inspires me. It doesn't take much at all. Sometimes I just walk outside my apartment, through a piazza, past the Duomo, or along the river. I think Florence's beauty affects everyone who comes here and inspires those who are open to it.
Among places where you have lived before, which one has proved to be the best for you so far?
Definitely Florence. I truly enjoyed living in France and England, but Florence is where I feel most at home. I not only feel as if I am a part of Florence, but also that Florence is a part of me.
Any particular experience in the country you would like to share with us?
I have had many experiences living in Florence over the past 12 years that I shared in my "Living in Florence" blog. I started my blog the day I arrived in Florence and continue to write about my most significant experiences.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Florence? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
I think the cost of living is relatively low. However, the salaries are too.
How do you spend your leisure time?
Any chance I get, I enjoy navigating Florence, soaking up its beauty, visiting the churches, gardens, and museums, as well as eating out. I also enjoy taking photos of the beauty around me as I'm strolling along the Arno River or through Florence's city-center.
Your favorite local dishes?
I love the local cuisine especially bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak), panzanella (a salad made with bread, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and basil), lampredotto, and, of course, gelato (ice cream)!
What do you like the most about Italy?
What I like most about Italy is how rich it is. Its richness can be found not only in its language, history, architecture, churches, museums, and piazzas, but also its natural beauty. Italy is filled with abundance that is evident by its lovely seaside, mountains, hills, countryside, large cities and small towns. Every region is different and the cities and towns in the same region are also different.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Like most expats, I miss my family and friends because we don't see each other that often. However, technology does allow us to easily stay connected these days. When I first moved to France, there was no Internet and phone calls were incredibly expensive, so missing loved ones was a much bigger issue than it is now. I try my best not to miss anything in particular, so I can truly live in the moment and fully appreciate where I am. When I return to the US for a visit, however, I definitely treat myself to all the things (especially in regards to food) I can't get in Europe.
What has motivated you to write your blog "Living in Florence"? How does it help?
I started writing my blog because I wanted to share what expat life was like for me. I had already lived as an expat for 10 years prior to my return to Florence in 2004. Some people thought I was living a dream, but really life overseas is probably more challenging than life "back home" basically because everything was a little different and being conducted in another language that wasn't my mother tongue. Upon my arrival to Florence, I had to quickly adapt to life here by learning the local language quickly and understanding the customs. It was intense at times, but living overseas is probably one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Italy?
My advice to any soon-to-be expatriate is to truly dive into life overseas. You might not love everything about the country or culture, but you must try to accept it all and appreciate what you do like. Being exposed to a different world will certainly open you up to new ways of perceiving and understand the world around you, and will hopefully enrich your life too.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan to continue enjoying and appreciating my life in Florence while I work on my writing projects and still keep myself open to inspiration.