Meet the Italophile – interview with Giovanna

With new lockdown restrictions, we all need a chance to dream a little bit. The pain of not being able to travel is real! Where would you like to go once it’s safe to travel again?

Personally, I dream about coming back to Naples, exploring the Amalfi coast and visiting Ischia!

Speaking of Ischia, it was really interesting for me to read what Giovanna has to say about this stunning island. Be careful guys, this interview will make you want to go to Ischia as soon as possible!:) I have already started planning my trip!

I am so happy that Giovanna has agreed to share with me her thoughts and points of view on living in Italy! Her story of moving to Italy is truly inspiring!

Signore & Signori, please welcome

When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?

My parents are from Napoli and we would go to Italy every summer to visit the family. The first time I went to Italy was the summer after I was born and I’d say that probably since then I’ve wanted to live in Italy. I used to beg my parents to move to Italy, try to convince them that it was the best thing to do. My dad would laugh and my mother would tell me I was crazy. Over the years while growing up, the adults would try to explain away this intense longing to live in Italy, by telling me that I just wanted to go back on vacation or that once my cousins got older and had their own lives, they wouldn’t want to play with me anymore and then I would be bored. I tried to believe them for a while, but in the end it wasn’t true. I’m not sure if I can really explain it other than that it feels like home and now that I’ve finally moved here and created a life here, that sense of longing has finally been put to rest.

 Was it difficult for you to move to Italy? What surprised you the most?

A thousand times yes! Even though I say that Italy feels like home to me, that doesn’t mean that it was easy to move here or even when that was possible, start a life here. As an American, there were a lot of immigration hurdles and I did a lot of visa manoeuvres living between London and Rome in order to live, study and work in Europe. Immigration laws were always changing, so I had to always plan for different scenarios. Once I met Davide and we got married, things were easier immigration-wise. We were living in London at the time, but then when Brexit happened, we decided that it was the right time to move back to Italy, and miraculously my job in London offered me the chance to work remotely. We decided to move to Ischia, the island where my mom is from and known for its thermal spas, because Davide could find work as a massage therapist. I could finally fulfil my dream of moving back to Italy where my parents are from.

I think what surprised me the most from all of this, focusing on the immigration side, is that in the UK, I always had the sense that I was being treated with suspicion and reluctance by the immigration agents. Like they didn’t want me there. Whenever I landed in London from somewhere, I was asked lots of questions and there always seemed to be a reluctance of letting me in. Even when me and Davide first went to the registry office at the town hall in London to plan our wedding, they treated us with suspicion as if we were planning a fake wedding. It always made me nervous. When we moved to Italy in 2017, as an immigrant, I had a million chaotic and frustrating bureaucratic tasks on my plate, much more than in the UK, but I was surprised that during the long process, I wasn’t treated like I was unwanted. This was a different experience to when I moved to Rome in 2009 and had to deal with immigration back then. Maybe it was because I was older, spoke better Italian and had a partner to share the experience with, but it felt like no one was ready to kick me out of the country.

How living in Italy has changed you? Have you become more “Italian”?

It’s been a big learning curve, there is so much to take in when you move to a different country and I’ve lived in four so far and each place has changed me in both conscious and unconscious ways. Since moving to Italy, I’ve dealt with some significant life challenges and I’ve noticed that I’ve reacted to these things in a much different way than I would have if I had still been living in the US or UK.  I’ve become much more patient and accepting of how long it takes to get things done here. Scheduled appointments can be pushed back by an hour or two hours at the last minute, someone will have forgotten to tell you to bring an important document with you, or another person will tell you that it’s impossible to do what you’re trying to do. In the past, I would have expended massive amounts of stress and frustration and taken it as a sign that things weren’t meant to be. But now I realize that most of the time, the best thing to do is take a break and go to the bar and have a coffee and talk to someone on the street. Italians have taught me how to find small moments of happiness to get me through the challenges.

While I have more patience, I’ve also learned how to be more assertive. Knock on doors instead of waiting for someone to call you in, stand in the hallways to make sure everyone knows you’re waiting for your appointment instead of sitting on a chair in the waiting room, keep asking people your question until you find someone who can give you an answer, and never take ‘No’ for the first answer. This is something I still struggle with because it does take effort and it can be really exhausting. It’s a careful balance between patience and assertiveness.

What is your secret of speaking Italian so well?

I’m always trying to improve my Italian, the studying never stops. I grew up with the Neapolitan dialect spoken at home, which isn’t exactly Italian, but it gave me a strong foundation for learning it later on. While I understood the dialect, I always answered in English. In Italy, I wanted so bad to talk to my family and friends and I could manage to make myself understood, but there was always that linguistic isolation. The dialect I knew was all by ear, but I didn’t understand the grammar and I hated that I didn’t know how to say that something happened yesterday or that something will happen tomorrow.

My formal study of Italian started with a university course and then I spent a summer at a language school in Florence after I graduated. And from then on, I studied on my own. I had a long-distance Italian boyfriend at one point who didn’t speak English, so that helped with my Italian and I remember through letter writing I finally got the hang of how to use the imperfect subjunctive with the conditional. Se io avessi l’opportunità di vivere in Italia, vorrei vivere a Roma. 

Living in Rome and now in Ischia has improved my Italian a lot and this past year’s resolution was to keep a journal in Italian so I could push myself to write more. I love the Italian language, its history and the way the national language sits alongside the hundreds of dialects spoken here. I love how the diffusion of written and spoken Italian across Italy can be charted as a progression of Italian post-war history with the rise of television and the Internet. It’s so interesting and gives me a lot of motivation to keep studying and to keep improving. There is so much to learn.

What are the top 5 places/things to do in Ischia?

There are so many things to do in Ischia! Of course, the first things people think about are the beaches and hot springs, which are wonderful. But there is also a strong farming and viniculture tradition on the island and there are beautiful hiking trails that take you up into the mountains and through vineyards.

And the history too! I love the museums here. Ischia was once a Greek colony called Pithecusae and you can visit the archeological museum Museo di Pithacusae in Lacco Ameno and see these wonderful Greek and Roman artefacts. In Ischia Ponte, there is the Museo del Mare, which gives you an overview of the fishing and shipping history on the island. And there is the magnificent Castello Aragonese that you can visit and walk around the gorgeous grounds. I recommend eating dinner at the hotel restaurant Il Monastero, it’s so peaceful and tranquil, you’ll never want to leave.

The thermal water parks are incredible and they’re lovely to visit in the cooler months of May and September or on a day when it’s too windy for the beach. It’s hard to choose my favourite, but I think for now it’s Negombo in Lacco Ameno which also gives you access to the beach San Montano, which is one of my favourites on the island.

If you love botanical gardens, you must visit i Giardini La Mortella in Forio, home of the British composer Sir William Walton and Susana Walton, and stay for one of the classical music concerts that the garden hosts every weekend during the summer and fall. You should also visit i Giardini Ravino in Forio, that has an eclectic cactus garden and even a peacock.

I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the things to discover here, I could talk about Ischia for hours.

Meet the Italophile – interview with Ishita

This week was all about gratitude and appreciation. I am thankful for my family and my friends but I am also really thankful for all inspiring people I have met online and definitely one of them is Ishita!

You need to know that I am a big fan of her blog. Ishita’s blog is THE ONLY INDIAN BLOG ON ITALY, how cool is it? Personally, I love it because, first, it is a big dose of inspiration and positive Italian vibes. Second, because it give me the possibility to see Italy with eyes of someone who lives far away from European culture.

I think it was in March when we have called each other for the very first time. Immediately, it was clear to me that we have so much in common, so much more than love for Italy (of course). I am really happy that Ishita has agreed to share  her thoughts and observations about Italy with us.  I am more than sure that it will be a powerful source of inspiration also for you.

Signore & Signori, please welcome

Do you speak Italian, and do you think it’s important to speak the local language?

Yes I speak Italian.  I’m studying Italian since 2015 and currently hover between a lower and upper intermediate level. It is important to speak the language if you’re living in Italy or if you’re passionate about it. Other than that, it totally depends on your aim and focus. Although I don’t live in Italy, Italian is a passion project for me and also my means of living.

But if you’re traveling around in Italy or any new country, it is imperative to know some local words that replace English words such as Please, Thank You, Excuse me, Where, When, Food, Train, Bus etc. Don’t you think??

What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn Italian?

Just jump in and think less. If you’re learning Italian, just talk, talk talk.. without hesitation. This is one of the biggest mistakes I made in my initial years of learning Italian. I wish I had a better sense (and a better teacher) to talk more. Leave your shyness behind and speak to locals.

What is the first Italian word you have learnt?

I think the first word I learnt was Piazza. I remember walking around in the Roman Forum with a map of the city when I saw the word and thought to myself, “it sounds so similar to pizza.”

What is your favourite Italian book and why?

It is enormously tough to pick an Italian author but my current favourite Italian book is Tiziano Terzani’s “A Fortune Teller Told me”. I have been reading this book in Italian since a few months now (I’m slow!).  I’m simply in awe of the author and his travel descriptions of my continent. They are so elusive and beautiful.

What is your favourite Italian song and why?

I am currently on a time travel in the 80s and enjoying songs by Fabrizio de Andre’.

How is it to work with Italians?

Very different from the normal tourist trail of talking to them on the street. I have been professionally working with the Italians for over 2 years now. The ones I have come across (so far) are super meticulous. They are very proper about their time and won’t put in a minute more. They talk a lot! Most of them are extremely thorough in their approach for their work, seeing the current climate in Italy. But then there are others who wouldn’t put in any work unless you poke them 😉

Do you have any favourite Web sites or blogs about anything related to life in Italy?

Tons of them!! But if I had to list the last 5 I have read recently it would be –Sicily Inside Out, LaRosaWorks, MyDearItalia, InstantlyItaly and LearnAmo. These are not just blogs related to Italian life but also focus on Italian food and culture. LearnAmo has an excellent Youtube channel too.

Have you become more “Italian”?

Even though I don’t live in Italy, I certainly have become more Italian. I love Italy with all my heart and try to imbibe the Italian way of living in my daily life. For instance, I study Italian more regularly now so that I’m better prepared to talk when I’m in Italy next year.

I also enjoy a cup from the GRANDE moka pot every single day. My husband and I love taking things at our own pace such as talking more mindfully, enjoying a beautiful sunset together or even a cup of hot tea. I’ve begun to appreciate the beauty of the smallest things, thanks to Italy. I also look in the eyes of the person I’m talking to, something I’ve learnt being in Italy. I miss socializing with my Italian friends. Their warmth and attitude of life is worth respecting!

Meet the Italophile – interview with Zane

Late November, shorter days and colder weather, but when I and Zane chat about Italy, we can feel Italian summer in the air!  Zane is a painter and there’s a lot of Italy into her work, which I really love. She has decided recently to make Italy her home and I am really happy that she agreed to share her expat story with us!

Signore & signori, please welcome Zane

a girl who paints Italy!

  • Do you remember the moment when you fell in love with Italy?

I remember that I loved Italy from early age of my childhood and always wanted to live here 🙂

  • What is your first Italian word you have learnt?

It was at the age of 9 or 10 when I read a lot of children books, including some translated from Italian language where I found and learned my first Italian words – “piccolo bambino”.

  • When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?

All my life I wanted to move to Italy because I was fascinated about every little thing that was related to Italy. After my first vacation trip to Italy in 2008, I started to study Italian in Dante Alighieri language school in Riga. I always kept in my heart the dream of living in Italy. I was only waiting for the right moment and the opportunity to move to Italy came this year in the middle of summer.

  • Does the fact that you live in Italy help you with your work as a painter? Are your paintings inspired by Italy?

Italy and painting are two of my biggest passions in life. It’s been like this for all of my life, it comes from my soul, from deep inside of me… As a result of a natural interaction between these two parts of me – I started to express my passion for Italy in my artworks. I do it with pure love and dedication, painting Italy inspires me a lot and I’ve noticed that other people feel this positive energy that shines through my paintings. And what is more important – it makes me truly happy 🙂

Now when I am also physically here, in this beautiful country, I started to create my artworks with new energy. I get a lot of inspiration from every corner of an Italian town, from every sound of campanella, from each shade of sunshine in the fontana of the central piazza, from the vibrant chiacchierate in Italian , from a lazy cat sleeping in front of an old pozzo, from il dolce profumo della pasticeria that wakes me up at 6.30 am each morning and il tramonto that colours the village roofs just like in the fairy tales….  All these things seen with my own eyes and felt in my Italian heart become a poem painted on canvas.

When you create your artworks do you use reference photos or sketch from life?

I love plein air painting – painting outdoors, in nature. I am interested in catching the moment, how the sunlight is changing, how the lights and shadows are playing…It’s an amazing feeling. This is something I have experienced and learnt during a landscape painting courses in Pigna village in Liguria. When the weather is not so good, I keep painting in my studio. For inspiration, I use my own pictures that I’ve taken during travelling around the world and especially during my Italian trips.

Where and how to find an inspiration? What advice would you give to other artists?

In my case the inspiration is around me, especially when I am visiting new, beautiful places. In my opinion artists need to travel as often as they can. They need to meet another artists, collaborate, explore the world  – all these things are creating a great energy and provide you with a plenty of inspiration.

How can people find your artworks?

You can find my paintings available for sale on my new website:

We will do live artshow on my Instagram page very soon. You will be able to meet me and participate in my presentation. 🙂 Please stay tuned and follow me @zanezeltina_art for more information.

  • What is your secret of speaking Italian so well?

Studiare e parlare con gli italiani. 😊 ( You need to study a lot and speak with locals as much as you can!)

  • Do you think it’s important to speak the local language?

I speak Italian language and I learned it before moving here, I wanted to be well prepared for life and work in Italy. I think it is very important to speak the local language if you want to live in this country. I even think it is nice to learn local language even for travelling, so for living in another country – it is a must. 😊

  • How would you describe living in Italy in 3 words?

Più bella cosa!

Meet the Italophile – interview with Teresa

We might come from all around the world, but we are all Italians at heart – this is my tribe:)

 “Meet the Italophile” is all about expat stories who live or lived in Italy; their motivations, challenges, and unique experiences in the new place they have decided to call home.

This is a series of interviews with lovers of Italy and all things Italian and I am really delighted to open this new series with a lovely Teresa! Join us on virtual, sunny piazza, order your drink on us and read about Teresa experience in Florence. She reveals her favourite Italian author, gives us useful advice on how to learn Italian and much more.

Signore & signori, please welcome Teresa!

What is your first Italian word you have learnt?

I think the first things in Italian I heard were “Vieni qua” and “Sei scema” haha, because I grew up with many Italian neighbours.

What is your favourite Italian author/book? Why?

It’s definitely Elena Ferrante and her 4 books of “l’amica geniale”. Each volume is written so detailed that you can imagine every gesture of the protagonists and the appearance of every scenery. I also love that we get to know the life of two Italian girls from their early childhood on till they are like 60. Through their personal stories you get an insight of what life in Italy was like the last 5 decades.

What is your favourite Italian song? Why?

I don’t have THE favourite Italian song, but one of those I like the most is definitely “Laura non c’è” by Nek. My mum often sang it along when I was little.

Do you speak Italian, and do you think it’s important to speak the local language?

Yes, I speak Italian. I think it’s very important to know at least the basics of the language if you want to live in Italy. But – you don’t have to be perfect: Italians themselves often don’t know well another language than their own and they appreciate it if you try to speak Italian, even if you’re not that good 🙂

What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn Italian?

In my opinion it’s important to first learn the grammatical basics in a course or by yourself with a book. When you’re able to build short sentences about daily topics, you should throw yourself in everything that has to do with the Italian language; music, books, films, series, writing diary in Italian, maybe find a tandem partner to practise talking. But you won’t ever get to the point of speaking fluently if you never go to live in Italy, even just for a few months.

5 things you love about Italy?

The food, the architecture, that the people mostly are very kind and that they make decisions based on their heart more than on their mind (that’s at least what I noticed), that the cities and the whole country seem more filled with warmth and life than they do in Germany.

5 things you hate about Italy?

The often confusing bureaucracy, the exam situation at the universities (oral exams in front of all the other students), that you never know when the bus/train etc. will really arrive, that many young people don’t know English and that the restaurants don’t open before 7 p.m. haha

Was it difficult for you to move to Italy? What surprised you the most?

I lived in Florence for half a year and life there wasn’t that different from mine in Germany. I think what surprised me most was that you can adapt to e v e r y situation; whether it’s the condition of the house/apartment you live in, the different perception of time and distance or that it costs you time to find the food / cosmetic products that you’re used to from home.

When did you come up with the idea of living in Italy?

I came up with the idea of spending a semester in Italy about one year before. Studying Italian and French at my university provided a semester abroad, but it was not mandatory.

How living in Italy has changed you? Have you become more “Italian”?

I became more independent and I feel more secure in many situations. If you once had to solve problems with Italian professors, craftsmen or office workers, afterwards every problem you have in your home country seems ridiculous 🙂 Back in Germany I noticed quite a few things that are typical German and that I now sometimes make fun of (for example eating dinner at 6 p.m. or putting the sauce on top of the pasta, when the pasta is already served on the plate).