Q: What was it like living in Italy? What advice would you give someone that dreams of living there?
A: Italy was wonderful. It was just so right for us for that period in our lives. When people would ask what our plan was for how long we would stay in Italy, the answer was always "We're staying as long as it feels right." When something new started to feel like the better fit, we went with it.
If you dream of living in Italy one day I strongly suggest reading a ton of expat blogs to get a sense of what it's really like to live in Italy. Make sure some of those blogs are written by people that have lived in the country for at least 4-5 years, as they have the experience, wisdom and real life anecdotes to dull the rose-colored glasses you may be wearing a wee bit. Above all, know that it's really hard to find work in Italy even for Italians and EU citizens that have university degrees and speak five languages. So, you really need to go into the experience with a solid plan.
Q: Where you on House Hunters International?
A: Yup! We filmed our episode in Florence in May 2011, it originally aired in November 2011 and from what we hear it re-airs every few months or so. It was a fun experience and it's fun for Rob and I to have this time capsule of sorts that captures our first few months abroad.
Q: You say not to email asking for Italy recommendations, so how about doing me a solid and sharing some of your absolute favorites?
A: Deal. If I could only have one lunch in Florence I'd go to Buongustai near Palazzo Vecchio, but I would only order from the daily specials. Just one stop for gelato? Gelateria della Passera, which you can find between-ish Palazzo Pitti and Santo Spirito. Time for just one dinner? Without question, Santa Graal on via Romana. Small menu, big flavor.
When it comes to things to do, I adore the Bargello. Sculpture always seems more accessible to me than 8,000 paintings of the baby Jesus, and the museum is rarely crowded. On the other hand, Piazzale Michelangelo might always be full of tourists, but I still love it for the wide open view of Florence. Finally, if I had a car for just a few hours I'd head out to Panzano in Chianti for a burger at Mac Dario and then afterward I'd walk off the burger weight and take in the gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
There you have it, my friend, my favorites all in one spot.
Q: What was it like having a baby in a foreign country?
A: Surprisingly easy and pleasant. I loved having Livia in Florence and that we got to spend the first 16 months of her life in a city that loves little kids so much.
I have a bunch of posts about having a baby in Italy that will help anyone that is planning to or already going through the process here. You can find them here.
Q: I'm an aspiring web/graphic designer. What advice would you give someone trying to get started?
Design, design, design! Seriously, people want to see examples of your work, so whether you're creating real sites for clients or just creating designs you think are nice, it's important to having something to show and build up your portfolio. Most people will take a chance on a new designer, but they will want to see something.
I would also suggest creating a learning plan. The world of graphic and web design changes so quickly and something that you learned in school or a professional development course just a year or two ago may be seriously outdated. Make sure you keep your skills up to date.
Q: Which do you think is better: WordPress or SquareSpace?
It totally depends on the needs and goals of the client. For some folks, it's a no-brainer to go with WP and for others SquareSpace is the obvious choice.
For me, personally, I've switched back and forth three times! I love experimenting with both. As a developer, I prefer WordPress because I have so much more control and room to truly customize a site. That being said, WP sites require more maintenance and attention, which is why I decided recently to move this site to the SquareSpace environment -- I work on so many WP sites that it's nice to get a little break and work in SS.
So, there's your answer. It depends and I love both.