Living in Florence, Italy: Thoughts Two Months Later

Well folks, we've been back in the U.S. for just about two months. The time has flown by. We've been bouncing from place to place; sometimes for extended periods of time and sometimes for quick visits. We'll be moving on to the next and almost-final destination soon, but in the meantime I wanted to pull together my thoughts on what the first few months back in the U.S. has been like for us.

The biggest surprise? There hasn't been much reverse culture shock. I remember that sensation big-time after studying abroad ten years(!) ago, but this time around there hasn't really been any...at all. I think we've just been basking in the convenience of, well, everything too much to be bothered even in the slightest by any culture shock. 

Pleasant surprises abound! You forget about how much joy little things can bring you. It's walking into a Target and seeing adorable makes-life-a-thousand-times-easier-products. It's finding Garden of Eatin' Red, Hot and Blue tortilla chips and biting into one for the first time in three years. It's unpacking some of our stored boxes and seeing photos, mementos from college and other things we'd forgotten about.

Speaking Italian is more fun here. It's like Italians in America have a radar for us, because we've met a handful of them and all they want to do is chat, hear about why we were in Italy and, of course, talk politics. If I'm being honest, it feels like there is less pressure to be perfect with our language. The people we meet are just so excited to speak with us. It reminds me a bit of the first few months in Florence when we initially moved there. Just excitement and a simple love of the language.

I miss the little things about Italy. I miss walking to the grocery and bread shop each day. I miss the little piazzas that always felt like the essence of the city for me. I miss Livia stopping to explore nooks and crannies that kids her age have been fascinated by for centuries. 

I miss our friends more than anything. Was it nice to walk across the Ponte Vecchio and past the Duomo every day? Sure. But, I actually don't miss those anywhere near as much as I miss our friends. We met some amazing people during our time in Florence and not seeing them for a few months has been a big hit. It just reaffirms a very important fact about life: people make a place feel like home.

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I'm going to be putting together some final guides and recommendations for Florence in the coming weeks and months. I want to get all of my favorites "on paper" before I start forgetting things. Stay tuned!

Chapters

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Italy has witnessed some pretty major transformations and chapters in my life. In January 2005, I arrived in Florence a 21-year old college student that had just taken her first international flight. When I was packing for this big adventure, Italy was so darn perfect in my dreams that in complete and utter naïveté I didn't even pack a winter coat. I was heading under the Tuscan sun, right? Obviously every day would be a perfect sunny, 75-degree day. Ha! Needless to say my mom mailed me my coat after the first freezing (and snowy!) few days.

I left Florence five months later a different person. I arrived a boozing, slightly immature college student and arrived back in Washington, D.C. just...different. I had my own apartment, lived with my boyfriend (now husband), had an office job and just felt so darn grown up. It wasn't one of those I'm-sad-that-now-I'm-a-grown-up things. It just felt so natural and it made me happy. It felt like my time abroad had really opened my eyes and help me set goals for my future.

When I was packing up in 2005 and telling people that "I will be back here, I can feel it" I got a lot of nods and "Yeah...sure." Basically every college girl that studies in Florence claims that she'll live here one day. But for me, I knew it was different. I just knew this place was important for me and my story.

Five years later, when the opportunity came knocking to call Italy home once again, we jumped at it. This time around, we arrived in January 2011, sorta-newlyweds and self-employed marketing consultants ready to experience Italy in a whole new light. We traveled, visited museums, tried new things, met amazing people and matured...a ton. We matured and grew as individuals, but also as a couple.

As we get ready to leave Florence this time around, I find myself leaving a completely different person again. Italy didn't just watch me grow up this time, it watched me become a mother. I can state without hesitation or exaggeration that our life and lifestyle here was the reason we took the leap into parenthood. Without Italy this wonderful little family wouldn't be complete. I almost lack the words to properly express my gratitude to the universe for this.

I think that most of us have a place -- a physical, real place -- in this world that feeds our soul. Calms us. Helps us grow. All evidence seems to point to Florence as being that place for me. In that regard, it feels right to be leaving because I never want to abuse my relationship with this city, this place. I know now, just like I knew as a 21-year old, that Florence will always and forever be a part of my life. Except now, I feel it on an even deeper, more organic level. My daughter was born here and some of the happiest moments of my life are intertwined with Florence -- it's impossible to separate them.

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Our move from Florence has been on our minds for quite some time. It's been definite for many months, but I stayed quiet about it on the blog because I really just wanted these last months to be about spending time with friends and soaking in every moment possible. In due time I'll share our new plans, which are very exciting for our little family.

2013: What a Year it Was!

It's that time of year...the traditional yearly wrap-up post! This wasn't the most active year on the blog, but even so there are a ton of great posts that have me fondly looking back on the busy year that was 2013. Without further ado...

January

We celebrated our two-year Itali-versary. In some ways it felt like the two years had sped by and in other ways it felt like a slow crawl. I'm sure this is something a lot of expats can relate to.

We also blogged about our tips for house-hunting in Italy,  showed off our family portrait project (which we are behind on for this year!), shared our list of must-have baby items, raved about the documentary series Up! that we discovered.

February

In February I shared a list of local expat bloggers that I love dearly, as well as a bunch of photos from our little family life. I wrote about a random weekend in Florence, we took a trip home to the U.S. and tried out Garces in Philly, and generally had a fun, low-key month. I also shared this fun quote about Italy that's been pinned a bunch.

March

March was rainy, but still nice -- something about the haze of rain makes this city feel timeless. I talk about how different Americans and Europeans are when it comes to needing space in their homes and apartments. I wrote two posts about details in Florence and recapped an insanely random and also insanely fun blogger event I went to one Saturday.

April

Holy cow April was busy, busy, busy. We started the month by celebrating Livia's baptism and then the following week took off on an epic European road trip. The highlights: Bavaria is stunningly beautiful (and clean!). We loved Neuschwanstein Castle and the town of Fussen.

The star of the show was obviously Amsterdam, which we instantly  became obsessed with. We ate at a charming cafe called Letting, shared our tips for parking in a city full of bikes, took a hilarious bike tour, went to the Rijks Museum on opening day (after a ten year closure!), and loved renting baby equipment instead of lugging it from Florence.

May

Tourist mob in Florence, Italy

May was a bit quiet on the blog -- we had to recover from the craziness that was April! I shared my experiences with pregnancy and childbirth in Florence, photos from pregnancy and wrote a slightly snarky post about bad vacation behavior.

June

June was a crazy, exhausting month. Maybe one day I'll summon the courage to write about the stress we faced moving apartments. On the upside, the new Design*Sponge Florence guide went live, I shared my "living history" of all the places that I've called home, kept it super real, and wrote a little love letter to our old street.

July

Only a few short posts to show for the hot month of July. We were mostly settling in to our new apartment. I talked about our new place, summer in the city and shared a quiet, early morning moment from Florence.

August

In August I shared a quote about travel, we celebrated our five year marriage anniversary, and reminisced on the two previous Augusts. Two years before we were in Chianti on an amazing holiday and the year before I was wayyy pregnant. I also shared some insight on what it's really like to be a work-from-home parent (insane), blogs that make me want to move and how I try to create an authentic voice in my blogging.

September

September saw the arrival of our sweet and smart intern Olivia. We also share tips for expats, one big reason to love Florence, and a review of a new sweet shop. I also shared two list posts that have been extremely popular: a list of my favorite lifestyle blogs and a list of all the posts on Italian dual citizenship that I've written.

October

We had a really fun family date at the Bargello for Livia's birthday. We had a wonderful trip to Bologna where we ate at Tamburini. Plus, Olivia shared her list of 10 things to do while visiting the Amalfi Coast and we shared Livia's weekly photo project.

November

November was super quiet. Thankfully, our intern Olivia wrote two great posts: all about the Perugia chocolate festival and how studying abroad is like being in a relationship.

December 2013

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And finally we find ourselves at December. We shared our five favorite posts from the year and gave thanks for the wonderful friends we were lucky enough to share Thanksgiving with.

Wow! In some ways it's very hard to believe that this year is already over. I'm both happy and sad to see the year go. It was insanely busy with travel and work and while it was all wonderful and worth it, I think 2014 is going to be the year of taking deep breaths and relishing time as a little family. I feel much less of a travel bug and much more of a desire to settle down and just be.

Looking for past wrap-up posts? Here they are:

 

5 Favorites from 2013

Can you guys believe 2013 is almost gone? Crazy, right?! I have one of our epic yearly wrap-up posts coming soon (you can check out the ones from 2010, 2011 and 2012), but in the meantime I wanted to share five of my favorite posts from 2013, highlighting those posts really stuck with me after hitting the publish button.

Palazzo-Tour-1 1. Hidden Florence: Palazzo Portinari Salviati An amazing palazzo that's being restored and rarely open to the public.

2. Where to Shop in Amsterdam: Mint This tiny boutique totally charmed us and captured everything we loved about the amazing city of Amsterdam.

Livia-22-Web3. Baptized in Florence Photos from Livia's lovely baptism. So blessed to be surrounded by friends and family on this special day.

4. Road Trip, Day Two: Bavaria to the Rhineland Sure it was cold, but my goodness Bavaria is absolutely stunning!

Tamburini-35. Where to Eat in Bologna: Lunch at Tamburini I love when places live up to the hype. An yummy lunch in a charming part of town is always a win in my book!

Inspired by September

greve-september September has always been one of my favorite months to be in Italy. Although it's a little warm at the moment, you can usually count on September to start cooling down to wonderful temperatures that allow you to wear pants, light sweaters and (gasp!) closed-toe shoes. The crowds start to thin out and things get a little more comfortable and quiet.

We spent Saturday in Greve and had a great time (even with a subpar lunch and oh-so-reliable-bus-transportation). The Chianti Festival in Greve is so well done. I find that wine festivals here in Florence can be hit or miss, and often really expensive. In Greve, it was a good ol' fashioned 10euro for 10 tastings type of gig. Amazing. I actually discovered a rosé produced by Castello di Verrazzano that I really liked. I'm not typically a rosé type of gal, but it was so good we actually bought a bottle. It's light and summery -- perfect for a cool September night.

When mid-September starts sneaking up I usually start going through my closet and reorganizing for fall. I can't wait to bust out these three pieces. How about you?

september-faves

Sweater and Jacket from J. Crew (mine is from Old Navy...I've had it for almost 10 years!) and the boots are from Piperlime. I got my at a great shop in Florence called Rive Gauche.