expat life: interview with michelle fabio

We're excited to announce a new series for our blog, Expat Life, which features interviews with current expats living in Italy. This series was born out of requests from readers to gain more diverse perspectives on living abroad. Everyone comes to Italy for different reasons and with different expectations. We hope you enjoy this new series. michellefabioToday's Expat Life interview is with Michelle Fabio, the founder of BleedingEspresso.com, a very popular Italy expat blog. I've been reading Bleeding Espresso for a long time -- I found the blog about a year after I studied abroad in Italy and have been a regular reader ever since.

Michelle Fabio, an American attorney-turned-freelance writer, moved to her ancestors’ medieval hilltop village of Badolato in Calabria (the toe of Italy’s boot) in 2003.

A year and a half later, she fell in love with Paolo (known on the blog as P) and later adopted two of the cutest, sweetest dogs in the world (Luna and Stella) and goat Pasqualina, who gave birth to Pinta in March 2010; the brood has also included hens, turkeys, ducks, rabbits, and guinea pigs at various times. Michelle enjoys the simplicity of life in the south of Italy but also really, really loves her iPod and various Apple products.

She is currently the Guide to Law School for About.com (a New York Times company), official blogger for LegalZoom.com, and does a weekly podcast with fellow bloggers Sara Rosso and Jessica Spiegel at Eye on Italy. She is also the co-host of World Nutella Day.


When did you first step foot in Italy?

My first visit to Italy was in the summer of 2002. After a plane transfer in Rome or Milan (can't remember which), I came straight to Calabria.


Why did you come to Italy? 

I had always been into family genealogy, but after my Italian grandmother passed away, the desire to come over here and see the family's villages for myself got much stronger. And so less than a year after her death, I was in Italy. I moved here about a year later essentially because I wanted to. I've written more about this Breaking Up Isn't Hard to Do: My Decision to Leave the Law and You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello.

Did you know right away that you wanted to stay here?

While on vacation, I had been here a couple days when I started to imagine how life would/could be for me in this village. The following fall I would be looking for a new job anyway, so I started thinking that moving here for a year before really getting into the whole legal world might not be such a bad idea. After I had moved here, I went back to the States after six months, and realized while there that this is where I wanted to be.

Badolato plus Ionian

What was the reaction of friends and family back home when you said "so, I'm moving to Italy"?

A lot of blank stares and dropped jaws, some excitement, but mostly the former. Many family and friends still don't get it, but that's not my problem ;)

What have been some of the funniest/craziest/hardest things about adapting to a completely new culture?

Without a doubt, the language has been the hardest adjustment; I only knew a few words of Italian before I came, and around here, the locals speak mostly Calabrese to one another, so training my ear to hear and understand two new languages was absolutely the most challenging.

Panino caprese

 You do a lot of writing all over the internet. What's it been like writing for a living?

I absolutely love being a freelance writer and can't imagine ever going back to working in an office with regular hours. It wasn't easy getting started, but I imagine it's like what many women say about childbirth -- that eventually you forget the pain. Hah! Seriously working freelance requires a lot of discipline and hard work, as well as the ability to handle the inevitable ebb and flow of work that happens at least in the beginning. It's not for the faint of heart or those who are paralyzed by the fear of failure, which is a very real possibility when starting out as a freelance writer.

Can I have some Maaaaaa?

What's the single best thing about your life in Italy. What do you wake up every day thankful for?

I'm so grateful that I even had the opportunity to come here and live this life. I often, and I mean probably on a weekly basis, just stop and think of what my ancestors who left here in search of a better life would think about my being able to return here -- by choice -- all because of their hard work, and all achieved within just a few generations. Truly humbling.

If people could read only three posts from your blog, which three would you tell them to read?

I have a list of my favorite posts on the blog, and I still love all those, but recently I've started writing more about how I've changed my lifestyle since I came here in a more profound way. As my mindset and focus has changed, so has my writing, and three of my recent favorites are the following:

Are you an expat living in Italy interested in sharing your story with our readers? Send us an email at hashconsulting {at} gmail {dot} com.