Happy Friday and a tip for expats

August6 This was a fun week for the Hash Family -- busy, but definitely super fun. We had our first meeting at Livia's asilo nido (daycare)...she starts on Monday! We are equal parts insanely excited (I don't remember what a full, uninterrupted work-day looks like) and really sad (you know, parental attachment issues and all). Here in Italy they do a fairly regimented acclimatization period for kids starting nido, so she won't be a full-timer until mid-October. I think it's an adjustment period for the parents, too.

This weekend we're heading out to Greve for the Chianti Wine Festival. I'm so excited. Greve and the nearby countryside are pretty much my favorite part of Tuscany, so pair that with copious amounts of wine and I'm a happy girl. Plus, it's going to be hot in the city on Saturday, so escaping to the countryside will give us about 5 degrees of relief, which is a big deal!

My friend Georgette has a great post today on how to make friends in Florence. It's full of helpful information for the newly-arrived that are looking to meet new people. Her list of social/networking groups, in particular, is awesome. If you are planning a move here or looking for ways to meet new people you need to see that list.

If I were to add my own general tip for expats to her list I would say this -- which has been the #1 thing in my own life that has expanded my social circle: share your friends. When I first arrived Georgette was the very first person that I met. She introduced me to a few people that became good friends. Over the past few years I've met some amazing people that I've introduced to her. I've made and shared other friends the same way with other people in town. 

Being an expat doesn't guarantee that you'll love everyone you meet, but one of the first things that goes through my mind when I meet someone new is "Who else is going to love this person?" Everyone here is far from home and your friends become your family. People are always coming and going. Whenever I have the opportunity to connect with someone or be connector I take it. That is my top advice for expats. Share your friends.

House Hunting in Florence: The New Place

Apt-600 Alas, there was no TV crew to follow us around this time, but we did do a bit of house hunting over the course of a few months to find this place. Right now in Florence it feels a bit like a renters' market in that you can negotiate a little when you find the right place, but in a city full of old and, um...unique...places, it can take a bit to find the right home. That is, of course, why we jumped on this place when we found it.

As we set out to find a new apartment our wish list looked a bit like this:

  • 2-3 bedrooms
  • At least 90m2
  • Furnished kitchen (less common than you would think)
  • Lots and lots of natural light
  • If not in the city center, on a reliable bus line

We've learned that when house hunting in Florence you can't make too detailed of a list. Why? You. will. never. find it all. Instead, if you go in with a general list you can find yourself pleasantly surprised with what you do find.

You may notice that outdoor space isn't on the list. As nice as it was to have a garden, we barely used it. Because we work from home, when we needed a break and fresh air, we wanted a break and fresh air...which meant going outside for walks or to the park. Staying at home in the place we'd just worked for 8 hours or more wasn't much of a treat. We weren't nervous about Winston losing the space because any time we go away he stays with petsitters that don't have gardens and he manages just fine. In some ways, the routine of 3x a day walks makes him much better behaved.

What We Discovered We looked at apartments 200euro below and 200euro above our ideal price. It was fascinating the difference in the quality of the apartments. It was clear to us immediately that hitting the higher end of our budget was going to be a necessity. At this point, we also realized that three bedrooms was out of the question. Three bedroom apartments are hard to find and that extra room knocks the price up substantially. That being said, the square footage (meterage?) significantly increased at the high end of our budget, so we knew even with just two bedrooms that we'd have some breathing room.

What We Found When we found this apartment we just knew that we had to take it. What makes it particularly special is that everything has just been redone. Everything. New bathrooms, new kitchen, refinished floors. It's gorgeous. It feels like a place that we really get to shape into our own home instead of adapting to what we find. The showstopper? That photo above with the giant living/diving/working space. Woot woot!

The surprise is that it's much more central than our old apartment. I never in a million years thought we'd be living next door to the Bargello, but here we are and totally loving it so far.

Up Next: A European Road Trip

AmsterdamAmsterdam Amsterdam Photos from Flickr and Copyright by Moyan Brenn

We have been nonstop since we returned from our trip to the U.S. last month. Busy with work, busy with baby (the baptism was this past weekend...photos coming soon!) and now busy with travel. Up next: a road trip through Italy, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands (and possibly France and/or Belgium). Wowza!

We are doing a home exchange with a lovely couple from Amsterdam. To say we're excited would be understatement of the century. We decided to drive instead of fly so that we could stop in parts of Europe we might otherwise never take time to visit. We'll be stopping and staying overnight about every 4 hours of the drive on the way up. So far, we're stopping in Fussen to check out the nearby castles and Bacharach for some small town Germany action.

As for the way back...no plans yet! The great thing about a home exchange is that we have a ton of flexibility. If we love Amsterdam we may end up staying there and then powering through the full drive (about 12 hours) in one day. Otherwise, the plan is to take another 2-3 days for the drive back. Maybe through France. Maybe back through Germany. We want to keep things open in case we end up seeing things along the drive up that we really want to see on the way back.

Is it wrong that I'm totally jealous of my daughter? She's only 6 months old and already a little world traveler!

Living in Florence: A Saturday Stroll

In an effort to get this recovering lady some fresh air on Saturday we went out for a nice walk through the city. As expected, it was crowded out, but the walk was still wonderful. The stroller acts as a bit of a battering ram through the tourist crowds.

I was tired by the time we got home, but mentally refreshed from the fresh air. Flus/bugs are the worst because it takes so. darn. long. to recover. I'm hoping that by Livia's baptism this coming weekend I'll be back to fighting form.

A Quick Friday Post from Florence

Wow, it's been a crazy week. Things were going great: on Saturday I went to a really fun blogger event in the Tuscan countryside hosted by Tuscany Now (which I'll finally be writing about early next week). Monday was super productive. Then, Tuesday hit. Casa Hash was hit hard by a no-good, very bad stomach bug. Holy cow. Four days later and I'm only starting to recover. My poor dad got it, too. Thankfully, Rob and Livia managed to avoid it. Needless the say, however, that things have been slow going around these parts!

As a result of the four days offline I never got to post about an amazing blog we worked on and recently launched for a wonderful gal named Amy, The Bittersweet Gourmet. Seriously folks, can we talk about how delicious these recipes look/are? Pasta in artichoke, anchovy and saffron sauce? Sign me up!

the bittersweet gourmet

Amy was a delight to work with and her passion for food is inspiring. I highly suggest swinging by her blog to check it out and subscribe. The blog looks best in Chrome, Safari and Firefox. Boo on IE!

I love working on blogs, so if you're looking for a little revamp/redesign send an email my way!