I met Sognatrice(her name is really Michelle)through her blog, Bleeding Espresso. She is a someone I admire because she moved from the US to Italy and I can live vicariously through her. She is an inspiration, not only because she is an Italian expat, but also because she is a freelance writer…something else I look forward to doing. She has been so helpful in giving me suggestions on how to get started in the business and she has been a loyal and faithful reader of my blog, for which I am very grateful. She is friendly, kind hearted and funny. She has a unique perspective on both the Italian and American cultures, and I wanted you to get to know her. Here goes:
Sognatrice,tell me a little about yourself and why you moved to Italy? You know…your ‘story.’
I’m a 30-year-old American who has been living in Calabria, the toe of the boot, for 4 years. I first came on a genealogical search, looking for information about my paternal grandmother’s side of the family; I fell in love with the village and moved here a year later basically because I wanted to. A year and a half later, I met my fiancé, and I’m still here with no plans of moving back to the States.
What is the one thing that frustrated/irritated you about moving to and living in Italy?
General disorganization is probably the biggest annoyance—thinking you can go and get something accomplished in one visit is just setting yourself up for disappointment. Also the reluctance on the part of Italians to use the phone for anything outside of social purposes; they always seem to want you to come in to do the smallest thing like pick up a paper instead of just mailing it. I’ve actually had government office employees tell me this is because you can’t trust the postal service, but let’s not get into Poste Italiane.
What has your experience been with the Italian people? Do Italians dislike Americans?
I’ve had an extremely positive experience with Italians, especially as it regards my being American. Although many don’t like current American foreign policy, most Italians can understand that we ordinary citizens aren’t truly to blame. From my experience, Italians are generally welcoming and always ready to practice their English, even if it’s just “hello.”
Do you miss home more or less than you thought you would?
I’d say about what I thought. Before I moved here, I hadn’t lived in my hometown for ten years, so I was used to not being home-home. Granted there are some conveniences like 24 hour shopping that aren’t here, but honestly, you get over those things pretty quickly or you move back, I think.
How does what you thought it would be like to live in Italy differ from what it’s really like to live in Italy?
This may sound strange, but I never really spent a lot of time imagining what it would be like to live in Italy, so it’s hard to answer this. Living in Italy really is just like living everywhere else—with great food and gorgeous scenery of course.
What is your favorite Italian dish to cook?
I love when my Calabrian stuffed lasagne is finished; there’s great satisfaction in knowing I created it and it’s *so* tasty!
To eat at a restaurant?
Seafood, seafood, seafood. Calamari especially.
What is your favorite Italian food?
Kind of boring, but I really like a basic Caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella, basil) with fresh bread.
What is your favorite American food, what do you miss most that you can’t get in Italy?
My favorite American food is pretty much anything my mom makes, and that’s also what I miss most that I can’t get here. Thanksgiving dinner in particular (but my mom sends me lots of provisions to make my own!).
How does the pizza compare?
In my hometown I was lucky to have a Sicilian making my favorite pizza, so actually the pizza isn’t that different here, but the choice of toppings differs greatly—pepperoni, for instance, doesn’t exist here, and if you ask for “peperoni,” you’ll get green or red peppers.
What is your favorite Italian drink? American drink?
Well espresso on the Italian side, obviously. American drink? What I wouldn’t give for a Mountain Dew (doesn’t exist here)!
How does the Italian diet compare to the diet of the Americans?
Italians tend to eat everything either fresh or fresh then quickly frozen—very little preservatives. Fast food is almost non-existent where I am. Also red meat isn’t eaten very often at least in my house. I eat *much* healthier here, and my body thanks me (I’ve lost over 30 pounds since I’ve been here without “dieting” per se).
Do you speak Italian? How long did it take you? Do you think Italian is easier than English to learn?
I do speak Italian, and I’d say that after about 6 months, I could get along pretty well in most situations. That said, it probably took me a good two years to feel really comfortable speaking in Italian with someone I didn’t know, so it’s all a matter of individual judgment. I don’t think Italian is very difficult to learn at its basics—the nuances, though, will take me a lifetime (especially never having had any formal training). English is probably harder, but it’s hard to say since it’s my native tongue.
What are your favorite things to do in Italy?
Walk around and look, take photos, talk to older people who know a lot about the local history.
What is the biggest stereotype that the Italians have about Americans?
I’d say a lot of them still think that Americans are wealthy, a stereotype stemming from the days when Italians left for America and then sent money back to relatives—now it’s encouraged by all the “things” Americans seem to own.
What is the biggest stereotype that the Americans have about Italians?
Probably that they sit around all day, drink coffee or wine, and eat all while talking and singing. Loudly.
What is the biggest similarity between the Italian & American culture?
Passion—both cultures have it, but we just direct it at different things for the most part.
The fact that it’s common for children here to live with their parents well into their 30s. Not saying it doesn’t happen in the States, but here, it’s almost expected.
If you could change one thing about Italian culture what would it be?
The resistance to change. Italy seems to prefer that the entire world test something out first before it’ll try it—and even then it probably won’t.
If you could change one thing about American culture what would it be?
Rampant consumerism. It makes me physically sick.
If you could travel anywhere in Italy, where would it be and why?
I’d love to go to Sardinia; I’ve heard it’s like another world over there (in a good way!), and it seems like one I’d enjoy. Emma makes it sound so inviting!
Other than friends and family, what is one thing that you miss about America?
The strength of the dollar. Very depressing since I still work with companies in the States and get paid in dollars.
Thanks so much Sognatrice! It has been great fun getting to know you, and I look forward to the day we can meet!