Today we’re thrilled to be chatting with Alessandra who runs one of our favourite blogs – Living in Italian. Allie set up the blog back in 2016 when she moved to Italy. Initially created as a ‘space for me to show off / moan / laugh about my experiences‘, it soon ‘turned into a bit of a love letter to Italy.’ With a love and passion for everything Italian which she shares with the Bookings For You team, as well as a desire to write about travel and food, Allie’s blog is a definite ‘must-read’ for anyone with an interest in Italy or who are planning a trip there!
You’ll find the blog is rich in interesting and detailed content… even if you consider yourself an Italian expert, we reckon you’ll still find you learn something new thanks to Living in Italian.
So let’s find out a bit more about Alessandra….
Please introduce yourself….
I’m Alessandra – I write a lot about travel and food. I am a passionate eater (though sadly not such a good cook) so a lot of the content incorporates some element of food to help explore the traditions, culture and everyday lifestyle of local areas in Italy.
In 2016, you moved to Italy. Tell us more…
I was born with a very Italian-sounding name and quite an Italian-looking face, but I never learned to speak it, which means I’ve spent too much time nodding blankly at well-meaning Italians and trying to avoid questions from well-meaning Brits about how to make real pesto etc. So learning the language and a little more about the culture was a big motivator.
I’ve also always been really fascinated by local and regional identities in Italy – we often think of it as a North / South divide but it’s much more complex and exciting than that, and that’s why I ended up moving around the country quite a bit.
I was in Italy for around a year – I started off in Liguria and stayed in a lovely fishing village called Camogli for the first couple of months, then moved around the country – through Rome, Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Le Marche until I got to Puglia – where I still have some family – and spent the remaining three or four months there.
Since then (when there isn’t a global pandemic in the way!) I try to go back a few times a year to explore other patches of the country.
Do you miss Italy?
Terribly! I miss what most people miss – the generosity and spirit of the people, the food, the pace, the lifestyle. I’ve been trying to recreate the scene here in North London – going to the farmers markets, visiting local Italian cafes for a quick coffee but in Italy – particularly in smaller towns – that lifestyle is so effortless.
Things I don’t miss… everything being closed on a Monday! And the very tiny napkins in restaurants and bars – I don’t miss those at all.
Can you see yourself living in Italy again in the future?
Absolutely – I just need to convince my other half!
What do you think the key differences are between Italians and Brits?
Aside from the most obvious, what always strikes me is how sociable Italians are. That isn’t to say Brits are antisocial, but in Italy – even in the big cities – there’s a much more relaxed attitude towards socialising with family and friends.
I had gotten used to WhatsApp groups and calendar invites and ‘how about three weeks Thursday’, but in Italy it seems you can bump into someone at the supermarket and end up at an impromptu dinner party on the same evening!
What is your favourite place in Italy?
I have a very soft spot for Puglia because my father’s family come from Brindisi and I used to spend lots of my childhood summers there. I grew up eating a lot of the Pugliese staples – orecchiette on a Sunday, great slabs of focaccia, taralli (the strange savoury biscuits) – so it always feels a bit strange if I’m away for too long.
What advice do you have for anyone travelling to Italy for the first time?
Take it slow! There is so much to see in Italy and you cannot and should not try to tick everything off the list at once. Florence, Cinque Terre, Milan and the Lakes all look reasonably close on the map but you’ll lose so much in-between if you try to pack it into a fortnight.
Spend three hours at lunch, curl up like a cat by the sea and watch Italians ‘beach’, buy a mysterious looking vegetable from the local market – that’s where the real fun is.
As soon as you try to rush, Italy becomes one of the most frustrating places in the world because inevitably a restaurant will be closed even though it says it’s open on google or you’ll find out too late that a whole town has been taken over by a festival celebrating the local saint. I know annual leave is precious and it is tempting to try and plan every minute but if you know you’re going to want to come back again, why rush?
How do you feel about travel in the light of COVID-19?
I think, like a lot of people, I am quite torn and a little apprehensive. That said, I’m apprehensive about doing things I never would have thought twice about a few months ago – getting on a tube, going to the supermarket, sitting in a restaurant so its no wonder that the prospect of a three hour plane journey is quite panic-inducing! On balance though, I do want to start travelling again – and soon. I think it’s important to support the industry and local economy, providing we can do it safely and work within government guidelines.
Do you have any trips planned at the moment? Where to?
I’ve planned approximately 42 different holidays in intricate detail over the past four months, but I’m yet to book anything. I’ve spent a lot of time daydreaming – particularly about Italy – but to be honest at this point I’ll take anything that isn’t my living room!
What is on your Italian bucket list? Anywhere in Italy that you’ve not yet been but would like to visit?
So many places! Even though I’ve spent quite a lot of time travelling up and down and across the country there are still so many places – and whole regions – I haven’t seen.
I’m intrigued by a lot of the islands – Elba, the Aeolian Islands, Ponza. I’ve only visited the lakes once and I’d love to go back – a little more grown up – and see what I think now. I’d also love to visit some of the lesser known lakes – Lake Maggiore, for instance, and Lake Iseo.
And, I would love to walk the Italian section of the Via Francigena – an ancient path which runs all the way from Canterbury to Rome to Puglia – but I’m yet to lure someone into hiking this with me!
We have loved chatting (albeit virtually) with the face behind Living in Italian. We highly recommend you follow Allie’s adventures on her blog. If you’d like to dip your toe in a bit further, then do also check out Alessandra’s recent guest post on the Bookings For You blog telling us all about Ferragosto. In the meantime, we are looking forward to helping Alessandra tick off some of the items on her Italian bucket list.