My Italian Connection
Behind every experience of an expat living in Italy, there is a story. My short-term stay turned into a lifetime commitment. I first came to Italy to work as a fashion model and as I was thinking of returning to the states, I met the love of my life.
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Once Upon A Runway
When I was sixteen years old I was “discovered” by a modeling agency. A woman approached me and Update 2020: I passed my C1 and C2 exams, I am now officially fluent in Italian! :-)my mother in a clothing store on Long Island, where I grew up, and invited me to visit their offices in New York City. My Dad was against the idea, but my Mom secretly brought me to NY on the LIRR (Long Island Rail Road) to a fancy skyscraper on Madison Avenue. They wanted me to start right away, but alas, Dad put his foot down and said I couldn’t start until I graduated High School. The following year, I finished school and began my career in fashion.
Milan is the town of Valentino, Armani, Gucci, and Prada. Before coming to Milan, I was based in Barcelona and I “commuted” between London, Paris, and Milan doing runway and print work. It wasn’t until around 1995 when I found myself in Milan more often than other cities and settled in Italy. I worked for magazines, catalogs, fashion shows and showrooms. I was a fitting model for Giorgio Armani. He liked my shoulders and fitted the jacket prototypes on me. Years after I retired from modelling, I was at a table with friends in a Milan restaurant and Giorgio Armani walked in. As he walked past our table he stopped to say hello to me. My friends were astonished! They said “That was Giorgio Armani! You know Giorgio Armani?” Modeling in Milan was a great experience and I have some very good memories of that time.
The Language of Love
I have to admit, I didn’t learn the language right away. I did some language courses and got by with daily life but more complicated things like renting an apartment or getting the gas connected meant asking help from my English-speaking friends. My language skills greatly improved when I went to design school at the Castello Sforzesco. A career as a model doesn’t last forever so I had to start thinking about the future. I attended the graphic design course, after which I started working at a web design company called MondoWeb based in Rome. In 1998 internet was a new phenomenon. I worked from my apartment in Milan and sent my designs and HTML code over a router that beeped and squeaked. Looking back on it, I don’t know how we worked with such slow connections!
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After a few broken hearts and a halfhearted decision to move back to the USA, I met Fabio. It threw me for a loop. I didn’t know whether to stay or to go. Italians call it colpo di fulmine, a lightning strike. In other words, love at first sight. I later learned it was like that for both us, and needless to say, I stayed.
Blogging & Writing
I started MilanoStyle.com writing about my experiences and discoveries living in Milan, to share with my friends and family back home. When Fabio and I moved to Lecco I started LakeComoStyle.com. Travelers write to me asking me about where to go, eat, and sleep so both sites have evolved into travel guides as well. I love taking photos and love sharing the beauty of my town.
I teach and write for other publications . I also co-authored a book: Local Business Mavericks – An Insider’s Guide to Visiting Italy.
Since 2019 I have been the managing editor at Easy Milano an online publication for English Speaking expats living and working in Milan and Lombardy.
Things I love about Italy
I study Italian at my local adult education center and I am preparing for the C1 and C2 level CILS Italian exams through l’Università per Stranieri di Siena. I always mess up the prepositions and feminine and masculine articles, but I do get compliments on my grammar! I also like learning the local dialect. I think it’s a shame young people don’t speak it very much. I feel like I’m speaking in code, and of course, it entertains the heck out of my friends!
Update 2020: I passed my C1 and C2 exams, I am now officially fluent in Italian! 🙂
The art and architecture
My friends don’t understand why I stop to take pictures of doorways. I love seeing hidden courtyards and neoclassical arches on residential apartment buildings. It’s everyday beauty that sometimes gets overlooked.
And yes, of course, the food
I can’t get enough of cheese, wine and local delicacies. Just don’t ask me to cook!
Things that remind me I’m living in a different culture
I love that Italians are creative, I love that they are generous and welcoming. I don’t love that there sometimes seems to be a general idea of ”get it done, but not necessarily the right or best way”. This can be seen in parking, waiting on line at the supermarket and in the (excessive) use of Google translator. When I hear, “va bene così”, (it’s ok like that), or “sarò veloce” (I’ll be quick) – it makes me cringe.
I am by no means pignola (pedantic). Perhaps I just have to learn to improvise a bit more.
Roughly translates to “Be sure to…” usually followed by ”don’t catch a cold”. I have become so conditioned by it that I always have a hat and scarf in my bag, even in the summer!
Who really knows what tomorrow holds? One thing I have learned from Italians is that you have to live day by day. Things can change in a heartbeat, so every moment should be worth it.
You can learn more about my discoveries living in Italy on:
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Fellow Italy bloggers Kelly at italianatheart.com, Jasmine at questadolcevita.com and Kristie at mammaprada.com, have created a community of Italophile bloggers called #DolceVitaBloggers. Each month we
share a theme, this month we share our stories on how we wound up in Italy. (If you blog, join in on the fun!)