29 April 2009

by popular demand : italy overview

view at sunset over Florence, Italy from San Miniato al Monte

Wanderlust...is in full bloom here in Erinland.

To make matters even more evident, I've had a recent inundation of Italiaphile treats and reminders, including a few friends just getting back from trips to the bel paese, and several emails from blog readers asking about our time in Florence.

From our friends, I've been listening to their stories of the Tuscan hillsides and Roman traffic, and looking at their photos with a sense of nostalgia. Even though I may be a little jealous :), I'm always so happy to hear of people coming to love Italy like we did and watch them smile as they remember their time there....what has made me even happier is the fact that a few of them have even brought us back some of our favorite pesto which we can't find ANYWHERE here in the States. So we've been enjoying lots of pasta lately, although we're trying to make the jars last as long as we can...but not succeeding.

I'm not sure why lately I've been getting a heightened number of emails from readers who are looking at moving to Italy or more specifically, Florence, for a year or so like we did - and asking me for some practical info. I know that most of our experience was chronicled here on the blog, but I don't think I ever made a concise summary "practical" or "how-to" post...which I've now found myself typing and retyping in email replies...

...so here it is, or at least here is a start of a summary of the most frequent questions I receive. (so from now on, I'll just link to this page on email replies and save my wrists from further carpel tunnel)...

Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno, Firenze

A couple years before we ended up moving to Italy, we visited the country and explored many different cities and areas to see where we most liked. Initially this city wasn't my favorite...it seemed monotone and too land-locked. (Almost immediately this perception started to change for me and I found new and wonderful things about la citta' everyday.) After looking realistically at our options when we had to pick a place, we decided on Firenze because: 1) the size - not too big so we could walk everywhere, but not too small so there'd be things to do all the time, 2) the ease of transition, since there are many expats there. Although we tried not to hang out with other Americans too much, it was comforting in a way, knowing that our first time living in Italy, other foreigners were close by, 3) it seemed to have one of the highest quality concentrations of language schools, which is what we were studying, 4) location - it's quite central in Italy and easy to travel to all other regions, and 5) afterall, it IS Florence - the center of the Renaissance and people come from around the world just to see the countless monuments and art pieces that existed just a few meters from our door.

I ended up falling much more in love with it than I thought I would...and when I visited last fall, it felt like home and I even ran into a few people I knew on the streets.
Related Posts:
spring musings
a market. a walk. a view.
characters in the city
spring, bells, & markets
florence fieldtrips ...&... more fieldtrips
sunrise, sunset...and in between

We picked Scuola Leodardo da Vinci after extensive research..and absolutely would recommend it. It was a wonderful experience...everything we were looking for in a language school, and maybe a little bit more.

We picked if for several reasons: 1) it had multiple campuses that you can transfer between at any time (Florence, Rome, Siena, Milan), 2) it was primarily a language school (not an art school that offered language classes, etc), 3)the demographics weren't majority American (it's very split between American, Asian, European, etc), and 4) the price was very good for the long term semester that we took.

The things we really liked about it after we were there were: 1) the professors were very nice, personable, smart, and cared about the students, 2) the class size was kept 8-12/class, 3) the entire staff was super helpful anytime we needed something in the sometime mess of moving oversees (even if it didn't have to do with school), and 4)there were a lot of (most of them free) extra curricular activities to participate in to improve your language even more.
Related Posts:
scuola leonardo da vinci
scuola registrazione
our first week of classes
piano piano

view over the rooftops from our apartment

As for the apartment, we arranged a private apartment on our own instead of going through the school. We used Accademia Realty. It's run by an American wife Diane and her Italian husband Andrea. They are great and really helped us get settled in...plus found us an amazing flat with windows on 3 sides :).
Related Posts:
getting acquainted
10 things x 2
meeting the neighbors

Very carefully. :) I really summed this up well in 2 previous posts, so read them here:
getting our visas :: part 1
getting our visas :: part 2

So hope this helps sum up some of the main questions...although there are many other specific ones I get as well. Maybe soon I'll do another summary post with fun facts like food, travel, and festivals.


Monika said...

Hi Erin!!
Un bacio forte di Firenze.

janie said...

Thanks Erin-I know in my heart we will live there at some point for a year and so I look forward to the day when I can really use your advice!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow Erin! I can imagine how much you must miss it. I hope having pasta night will help!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

So when are you coming back? ha.

I might take classes at the branch here. Working at home alone means I hardly speak Italian. It's frustrating not being fluent.