American in Italy, events, interview, interviews, italy, life, locals i love, opinion, travel, tuscany, Uncategorized, working in italy

Locals I Love – Katie O’Brian

I apologize for the lack of posts lately but if you happen to be a fan of my blog’s facebook page – you probably know that I am currently in America until the end of May visiting family. So far so good, I have visited Boston for the first time and am all over the great state of Texas before heading to Los Angeles later this week. Insanity but hey, it’s been over a year and a half since I have been home and already I have tried every food product known to man..

I am super thrilled to keep this series going and today we are traveling from California to Florence — this ‘local’ is a dear friend of mine that I happened to meet in the US consulate when going on some random red-tape errand a few years ago and she was registering to get married to her Italian amore. A friendship was born and I am lucky to call someone as awesome as Katie a good friend since in Italy — good friends often become very much like family. Plus her husband makes awesome homemade pizza and I kind of want to steal her dog! Let’s get started…

  • How long have you lived in Florence and where are you from originally.

I’ve called Seano my home for over 5 years now. I’m originally from Nipomo, a small town (much like Seano) on the Central Coast of California.

  • What brought you to bella Firenze and why did you decide to stay?

One word…Fabio. It’s all his fault. 😉 I met him while studying aboard in 2005 and, after finishing up university, I came over to give life here a try and it stuck. Obviously, the amazing landscape, culture, food and people helped!

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  • What are you up to in Florence? Work, daily life, passions?

I’ve been teaching English to Italians young and old from all walks of life for over 4 years now. It’s an rewarding job that has allowed me to really get to know the people I’ve come to live amongst. Obviously the downside is the hours can be inconvenient and sometimes it’s hard to find schools that offer decent contracts. I also started translating a few years ago, once my Italian was strong enough. Although sometimes it can be tedious (the installation manual for a machine for a refrigerator assembly line comes to mind), I weirdly like it! It’s like solving a puzzle (nerd alert, I know)!
I’ve been fortunate enough to be kept really busy during the week so the fun stuff has been limited to the simple pleasure of taking walks with my husband and our dog, Ella. On the weekends, I love meeting up with friends for lunches or dinners. We’re so lucky because we can take little day trips or meet in the city center or at one of our houses and have a setting that people travel half way around the world to enjoy. I also love taking a little weekend get-away to southern Tuscany or Umbria. It’s always nice to ‘cambia l’aria’ every once-in-awhile.

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  • What annoys you about Florence? Tell me the truth!

The bureaucracy (I could go there, but it’s best not to), drivers and the summer (mostly due to the humidity and mosquitoes).

  • Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you?

I think living in any other country apart from your own requires a certain amount of patience and understanding that this isn’t and will never be exactly like your country, so it’s pointless to be constantly let down when it’s not. Obviously I have done my fair share of complaining over the years about certain situations myself or my husband have found ourselves in.

I think it works for me because I have great group of people, both Italian and American, that keep me sane and support me. I’ve fallen in love with so many aspects of the Italian life that, at this point, they’d be hard to live without (unlabeled wine, fresh vegetables and eggs delivered directly to the house comes to mind).

  • What advice would you give a newbie?

Study Italian before you get here. I slacked off during my study abroad “when was I ever going to use Italian in the future away?”…ha…ha…) and so I arrived here with about 15 words in my vocabulary. The six months I felt painfully isolated and really had a hard time.

  • Three finds/places everyone should know about in Florence?

Since I’m a country bumpkin, I think people should venture out of Florence’s center. Poggio a Caiano’s Medici Villa is amazing, Artemino is beautiful hill-top town with another of the Medici’s Villas and Pietra Marina and it’s Etruscan ruins offer an amazing view and a nice break from the city. We also have some of the best wine and olive oil in Tuscany up this way!

  • I am pretty sure we went to that Medici villa together, so pretty! What’s the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced in Italy?

I can’t think of it of the top of my head, but the big dove with fireworks shooting out its back-side flying in and out of the Duomo on Easter is wonderfully weird.

  • YES, I have always thought that was an interesting eccentric tradition! What can you do here and nowhere else?

Ah…so many things…that’s what makes it such a special place.

  • I would normally bug you for details but I think I will let it slide based on the fact that I very much agree with you. How did you make friends and assimilate?

I took me a while to find my stride. Since I live about 45 minutes from Florence I was pretty isolated for the first 6 months. It wasn’t until I took a class in the center and started working that I started to make friends. I think working and driving really helped me feel normal again. I was lucky enough to meet my closest friends about 3 years back, life got much easier after that!

  • I think a lot of people can relate to you, especially if you don’t live in the historical center — I know I can! Favorite food {or recipe}.

Sooooo hard!! I have to say, polpo e patate! 🙂

  • If you had to make up a tagline for the city – what would it be? 😉 be creative!

You never know what surprises this old city has in store for you!

Thanks Katie for letting me take a peek at your life, but the REAL question I have been waiting to ask is…when is our next wine & pizza date? NO really 😉

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