Ask Me Anything: Italy Edition

Letters, LettereToday marks the day I left California 10 years ago, to make a new life in Italy.

I thought it might be a good chance for you to ask those burning questions you have all about Italy, so I’m doing an “Ask Me Anything: Italy Edition.” That’s when I open up the comments to all your questions and I answer them!

Your questions can be about discovering something new in Italy, what you should eat on your next trip, what gift to bring back to your grandmother, what social issue is most worrying today, what I see outside my window, what Italian regions are underrated, what gelato I ate yesterday, what’s my favorite Italian dish, etc.

Ask anything you like – short questions will be answered directly in the comments, and longer questions may be filed away for future posts. I shouldn’t have to say this, but please be respectful to me and to fellow commenters.

I’ll respond to all comments posted between 11am and 11pm CET – please check back to see when your comment’s been responded to!

Thanks to everyone who left their questions! It was fun :) 

Also, make sure you follow me on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, and sign up to receive posts via emailAnd don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter.


  1. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    A question from another post:

    I would like to know about how to order half portions (mainly the pasta dishes) when in Italy. We always have more courses in our meals but hate leaving, wasting, half that pasta.

    My answer: Not all restaurants are open to half-portions, and usually the concept of a half-portion is used when combined with another (it’s called a “bis” (pron: beeees) so essentially you’re ordering two half-portions. If your aim is to get less pasta, a bis is not for you. If instead you’d like to taste more than one type of pasta, this is a good idea (sometimes they even do a “tris” – treeees – three different pasta on the same plate. It’s best to ask the waiter in the restaurant if they do this.

  2. says

    What’s the thing you hate most about Italy?

    (despite hating to complain because, after all, you chose it here… I am projecting, but assume you feel the same about complaining – I try to avoid it, and know you do too. But if you had to name just one thing that you really wish weren’t that way here…)

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Alexandra – Nice, hard-hitting questions right off the bat :)

      I really hate the lack of trust and usage of the Internet as a source of information…for anything and everything. Companies / agencies aren’t using it well or trusting it to be valuable communication channel, and therefore users / consumers can’t trust most of the information they find there, if they find anything. Most government agencies and corporations still don’t know how to use the internet to put more information at the hands of users and consumers, which in the long run will save the company and agencies a ton of money as people can do things self-service & on their own. Informed users are empowered users :)

      I think a few companies are getting closer to this – Fastweb, for example. Trenitalia’s site still lacks, but they’re understanding that making things more self-service for users (ticket machines, for example) makes everything easier for everyone. Being able to buy a ticket in your own language changed the Italian travel experience for so many people when they were introduced. Now you can also buy tickets at the platform (in Milan for example, where tickets could only be bought 3 levels down) because they realized “allowing” people to buy a ticket right before they jump on a train would increase sales in the end, and reduce frustration.

      So…the lack of informing and empowering users users/consumers which in turn would make their experiences better and result in savings and/or increase in sales for companies/agencies :) Whew.

  3. Jill says

    Happy 10th Anniversary! I love reading your blog and seeing your amazing photos.

    Looking back, if there is one thing you could do differently, what would it be?

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Jill – Thanks! :) A very broad question…let me try and be specific.

      I used to think I would have changed the time of year I moved here – I moved in the summer and Italy slows to a halt, which wasn’t ideal but in the end it gave me some really good alone time to think and also led to me moving from Milan to Rome when I first came. So while it kinda sucked, I think it was ultimately part of my path and a good thing.

      So one thing I would change – I wish I would have made my health more of a priority, earlier (it’s definitely a priority now). I’m not sure I can really blame this on Italy, but more on me – being overwhelmed by a new culture, health system, gyms, job situation, etc. all at once and deciding it was perhaps easier to ignore than address.

  4. says

    Hi Sara. By the way, I love your blog; as a lover of most things Italian I really enjoy keeping up to date with your msadventures and what’s going on over there. We got married in Italy in 2009 so it’s a country which holds special memories for us.

    So, question…I was wondering where you expect to be in another 10 years from now? Will you have completed another decade in Italy, decided to move on or perhaps have returned home to California???

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @William – thanks for the kind words!

      Wow, that’s a million-dollar question. I think I’ll most likely still be here in Italy, though perhaps not in Milan, and I expect I’ll be bouncing between my two homes still on a regular basis.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Laurel – That’s a big question! Way too many answers. :)

      How about I pick a place to visit + my fav wine & food from that place? I would say Sicily (I’m going again this summer, too!) and I would drink a Nero d’Avola with some sort of eggplant dish like Pasta alla norma or caponata, since eggplants in Sicily are just delicious.

  5. Maryellen Picchiello-Ruggiero says

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog and spotted the link on Facebook…the titled intrigued me and so far I like what I’m reading.
    I’ve been lucky enough to tour a lot of Italy several times and the one thing that REALLY bugs me is how so many people and restaurants don’t have toilet seat covers! lol.
    Forget the “turkish bathrooms” that I experienced in Northern Italy, that can be a whole blog on its own…lol
    Seriously though, toilet seats are so inexpensive they are even sold at dollar stores here and not too hard to find in Italy. Cleaning would be the same as cleaning the bowl, no? Why not keep it clean and be comfortable as well?……wondering what your thoughts are about this.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Maryellen – interesting topic! I personally am torn on this because I see how it’s a convenience for who uses the bathroom but it’s definitely not part of the culture here, including hand sanitizers (which I’m not a fan of) and other hygiene things I see popular in the States, for example. I think you could do the same thing with a few well-placed strips of toilet paper, and I don’t see it becoming popular in Italy anytime soon. Unfortunately I’m happy nowadays if there’s toilet paper in the bathroom :)

  6. says

    Hello! Augurissimi for your 10 years :)

    My question is this: if you hadn’t moved to Italy, what other European country–if any–would you have chosen?

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Audra – Thanks!

      I think I would have moved to Paris, France – I fell hard for Paris when I visited it a few times and I love the food and beauty of the city. Even hearing my expat friends there complain still haven’t dulled it for me :)

  7. Kathryn says

    Do you see yourself still in Italy in 10 years? Back in the States? Somewhere else? :-)

  8. Kathryn says

    Ha – I returned to ask another question and noticed that my first one was an unintended repeat – it’s too early, I somehow missed it. ;-) So here’s a (hopefully) new one:

    What’s the most amazing Italian food or drink that most North Americans are not familiar with?

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Kathryn – Years ago, I used to say Nutella – we see where that’s gone – it’s everywhere now! :) A few years ago, I would have said burrata, but that’s also making its way into the US (even if those are made locally, not from Italy). Now to be super specific I would have to say the torta di noci – a gorgonzola – mascarpone-layered cheese topped with walnuts. Almost impossible to transport :)

  9. Claudine says

    How in the world did you find a job? The unemployment rate is so high and many of my friend’s are struggling just to find work!

    Have you enjoyed dating in Italy? Have you found it easy or difficult being an American in the dating scene? Italian men come in all shapes and varieties, but sometimes….they are classic stereotypes. Not necessarily bad, but not always good.

    (In reference, I’ve lived in Italy and have dual citizenship ;) That’s why I have weird questions!)

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Claudine – this probably needs its own post :) In short re: work, I have an MIS degree + an MBA + work experience in the technology sector – I don’t think that’s every really slowed down anywhere in the world. Re: dating, I only did that at the beginning of my trip (married now) and I definitely have some stories. :)

  10. Shawn says

    Hello! I didn’t realize you were from CA! Me too! Oh how I’d love to meet you and hang out one day. I’ve been living in Italy for almost a year now & have studied the language off and on, speak it well enough to get around but still really don’t feel comfortable just chatting it up. The grammar is actually intimidating me … the more I learn, the more afraid I am to speak. “Should I use indicativo now or is presente ok?” Plus, I find having kids a bit isolating making it harder to get out and socialize to USE my language skills beyond organizing play dates, directions, buying groceries & keeping the peace amongst children. Do you have any suggestions for me? I know. I should probably watch TV in Italian, but I’m not a TV person. Never have been, so it’s a hard habit to start! ;-). The kids do watch cartoons and such in Italian and that helps, but it mostly helps my basic Italian present tense negotiating :-)

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Shawn – I definitely have talked about this, but you have to really force yourself to speak – start asking friends to speak to you only in Italian (and say to people, in italiano, per favore!), and ask them to let you struggle to find words instead of them jumping in immediately. I also started reading the daily newspaper (those free ones) in Italian – if you have that around that helps, but speaking the language is key. Can you start up a language exchange with someone?

  11. Camilla says

    Good morning….I am planning to move to Italy when I retire in a couple of years How do I get started? I know this is a loaded question, but if you can advise me on the 4 most important things to consider, I’d be grateful. I am of Italian heritage , still have family in Italy and I speak Italian well.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Camilla – This is a loaded question – I’ll try to be brief from what I know (I’m not a retiree). 1) The most important it looks like you’re set for -> You need to learn the language, otherwise you’ll always be a visitor here. 2) Visit Italy a few times and narrow down where you want to live so you can start figuring out a budget. 3) Start investigating how much money the Italian government thinks you need to have saved to prove you can support yourself (and get the permesso di soggiorno) – from what I’ve heard this amount varies. 4) Start talking to some immigration specialists where you live and see if they can start some of the paperwork for you while you still live where you are.

  12. Andy Christian says

    Hi Sara. I met you when you came to speak at the WordPress NYC meetup. My question for you is, how did you go about getting a visa to live in another country? For instance, I’d love to move to the UK, but getting a visa to work is difficult because I don’t have one of the skills that is in high demand.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Andy – Hey! :) Nice to see you here. Every country is different – I’m not an immigration lawyer and I know the UK is quite difficult, but I think it’s a mix of understanding if the government does any special lotteries and for which occupations, where to find that information and to constantly keep yourself updated with their immigration news, etc. In some cases you can get visas for self-employment (i.e., you’re working physically there but for yourself), and also in some cases applying and just waiting for your application to make it through the system (can take years). If you’re really serious about it, you might want to spend a little money and talk with someone who specializes in immigration for that country where you are – often they can start paperwork or help you find a solution.

  13. Jen says

    I just returned from my apartment hunting trip to Milan yesterday…so picking a single question right now is too hard. Hopefully you will indulge me with two!

    1. People spot me as American (or at least English speaking) before I get a chance to even try and speak to them. Do you have any tips for “blending in” visually aside from the obvious “don’t wear tennis shoes” advisory?

    2. Is there anything you wish you’d packed, moved, or taken a supply of to Italy with you? (Personal care products, spices, etc.)


    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Jen – Difficult ones!

      1. Unfortunately, if you’re lighter-colored, you’ll most likely stick out a bit. Definitely avoid tennis shoes, and wearing flip flops unless you’re at the beach. Italian women layer quite a bit (I’m seeing scarves even now in this heat) and I would recommend putting aside some money for a little shopping spree once you move here so you can get a few things that are trendy here. Black is always good in winter, and linen in the summer :)

      2. Hm. I mention this in my carry-on post but I definitely recommend bringing over-the-counter medicine of all sorts you’re comfortable with until you get used to the Italian ones – having medicine you know & trust will be helpful, especially if you’re feeling weak/sick/out-of-sorts. I still stock up for some things. And antiperspirant – I’m used to it, and they don’t really use it here (just deodorant).

  14. Elaine says

    Hi, love Italy and love your blog.

    I’ve been to Italy quite a few times now and was in Sicily last month on holiday and was shocked at the amount of rubbish spilling out over the bins, looked liked it hadn’t been collected in months and definitely a health hazard. Was the same in Amalfi and Milan – are waste collectors always on strike or does no one really recycle?

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Elaine – Thanks! I think waste collection and recycling are two different beasts – I think recycling is definitely gaining momentum in Italy (in Milan it’s quite popular and we recycle) but the trash collection, especially in the south, has a complicated history which is also political in nature, and I’ve heard some terrible stories but in general I think all Italians want clean cities when it’s in their power to have one.

  15. stacy says

    ciao sara! congrats again on 10 years! how many of those years have you been married? (just curious). my questions… have you obtained italian citizenship? if not, will you? and if you didnt live in milan, where in italy would you live?

    ps. do you ever make it tonthe veneto?


    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Stacy – Thanks! Lots of questions – let me pick one I haven’t answered: So, I don’t have Italian citizenship yet, though I have a right to it through marriage but also my ancestry, so that’s going to be the next big hurdle for me bureaucratically. Needless to say, while I can’t wait to have an Italian passport, I’m not looking forward to the paperwork and the waiting, and this goes back to my prior comment about wishing information was easier to get online and be self-sufficient, especially when it comes to the citizenship process. I’m hearing a lot of different answers about what I need.

  16. Michael Green says

    If you had to spend the rest of your life living in just one place in Italy, where would you choose to live out your days? Me? Salo on Lago di Garda. Thank you!

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Michael – I fear that I would go much further south – Puglia, Lazio, or Sicily. I really need to be in good weather as much as possible, and the further south you are in Italy, the better you eat!!

  17. stacy says

    sorry! didnt mean to bombard you! lol

    you might try the marriage way, i got mine like that and it was a piece of cake :)

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Stacy – thanks for the questions, just trying to answer fast ;) Good to hear someone had a good experience getting citizenship! I’m not often in Veneto but would be cool to meet up! Where are you?

  18. says

    Hi Sara,
    Thanks so much for your wonderful blog, which I’ve enjoyed for a long time. My question may seem humdrum, but you could be very helpful in suggesting a lovely, quiet, traditional hotel in Rome. My husband and I will be there from 9/10-9/17 and are looking for a nice hotel that is not overwhelmingly posh. I would be grateful for suggestions, and also for a guide who might show us some hidden corners of Rome. Our interests are architecture, history, art, Italian culture and language, and of course, food and wine. :)
    Thanks so much for your help!

  19. Nazareth says

    10 years!!! Way to go and cheers to another 10+ years of growth, fun, love and adventure. I can’t wait to see Sicily Sara style.

  20. says


    Thank you for your wonderful blog and for sharing your fascinating life through it. I have a questions that seems humdrum but could be helpful to many.

    Do you know of a good hotel in Rome that is not overwhelmingly posh or drastically modern? My husband and I will be in from 9/10-9/17 and would like something quiet and friendly, traditional and comfortable. I don’t entirely trust the internet searches, but I trust you. :)
    Also, is there such a thing as a guide who can show some of the hidden corners of Rome? Our interests are Italian culture, history, art and architecture, the language, and of course, food and wine.
    Thanks so much for your help!

  21. Kristen says

    I’m hoping you might have some insight on Italian’s taste in Italian movies. There’s a blog called I Love Italian Movies for us Italomoviephiles that is often puzzled as to why some Italian movies do so poorly at the box office. Recent examples were “Reality” and “É stato il figlio” which we enjoyed and the Italians hated. Why do you think American and Italian movie tastes are so different? What do they want to see in their films? (I started collecting Italian films to help study the language and I now have 77.)

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Kristen – this is a long one but I think unfortunately the availability of foreign films and the strength of the dubbing market here fills the hole for a lot of genres (for example, only recently have there been more “period” films being done in Italy) as well as the budgets just being a lot lower for Italian films. I think tastes aren’t that different (blockbusters are quite similar / the same in both US/Italy) but the types of films being made definitely differ.

  22. Odd says

    Hi, can you recommend a way to learn italian. We would like to have some intensive teaching over 2.3 weeks but haven’t found any language schools that offer this type of education.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Odd – in Italy? A recommendation will probably be super-local. Not sure I would try much online, unless you can find someone who will do video-Skype lessons with you.

  23. says

    We’ve been in Italy six or seven times in the past two years, for a week at a time, and we finally just decided to spend two months in the Como area. We loved it, but the among the biggest problems we had (besides figuring out opening/closing hours, the bus system & public bathroom issues) was finding decent food to buy. The bigger markets seem to stock just as much processed garbage as American supermarkets, but this seems to be spreading to the smaller ones as well. I realize you can still hunt around for specialty stores and find excellent ingredients, but that trial-and-error method gets expensive. We threw out so many tasteless strawberries, tomatoes, bread, cheeses and even pastas. It was very discouraging. What is happening to Italian food? Italy used to be a foodie paradise.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Jerry, there should be a long answer to this but the reality is yes: you can find crappy food in Italy too. It’s worth taking the time to discover and develop relationships with those who provide quality food products. I’ve bought my share of bad food but now I have sellers who I trust and I’m also not afraid to tell when something isn’t good.

  24. Tanya says

    Hi! Great blog! We are thinking of buying a vacation house in Italy in a couple of years (after trying different areas over the next years). Do you have any ex-pat friends that rave about their towns? We are looking south of Rome (weather) and want something not too small (not enough infrastructure of variety) or too big. Thanks in advance!

  25. Leigh says

    I dream of doing what you did- taking the leap and moving to my ”homeland”. Do I stand a chance of finding a place to live and a quiet little job that I could live on?

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @leigh unfortunately I think I can’t really I’ve a great answer here but I think a lot of it has to do with how bad you want it and what you’re willing to do to get it.

  26. says

    My question is:
    I want to eventually spend 1-2 months per year in Puglia. Can you give me an idea of costs involved for me and my wife to rent an apartment and living expenses? It need not be fancy but should be in the center of a town which we could travel from but enjoy the local area.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Sam during off-season (Nov – March) it’s going to be exponentially cheaper, though the weather won’t be as good. If you can, I would look at both periods to see how big of a difference there is

  27. Didi says

    I’ve heard that “ti amo” is the phrase used exclusively for romantic love and that one would never use that phrase when speaking to your mother, or about a candy or song. Have you found this to be true in practice? What are some other ways to express the idea of loving something?! Thanks!

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Didi this is definitely true, you would only use ti amo with your lover/partner/husband etc and “ti voglio bene” with a friend, relative, etc

  28. says

    Congratulations on 10 years! I’m just nearing my 6th year here, I can’t believe how time flies. I’ve really enjoyed your posts about Italy and have often referred to them to learn more about this fascinating country.

    My question is this: Have you ever been to Sardinia? If so where and what was your best experience here. If you’ve never been to Sardinia then – where would you want to visit and why?


    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Jennifer – Thanks! I have been to Sardegna – several years ago, and unfortunately I didn’t have my digital camera with me so my photos need to be scanned (which is why they haven’t shown up on the site) – I spent most of my time on the East coast / near Costa Smeralda but would love to discover more about it! I thought the water was some of the most beautiful I’ve seen in Italy so far.

  29. Daniele says

    Ciao Sara,
    Glad I saw this on my twitter stream. Can’t wait to go through all the questions/answers on here. Looks like it was a big success with the number of comments. Auguri!

    My question: I know italian politics are hard to follow, let alone understand, but to me, having been to Italy almost every year since I was 8years old, it seems to me that the beautiful culture and heritage of being italian is escaping the younger generations. It worries me. Now that I have young children, I want for them to understand my roots as an italian and what it means to be italian – so I bring them there to visit with my family once a year. But I find my family in italy, particularly the younger generation are forced to move to switzerland, germany and other European countries to survive and taking with them the uniqueness of where they are from. What are your thoughts for the younger generation of italians trying to survive in Italy? Is there a future for them in Italy?

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Daniele – That’s a big one. I can’t really answer it in such a small space but I think there can be a future for them in Italy but it’s going to take a while, and their time is best spent learning skills which transfer across sectors (i.e., technology!) so they can continue to be employed, and I hope the startup scene keeps on the momentum I’ve seen in recent years which is really encouraging for people not only to get experience by experimenting, but also bureaucratically there have been some exceptions made (and hopefully that continues).

  30. AlmostInVacanze says

    Hi Sara- love your blog and newsletter. I will be traveling to Italy next year (June) with a friend and her 10 year old daughter. We are wondering if we should plan our trip with a tour company or on our own. We’ve both been to Italy and I’ve lived there for a year 20+ years ago but are looking for a trip that her daughter will have fun on also. Any suggestions are most welcome!

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @AlmostinVacanze – thanks! :) Glad you’re reading. So…tours can be interesting but to be honest I’m not sure if you can find one which both satisfies your needs as well as the young daughter’s. I’m not familiar with group tours for families (so she can meet someone else her age) or if it will be just a crap shoot to see who you end up with (as in most tours). If you do your own planning, for a first-time trip I don’t think you can go wrong with what I call the “Holy Trinity” – Rome, Florence, and Venice, and I think you can find enough hotels & options on your own and just hire local day-guides for what you need.

  31. says

    Ciao Sara! I will be moving to Italy soon (in the Veneto region) to work as an au pair, but I plan on searching for a job to begin when my au pair contract ends. I am graduating with a degree in tourism and event planning. I know you said you use a travel agent to help you with your trips, so I was wondering if many others utilize them as well? Would that be a good job for me to look into? I’ve seen job listings for them, but I just want to be sure that it is a worth-while job.

    My minor is Italian and I have already been to Italy twice, so language shouldn’t be an issue. Really the only thing I need to do language-wise is work on my vocabulary.

    Also, any recommendations of places for me to visit in the Veneto region (besides Venezia)?

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Tabitha – I’m not sure being a travel agent is very lucrative unless you own the business, but I’m not sure; and it also depends on who you’re focusing on – Italians going on vacation or tourists coming to Italy? I feel like the market is larger for the latter, but hard to tell. I would expect them to require you to be fluent if you’re selling to Italians, so I’m sure that’s something you could explore in an interview. In the meantime, perhaps it’s worth doing some freelance travel agent work so you can tell them you’ve already had some experience in planning travel?

      The Veneto is not my strong region – I’ve been to Venice of course, and Verona, and Rovigo. I’ve heard people speak well of Padua, Belluno, and Treviso!

  32. Mel says

    Who do you miss most back in the US? *ahem* you will be judged on this answer. LoLz (Congrats on 10 years although didn’t you go to Spain first…:P)

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Mel – thanks for stopping by – are you a new commenter? :) :P I did go to Spain first which is why I said the 10th is the day I left CA to go to Italy – I definitely left California on the 10th…and got to Italy about a week later (that day, coincidentally, coincides with the giveaway I’m doing next week!)

  33. David says

    Sara, first of all I must say “Congratulations” on a great 10 years. Now, I do have a question that I’ve always wanted answered. Your husband may be able to help out with this one. What makes an Italian woman so special? Since middle school (Junior high) I’ve always been drawn to something about italian women?! I was born in Germany but it’s the italian ladies that have always intrigued me. Their passion, strength, etc…… ? Ask your husband or his friends. Perhaps some of your readers? My friends always ask me this as well. All the best for the next 10 years and on! Thanks for the blog!

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @David – thanks! I’m not sure my husband could answer, especially since he married me (a non-Italian) :) I think in general Italian women seem to have a sense and awareness of self which is calm and confident…they don’t seem as neurotic as a lot of American / Anglo women I’ve met, and nor do they look to others for confirmation / self-worth as much. This confidence can be very sexy/appealing. And of course they can be very beautiful :)

  34. Gil says

    Do you still miss certain foods that are available in the USA and not available in Italy? The reason I ask is that I really don’t think I’d would miss anything. maybe, it is because my mother always cooked Italian food.

    • Ms. Adventures in Italy says

      @Gil – Yes, I still do, as I think food can be super nostalgic and often evokes memories more than just satisfies a taste – so right about now I am missing corn on the cob (surprisingly difficult to find) and all things barbecue. I do often make my own versions but there’s something about the abundance and choice of certain foods that’s hard to replicate. I also miss Mexican and Thai food quite a bit because I think they still aren’t done well here in Italy.