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Expat Spotlight: Saskia’s Top 3 Tips for Florence

Saskia fell in love with Italy when she visited Rome in 1998. She went back two years later and decided to study Italian, to be able to experience more of the Italian culture, to discover more Italian stories and to to live in Italy for a while. She lived in Florence, which still is her ‘home away from home’.

Saskia now lives in Amsterdam, where she is running Ciaotutti.nl, a Dutch blog with daily Italian stories and travel advice. At least once a month she packs her suitcase to discover new parts of Italy – and to be welcomed back by Rome, Florence and Italian friends all over the country.

Top 3 Favorite Restaurants in Italy

1) One of the best meals I ever had, was on the little island of Favignana, where two Florentine friends run Ristorante Sotto Sale during summer. Fresh fish, local wine and never ending stories will make up for the best island night ever.
2) In Florence I love old fashioned trattorias like Costanza. Start with the finocchiona, Tuscan sausage with fennel, which is perfect company for the fresh, warm bread. The butter chicken they serve here makes any day a golden one, as does the meringue cake.
3) In April I visited Capri, where I was happily welcomed by chef Gianluca and his wife Holly who run Ristorante Michel’angelo. I tasted the best fried zucchini flowers ever, not to mention the fresh fish, homemade bread, pasta and the torta caprese with orange. I am trying to make it at home, but it does not taste as good as Gianluca’s…

Top 3 favorite foods in Italy

1) Risotto – comfort food on chilly Dutch winter evenings. And I can never say no to arancini,the fried risotto balls.
2) Spaghetti alle vongole – best eaten at the beach, but I love to make it at home too.
3) A brioche for breakfast. One of the things I miss most when I am in Amsterdam –the French ones you can buy here just are not the same…

Top 3 tips for new expats in Italy

1) Learn Italian as soon as you can. It makes everything so much easier – and you will enjoy everyday life much more when being able to have small conversations with the butcher, the baker and the barista.
2) Be patient. Most things take a lot more time in Italy than elsewhere. Do not bother waiting in line at the post office, calling ten times to only hear you have to dial another number or needing complicated stamps, forms (always one missing) and signatures. Take your time – and use all the time waiting to improve your Italian. I made a lot of friends at the post office during my first weeks in Florence…
3) Bu the best advice for making new friends is just embracing every invitation – and to organize some dinner parties or aperitivi yourself. I met more people during a few months in Florence than in my first year in Amsterdam. Just be open, curious and show some interest in other people’s lives in the city you move to and you will soon be surrounded by new friends.

Top 3 tips for travellers in Italy?

1) Try to speak Italian! Even if you only know a few phrases, people will be very grateful if they see you are trying.
2) I can understand that you have a list of things to do, see and taste, but leave enough time to just wander around, without any map. Just walk, wander and wonder. Have a quick caffè in a small bar, smile to old people in a small piazza, watch children play, enjoy the scenery. Without thinking about anything more than just the things happening before your eyes.
3) Try local food. Forget pizza in Venice, sea food in Umbria or risotto in Puglia. Ask not for the menu, but for the daily specials or take the chef’s advice and you will be in food heaven.

Top 3 tips for what to pack for Italy

1) Sunglasses – the first accessory to look like an Italian!
2) A shawl: to use for spontaneous beach visits or church visits when you only wear a summer dress because summer is on full swing. And to wrap beautiful souvenirs or bottles of olive oil or wine – so they will survive traveling back home.
3) Some patience. Italy can truly be the country of la dolce vita, but you have to take a lot of time to really enjoy it.

Top 3 favorite places in Italy

It’s SO hard to choose…
1) For cities, I never can choose between Florence and Rome. I love them both and with every visit I love them even more.
2) Since I visited Favignana, it’s my favorite Italian island. It’s the perfect summer holiday destination, with lots of beaches, very kind people and a lot of bike riding since the island is so
3) Foodwise, Turin is my favorite city in Italy. You can eat your way through the city from the first cappuccino and brioche in the morning to a broad range of aperitivo snacks and pasta withtruffles. In September I will visit Turin again, during Salone del Gusto. Guessing I have to eat nothing the weeks before tasting all the Slow Food…

Top 3 neighborhoods in Rome

Since Florence is so small, with 3 neighbourhoods I will cover almost the whole city. In Rome I have more choice.
1) Testaccio – the real Rome, the Rome for foodies – where you can still find small shops, bakeries and pastifici, next to the vibrant market. I love the panini of Mordi & Vai, the pasta dishes at Flavio al Velavevodetto, all the delicacies at Volpetti, the little strawberry cakes and brioches of Barberini and the peaceful Campo Cestio graveyard, with Romes most beautiful statue, the angel of grief.
2) Monti – hip & happening, with lots of new (food) stores and ancient streets to just stroll and make pictures. Try the raw chocolate at Grezzo, the homemade pasta of Urbana47 and the best panini in town at Zia Rosetta.
3) Quartiere Coppedè – not because of the food, but because of the bizarre architecture. Named after (and designed by) the Florentine architect Coppedè, who just has drawn the perfect dream houses, a fairytale fountain and a bridge with a chandelier. He must have been a very creative mind, would love to have met him… I am always happy to walk through this neighborhood and to visit the nearby Villa Torlonia, with La Casina delle Civette. To live in that cute little house…

For more tips watch for upcoming posts on the Italy blog and follow her blog,
Ciao Tutti.

Interested in sharing your top tips? Contact erin {at} insidersabroad {dot} com!

Published July 18th, 2016 by Saskia Balmaekers
Posted to Inside Secrets to Italy

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