It’s the first time I interview a YouTuber and I am super excited!
Jokes aside, when I met Isabella – the expat I am interviewing today – on Instagram, I found the fact that she had a YouTube channel very interesting because I believe that making videos is a great way to tell about life in a certain country. Needless to say, I have immediately asked her if she was interested in being interviewed and I am super happy she said yes!
To be fair, the YouTube Channel, very aptly named The Passeggiata, is the joint effort of Isabella and her Italian boyfriend, Pierpaolo. Together, they make videos about their trips all around Italy to explore the country. I have watched them all – the channel is quite recent, so there aren’t many of them – and found them very nice and enjoyable. They are short, vlog-style videos, informative and super useful if you are learning Italian because they are multilingual.
As you will read in the interview, Isabella is a Colombian-American who moved to Italy after meeting Pierpaolo on a beach in Long Beach, California. I loved the fact that there are so many cultures mixed together in their story and I think this offers us a new point of view about life in Italy as an expat.
Some things are the same for all expats – the struggle with the Italian bureaucracy, for example – some others are really peculiar, like Isabella’s shock when she saw Italians dancing following the moves of the “animazione” in a club – this really made me laugh because I never thought someone would find it weird!
That’s why I will never get tired of interviewing foreigners living in Italy: every interview with them gives a new perspective on Italy and Italian way of life and it is always a great opportunity to stop and reflect about our culture. If you want to follow Isabella and Pierpaolo, you can find them on Instagram, on Facebook or, as I have already mentioned, on YouTube.
But now it’s time to read what Isabella has to say about this lovely yet crazy country called Italy!
Hello Isabella! Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions. First of all, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your life and work?
Hi Cinzia! Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. I came across your Instagram from a hashtag and I instantly got hooked with your daily adjectives. I am still in the process of learning Italian so they come in quite handy!
Who am I you may be wondering? Well, I was born in Cali, Colombia and when I was 8 years old, I moved to a little town not far from Los Angeles, California. Although I grew up in California for most of my life, I always felt like the foreign kid in school. I have always been in love with the Italian culture, food, and language. It had always been my dream to visit Italy so in college I took a decision to come explore Rome and this changed my life! The first time I stepped foot in Rome I knew that I had to live in Italy someday.
I currently work as an English teacher and I also am a freelance translator and blog writer.
You have a nice YouTube channel named “The Passeggiata” and it seems that this name comes from your first encounter with Pierpaolo, your Italian boyfriend. Can you tell us more about how you guys met?
Of course! I hope you like chick flicks because our story seems like it was can be found in a Nicholas Sparks book. I had just returned to California from being an Au Pair in Marina di Ravenna and I was sitting on a beach in Long Beach, California with my dog listening to some of the Italian jams I had discovered that summer. Pierpaolo quit his long-term job in Italy to travel to America solo for 2 months. He was strolling down the beach when he suddenly heard Italian music playing. Finding Italians in my area is not very common and in his short time there he had noticed that. So, without thinking twice he approached me to see if I was Italian. While I normally don’t talk to strange men on the beach, my dog seemed to like Pierpaolo right off the bat, so it gave me a good feeling lol.
When I was an Au pair in Marina di Ravenna, I made wonderful friends that took me into their homes and even let me stay in their vacation homes. They showed me around different parts of Italy without ever asking for anything in return. After talking to Pierpaolo for a bit on that beach, I quickly learned that he was traveling alone and was exploring California all on his own using Uber.
Here I was on this beach, listening to Italian music hoping it would help me retain the little Italian I had learned in my stay. I saw this as an opportunity to give back everything I had received in Italy and it was my turn to show a fellow solo traveler out. In exchange, I was able to continue to learn Italian. 8 months after meeting Pierpaolo on that beach, I put all my belongings into two suitcases, quit my job, and booked a plane ticket to Florence and well, the rest is history!
By the way, why have you decided to open a YouTube Channel?
We decided to open up a YouTube channel for many reasons. The first being that we felt that we have traveled a lot and constantly found ourselves helping travelers. We wanted to be able to share travel tips for the cities we explore. Apart from that we also wanted a platform where we could share the differences and similarities between Italian, US, and Colombian cultures. In fact, soon we will have videos of Italians trying both American and Colombian snacks. Also, just a fun fact about our channel we post all our videos with subtitles in Spanish, English, and Italian
You guys come from different countries. Was it difficult to get used to each other cultures’? Is there something in Pierpaolo’s Italian way of being you just can’t get used to?
I think we are both very open-minded when it comes to traveling and different cultures so getting used to what we do differently has been quite easy for us. Since I was raised with a Colombian background, we constantly find a lot of similarities with the Italian culture. However, the one thing I find the hardest to get use to is the blow dryer. I know Italians are firm believers of “Colpo d’aria” and that has been the hardest thing for me to get used to because I am not a big fan of blow drying my hair when it is so hot outside. I much rather just let it air dry. Pierpaolo’s family thinks I’m crazy and always get scared that I will get a colpo d’aria.
Isabella, when was your first time in Italy? What was your first impression of the country?
I first came to Italy in May 2015. It was my first trip to Europe, so it was very different than any place I had ever experienced. My first impression of Italy was that it was absolutely stunning, and Italians were some of the nicest people I have ever encountered. I also instantly fell in love with how flavourful the food was! It is much different than all the Italian food that can be found in the United States.
You are now living in Italy. Was it easy to get used to living here? What is the biggest challenge you are facing?
To be honest, I still cannot believe I actually live here. It all feels like a dream! It was very easy getting used to live here. The part that took me the longest to get used to is seeing the ancient buildings that hold so much history all around the country. I still get in awe every time I walk by a castle or the Duomo in Florence. Overall, the biggest struggle I had was getting used to the Italian bureaucracy. It seems that every city does everything differently when it comes to processing all the paperwork for visas. One thing I have learned from this challenge is that the Italian bureaucracy will teach you patience without a doubt!
Now my favorite question, the one I always ask the people I interview: what is the biggest cultural shock you experienced?
I come from a Colombian background where dancing is a HUGE part of our culture. It is something that you learn from a young age and if you hear a beat you instantly want to start moving. The first time Pierpaolo took me to a club I saw two people go on stage with the DJ to start the “animazione” hour. I was shocked to see that everyone followed their dance moves! In Colombia, we normally feel the beat of the music and let your body move freely to the beat of the music.
Seeing this at the club made me feel like I was in a Zumba class and I was shocked! In the US you normally see dancers on stage, but they normally dance very sexy to put on a show. Just recently, we went to a water park and they had a pool with a DJ where they also had an “animazione” hour for the guest. As shocked as I still get about this, I have started to learn and enjoy the different choreographies.
What is the thing you like the most about Italy? And what is the one you hate? (I’d love to hear both your opinions here)
There are many things to love about Italy. The one thing I love the most is how delicious and fresh the food is! Every Thursday we purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, and even eggs from a local farmer. Most of the time it is even cheaper than going to an actual supermarket! This would be the complete opposite in California.
I believe hate is a strong word, so I don’t necessarily hate anything about Italy. But the one thing that definitely gets under my skin is going to the post office. The best way to compare the post office to anything in America is the DMV. The DMV is where all your vehicle registration, insurance, and driver’s license information gets processed. Any time you go to the DMV in America you should expect a long line and even if you have an appointment it will take a long time to complete the task you went for. The post office in Italy is exactly like that! I often go to the post office to pay our utility bills and even if it is not very busy, I can expect to wait at least 30 minutes just to pay a bill. Americans are used to very fast pace lifestyles!
You guys are real expert travelers. Can you give some recommendations to people visiting Italy for the first time? Is there something they need to know?
We sure love to travel! I often get asked this question from my family and friends. I think the main two things to keep in mind is that traveling within Italy is quite affordable. The fast trains can get you to different parts of Italy in just a couple of hours. This is not the case in the US. Another thing I wish I knew before coming to Italy is that in most places you have to pay for your food or beverage before getting it. I remember not speaking Italian and having to wait a long time for a coffee or ice cream because I did not know you almost always have to go pay for it first.
And which place or experience would you recommend to people who want to experience true and genuine Italy?
I highly recommend that everyone goes away from the touristy places in any city in Italy. Try to eat at restaurants in random neighborhoods so you can actually interact with the locals and the culture. That is the best part of traveling. Italy is quite different in every city you visit.
I personally feel that the city that is very rich in culture and that helped me experience the true Italy, I had always imaged was Napoli. Napoli is a city that will forever have my heart!
You guys live in Florence, one of the most touristy Italian towns. Are there still places in the city where you can escape the crowds and enjoy the city like locals?
We actually live in Prato, which is not too far from Florence. Finding tourists in Prato is almost non-existent, but we often head to Florence for a stroll around the city or dinner with friends. In the summer we love going down to the little restaurants along the Arno to enjoy an aperitivo. One of our absolute favorites is Havana 500 because they play a lot of our favorite Latin music! We love seeing Italians of all ages come out and practice their dance moves!
Can you speak Italian? If so, how have you learned it? Can you tell us a bit more about your experience with the language?
As I mentioned above, I have been in love with the Italian language for years. When I was much younger, I purchased Italian CDS I use to listen to. Eventually, I would listen to podcasts as well to try and learn more Italian. The best tool I learned to teach myself the language was by listening to music and watching all my movies in Italian with English subtitles. Doing this allowed me to learn a ton of vocabulary and as I like to call it, it trained my ear. When I first met Pierpaolo I basically spoke 0 Italian, but I could understand when spoken to. Integration helped me get rid of my fear of speaking Italian.
I am in still in the process of learning Italian and my biggest struggle is writing it. Pronunciation is also another hard component of learning Italian. I mostly struggle with words that have double letters like cc, ss, zz, and gli. After losing the fear of speaking I finally get a good laugh to see people’s faced when they try to guess where my accent is from. Since I speak both Spanish and English I have been told my accent is a mix between both.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, Isabella!
If you are interested in more thoughts about Italy, I have a whole section of interviews with expats. I have chatted with a Canadian living in Bergamo, a Polish girl in love with Rome, an American artist who lives in Umbria, another American who moved to beautiful Tuscany, a Mancunian who now resides in Molise, a Scottish lady who is now happily living in Veneto, a British couple who lives and work in Garfagnana, Tuscany, a US lady who runs a hostel in Rome, an American lady who now lives a in beautiful Tuscan villa, a lovely couple who lives in Tuscany part-time, a writer from Seattle who has been living in Rome for 15 years now, a couple who has just gotten Italian citizenship, a lovely Texan who moved to a tiny little Italian village and a super energetic travel expert from the US now living in Rome.