First Time On Surviving In Italy?

Your First Time Here? STOP. This is mostly a humor blog. If you’re offended easily or struggle with sarcasm or irony you should skip my website and watch this instead. Also, I swear, kind of all the time and ramble on about the capybara. You still there? Winning! I’ve Put Together Some Of My Most Popular Posts For You To Start With:

How To Move To Italy

10 Reasons That I’m Surprised That Someone Married M.E.

In My Husband’s Family, Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing You’ve Eaten A Child 

21 Ways To Survive Being An Expat 

Why Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives

25 Things I’ve Learned About Italy 

Christmas In Italy 2013: The Time The Blowdryer Ate My Mother-In-Law’s Head

Moving To Italy: Studying And Living 

13 Things That I’ve Learned From Marrying An Italian Man

Frequently Asked Questions: Jobs, Immigration, Circumcision, Love


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“Where The Hell Have You Been?” Great Question.

Things have been slow on Surviving for the past few weeks because I’ve been busy making large decisions which usually result in me getting drunk, blasting Persian belly dance videos, and embarrassing my husband in front of the neighbors by running into the front yard and proclaiming my undying love for him at five p.m. upon his return home. I’ve decided to take the giant leap from free wordpress to bluehost. Guys, I’m kind of terrified of change but I keep hearing that it’s the better thing to do. Plus, running a blog is expensive and time-consuming so it’s kind of getting to that point where I need the blog to be able to move out, get a job, and take care of itself financially, or GO TO FUCKING COLLEGE. Seriously.

I historically have responded to advertisers with, “You don’t even really read my blog, liar, but I’ll consider letting you talk about GAMBLING on my ITALY BLOG, if you send me a capybara wearing a knitted Christmas sweater.” So far, nobody has delivered Dwayne and alas my site is free from mail-order-prostitutes and gambling sites. Some of you are disappointed, I know. Then Francesco was all, “You know you could actually do ads from bloggers and things you really like, right?” And that’s why he’s an engineer and I’m a wino (and also why i’m fun and he’s less fun).  So, if you come here in the next few days and things seem crazy or weird or it says my site is “UNDER CONSTRUCTION,” you know why, it’s because elves are carrying my blog to a new home (that’s how it works, right?). It should only take 24 hours and most of you probably won’t notice anything.


So when I’m not moving my blog or having a panic attack…I’m trying to get my ass to the Blogher conference in San Jose (I’m SO FUCKING EXCITED!), and I’ll be doing a reading In Salt Lake City, Utah August 7th, 8th, and maybe 9th. The reading will be at a few events with artists/writers, and we’ll be raising money for some non-profits that we love.

Also! This is particularly terrifying: I just co-wrote a screenplay and am waiting to hear back from Sundance (please pray for me or otherwise BRIBE SOMEONE.)

I also recently traumatized my nephew by telling him he couldn’t come to my birthday party. Apparently that’s a really big insult to a 3 year old.


I did a podcast interview with the badass D.J. Paris from (NOT a travel blog, “Paris” is his last name). We met on Twitter a while back by engaging in mutal stalking/harrassment. I’m pretty sure you guys will be into his blog. You can find the podcast interview featuring M.E. Here: Bloggers Are Weird Series. I recommend turning it into a drinking game by taking a sip of wine every time I seem to confuse myself. I’d have a few bottles ready.

I’ve done a recent interview with the gorgeous Rochelle from Unwilling Expat: Blogging Around The World With Surviving In Italy. 

You can also (seriously, are you sick of me babbling about myself yet?) catch another interview on Girl In Florence: Locals I Love, Misty From Surviving In Italy.

I have a freakish amount of posts coming soon. And guys? I feel like some of them are going to be really…uhm, ranty.


Blogging About Italy Is Hilarious: Comments, Emails, And Humans

When you have a blog you know that there is a slight bump in traffic on days when you get a lot of angry comments or really fun, enthusiastic ones. On this blog I’m extremely lucky in the sense that our little community is fucking awesome, people are sweet and fun. Most of my comments and emails are simple questions about traveling to Italy or moving abroad. The number one question is: How do I find a job in Italy? The answer is: You don’t. I address most of these in my FAQ section. Check it out! And feel free to ask me anything, anytime, I try my best to respond to everyone. Sometimes the comments I receive are so nice that I’m elated for days (thank you so, so much). Almost everyone who arrives at Surviving is part of a really fun-loving tribe (except for that lady that just called me a liar, she’s just an asshole). Now, you guys know me, if I get a particularly mean comment I have a tendency to post it here and comment back for fun (I can’t help myself, remember that crazy misogynist?). Luckily, I don’t get too many jerks here.

My favorite comments/emails are the really personal ones where I get to learn about my readers (seriously, please share about yourself, I love it), or the really random or really unique emails that leave me smiling or mildly confused. Come to think of it, a lot of my unique or random emails/comments are also important life-lessons.

Can You Spot The Garden Gnome?

Can You Spot The Garden Gnome?


Love Can Overcome All Obstacles:

1. “Hello. I love your blog!  So, I hope this isn’t overstepping any boundaries but I have a question and I really need your advice. Here is the backstory: I’ve recently started dating an Italian man! He’s amazing! We haven’t had sex but we have fooled around and I realized that he’s not, you know, cut. Which is fine! I’m totally okay with it and everything but I don’t know what to do with it! Like, how do I touch it? Is it different during sex? Oral sex? How the heck!? HELP!”

Loyalty And The Importance Of Having Ones Back:

2. “OH HELLLL NO!? DID THAT MOTHAFUCKA JUST REALLY SAY SOM SHIT!? Grl! I dont know why he be trippin! Dont you put up with that shit from nobody! I swear, I be on a plane headin to Italy to take care of that mo-fo! Nuh-uh, no sir. I WILL STAB A BITCH!”

The Economics Of Marriage:

3. “American woman!  How I marry an american too? Can you give advices? I am very nice. Not so tall but I am very nice. I do not have many mony but I think Americans women don’t care like Italians? This is true? Do you have friends?”

Choosing Your Friends Wisely:

4. “This email will be short. I just wanted to tell you that you’re an asshole; an adorable asshole.”

Where There Is Good Food, There Is Great Company:



This post is a C.O.S.I Collective Post. To See What The Other Members Of Our Expat Mafia Have To Say About The Same Subject Check Out Their Posts!

‘Freakonomics Italian Style‘ – Rick’s Rome

How Not to make friends in a foreign country‘ – The Florence Diaries

‘coming soon‘ – Unwilling Expat

‘Best Email Ever Received’  - Englishman in Italy

‘coming soon’ - Married to Italy

Can You Get Me A Visa?- Girl In Florence

Dining In Italy: How To Avoid Making An Ass Out Of Yourself At The Dinner Table

I was checking my stats this week and there were an unusual number of people searching for “how to dine in Italy,” along with the usual searches like, “Italian hot mom sex,” and “Unicorn penis,” and, “How to pee in public,” WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE!? Freaks, that’s who! And that’s why I like you guys so much, you pervy weirdos. Anyhow, I realized that I’ve never really written anything about etiquette in Italy. Despite peeing in public, I’m surprisingly anal retentive when it comes to table manners. I’ve broken up with people for chewing with their mouths open. Rude dining or gross dining is on my list of reasons to kill or at least maim a person. I know, it’s ridiculous, but it’s not my fault. My parents are crazy people. When I was a kid if I reached “outside of my space” my mom would stab my hand with a fork (not like hard enough for me to bleed to death or cause infection, but hard enough that I regretted it). And guys, I went to finishing school. I’m pretty sure that you can’t tell (nobody can tell, trust me), but I did so I know which fork is which and I can totally drink out of the appropriate glass at the millions of formal dinner parties that I NEVER ATTEND AND NEVER HAVE BECAUSE IT’S BORING. Basically, it’s a bit waste of time and money, unless you’re planning on moving to Europe. Then that useless shit becomes kind of useful. Sort of.


I’ve witnessed so many embarrassing situations in Italy that really explain why Europeans view Americans as pompous, entitled, lunatics. You’d be shocked by the behavior of a lot of tourists. Please, people, don’t come to Italy and scream at waiters because you had your heart set on eating a made-up dish. The food that a lot of people consider to be “Italian” in the United States is not Italian food from Italy. It’s immigrant creations by  impoverished Italian immigrants, generations ago. I’ve witness full-on screaming fights between Italian-Americans and ACTUAL ITALIANS where the Americans were lecturing the Italians on how to cook Italian food. One of my friends/ readers wrote a comment a while back (that’s you, Sid) about a heated exchange she’d witnessed whilst in Italy between an Italo-American family and an actual Italian waitress where they claimed to know more about Italian food than her and there was screaming and name-calling involved. I have tried to put myself in that situation to understand what could possibly motivate people to actually do or say such insane things but alas the only thing that I can come up with is that they are assholes. That’s it.

1. There is no such thing as spaghetti with meatballs. I know, I was sad, too. It does not exist in Italy and if you ask for it you’ll horrify your waitress and look like a jackass. If you order spaghetti it will most often come with a simple tomato sauce. Pasta and starches are a first course food, while meatballs (balled meat simmered in a tomato sauce) are a second course food. You can order them separately as a first course and second course. I know it’s disappointing, but instead of eating American food, why not just order something off of the menu and enjoy real Italian cuisine instead of throwing a tantrum and demanding that the restaurant make you American food? You can get back to your Kraft Mac And Cheese the moment you get home. Watch this movie clip, it’s hilarious: BIG NIGHT

Spaghetti all' arrabbiata

Spaghetti all’ arrabbiata (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. I learned shortly after arriving that Alfredo is the name of an Italian human who moved to the United States and invented a creamy pasta dish. Chicken Alfredo was his creation, it’s not an Italian food. It doesn’t exist in Italy and if you ask someone to put chicken in your pasta they’re going to slap you and decide that you’re not to be trusted. I get it, it’s is delicious, but wait until you return to ‘Merca for it.

3. Dining rules are more formal in Italy even at a casual restaurant which can be annoying when you’re drunk or exhausted. Don’t reach across the table (my mom might pop out of the woodwork and stab you), ask someone to pass you something out of your reach. Keep your hands visible by resting your forearms on the table. Do not put your elbows on the table and try to avoid putting your hands in your lap. If you refill your wine or water, make sure that you do so for the rest of the table as well. Don’t just fill up your own glass. Order what everyone else orders. If everyone else is ordering a first course, a second course, and dessert, if you’re financially-able, you should do the same.*

4. Bread is usually eaten with your meal and is not used in public to sop up sauce with your fingers. Yes, the sauce is delicious, but it’s considered a little on the trashy side to scrub your plate clean with bread. If you really want that last bit of sauce, I’d recommend smuggling the plate into your purse, or inside of your pants so you can really savor it at home, in bed, while watching I Love Lucy or Under The Tuscan Sun, which I have recently decided is a really depressing fucking movie.*

5. A very basic wine guide: Drink as much of it as possible, preferably by the bottle. White wine goes with fish, cheese, and white meat. Red wine can go with pork, red meat, and some vegetable dishes. Decide what you’re eating before you choose the wine.

6. Hold your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand. Cut one piece of food, then bring it to your mouth with the left hand. The style we use in the US, the “cut and switch,” is considered strange in Europe and most will think you have bad manners and they’ll wonder why you’re working so hard to eat. Don’t change your cutlery between your hands back and fourth. Yes, it’s perfectly polite in the US but it’s not polite in Europe. Plus, holding it the European way ensures that you are always armed. If you’re attacked for some reason you’ll have both a knife AND a fork to fend off the psycho.

Should we retire the “cut and switch?”

7. There is more to Italian cuisine than pasta. Pasta is a first course food and it’s cheap to make which is why it’s really the main dish that made it’s way to the US with poor immigrants. However, Italian second-course meals are amazing (and I prefer them because I’m not a pasta person despite what my saddle-bags might indicate). The fish, for example, is amazing. Prepare for the meat to be served differently than what you’re used to, though. Fish will often be served whole with the head still intact, and the eyes are always somehow trained on you accusingly (though the skilled waiters will usually take the bones out for you table-side). Poultry will be well-done, but you won’t even be able to get a chef to do a well-done steak (this includes a pork steak which is weird and probably bad for you). It’s not possible. They’ll refuse. For all of you vegans out there, you’ll be surprised that vegetable dishes are all delicious given Italy’s fresh produce.

Grilled tuna, panzanella and cannellini beans

Grilled tuna, panzanella and cannellini beans (Photo credit: stijn)

When you come to Italy, it’s best to observe what the locals do (at the table at least). I wouldn’t recommend screaming, “I’m a quarter eye-talian (it’s Italian, guys, like the “i” in “igloo, not Eye-talian), so I know what I’m talkin’ about!” Telling everyone “my grandmother was Italian,” means absolutely nothing to Italy-Italians (nationality matters to them, not bloodline, trust me, I’ve tried to be “Persian” instead of “American” a few times and it didn’t work), you’ll just confuse everyone. Sure, they love hearing stories about your immigrant family members, but it won’t work as a segue into teaching them how to cook, eat, or dine.

*This varies by region and depending on your company. If you’re 21 years old and with other 21 year olds they won’t care. If you’re with close friends they probably won’t care. However, certain people do care and will get judgy (business meetings, formal dinners, or meals with people on the high end of the socio-economic scale). When in doubt just go the classy route. Then, after dinner you can sneak off and pee in an alley with your bottle of Chianti, like me.

Italian The Hard Way

This is why I drink.

This is why I drink.

When facing the difficulty of memorizing thousands of new nouns and verbs in Italian, I tried to concentrate on all of the positive things that would come along with having a command of the language. I’d no longer have to hide in back rooms or bathrooms to avoid conversations with party-goers or my husband’s friends. I’d finally have the chance to express my philosophy on the air violin as the ideal instrument, or the unicorn as a real forest-dwelling Libran who goes by the name of Gus. There was a small part of me that hoped that I wasn’t “weird,” I was misunderstood. I couldn’t manage to express myself as well as I needed to for such complex discussions. “Horse with string on face. Good, he is. He he likes,” just really doesn’t get the point across the way I’d like it to. “You play. This. Thing. With little arm. No you have no need when there is air. Practice you, you must.” Combine the inability to articulate all of the bullshit in your brain and you’re bound to be labeled “that creepy girl.” People would back away, holding me in their line of sight, “I don’t know what she said,” they’d whisper to a friend nearby, “but it seemingly involved my dead mother and a horny chicken.”

Sounding like an idiot is on par for the course, though. When trying to learn a language everyone assumes that at least for a little while there will be some difficulty. They just don’t tell you how difficult. Nobody ever told me that I’d sound like a child and the world would infantilize me; they didn’t explain that I’d feel helpless and vulnerable, and possibly develop some form of agoraphobia so that when I walked my dog I’d have heart palpitations. Granted, helplessness can have its occasional advantages when undesirable activities come into question. When asked to go pay a bill, for example, I could conveniently throw up my hands and say, “Go? Where? I don’t understand. You know what, why don’t you take this one and I’ll get it next time after I’ve had a chance to study a few more verbs.” The disadvantages come in waves, like that time a man chased me down the street with his penis exposed and the only word I knew was, “Cappuccino!”

It took me a long time to learn Italian, years longer than it took everyone else who’d taken a real second language in high school. While all of my friends were in Spanish or German class, I was gesturing madly to the invisible hearing-impaired man or woman our teacher had assigned for the day. I thought that sign language was taking an easier route but I would have taken something else had I known I’d be punished for it later on. I was eons behind my friends who already knew how to conjugate verbs or who understood the concept of matching plural adjectives to plural nouns. I was always too worried about looking like an idiot to really get in there and give it a go, so I stuck with the present tense and the ten verbs that were full-proof. God forbid I confuse the gender or use the reflexive wrong; instead of taking a leap and looking “stupid” I would take a literal step back from the group, allowing everyone else to speak for me. When singled out I would shrug my shoulders and whisper accusingly, “I no speak it delicious, language of yours!”  Some of the locals took pity on me; they’d smile – before excusing themselves to the more linguistically abled. Others, like my husband’s parents, were not about to let me off of the hook. They’d grill me in their thick Neapolitan accents, “You! You are IN ITALIA! You have the need to learn italiano, the language of us, now.” They had a point. My dirty mother-tongue was banned from their home in hopes that if they took my crutch away I’d learn to function without it. What they didn’t understand is that I’m not that kind of cripple; I’m too stubborn for that. If you try to teach me the hard way I’ll practically die before I allow you to think that your way worked. Take my crutch away, go ahead, I’ll just get a wheelchair or crawl on the ground, dragging my legs behind me. I read a sign once that said something along the lines of, “Holding a grudge is like drinking a bottle poison and waiting for someone else to die.” That was me but instead of one bottle I’d drink two – with vodka.

After years had passed, when the entire country had given up on the idea that I’d ever learn more than a few dozen words, I started to speak. It appeared that as the people of Italy lost that last glimmer of hope in their eye, the one that kept them believing that one day I’d be a contributing member of society, the pressure that I’d felt to perform melted away. I stopped worrying that I might disappoint people as quickly as they’d stopped speaking to me. The way that I saw it is that if nobody was expecting a gift, they’d appreciate whatever shit I gave them. It’s like if you’re expecting a cherry Porsche for Christmas but instead you find yourself in a freezing garage looking at some hateful Dijon mustard-colored Pinto. It’s only natural that you’d feel slighted by the cheap bastard you did that to you; resentful even. But what if it’s reversed? What if you’re expecting a set of rollerblades but end up with a Pinto? You’re likely to jump for joy and think, “Ah, really? You shouldn’t have!” and maybe you’d scratch them off of the list of people you want dead. When I finally did learn Italian, it wasn’t perfect but at least I could ramble on about things that interested me at dinner parties. I could finally scream, “Pervert!” at the next guy who ran at me with his dick flailing for help outside of his pants like a fleshy, uncircumcised beacon of mental illness.

Shortly after I could speak in full sentences, Francesco and I took a trip home to the US. I quickly learned that there was another element to learning Italian: I’d forgotten English. Gone were the the fancy words that I’d learned from my modern lit classes. In addition to losing most, if not all, of my educated English, it seemed that I’d also developed some kind of linguistic bipolar disorder.

When speaking English I speak like an American. My body language is rigid, controlled; my lips barely move as we force out most of our words from the back of our throats. American English is like ventriloquism; it’s an art form to seem so blasé while holding a conversation with another human. It seems that the more educated someone is, the less alive they appear when speaking. This is not the case with Italians from anywhere in Italy. No matter where they are from, from Milan to Puglia, it’s safe to say that they’re notably more “animated” than any born-and-bred American. As I faltered back and forth between both languages, my way of speaking, my mannerisms, also changed.

“Amore, please, this you bring me now, please. Him I have need.” Sounds nice enough in Italian but to Americans nearby – given the abrasive nature of the Neapolitan accent that I’ve inherited from my in-laws – it’s the equivalent of a serious tongue-lashing. “Little fat one, no, this no do you!” isn’t all that offensive back in Florence, but coupled with my feet planted firmly in place, my right hand curled into a duck beak pointed towards the heavens, my chest pointed directly towards the recipient, and the locked eye contact, it was aggressive enough for someone to easily scramble for their phone to report me to the police. “Yes, officer, that’s right. This little gnat of a woman! Any moment now she’s going to stab him in the eye. You should see her threatening duckfingers!” In the produce section I’d see people stop in horror, waiting for us to engage in battle. There, in their favorite grocery store on a perfectly nice Sunday, they were witnessing domestic abuse first-hand. They couldn’t wait to get home and tell everyone just how good they had it. “You know,” one of them would say to their friends after describing my supposed spousal abuse over lunch “sometimes I complain about Peggy, but hand-to-God she’d never treat ME that way in public!”

I saw people staring but I usually wrote it off as jealousy or some form of fascination with how cultured we were. Then one day, after speaking Italian with my husband at a pet store, before my Italian brain had been replaced with my American one, I turned to ask an employee where I could find their dog toys. The young man took forever to respond; he seemed frightened. It became clear, just then, that while I was waiting for him to answer my question, I had cornered him. My eyes were locked onto his like a fat baby on a cupcake. I was standing so close that my vagina practically rested on his leg. My left hand was on my hip, the other in a vague mid-air gesture like I was holding a crystal ball to cast a spell on him. I forced him to inhale my carbon dioxide. Within moments I’d gone from “normal” to guy-who-plays-computer-games creepy.

“I’m sorry,” I said as I backed away, “but I’ve been living in Italy for a while…”






Travel Bologna With Sarah Dowling

Name: Sarah Dowling
Nationality: American
How long have you been in Italy?
Almost two years…although it feels like longer.
Where do you currently live?
I live in Bologna (pronounced BO-LOW-NYA). And yes, there is some correlation between Baloney ham and Bologna but we’ll get to that.
What is your favorite thing about your city?
The bohemian, young vibe. There’s this wonderful patchwork of cultures, ages, and architecture in Bologna that I don’t think you find in many other Italian cities.
Bologna copy
What bothers you the most?
There’s a lot of air pollution, but also in recent years a lot of young people who don’t take care of the city.
Have you attended school in your city? How would you rate your school and experience?
I attended one year of university at the Univeristy of Bologna – the oldest university in Europe. On the one hand, it helped to improve my Italian massively and I got a glimpse inside the true student life in Italy. On the other hand, it was a real culture shock and it was difficult to get used to the way university functions in Italy. I remember having to fight for a seat during lectures because there weren’t enough seats for everybody. Also, everyone took cigarette breaks in the middle of the lessons. They would be rolling their cigarettes during the lecture! You would never find that in the U.S. (You can read more about my mortifying first day of Italian university here:
I also attended an intensive Italian course at a school called ARCA in Bologna, which also helped to improve my Italian grammar and helped me make new friends and connections. I would definitely recommend studying Italian in Bologna because there are many opportunities to immerse yourself in the language.
What job do you do? What are some of the jobs you’ve had in the past? Any job advice you’d give to future expats?
I teach English but I don’t really consider myself an “English teacher”. I’d much rather consider myself a writer/blogger.
I think finding a job in Italy depends a lot on who you know, but also on luck and being in the right place at the right time! I can recommend a few things for job seekers. For non-Europeans, make sure that you have the right legal documents (if you don’t know what i’m talking about, please visit my page on Italian immigration: Persistence is also key. Always follow-up on your application as things tend to get lost in Italy. Lastly, find your niche. As a foreigner, you have something special you can offer to Italy and you should try to highlight that.
What are the top five MUST SEE things in your city?
1. San Luca – a monastery/church way up in the hills just outside of Bologna. You have to walk through nearly 600 archways to arrive at the top – for me, it’s an incredibly peaceful and beautiful zen experience.
2. The secret canals – if I told you where they were, that would be no fun, right? (But I have written about them here…
3. Piazza Maggiore – the main square in Bologna – I recommend that you see it at all times of the day as the atmosphere completely changes from the morning, to the afternoon and into the night
4. Quadrilatero open food market on Via Pescherie and Via Drapperie
5. Climb the Asinelli Tower
Archways on Via Cavour
What tourist attractions do you think are underrated or over-rated?
In general, Bologna as a city is quite underrated! Nevertheless, even in Bologna we have tourist traps. Any menu that has tortellini with panna (cream) or spaghetti bolognese is probably not authentic so stay away! Tortellini is typically eaten in brodo (broth) or with salvia e burro (sage and butter). Spaghetti bolognese is not an authentic Italian dish, but rather you should look for Tagliatelle al Ragu!
Favorite caffe?
Caffè Terzi or Aroma (I’ve written ALL about them here:
What are your favorite restaurants or places to eat?
For dinner, I love Osteria al 15 or Trattoria al Biassnot, both of which have very traditional Bolognese food. Still, I think the best atmosphere is at Osteria del Sole – the oldest bar still standing in Bologna where many of the locals go to hang out. They serve wine, but you have to bring your own food. I usually go to the open market nearby and pick up a few snacks and then go there with friends. It’s really unique!
What is your favorite supermarket, farmer’s market, butcher or bakery?
In the summertime, we have Mercato della Terra, an open farmer’s market in front of the Cinema Lumiere every Saturday morning. For fresh pasta, I recommend Le Sfogline (Via Belvedere), for salumi and cheeses Simoni (Via Pescherie) and for bread/desserts, Paolo Atti & Figli (Via Drapperie and Via Caprarie). All of the shops in the Quadilatero Food Market are fantastic!
Tortellini from Le Sfogline
Favorite Aperitivo bar?
Le Stanze or Mambo read more here:
Favorite thing to do at night?
In the summer, there is the outdoor cinema in Piazza Maggiore that is free and open to the public. There are also some amazing outdoor clubs such as Cavaticcio or Vicolo Bolognetti where you can listen to live music and dance. During the cooler months, there is nothing better than a having a traditional Bolognese dinner in good company. For an after dinner drink, I recommend Camera a Sud.
Best nightclub in your city or place to drink and dance?
Arteria, Cavaticcio, Vicolo Bolognetti.

Places to avoid? Why? I try to avoid the restaurants and bars close to Piazza Maggiore. They’re usually overpriced and full of tourists. I also stay away from a lot of the bars on Via Zamboni. They are usually jam packed with students and tend to mimic Irish or American bars.

Favorite place to buy clothes/shoes? Specific stores or general areas?
If you’re on a budget, Via dell’Indipendenza is full of shops – but most of them are major brands like H&M and Zara. Via Farini is more of the high-end designer stores. We recently got a COS (Via Farini) which is a nicer version of H&M that I love. There are also some really interesting clothing boutique stores on Via Oberdan and Via San Felice, but they’re a bit more pricey.
Nettuno Statue
What are the best ways to meet interesting people in your city?
I think the best way to meet people is to join a club or a group. I’ve met a lot of interesting people through my gym or at Internations events, but also just by chatting with people at bars or during an aperitivo.
A great place to find a date?
Any internations event? I find that in Italy, it’s not uncommon to meet someone on the street. Men tend to be quite forward here.
Advice for dating in your city?
I can’t really offer much dating advice other than be yourself (however non-Italian that may be).
What’s your favorite day trip destination?
Dozza! Its this fantastic little town 30 minutes outside of Bologna that is famous for its vibrant murals, amazing piadinas, and is home of the official Enoteca of the Emilia Romagna region. Check out my post on Dozza for the scoop:
Favorite local food or products that everyone should try out? For example, oil, wine, or a specific dish?
We are really lucky in Bologna because many famous products come from this region. Here’s my list:
Mortadella – Baloney’s sophisticated cousin – it’s basically a big pink pork sausage sprinkled with delicate spots of fat throughout. It’s ten times better than American baloney so don’t diss it until you try it!
Lambrusco – fizzy red wine
Crescentine – fried pockets of dough, typically eaten as an appetizer with salumi and cheese
Piadina – a flatbread sandwich usually filled with prosciutto, arugula and squarcerone cheese
Fresh Pasta: tortellini in brodo, tagliatelle al ragù, or lasagne bolognese
Torta di riso – a sweet, custardy rice cake
What advice would you give to students, new expats, or vacationers in your city?
Get lost underneath the porticos – it’s the most beautiful part of Bologna and you won’t find any other city in the world with architecture like that.
What are your top five favorite sources for information on Italy or your city in general? 
1. Other Italy bloggers
2. 101 cose da fare a Bologna – a great book that lists 101 things you can do in Bologna…I’m still crossing them off
3. – for daily Italy news in English
4. Bologna Magazine – I love this magazine because they have beautiful photos and highlight some of the lesser known things of Bologna
5. My Italian students – The jackpot of Italy information!
Favorite blogs, newspapers, or events lists?
For Bologna, my favorite blogs are , and . For event lists, I typically look at or


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Bio: Sarah Dowling is an American living in Bologna. She is the writer and editor of and author of Inside the Italian Kitchen.


10 Facts About Florence, Italy That Might Surprise You

1. “In 1339, Florence became the first city in Europe with paved streets(”

They were so proud of this achievement that they’ve decided to never change the originals. But in all seriousness,  some of the sidewalks and streets in the historic center are hand-chiseled. Yes, seriously, I’ve seen pudgy workers sitting on the ground chiseling out the little grooves in the sidewalks and streets. How does one become the town chiseler?

2. “Florence was home to the infamous Medici family from the 14th century to the 18th century. Leonardo da Vinci, Niccolo Machievelli, Galileo Galilei, Amerigo Vespucci, Donatello, Raffaele, Roberto Cavalli, and Guccio Gucci, fashion designer and Gucci fashion was founded in Florence 1921 (”

Essentially, Florence has always had a wild, and thriving, LGBT community.

English: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. R...

English: Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. Red chalk. 33 × 21 cm. Turin, (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3. “Florence was established by Lucius Cornelius Sulla in 80 BC as a settlement for his veteran soldiers and was named originally Fluentia, owing to the fact that it was built between two rivers, which was later corrupted to Florentia (” 

Probably on purpose when they realized that Fluentia sounded like a disease.

4. “In 1944, the retreating Germans blew up the bridges along the Arno linking the district of Oltrarno to the rest of the city, making it difficult for the British troops to cross. However, at the last moment Charle Steinhauslin, at the time consulate of 26 countries in Florence, convinced the German general in Italy that the Ponte Vecchio was not to be blown up due to its historical value(

They saved the bridge for it’s historical value, then skipped over to Santa Spirito and shot a bunch of Americans, Englishmen, and Italians in the face. In times of war, jewelry wins!

Ponte Vecchio in Florence (Firenze), Italy

Ponte Vecchio in Florence (Firenze), Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. “In 2013, Florence was listed as the second best world city by Condé Nast Traveler.”

It’s a pretty great city but I’m not actually sure what that means. Best overall? Best for tripe? Poetry? Life? Pretty cool though.

6. “Florentine (fiorentino), spoken by inhabitants of Florence and its environs, is a Tuscan dialect and the immediate parent language to modern Italian. Its vocabulary and pronunciation are largely identical to standard Italian, though the hard c [k] between two vowels (as in ducato) is pronounced as a fricative[h], similar to an English h. This gives Florentines a highly recognizable accent (the so-called gorgia toscana). Other traits include using a form of the subjunctive mood last commonly used in medieval times, a frequent usage in everyday speech of the modern subjunctive, and a shortened pronunciation of the definite article[i] instead of “il”. (

What wikipedia is trying to say, is that you should substitute an “H” sounds where a “C” or “k” would go. Also, speak like you’re at a medieval festival: My dear maiden, ye me passeth a Hoha-Hola, for I am parched and I liketh very much the soda. Sort of.

7. “Calcio Storico Fiorentino (“Historic Florentine Football”), sometimes called Calcio in costume, is a traditional sport, regarded as a forerunner of soccer, though the actual gameplay most closely resembles rugby. The event originates from the Middle Ages, when the most important Florentine nobles amused themselves playing while wearing bright costumes. The game is played in the Piazza di Santa Croce. A temporary arena is constructed, with bleachers and a sand-covered playing field. A series of matches are held between four teams representing each quartiere (quarter) of Florence during late June and early July.There are four teams: Azzurri (light blue), Bianchi (white), Rossi (red) and Verdi (green). The Azzurri are from the quarter of Santa Croce, Bianchi from the quarter of Santo Spirito, Verdi are from San Giovanni and Rossi from Santa Maria Novella (

Imagine recently incarcerated hockey players, playing soccer, wearing clown pants. It’s the “manliest” of sports if by manly you mean sweaty. It’s my favorite event in Florence. You should go.

English: Calcio Storico - 24.06.2008 - Azzurri...

English: Calcio Storico – 24.06.2008 – Azzurri Vs. Rossi Italiano: Calcio Storico – 24.06.2008 – Azzurri Vs. Rossi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8. “Opera was invented in Florence in the late 16th century(

This doesn’t surprise me. I lived downstairs from three opera singers in Campo who attended the opera school once. It was possibly the most musical/irritating year of my life. I know you’re thinking, “Opera! Upstairs! So romantic and fun!” Totally, until they sing the same song over, and over again, every day, for months.

9. “Florence is a major production and commercial centre in Italy, where the Florentine industrial complexes in the suburbs produce all sorts of goods, from furniture, rubber goods, chemicals, and food. However, traditional and local products, such as antiques, handicrafts, glassware, leatherwork, art reproductions, jewelry, souvenirs, elaborate metal and iron-work, shoes, accessories and high fashion clothes also dominate a fair sector of Florence’s economy(”

And now, as the EU allows, Italy can also include prostitution and illegal drug smuggling into their GDP figures. This will make Novelli, and its many street hookers, fiscal “ballers”.

10. “In 1817, French author Henri Stendhal staggered around the streets of Florence emotionally overwhelmed at the aesthetic beauty of the city. His symptoms of dizziness, palpitations and panic attacks on seeing so many exquisite works of art gave rise to the condition, medically diagnosed as recently as 1982, known as Stendhalismo (”

This reminds me of my dog, Oliver. When he gets really excited to see something, he pees himself. What I wouldn’t give for that much excitement over anything, right?

Italian Street Style From Milan Fashion Week To Florence Pitti 86

Street Style In Milan And Pitti 86 In Florence

One of the most commonly searched things on my site is, “what should I wear in Italy.” It’s normal, it’s one of the fashion capitals of the world and people are nervous about showing up and being the “odd one out.” I travel a lot, it can be awkward to be the obvious foreigner. Especially in Italy where they really care about style and even the most bummy outfits are seemingly intentional. Italian style is different from the rest of the world mostly because of the cuts, colors, and the strange complex/simplicity of the designs. Everything is elegant and relaxed. Hair and makeup are very natural, even unkept, with the exception of the occasional clown. Women’s designs are often both constructed and flowing, and men tend to dress as well or much better than the women (a huge difference from the US where most men seem homeless, coming from the gym, or for some reason seem like their waiting for a basketball tournament). Every region has a different style, Milan is more glam and chic, Florence is more rock and roll and bohemian, and Naples is kind of a mix of elegant and Jersey Shore. Here are some pictures I found from Milan and Florence this year. I found some awesome fashion blogs with some great stuff that I thought you guys would enjoy. I normally do all of my own photos, but I couldn’t pass up some rad content that I knew some of you would be into. Go check them out! If you want to see more, click on the images sources below, and go to their sites. These blogs/mags have great content for fashion (I’m obviously not a fashion blogger). Note, these photos were taken during fashion events. Humans amp up their fashion during these sorts of things, obviously, but you’ll still see people dressed relatively well  around Milan and in Florence during the evening.


Milano Moda uomo 2014, women, Chiara Totire, Stella McCartney lace dress


Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 5Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 13Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 17Milano Moda uomo 2014, womenMilan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 29Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 39

Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 6Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 18Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 12


Milan Men’s Fashion Week Street Style 8

These images are not mine (seriously, I’m not this great of a photographer). I’m just sharing some love.  image sources (go check them out! Great stuff!): a love is blindathens street stylethe urban spotterstyle.comgrazia.itw magazinele 21ieme,the sartorialistburo 24/7, 

Image of STREETFSN: Milan Fashion Week and Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style
Image of STREETFSN: Milan Fashion Week and Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style
Image of STREETFSN: Milan Fashion Week and Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style
Image of STREETFSN: Milan Fashion Week and Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style5
Image of STREETFSN: Milan Fashion Week and Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style

Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT
Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT
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Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT
Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT
Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT
Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT

Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT
Image of STREETFSN: Pitti Uomo 86 Street Style for GRAZIA.IT

These Images came from: Go check them out! They have great stuff for fashion and I love the way their layout. Simple and clean.





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