20 September 2017

Tiana Madera - Expat in Florence, Italy

Tiana Madera - Expat in Florence, Italy

We’ve had the chance to talk to Tiana Madera, 36, an American expat who has moved to Italy with her husband. Ms. Madera who has been living there for three years, now works as head of social media. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I grew up in Miami with quite a traveling family. Most trips were to Europe or the Caribbean.


Q: What made you move out of the US?

A: I got back with an ex who was from Florence and our plan was to stay in Florence for one year, but it ended up being three years. I studied in Florence many years ago, so was already really familiar with the city and loved how easy it was to travel around Europe.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Now I live in Southern Oregon, USA, out of all places. When I moved back to the US from Italy I was looking for an inspiring digital marketing job and I found one in Oregon and love it out here.


Q: How long have you been living in Florence, Italy?

A: I spent three years in Florence, but my winters were spent up in the Alps in a tiny town of 800 called Sestriere. Living in two different regions was so amazing. I was able to learn a lot about the wine, cuisine, language, and people in both.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I lived on my own with my husband at the time, about a 15-minute bike ride from downtown Florence. Expat life was tough in the beginning since the cultural protocol is so different, plus trying to master a new life in a new language has its frustrations. On the other hand, I love challenges and was happy to live in a European city and experience a different culture.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I definitely missed family members and it was tough to miss out on celebrations, like friends’ baby showers or weddings. I missed them more when things were tough in Italy, but I travelled so much and made friends who filled many of those empty spots.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I love the locals. Florentines, in particular, are known to be more closed-off, but it didn’t stop me from approaching people or trying new things. Italians have such a great love for art and a way of living that I really appreciate.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Florence, Italy? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: It can be hard making friends in any new place. It’s a matter of doing what you love and you soon meet like-minded people. For me, I met a lot of people through my blog! Plus, Instagram brought me close to new friends. I run my personal account @tianapix and a community account @notmynonni, which allowed me many benefits like blog tours and private Instagram meet-ups where I met fellow Instagram-fanatics who became great friends. I always suggest joining something, like a museum, yoga class, art class, something where you’ll connect with people through your passion. That makes for strong bonds.


Q: How does the cost of living in Florence, Italy compare to your home?

A: Florence is pretty pricey, but mainly because the average income is so low. The best oil and wine in the world is priced OK, but gasoline is so expensive! Traveling by train is pretty cheap, but hotels can be expensive due to income levels.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: This is pretty cheap! It’s one euro, which is about $1.20. CHEAP!

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: A panino can be anywhere from 2.50-5 euros depending on where you are. Cocktails are about 5euros.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Pasta or a protein dish can be 18 euros or more depending, as Florence has a great selection of well-priced wine bars to Michelin foodie luxuries.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: I don’t smoke but have friends who do and most of them roll their own cigarettes because it’s cheaper than a pack. A good bottle of wine can start at 6 euros where the US is about $20.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Florence, Italy?

A: Only tip is to not get too frustrated. Opening a bank account is not something you do often, and when doing it in a different language can be scary since you’re not too clear on what you need and what things mean. I had an account with Fineco and UniCredit.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: I had to wait in line at Questura to file for a Permesso di Soggiorno, which is a document providing you with permission to stay longer than three months. Once I had that, I filed for instant residency once I was married. There are lots of useful blogs out there that can walk you through the process.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Florence, Italy is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Healthcare is better and cheaper in Italy than America. I felt safe that I’d be covered in case of any issues, whereas in the US I spend up to $1,000-$2,000 a year if I need an MRI or Physical Therapy. In Florence, I had a primary doctor for check-ups but would go to clinics for any Ob/Gyn check-ups. It was hard to find a primary because I think they base it on where you live, so I was lucky enough to use the same one my husband had.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the US or in Florence, Italy?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: No insurance, but rather a health card with my info. It seemed really simple and a lot easier than handling medical bills/co-pays/deductibles in the US.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Florence, Italy? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I sold my furniture and car back in the US before I moved abroad, so I didn’t have much. I flew back and forth a few times the first four months, so I was able to bring 2-3 suitcases with me each time I flew to Italy.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Communication barriers. This comes in the form of language, but also the unspoken language of what’s acceptable and what’s not. Italians are not as causal as Americans and they have certain unspoken rules that people abide by, like not putting your feet up or how to eat pasta.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Florence, Italy?

A: The income level was pretty bad, but it was offset by the cheap modes of travel (train and Ryan Air) and the best food and amazing experiences you can have on a dime.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: See art! There is art everywhere. Take a camera and just walk around, go to Palazzo Strozzi and Museo 900. Eat gelato at weird hours of the day, sip an Aperol Spritz in Piazza Santo Spirito, hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato Church, go to the markets for the best food, visit Chianti on a vintage Ape Calessino (a Vespa powered “car”). Drink coffee at Ditta Artigianale, shop around Borgo La Croce, and visit Clet’s art studio in the more chill neighbourhood of San Niccolo’.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: Yes, I’d love to live in Spain or England. I love Madrid and there are so many great spots in England. I loved Bristol, which is right outside of Bath!


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: I recommend getting a bike right away. It’s a great way to explore and run errands. Check out all the parks in Florence, and join in on all the cultural events that take place in the city. Even take tours (wine, food, biking, Fiat/Vespa trips), so you learn as much as you can about your new area. The tours are also a great way to meet local business owners and you’ll also have great tips for friends and family when they visit.