Something About Italy - Emiko Davies


Picture credit Emiko Davies

1) How did you end up in Italy ?

The first time I lived in Florence was during my third year of art school; I decided to leave my school in Providence, Rhode Island, for the damp Florentine autumn season – and I fell in love with it. I came back a few years later with an idea just to spend a year there and get it out of my system but I ended up staying and meeting the man who became my husband. It's been 13 years since then!

2) How much of the Italian culture were you familiar with before you moved there?

Being an art student and history lover, what I knew of Florence was the Renaissance. It was my favourite subject at university so in a way when I arrived in Florence – a city that very much lives in its past – it felt so familiar and like all my books had come to life! I knew something of the food (who doesn't these days? Italian food is so iconic) but really didn't understand the regional differences until I lived in Florence.


Picture credit Emiko Davies

3) What were the biggest cultural differences you experienced ? Are there any you dislike? Which one is your favourite?

I mainly noticed the cultural differences when we had kids. The way children are treated and brought up is so different to Australia! I'm a bit over the hypochondriac reaction to the cold, like not playing outside if it's cold or wet, not blow drying your child's hair or drinking chilled drinks even on a hot day! Let's not talk about the unsolicited advice on how your children are dressed from complete strangers! But I DO love that family culture is so respected and that children are welcome everywhere you go, that breastfeeding in public you get cheered and how strangers (often the ones telling you they should be wearing socks) gush over your babies.

4) Is Italy all roses and as romantic as people like to portray it is?

Ha, it is and it isn't. It's a land of contrasts really. There are often frustrating moments – mainly to do with politics, red tape and getting things done or things like lack of opportunities. But they are by far made up for by a certain way of life – the food, the food habits, even yes, the view! Yes, there's something about coming home after a hard day, stopping at your favourite wine bar with the beautiful Renaissance buildings silouhetted against the pink sky and the glittering lights in the river and you remember why you live in Italy.


Picture credit Emiko Davies

5) What were the biggest challenges you faced when you moved there?

Finding a steady job. That still hasn't happened! And navigating the impossibly complicated system of setting yourself up (that eventually happened, albeit with lots of confusion and so much frustration). The language happened easily for me but I've grown up learning and speaking different languages though I think for some my expat friends that has been a hurdle in itself too.

6)Would you recommend moving to Italy? And why?

It depends. It's not for everyone. I'd recommend it if you're willing to learn a new language and to jump into an adventure. I spent 8 years growing up in China and I feel that really prepared me for any situation (there really are so many surprising similarities between the two cultures actually)! As long as you know that living there is definitely not like having a holiday there and are prepared for the annoying bits too. That, and you need to be prepared for long, unrelenting, humid summers without air conditioning and a very active mosquito population! People love the idea of “Under the Tuscan Sun” but to be honest the summer is my least favourite part of living in Italy.


Picture credit Emiko Davies

7) How does it feel being foreign but wanting to embrace and feel part of a culture that is not yours? Do the Italians treat you like an Italian or do you always feel a little foreign or more like a visitor than a local?

I have been lucky in that I have never felt like a tourist or a foreigner in Italy and maybe it's because I learned the language quickly and made Italian friends or because I have dark hair and maybe look the part. One of my best friends is a blonde Scottish woman who speaks better Italian than I could dream of and yet in a shop or restaurant she will always be treated like a tourist first. I feel like even though Florence is a small city and its inhabitants are known as being a little gruff, there is a large international community here and so I've always found I fit in with that – I've been an “international” person more than half of my life now. I think that's partly what drew me to Florence in the first place.


Picture credit Emiko Davies

8) Is the saying ‘home is where the heart is’ true for you? Do you think of your birthplace often and your family and friends back home?

It's true. I miss my family in Australia more than I ever have, even though I've lived out of home since I was 17 – and for decades have lived on the other side of the world. I think it's been having a family of my own that makes me miss my own family more and consider Canberra, my birthplace, home even though I haven't lived there in so long.

9) Do you think you will reside there forever or will you return home one day?

I've spent my whole life moving from one country to the other and have called Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Beijing, Tianjin, Providence and Tuscany home for significant portions of my life. So staying put in one place isn't something I'm used to – but I would love to give my daughters the opportunity to experience their two cultures, Australian and Italian, equally. So we will see!


Picture credit Emiko Davies

You can find photographer /cookbook author Emiko Davies on Instagram to view her stunning feed or visit her website and be inspired by some of her delicious recipes!

Kirsty Russell