Cruise Day 12: D and I have been walking and wandering and exploring Europe non-stop for the last 12 days. Today, however, is a sea day. No itinerary to stick to, no alarm clocks to set, just a day spent relaxing and recouping by the pool as we sail up the Adriatic to our final stop, an overnight in Venice. Needless to say, this cruise has been BEYOND amazing. Though we were on our feet and up early most days, we've seen and experienced some stunning parts of Europe we never thought we'd visit. We've sat on our balcony, watched the sun rise, and felt the sea breeze invigorate us each morning. We've laughed until our bellies hurt over dinner and drinks with friends each night. We've relished the quiet moments, just the two of us, in the calm before the moving storm we're about to return to when we venture home. This was a much needed step away from chaos. Everyone should vacation before a big life change. It's given us some peace, patience, and a dose of calm clarity…a huge blessing as we prepare to embark on our new adventure. As we finish out these last 2 days of vacation bliss, take a second to get to know a blogger that's no stranger to my little slice of the interwebs. Angela is a wife, mom, and fashionista living and learning the Italian way of life in Modena, Italy. Thanks for sharing your story, Ang!
I always wondered what it would be like to raise a family in Italy.
Actually, that’s part of the reason that I came here in the first place. My parents are Italian but none of us four kids learned the language growing up...and none of my nieces and nephews learned it either. I used to daydream about what life in Italy was like, and I longed to one day speak Italian and teach it to my eventual children. It's amazing how you have the power to change your own life, and with these thoughts in mind, I set out to make this dream become a reality.
If you want to hear how I ended up in Italy you can read all about it here, the story involves dancing the Tarantella, living with three 20 year old guys and a lonely Christmas! I can only compare how my family and friends live in Toronto, Canada to what it is like in Modena, the small city in the mid-North of Italy where I live. And, let me tell you, things are DIFFERENT here! Some things, take dryers for example, don’t even exist here! Hardly anyone I know owns a dryer! Everyone hangs their clothes out on the line (even indoor lines like mine!) and then irons what they are going to wear. Almost everyone lives in an apartment or condo, with only two bedrooms and ONE WASHROOM!! We are lucky because we have an extra “powder room” that I insisted on! My husband thought I was being a “North American princess” when we were apartment hunting, but life is so much easier with two washrooms. Hello...PRIVACY! Everything is smaller here, the living space, the fridges, the cars, the freezers...ours for example, it’s the size of a shoebox!
It took me a few years to get used to living here and accept the fact that I wasn’t going to be moving back. Just when it seemed like I had adjusted, I became pregnant! It was kind of a surprise because we weren’t exactly trying, but I was SO HAPPY to be pregnant! The pregnancy and birth were a little complicated (read all about my birth story here), but everything turned out fine (aside from how difficult it is to navigate the Italian health system!). Now I have my little man, who just turned two, and we took him to Rome for his second birthday (I’ve done a whole series about the trip here)! My Italian husband and I decided that the best thing would be for me to stay home and raise our son. I really want him to be bilingual and speak English, so I accepted (with a bit of fear) the challenge of working part-time from home, but mostly being a stay at home mom.
Before getting pregnant, I had spent the last 3 and a half years working together with my man at his family business. My husband is an only child and learned his parents’ trade, which they learned from his grandmother! They transform exotic leather, like alligator and python, into the World’s most luxurious leather belts. We’ve travelled together to some of the most prestigious fashion events and tradeshows in the industry including events in Milan, Paris, Florence, Munich and New York. As glamorous as that may sound it was actually a little stressful since we MAKE luxury products, but don’t earn luxury money! I’ve written a bit about this weird situation here and here. Actually, everyone in Italy has low wages compared to North American standards, and to top it all off, credit cards don’t exist here! I wrote about it here. To prepare for these fashion events I would shop the sales racks, vintage stores and used market stalls. This lead me to develop my Fashion Philosophy and my way of shopping, coined “Fashion Foresight - shop now, wear later!” It was fun, working in fashion, so I didn’t think I was ready to fade away into the background and miss out on all the exciting events and reasons to dress up.
To me, being a stay at home mom meant being indoors all day, seeing no one and living with uncombed hair and pajama pants. I WAS SO WRONG! Italians are social beings and nothing changes when you become a parent. They bring their kids EVERYWHERE! All of the occasions I had for dressing-up at work were replaced with occasions to dress-up and go out with my son! As I mentioned before, the life here is different. Every city has a central square, called “Piazza” in Italian, which is the heart of the town. People never drive for more than half an hour to work and back (this is historically rooted and also tied to the price of gas, which I’ve written about here), so there is more time to do things like walk to a local store and go out in the evening. There are 60 million people living in Italy, and the ENTIRE country is 1/6th the size of my home province of Ontario. My husband often says “Italia è fitta”, meaning “Italy is packed!” In a seemingly small town, the apartment buildings are filled with people...in fact everywhere is always filled with people! There are rituals here. The Saturday morning stroll is a ritual, going for an aperitivo with friends & the WHOLE family (including kids!) is a ritual, and strolling to the Piazza, when you don’t know where to go, is a ritual. You are bound to find SOMETHING happening there, because there are always free events, concerts, markets or people hanging out. I had this fear that I would lead a secluded life indoors with a baby, but I was wrong. Everyday I found reasons to dress! And then I realized I really wanted to share this experience so I started my blog, Reasons to Dress.
Italians, even with the little amount of money they make, always look fantastic! It’s not about how much money they spend on their clothes, it’s about their sense of style, presentation and pride. There is a 90% chance you will run into someone you know when you leave the house, so why not look decent. Putting on a blazer and jeans is just as easy as putting on sweats. The first time I went for a stroll alone with my son “all dolled up” I felt SILLY?? What if someone asked me “where are you going, I thought you were just a stay at home mom with no where to be??” But that never happened. It was normal here to be presentable, and instead I ran into some of the moms from our playgroup who were also looking fantastic. At that point I started the Real Mom Street Style series on the blog, which I update weekly. Instead of being inspired by celeb mom fashion, I wanted to inspire other ladies with what real moms were wearing. I also feature my own readers who email me their OOTD pictures. (GO FOR IT I’d love to see your style!) I don’t necessarily think you need to live in Europe or Italy to enjoy dressing up and taking your kids out. Living here taught me that. Why should the only time we put on a necklace be date night? I put together this list of 10 places you can go (no matter where you live) with your kids and get dressed up. I’ve tried to focus on places that let you get a little fancy, since we all know that there are plenty of occasions to get sporty with kids.
I’d love to have you pop over to my blog and have a look and tell me what you think. It’s the spring in Italy, so I’ve been enjoying the Italian countryside this month, going to an Agriturismo, a cool event in the Tuscan mountainside and enjoying the many free events that happen in and around Modena. My blog is a way for me to stay connected to the English world and share life in this crazy, but also beautiful, pasta eating, clothes hanging, parallel parking peninsula of a country! I’m Angie from Reasons to Dress, nice to meet you!