Ciao! My name is Lynsey Free. I’m a freelance journalist who writes about a variety of topics, but travel is by far my favorite subject!
I used that passion to launch an online magazine called Postcards from Milan, which provides both tourists and locals with articles on the city’s best offerings – not just the stuff found in guide books. I love finding hidden, off-the-beaten-path venues and sharing them with readers…and it’s great to hear when people have taken my suggestions and loved the places I’ve recommended!
I’m originally from the great city of Atlanta, Georgia, but after eight years of living abroad in four different countries (UK, Russia, Netherlands, Italy), I feel more like a citizen of the world! I currently call Milan home, and spend my spare time exploring everything the city and its surroundings have to offer.
I’ve visited three dozen countries, and I love exploring the world by bike (a year in Amsterdam will do that to a person). I enjoy hiking and the outdoors, and I’m an avid reader. I host a book club called ‘Readers and Drinkers,’ which you can find on Meetup.com.
What brought you to Italy?
After living in Europe for many years, my husband and I had an opportunity to fulfill our dream of moving to Italy. It’s funny – we came here on vacation in 2013 and thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could move here?” Fast forward two years, and here we are!
What is it that you like/dislike about Italy and the Italians?
How could anyone dislike Italy? It’s absolutely gorgeous, and the travel possibilities are unlimited. The food is to die for, and the concept of aperitivo still blows my mind!
Admittedly, many parts of Milan don’t seem “cute” or “beautiful,” but that’s what I love about the city. Do a little bit of research, and you soon find that it’s full of little gems that aren’t immediately apparent to the naked eye. I’m always disappointed to hear when people spend just a day or two in Milan, and only go to the Duomo and Brera. There’s so much more to see and do!
I’ve found the Italians to be incredibly friendly – particularly in Milan, where you might expect to encounter a stand-offish “city attitude.” At the end of the day, I think the Italians really love their culture, food, and families…and life is just a bit slower here (in a good way). We actually arrived in August, when everyone had packed up for the summer holidays. It was a very odd first impression of the city, because barely anything was open! However, I can appreciate taking a month off to rejuvenate, and I look forward to hopefully being a part of that tradition next year!
Have you found that any stereotypes about Italians have been confirmed?
Yes! They really do speak with hand gestures, and there are so many more than I thought! It’s like they have their own miniature sign language.
They’re just as passionate as you might imagine, and they don’t hesitate to throw their arms up in frustration when a driver makes them mad. They love food and wine just as much as you think they do, and family is a huge part of their lives. They value long, slow meals over quick bites, and no one ever seems to be in a particular hurry. An espresso is the preferred way to drink a coffee in Italy (although I still prefer an americano, because I can enjoy for longer than a few seconds).
Have you learned anything new about your home country while living in Italy?
I’ve learned that just about everything I’ve ever eaten at an Italian restaurant in America isn’t actually “real” Italian! Chicken parmesan, spaghetti bolognese, fettuccine alfredo, carbonara, pepperoni pizza, garlic bread…the list goes on!
I always knew that Americans worked a lot, and that perception was strengthened when I moved to Italy and saw the great balance between work and play.
How is your culture perceived in Italy?
There’s no blanket answer to this question, because it really depends on the person. I’ve encountered people who hate America, love America, and are indifferent to America. That goes for every country I’ve ever visited. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I think (and hope) that most people realize that regardless of politics or a person’s nationality, we’re all human and we’re not as different as it might seem.
Do you feel you’ve integrated into Italian society?
I definitely feel at home here…but I’m used to moving around at this point. I take the view that home is wherever I want it to be, and wherever my husband is. I’m also learning Italian and really enjoying it, which is definitely helping with integration. I’m achieving a lot of little milestones every day, and there’s a real sense of satisfaction when I manage to ask a question in Italian and the person actually understands me!
I do, however, feel that integration for an expat is something that is an ongoing process. There are always things to learn and language skills to improve on.
Is Italy a multicultural society?
Absolutely! I can’t speak for the whole of Italy, but Milan is incredibly multicultural. I’ve met so many people from different countries, which adds to the fun and flavor of the city. There’s a small but excellent Chinatown, and a lot of specialty shops where you can buy Asian and Middle Eastern foods. There’s also a pretty large South American community, and several Peruvian restaurants which offer up delicious cuisine. You can even get Brazilian sushi, which I didn’t even know existed until I moved here. If you haven’t tried it, it’s a must!
What is the first thing you do when you go back home?
Eat Mexican food! It’s my favorite type of food, and I haven’t been able to find an authentic restaurant in Milan. My family has a local spot which we have gone to since I was about eight years old, and it’s always the first stop after I arrive at the airport. After that, I usually make a point to spend as much time outside as possible, because no matter the season, it’s usually a lot warmer and sunnier in Georgia than anywhere in Europe! I also take advantage of one-stop shopping (mostly Target), which doesn’t really exist in Milan.