Art, Travel & Life in Italy & Europe

Blogging – it’s about the people

When it comes to meeting people on the internet, it’s a “grab bag”*, that is, you never know what you’re going to get. But I have been very lucky. Over the past few years, I have met fellow Italy bloggers and a few of my frequent readers, people I have known first from their comments on ArtTrav, with whom I developed an epistolary or Twitter-ary relationship before meeting in person. It’s kinda like online dating, though with more honesty thrown in.

*You see, the topic of this month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable is ‘grab bag’ because none of us had time to write a post about a specific topic, so I suggested an easy way out – we all write whatever we had to write this week. Then, Rebecca suggested we call it ‘grab bag’, pretending that we actually did this on purpose, this assortment of posts, unlinked by a common theme. We plan our roundtable topics in a secret Facebook group, and the banter around choosing this topic felt like a conversation amongst close friends. An almost predictable dialogue in which each of us plays an established part – the slacker, the italian, the pragmatist, the eager (ya’ll know who ya’r – though slacker could apply to any one of us).

How is it that I got so lucky, to meet such wonderful women online? Oh, many a male reader would love to know the answer to this question, but I think it has to do with me being a woman (and anyway, I think I have no male readers. If you’re a guy reading this, please identify yourself in the comments.) On occasion we attend a conference or blog tour and we find that the world of travel blogging is relatively insular (Craig from Indie Travel observed to me last week that we are the only blogging category that spends more time talking amongst ourselves than to our public) but very friendly. I’d like to focus on the friendly part. I am far from a gushy person, but I feel very happy when I think about these friends of mine. I only wish we had more opportunity to spend time together, for the internet diminishes distances thanks to daily facebook posts, but seeing each other in person is often a challenge as each of us balances many elements of her busy life.

Gloria (from At Home in Tuscany) is one of the first fellow bloggers that I met in person, back when I was working still for the Regione Toscana, writing the blog Tuscany Arts. We met up wtih a common acquaintance for dinner in Grosseto, quite spur of the moment, after much exchange of compliments and chatter on Twitter. This girl’s brutal humour doesn’t come fully across in her blog. I think she tries to temper herself for fear of offending. She is 100% Maremmana, which comes complete with fast insults and an absurd sense of humour that has me unable to keep up – I just gaze at her in admiration. This girl is also a full time professor, balancing research and teaching, and runs two apartment rentals (in Civitella Marittima and Pisa – now go stay there!), with different turnover days since they are about two hours apart, and she also has a rambunctious toddler. Married to a Canadian, her English is the best I’ve ever heard from an Italian, though she will likely ask me what rambunctious means. Perhaps we’ve seen each other five times in three years, but we could easily pick up where we left off, and our dinners (with respective husbands) are one long stream of chatter.

Katja and I

The most recent person I’ve met is another Maremma-based blogger – I seem to cultivate them. Katja (of Map it out Tuscany) and I have been trying to get together for probably two years, but finally made it happen last week. Sticciano (my adoptive home in Maremma) and her town of Cinigiano are less than an hour apart on small country roads, but my routine when in that area is pretty fixed (napping and going to the beach) so we had trouble finding a point of encounter. Her routine involves the wilder, free beaches and 20km long hikes across terrain that I would consider torture – many of our exchanges involve her inviting me on dubiously long hikes and me finding excuses not to attend. This adventurous, Swiss-born mother of two is one of those free spirits who seems to have found the perfect place to carry out her life, and she generously shares it with others. Her husband Sergio is a moustachioed humorist and wacky chef, and together they opened up their home to Tommaso and I for an afternoon and dinner with friends. It’s amazing how with some people you just click. We could have talked for many more hours.

When I met Rebecca two years ago – the American, down-to-earth hotellier of Brigolante – she said that she had formed an idea of me from my blog, and was pleased to find that I am consistent online and off. I consider this a big compliment, and it makes me feel more confident about meeting up with any of my readers, figuring if they tolerate me online, they’ll find me okay offline too. Like when, a few months ago, someone who has been commenting as ‘Steph from Ottawa‘ for many years finally wrote me an email suggesting we meet up while she was to be in Florence, I invited her immediately over to dinner at my house. A restaurant would have been okay, but we needed quiet and a long, comfortable time to talk. Somehow I knew she and I would have a lot to discuss. Both Rebecca and Stephanie are super smart, naturally beautiful women who could have chosen any path in their lives and been successful in it.

Hasan and I at The Florentine’s office

Although not a woman who resides in the Maremma, Hasan of the art history blog 3 Pipe Problem deserves a special mention as another great friendship developed online. My mother would be jealous to hear that he and I probably exchange more emails than she and I. Ours is a more intellectual relationship, but we exchange writing, collaborate when possible, and look forward to our next opportunity to meet up in Florence – since he lives in Australia I’m not likely to head over there any time soon.

If there is one thing I need to take away from these encounters, it’s that I need to pay more attention to people, to memorize what they say and write (both Katja and Stephanie have scarily good memories, whereas my mom has always said I have a brain like a sieve), and to seek opportunities to spend time together. If anyone ever tries to tell you that your online friends are not real, tell them they are wrong. I am so privileged to be read by, and to read, these women (and one man) who are people I can see myself staying close to for a lifetime to come.

Italy Roundtable on ‘grab bag’

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By: arttrav

Alexandra Korey aka ArtTrav is a Florence-based art historian and arts marketing consultant.

  • Gloria

    You left me speechless, humbled and flattered. Thank you sweetie!

  • arttrav

    It is all true. You rock, Gloria. Your post about your grandpa, on the other hand, had me choking back tears.

  • Gloria

    You sweetheart!

  • Jenna Francisco

    This post caught my attention because I wrote one with almost exactly the same name (“It’s All About the People”) but the topic was different. I agree that online friends can be real friends, and it’s quite an experience when you finally get to meet them in real life, too (as it was when I finally met you!).

    I already liked Gloria from what I could tell about her online and now am even more excited about meeting her one day (next time I come to Tuscany!).

  • arttrav

    I hope to see you again soon, Jenna! I wish we’d had more time together during Florens, but it was just so exhausting.

  • Anonymous

    Oops! I think I lost my comment. I can’t believe you mentioned me! I am honoured and flattered. You are so kind! I am just catching up after my return to Canada and work last week. I can’t wait until our next visit! Happy belated birthday, by the way. :) PS I think my memory is failing, but my mom has always said that I have a memory like a steel trap (she says this with much chagrin, as it has been my usual weapon in an argument :().

  • arttrav

    How could I not mention you, Steph! Your steel trap and my sieve… AMK

  • Rebecca Winke

    This post made me smile, with pleasure and agreement. Yes, online meetings are a “grab bag” and yes, I feel incredibly lucky for having met such inspiring people online. Above all, my fellow roundtable ladies!

  • Randi Millman-Brown

    Hi, just found your blog…new to blogging but am finishing up teaching my first class in Italy… Check it out if you’d like, I have alot of updating to do still.

  • arttrav

    Hi Randy
    You’ve taken some beautiful photos for your blog! Is this your first time in Italy? I can see that you’re still fascinated by some of the things we take for granted now like doors and quaint alleys :)
    Keep up the good work! Will you be staying here long?

  • Hasan Niyazi

    Fascinating! A similar topic came up in a private conversation recently – and even though I blog about “art history” I clearly acknowledged that what made it all worthwhile were the connections formed during the process.

    I can very clearly remember Alexandra first showing up in a comment at my blog in 2010, thanking me for mentioning one of her posts (on Caravaggio) at Tuscany Arts, where it seemed she first noticed my blog by doing an image search for Donatello’s David! Little did I know at the time that I had stumbled across a pioneering voice in blogging about Italy and art history on the web – and how her including me in “teamflorens” (in 2012) would alter the course of my life forever.

    Whether in person or via email, I quickly realised that Alexandra was one of the few people in the world that I could have a deep discussion about writing about art history in a blog/online context – it is a very particular skill and there is no manual for it! (We’ll have to write said manual one day amk….)

    Hence, a *huge* thanks to Alexandra, and the profound influence she has had on many bloggers. I cant wait to return to Florence and to visit an exhibition with Alexandra and compare notes on the fly – something I didn’t get to do in my last two trips there….

    much love

  • arttrav

    Hasan is convinced I am much deeper than I actually am, but thank you :)

  • Ashley Gardini

    Meeting fellow bloggers was one of my absolute favorite aspects about blogging – and the thing I miss most since I’ve been on my blogging hiatus ;-) Going to get back into it soon! There’s a great group of bloggers in the Bay Area (and there’s always awesome ones passing through too!).

  • arttrav

    Hi Ashley! It’s true! I have missed your posts – hope you manage to get life in order soon to continue.
    Best regards