Writing again.

I’m finally settled in the Sierra de Guadarrama after what felt like a thousand moves and flights, and a lot of stress. It feels so nice to finally have a new *home*. I’ve finally had the chance to settle into a routine that makes me feel happy and relaxed. Despite the sometimes irritating gossip that floats around this small, sleepy town, I love waking up early for a long run through the mountains with beautiful views of the city, and the monastery of El Escorial, then coming back to my home office and learning about the ways artificial intelligence is disrupting the wealth management industry. I’m challenged, but the stress levels are low. It’s such a welcome change.

The beginning of many trails.

Since I run without music, I’ve been thinking a lot. I have time. I’m also working in tech, so I’m spending a lot of time at the computer (not that that is anything new). I wrote this yesterday, as I was reflecting on all my moving around and how the internet has helped but also hindered aspects of my life. It’s my first post on Medium. Let me know what you think.


The Longest Winter

This year I am definitely being tested. Last November I was offered a job in Artificial Intelligence in Marbella, Spain. The company flew me over, interviewed me, and I got to spend two nights in company housing with views of the beach and palm trees. I felt completely excited to break out of my Florence life and start completely fresh and new. I looked forward to meeting the people in my new company, and going for runs along the beach in the evenings. I was going to start saving and finally settle down.

I packed my bags and flew to Madrid where I would spend the holidays with close friends before preparing to move to Marbella. Upon arriving in Madrid, of course, I was faced with challenges. The holiday season in Spain is not the time to be doing bureaucratic things, and I had no idea where to begin. Through the kindness of strangers (in particular, Andres Gras, Form a Company) I was able to get my numero de identidad para extranjeros (N.I.E.) and begin to become regular in Spain.

Despite finally obtaining this magical number that I thought was all I would need to get started, I was informed by my then-future employer that they would no longer be willing to wait for me to sort my papers. Just like that, my bubble burst! I’m living in Spain (yay!) but now it’s January, I have no job, and no idea what my legal situation is.

I’m a resourceful girl, and years of survival in Italy taught me survival skills. I can wait tables, translate, babysit, hold conversations, edit, create, volunteer, write. While instability can be scary, I tried to look on the bright side: lots of time to run, to explore, and to visit with friends and family.

2018 in the Sierra in Madrid might have been the longest winter I have ever experienced, both literally and metaphorically. I was working from home, holed up inside, depressed, scared, worried that I would have to give up on my Spanish dream and head back home. I experienced waves of panic coupled with moments of hope, and can definitely conclude that I was being and continue to be tested right now in my life. How many bad breaks can a girl get?

All summer I spent time between Madrid and Florence, trying to get my paperwork in order. It just felt like doors were slamming all around me and I would be better off just going home. But if you know me at all, that is not my style. I am thankful that I have a gorgeous apartment in the center of downtown Madrid. I have a computer, and I have private (amazing!) health insurance. I have a supportive family and amazing friends. I know that something good will happen soon. I just need to keep the faith.

I am constantly reminded of the kindness of strangers and the impermanence of everything around us. Losing a dear family friend prematurely this year was also really hard, especially being so far away from home. Remember to let your loved ones know you care and appreciate them as this Thanksgiving holiday approaches! I am thankful I get to spend the holiday with the wonderful Ms. C in Florence. It will be nice to spend the evening with some familiar faces.

When have you been seriously tested? What did you do? How did things turn out?

Firenze Marathon in Barcelona


This is transcribed from a notebook because I still roll that way…

I’m on the train ride back from the Barcelona Marathon weekend. It was a great weekend but completely exhausting. I can’t believe I spent Saturday night in my hotel room watching the Malaga-Barcelona match but after two solid days of travel and engaging with the athletes and their families, I couldn’t imagine going out. Plus the weather was shit (although thank goodness it held up for the runners on Sunday morning!). It seems I brought the Florentine rain to Spain… but as my roommate the Franimal reminds me, we need this rain for the huerta to be fruitful in a few weeks!!

I stayed in the NH Barcelona Stadium hotel near Sants Station. The location was great for my purposes. Not central, but close to Plaça d’Espanya, with nice staff, clean rooms, and a seriously excellent breakfast buffet. I’d definitely stay again. I also really enjoyed a little bar across the street (the kind I like – full of locals, no wi-fi, good pinchos – no google maps presence). They had three tv screens to watch soccer and the people were really great. A few were volunteering to hand out water at the marathon, as well.

Friday I checked in then went straight to the expo where I joined Fulvio Agresta (apparently fluent in not just Italian and English but Castellano and Catalan as well — also a lacrosse goalie! Who knew?!) and César Corral (and his lovely daughter) to get to work. Our stand was located just at the expo exit so we received a lot of traffic. Communication was a hilarious nightmare as it tends to be in these international situations I love: a bad mix of Spanish, Italian, Catalan and English. We made it work. I’ve heard it’s really bad to mix languages — that you should decide on one to speak at a time beforehand and operate in one language at a time — is this true? Why? Anyway, I tried.

Most of the day Friday I was in the expo working the stand. I did go visit the other stands to score swag as one does. Why else go to the expo? I had a seriously mind blowing moment when I got my body mass composition checked. No need to go into detail here but three months of tapas and cold in Madrid, despite continuing workouts, has taken a toll. Que venga la primavera ya…!

Saturday I headed to the expo and was feeling antsy. Being around so many runners training and getting pumped up for the event has an effect on me. Despite my complicated (read: nonexistent) finances, I decided to splurge on a new pair of trainers since the Asics Women’s Gel Kayano 23‘s I got in November (THANK YOU Firenze Marathon) had already developed a hole!! It had been driving me crazy, and the expo is a great place to look for deals. I scanned the periphery of the expo to check out the smaller shops that tend to be getting rid of extra stock and finally found a pair of Mizuno Wave Inspire 13 sneakers that would fit my giant 41.5 size Anglo-Saxon feet — not an easy task here in Spain (or Italy, for that matter). [Note — so far I’ve used them three times and I’m really liking them. I think my Asics were just a little bit too small. They also gave me some ankle problems.]

And then, new shoes on, I was off. At César’s suggestion I headed up to the Castell de Montjuïc which proved a really enjoyable uphill run past lots of gardens with beautiful views of the city and the sea.

I absolutely loved running in Barcelona. As I ran, I was thinking about the whole run-travel industry and how much it makes sense. At least to me. I guess some people are happy to run the same routes continuously, or workout in a gym on a treadmill. But just like participating in a race gives you an adrenaline rush, a race in a new location doubles the effect. At the Barcelona expo there were representatives from races from all over Europe and the world. I wish I could go to all of them. I guess my priority for now needs to be focus: on getting ready for the Madrid Half in April, on myself and finding some clarity/direction, and on my work, i.e., improving my language, writing, and wordpress (nightmare) skills, and on generally enjoying my day to day life without anxiety.

Do you have questions about Barcelona? The marathon? Want to run in Florence this year?

Contact me before March 18, 2018 for a promo code for a reduced registration rate for the Firenze Marathon 2018 which will take place on November 25!!


Firenze Marathon 2018

I’m in Galapagar and it’s freezing and raining. Glad I got a mountain run in this morning. Here’s where I went Friday in the hills where I’m currently residing!

El Escorial

This year’s Asics Firenze Marathon is November 25, 2018, and I’m already looking forward to it!! I’m in contact with the organizational team who are all already working really hard to prepare for all this year’s exciting running events in Florence, and elsewhere.

Check out the video they made:

The events I hope to be physically present at are the Firenze Multistars athletics competition to be held April 27 – 28 at the Firenze Atletica Luigi Ridolfi Stadium, the Guarda Firenze scheduled for May 6, Corri la Vita (my first race and dear to my heart) scheduled for September 30, and of course I’ll round out the year with the marathon on November 25. This year I’ve also put together a special RUN THE RENAISSANCE travel package!!

As my role with the organization continues to grow (THANK GOD!), I have the super exciting opportunity to go to the Zurich Marató de Barcelona in about two weeks! I’ll be there together with Fulvio Agresta from the Firenze Marathon management, as well as César Corral from Running Travel. I am so thankful to have a good reason to get back to one of my favorite cities and will definitely be posting about the experience manning the booth at the Expo — the largest sports fair in Spain, and one of the most important in all of Europe for running, trail and triathlon. It is going to be a really great time.

In all my excitement, today I registered for the EDP Madrid Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon coming up on April 22! I guess this means less hashing and more serious training…although I do intend to keep up my Sunday fun runs now that I’m settled into more of a routine here in the Sierra.

What are your fitness goals for this year? Have you registered for any races yet? Drop me a comment I’d love to hear what you have planned! And if you want to go to Florence, be in touch!



Running around Florence, Part 2: My favorite routes

It’s a beautiful autumn day in Florence and I am in a great mood for many reasons, but primarily because despite my anxiety about taking a risk and accepting less pay for less hours of work at a very stable, reputable job, I got to spend my morning out in the sun, on a long, much-needed run, and then got to take my time walking back home just enjoying being outside. Maybe I’m crazy, but some things don’t have a price tag.

I wanted to share my three favorite running routes/areas of the city with all the students who apparently just got into town (I hear you all under my apartment, watch what you say in Santo Spirito). When I was a student I got into running here because the gyms are crazy expensive and lack a lot of the amenities we are used to in the US (no towels?? no water?? no thanks). And as I’ve said before, it’s one of the best ways to explore a new city. However, sometimes you want to at least have an idea of where to start out. So here are my top three.

All of the maps start and end in Santo Spirito because this is actually what I do/where I live, but they really work if you are staying anywhere in the city center. The important thing is to get out of the dense traffic and into some green.

Parco delle Cascine 

The Cascine Park is a large, green expanse located on the northeastern bank of the Arno river. Just past the American embassy, it hosts a large, open-air market every Tuesday, so it’s great to go for an early morning run, then pick up whatever you need on your way home!

Good to know:

  • There is a water fountain at the far end of the park. However, there is no guarantee that it will be on. There are also fountains in the middle of the park, at the Piazzale delle Cascine. 
  • There are pay toilets at the Piazzale delle Cascine as well, but be sure to bring euro coins as they don’t always have change. Pro tip: the University’s agrarian campus is there too, and when the doors are unlocked you can sneak in and use the facilities for free! *Shh*

Piazzale Michelangelo

This is a classic route taken by many Florentine cyclists and runners, and is great if you want to get in some hill work. Piazzale Michelangelo is basically a large parking lot that overlooks the city, so although the piazza itself isn’t so beautiful, the views of the city on the way up are spectacular, and you definitely notice a difference in the air quality the higher up you go. The Piazzale is also on the way to San Miniato al Monte, so for a detour in the afternoon you can go hear the monks sing their gregorian chants.

Good to know: 

  • There is also a pay toilet before you reach the piazzale, on the right side of the road.
  • The old Swiss embassy, now a hotel, is about 2 miles up, and is a good place to stop if you need a bathroom or some water. They are really nice and helpful. (You never know, have you seen the news lately?!).

Parco dell’Anconella 

This park is smaller than the Cascine, but is great because it has lots of water fountains and additional workout equipment. Located on the southwestern end of the city, Firenze Sud, it is a long, flat expanse of trails, so a little less intense than the pavement on the other two routes. This park is definitely less frequented than the Cascine, so it’s nice for long, solitary runs. Just be sure to be aware of your surroundings (I always have my keys in my hand…just in case).

Good to know:

  • If you want to do a longer (10 miles +) run, start out on the Piazzale loop and when you get to Piazza Ferrucci, go right instead of left to add Anconella.
  • Public water fountains are found inside the park.
  • To my knowledge there are no pay toilets on this route, at least not on the running trails. So go prepared.
  • The neighborhood to the South of the park, Gavinana, is a cool part of Florence that is rarely frequented by tourists. The Firenze Sud Sporting Club is a great place to get a pizza!

I do have a Garmin that I use to track routes, time, etc. when possible, but if not, I like to use MapMyRun to generate the maps I included in this post.

The running season is in full swing and events are happening all around Tuscany every weekend. Check out Lorenzo Berchielli‘s running club Associazione Rondinella del Torrino page for the calendar of running events, and feel free to be in touch with me if you plan to be in Florence for an extended period of time and want to join a team, or learn about how to get your certificato medico to participate in races like the upcoming Firenze Marathon.



Running in Florence: Corri la Vita, Sunday, September 24

Autumn in Florence brings many positive things to mind: sagre, olio nuovo, vendemmie, and for me, the Corri la Vita, the most important charity run in all of Italy, which takes place the third Sunday in September every year since it began in 2003. Proceeds from the race benefit LILT Firenze, which is the Florence branch of the Italian League for the Fight against Cancer.

I first ran the Corri la Vita in 2010 when I had just arrived in Florence as a student. I wanted to participate in something that would help me get to know some locals and feel like an active participant in my adopted city. It was actually the second race I had ever registered for (the former being the Charleston, SC Cooper River Bridge Run), and I remember being really nervous but also really excited. I wholeheartedly recommend to students in Florence that they participate in this exciting event!! And if you don’t plan on participating, don’t bother trying to move around the city. We’re all involved!

This year’s 11 km race begins and ends in Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Registration is open until September 22: for EUR 10 you receive an official Salvatore Ferragamo T-shirt and bib number; for EUR 15 you can receive a bib number with microchip to register your race time.

Last year the race hosted over 35,000 participants and raised EUR 550,000.

You can download the registration form here and bring it to any of the following registration points:

LILT Firenze Viale D. Giannotti, 23 – Firenze, tel. 055 576939
Firenze Marathon Viale Fanti, 2 – Firenze, tel. 055 5522957
L’Isolotto dello Sport Via dell’Argingrosso, 69 A/B – Firenze
Universo Sport Piazza Duomo, 6/r – Firenze

See you in the Piazza on the morning of the race!


Rientrata a Firenze and it feels …

After nearly moving to Madrid never to be seen in Florence again, I am indeed back and extremely happy to return to some semblance of normalcy and routine. We are, after all, creatures of habit (for better or worse) and while I can travel bohemian style with the best of them, a month is almost too long.

El tapeo se acabó

Summer is still going strong in Firenze. The weather is hot and the tourists are here in full force. The season won’t really end until mid-November, but for those of us that live here, the end of August is usually a very rude awakening. The Italians call it the sindrome del rientro and it is very real. I’m back to work at the University, while at the same time trying to study as much as possible (ahem, FOCUS) for when I choose my next adventure.

I spent some time at the Uva Nera yesterday — a super cute wine bar with reliable wifi — great for working remotely. Located on Borgo Ognissanti, it is situated just past the Polimoda fashion school, walking from school towards the center of town, so they receive a lot of student traffic. Since I was behind the bar when some students came in, we got to talking, and I was able to share some of my experience living in Florence with them. They were really disappointed to learn I was American and speak perfect English!

Both when speaking to Lisa May and in my experience working with students traveling abroad for the first time, many people wonder how to become integrated in their adopted community: how do I get the locals not to speak to me in English? How do you make friends? How do you get your barista to finally say hello?

Needless to say the conversation got me thinking about the advice I’ve given students over the years: CONSISTENCY IS KEY. I believe that if you just do what you love, wherever you are, you will naturally make friends without stressing yourself out about doing it the “right” way. I love running and having a cheap drink at aperitivo, so lo and behold no matter where in the world I go, I tend to meet runners and revelers! And if you find a trail, park, basketball court, museum, bookstore, cafe, whatever it is that you love, and a habit of dedicating some time consistently to that space or activity, you will undoubtedly notice that the locals become curious about you.

For me it’s back to work but for so many students it’s their first time here, so best of luck this semester or year abroad. Fearlessly refuse to speak English and you will leave Florence with an enhanced Italian vocabulary for sure.

How do you like to get the feel for a place? What’s the first thing you do when you go somewhere new?

Back Home


Follow Your Passion… or Find Stability?

Follow Your Passion… or Find Stability?

I have been sitting inside at my friend’s home in Madrid on my second to last day of vacation. I am feeling the anxiety that comes with vacation’s end (it’s very real) and trying to get my thoughts and projects in order as I prepare for what is promising to be a whirlwind of a rientro. I recently spent a week in Valencia doing “research” and have been struggling to put all the information I received into useful blog posts for people wanting to visit the city. So instead I’ll just write.

Sweating in Valencia

I just got off of an interview with Lisa May, owner and producer of ExPat Real TV, a channel that she started to share stories of Americans living “alternatively” around the world. We chatted about our experiences — she moved to Bali and is now living in a small town in Portugal — and she gave me some challenging questions that I really had to think about.

What would I tell my 23 year old self before moving to Florence? What is the hardest thing about living abroad?

Super tough questions. To start with, Florence wasn’t my first nor would it ever be my final destination. Maybe my continuous returns to Spain and the land of sol y playa have always been an effort on my part to maintain some sense of stability and order in an otherwise chaotic, unstable situation.

So what is the hardest thing? For me it has been fighting my internal desire for change and adventure coupled with the need for family and stability. More adventurous than many, I feel proud of the life I’ve been able to make for myself (together with the help of many, many people!) not just far from home, but in a completely different country, where many odds were stacked against me. I’ve managed to navigate international bureaucracies, mother hundreds of not-my-children (I love all my students!) and learn to create spaces where I genuinely do feel at home with friends who have become like family. And just when it seemed like everything was clicking into place, I’m the one who wants a change.

What would you do? Do you want security or adventure? What is the right balance? How much freedom would you give up for constant stability?

As I ran this morning through the Sierra de Guadarrama (12km,1200 altitude!), surrounded by cows and horses and old campesinos on their morning hikes, I reflected. Am I doing the right thing? Am I crazy to give up the stability of a 9-5, in another country, no less? I’ll keep you posted as my adventure unfolds, but comment below and let me know your thoughts!!

Following the wind

Surf4All Update!

After publishing my last post about Surf4All, I got an update from Tommasso with some great news! The Surf4All organization just received funding from the Italian Paralympic Committee for a project that will help four disabled athletes compete internationally in adaptive surfing! Beginning in September (after our August vacations!) there will be an official launch for the entire project to take place at the Bagno degli Americani. I hope I´ll be able to go!

Adaptive Surf: Passion for Surfing Makes Anything Possible

I first met Tommasso Pucci on a weekend this summer where I was attending the Outdoor Sports Festival that takes place every year in the Golfo di Baratti, located close to Piombino, just between the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas. I was taking a solo weekend trip to get out of Florence and practice some water sports. In recent years many of my beach vacations had been mostly full of seafood and lounging — la dolce vita for some, and on occasion for me, but this year after attending a conference on the future of maritime policy in the European Union, I had a new reason to be interested in spending time at the beach. I decided to study the laws of the sea and learn about sailing, and at the festival for just €10 I could try everything: sea kayak, catamaran, standup paddle (SUP) — I even tried and failed miserably to kitesurf, but mostly because the guys on the stage were making fun of me — by name over the microphone — the entire time!

While doing some networking at the festival and generally picking the brains of all the athletes manning the booths, I met Tommasso. I had just been out on a SUP board and was pleasantly reminded that surfing, like biking, is not easily forgotten. All those summers watching Blue Crush and balancing on my IndoBoard weren´t a complete waste! Tommasso is a SUP instructor based in Florence, where he founded ToscanaSUP. His enthusiasm for the sport is completely infectious, and he was thrilled to learn that I was interested in water sports in general. We arranged to meet in Florence after the festival so he could tell me more about how his organization operates, and introduce me to an even bigger movement, adaptive surfing.

When he´s not driving around chasing waves in his camper or helping tourists get an amazing photo-op on a surfboard below the ponte vecchio (or elsewhere), Tommasso works with a group called Surf 4 All. The organization, run out of the Bagno degli Americani in Tirrenia states that its mission is to improve the overall enjoyment of life,  psychologically and cognitively through the accessibility of sport activities. With the admission of surfing as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Tokyo games, the project is also part of a larger international movement that aims to allow athletes who engage in adaptive surfing to qualify and compete professionally.

Photo Credit: International Surfing Association

Adaptive surfing is facilitated surfing for an entire range of disabilities in a wide variety of ways, including facilitated surfing with a partner or a customized board depending on the athlete´s needs. A relatively new sport, the International Surf Association has issued guidelines that outline the specific rules and categories for what is and is not permissible in an international competition.

More interesting to me than the competitive adaptive surfing though was the work that groups like Surf4All do with handicapped children. Tommasso spends his time with other surfers flying around the world to run adaptive surf camps in the most beautiful places. When we talked he had just gotten back from Fuerteventura, Canarias and was beginning to get all his photos and videos online. He explained to me that the European Union through the Erasmus + Sport 2017, Play and Train program is now providing funding for more adaptive surf camps for young people in order to foster health, well-being and social cohesion through access to sports that require specific equipment.

I ended up joining Tommasso for a weekend of surfing after our meeting and I can definitely vouch for his awesomeness. He was in touch with friends up and down the coast reporting on waves and weather conditions, and was up at the crack of dawn both days to be out in the water as much as possible. I must confess I did less surfing and more shopping over the weekend, since it was extremely hot weather and I wasn´t feeling so great, but I did get to explore la Marina di Pietrasanta, which hosted a massive outdoor market all day on Saturday, and had live music and family games near the pier in the evening. I learned about the local art scene, and seriously contemplated asking to be left behind!

Are you a surfer? Adaptive surfer? Have questions or want to get involved as a volunteer? Leave a comment or send me a message!