Expat Series: Interview with Journalist Erica Firpo

We got the chance to sit down and have a nice chat with this brilliant Rome-based American Travel Writer, BBC Localite, Instagram pioneer and journalist. 

You may know her from publications such as Forbes, The Huffington Post, and The Telegraph. After many years in Rome, where she lives with her husband archaeologist Darius Arya, we enjoyed hearing her unique perspective on life in Italy, and the many projects she keeps herself busy with. 

Her recent projects include #GirlisTheNewTime, a women-only collaborative instameet at La Galleria Nazionale during Rome’s 2017 Museum Week, and a visit showcasing the Quirinale, the gorgeous residence and Office of the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella.

What are three things that you love and take great pleasure in that most people don’t like or understand?

I love old signage: storefronts that still have cut metal, neon or hand-painted signs from decades ago. I could walk and just look for great signage for hours.  

Another favorite thing is mustard. Most people misunderstand mustard, relegating to it as simply “spicy” whereas there is a whole range of mustards that differ based on how they are made, ingredients, and how spicy-ness they are. I think mustard is umami. I really have a passion for mustard.

And last but not least, sleep. Besides loving a full night’s sleep, I do believe it is very important to take it seriously and give quality sleep its proper due. I am a firm believer in the Circadian rhythm – sleep cycles of four and a quarter hours – and I’m most happy to sleep full eight-and-a-half hours. But if I get my first four hours I still feel I can be fine, because I know I’ve had the first full cycle.

originally posted by @moscerina on Instagram

What are three things that really bother you but that most people don’t seem to mind?

First of all, men wearing red pants.

Another pet peeve is people mistaking a positive and helpful attitude for being a pushover.  

And finally, Nutella. I don’t believe in it. You know when you get a cornetto al cioccolato and then you take a bite only to discover it is Nutella?  Absolutely not.

Nutella. I don’t believe in it. You know when you get a cornetto al cioccolato and then you take a bite only to discover it is Nutella? Absolutely not.

You are one of the eight top digital influencers in Italy (La Repubblica), but who influences you? Who do you follow with most interest?

I get inspiration in a lot of different ways. Some days, it comes from a 15-year-old in our house, other days, it’s Serena Williams.  I don’t really have a top five because I am constantly discovering and rediscovering incredible people.  Who do I look to?  These days I am looking at  BrainpickerKirsten AlanaRackedLindsay TramutaSolange Knowles and Kirby Jenner.

The British show Black Mirror opened its third season with a vicious take on social media, showing a dystopian society where people are constantly being rated throughout their social interactions. What do you think is the greatest threat to our psychological health and inner peace? And how do you personally survive the pressure of life under a spotlight?

I saw the “Nosedive” episode a few days ago and I think it really underscores this insatiable need to quantify being liked and how it can become an obsession. Yep, social media is my field, but the desire for social acceptance via likes isn’t part of my modus operandi. I recognize the difference between quantity and quality, but that is not necessarily for everyone. Some moments are not meant to be shared on social media, and live human interaction does not need to generate “likes” every time.

I was recently asked to share pictures and tags in a situation that had a personal meaning and was really not appropriate. This made me think about the current need to share everything and some people’s difficulty in understanding the meaning of a private moment.

I don’t put myself in the spotlight by only sharing what I want people to see. Sometimes friends and family have asked if I would share pictures of us out socializing on my platforms. I gently let them know that I don’t always like to do that, I try to keep my personal life private.

With that in mind, I’d suggest reading two books: The Circle by Dave Eggers and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. Both are novels about a near future where social media and social relevance get mixed up with corporate and commercial value.

Would you share with us a couple of titles of essential books or online sources for an American in Italy and for an Italian in the US?

That depends on what the needs are, and a lot of sources can be clichè. For Italians living in the US, I would suggest connecting with the Italian Embassy in the US, which should provide various resources, networking and otherwise. And it could be fun to get involved in the Italian-American community.  For Americans living in Italy, again, it depends on what your needs are. There are professional networking organizing, cultural clubs and more, and all detailed listed on the US Embassy site.

Do you have a secret dream to make come true that you wish to share with us and our readers?

My dream, which I plan to actually make happen in 2018, is to go to Costa Rica with our girls and learn to surf together. It’s an elaborate dream, not just learning to surf per se. Why Costa Rica? I have a friend who lives there, but also the girls are interested in charity work and there is a program in Costa Rica for helping people build houses. Plus there is a women-only surf school there, and I dream of the three of us doing this together. I’ll probably be awful at it, but we’ll see. Mostly the dream is about creating strong young women and knowing that I will be contributing to creating at least a few.

DoctorsinItaly Team

This article was written, curated, and updated by the DoctorsinItaly team, as part of our efforts to share relevant and current information on health and wellness related topics, as well as on life as an expat or traveler in Italy.