This week marks 10 years since I left Italy for good to live in London. As the anniversary approached, I started to think about the past ten years of my life, what I have done, what I have achieved. And somehow writing a post about it seemed like the right thing to do. This post is a reflection of my life as much as it is a celebration of London. It’s a moment of contemplation on how much I changed and how London has changed too.
I never thought I would stay in London for so long: my relationship with this city is always been one of love and hate. But looking back at the time spent here, I have no regrets. I have achieved things I know would not have been possible in another city. I have many happy memories. And I am proud to be a resident of London.
I moved here in October 2006 to do a 6-month internship at a film company and I never left. Then came a full-time job in advertising, the start of a career I thought I could learn to like. Then the lucky encounter with my future husband and the decision to settle here. And yet in the back of my mind I always had this thought: I never planned this. I never intended to stay in UK for this long. I wanted to travel. Why am I still here? Am I missing out?
The truth is this: I moved to London because I didn’t wanted to stay in Rome. I lived there for 25 years and I needed a change. An opportunity came up to move to London and so I moved, because why not? Without thinking about it too much, without really looking for other opportunities, just taking a chance and waiting to see where it would take me.
The first months, even years, in London were fun, but they hard too. It took me a long time to get used to the weather, the food, the pace of life, the style of living.
Honestly, if you told me ten years ago that I would still be living in London today, I would be shocked.
I wasn’t happy here at first, I didn’t feel like I belonged. For the first six months I worked as an unpaid intern, living off the little money I had from a European Union scholarship (God Bless Europe) and with the support of my parents. I got a job as soon as I could, yearning for financial independence. With my first salary came a better house, shared with other people of course, but more comfortable and in a better neighbourhood than the council flat in Aldgate East where I lived for the first 9 months. Slowly I began to treat myself to nice things: concerts, eating out, clothes, the occasional weekend trip to Europe or back to Rome, taking the train to the airport instead of the Terravision coach (ah, the ultimate luxury!).
I gave up on the idea that I was only going to be in London for a short time. I began to really feel at home. I tried to make the most of living in London, a city that is always exciting, never dull. I tried to be a part of the city.
I grew up and changed, and London changed too. It became more gentrified and developed a fantastic food scene. I moved from north to south London, and found my place in the city.
I changed. Instead of going to music concerts, I started going out for brunch and supperclubs and spending money on food. That somehow made me feel even more part of the local community. I stopped taking photos of people and cityscapes, and instead I started photographing food and coffee. The idea for my blog was born and my life was turned upside down.
I found the confidence to pursue my passions: photography and travel. I discovered a love for baking and food. Not just eating, but learning about food and cuisines. The dream of doing a job that I loved, soon didn’t seem like a dream anymore. It could become a reality.
London is a city that allows you, anyone, to do what you love and be who you want to be. And I am forever grateful to this city for that. A city of opportunities for anyone, it is open and tolerant, and I won’t let anyone make me believe in the opposite.
Of course I have felt lonely at times and wished I lived closer to my family and oldest friends. But I also had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people from London and from all over the world. I feel so incredibly lucky and grateful for the life I have.
Maybe I came to London because I didn’t know where else to go, but I chose to stay. I chose this city and the city welcomed me. I hope many other people will be able to make the same choice in the years to come.
In Italy we say: ogni lasciata è persa. Literally it means that any chance you don’t take, is lost forever. I truly believe in that and I try to let this belief guide my actions. I took a chance ten years ago and it led me here today. Living in a house I bought, married to a Brit, running my own business, in food and travel no less! Girl, you did well.
If 25 year-old Giulia could see me know, she would look at me in disbelief. And I would tell her: don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine. You are going to have a great time. You are going to be surrounded by true friends, find love, and you are going to be happy. You are going to have a job and be successful at it. You will feel good in your own skin and learn to love yourself. To the younger Giulia who thought making soup was difficult and needed to follow a recipe to cook eggs, I would tell: don’t worry, you are even going to learn how to cook! :)