Thursday, March 8, 2018


Today is Women’s Day, and I’d like to celebrate it telling the story of two creative, dynamic and brave women: Anna & Anna from Beijing, who started a project called CinCucina.


Women, who follow their husbands around the world: how are they? Privileged, spoiled ladies living in the golden expat bubble, or brave women who overcome difficulties, make sacrifices, win battles and fight to reinvent themselves?

Anna & Anna met in Beijing (and I’m proud to say that I was the one who put them in contact!) and soon became friends. Being Italian, they both like to cook. So, when the Italian Institute of Culture organized an Italian cuisine course and looked for a teacher, they jumped in! 

CinCucina was born: their lessons are specially tailored for Chinese and expats, and they teach simple but genuine Italian dishes, like Pollo alla cacciatora, or Tiramis├╣. In other words, the real Italian cuisine! They also created a cookbook (available in English and Mandarin), which they presented at the Italian Embassy in Beijing during the week of "Italian cuisine in the world".

But who are Anna & Anna, what can they tell us about their personal stories?

My expat life began in 1995,” tells Anna Cincotto RenieroMy husband and I moved to Switzerland, where he started a job he was passionate about. I’m curious and full of energy as well, but I also like to take care of the house and cook a good meal for the family!

In Switzerland, Anna met many International friends, learned French and became the mother of a lively baby girl. 

After Switzerland, Normandy: a small village in which they really felt “foreign” for the first time. There wasn’t a big International community there, so Anna focused on her part-time job and on taking care of her daughter.

After 11 years abroad, Anna and her family went back to Italy and lived for a while in Florence.

I was an expat in Italy, isn’t it funny? I really enjoyed life in Florence, a small but vivacious and international city.”

New destination: a little town in the American province.

That was a cultural shock! I had to learn English, which I didn’t speak at all. And my daughter went from a French school to the American system, in a public school with more than 2000 students!

Anna needed to support her daughter, who didn’t speak English.

She came back home telling me she didn’t understand a word of what the teachers told her. She cried sometimes; she missed her friends. But if children can see strength in their parents’ eyes, they can overcome difficulties easily!

And Anna was a strong woman, indeed. She made friends with new people and started new activities.
And a cooking group, of course! Cooking was always my passion!”

Afer three years, a new change: Paris. And then Beijing.

This was the first time for us in Asia. It may sound strange, but I can find many similarities between American and Chinese culture: in my eyes, they both share a mix of disorganization, kindness, candor.

I’ve never felt lost during my nomad life” states Anna “Worried, sometimes. The most important thing in expat families is to make decisions together, and this is what my husband and I always did. I didn’t feel diminished because he was the one working, I know my job is important as well: I am the one organizing everything, and I am proud of it!”

And what about difficulties?

The most difficult thing for me was learning languages! I had to learn French and English, and I struggled a lot. So this is why I don’t study Chinese!

Different is the story of Anna Cappelloni. She was Born in a small Italian city, and after an Economic degree she moved to Rome to work. There she met the love of her life, the crazy man who proposed her to leave for a 6-month trip in China to study Mandarin.

Instead of running away, I accepted! At that time I didn’t know that choice would have changed my life!

The real chance to move to China happened years later.

We were both working, and we owned a house… that proposal sounded a little shocking!

Eventually, they decided to accept and moved to Tangshan, a small city 180 km away from Beijing, in which there was no expat community. 

And pollution was severe! I was always alone because I had no friends and my husband was working until late.

Not easy days. But Anna reacted and was even able to find a job as English teacher. Four years later they moved to Beijing, definitely a better lifestyle.

There are several challenges for a woman who decides to follow her husband abroad. Many think that you are a privileged woman, and everything is easy and fancy, but they underestimate the strong impact this life can have on your feelings. You leave your family, your place, your job, in other words, a big part of yourself and you may feel lost, without a role, a purpose. You lose your financial independence and may feel guilty when you spend money. You are often alone because your husband works a lot. And you have to substitute Dad the many times he can’t be present (this is the second year in a row that my husband is not here for our daughter’s birthday!). What many people don’t understand, is that our role is essential. Without the support of the spouse, expat life wouldn’t be possible for the family!

CinCucina is a project that let her make of cooking not only a passion but also a job, to meet locals and expats, to feel proud of something hers. 

I believe that having your own project and not being only a wife and a mother is very important. Last year was exciting and fun, and I hope that the new one will bring more challenges and adventures! I’m ready!

You can contact them @CinCucina Wechat or Facebook page to book a lesson or buy a copy of the cookbook (in English and Mandarin).

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Living in Suzhou for some years already, I realized that there are peculiar things that you can do in China. Can you do these in your place? In Italy not for sure!

things you can do in China

1) EATING YOUR BREAKFAST ON THE STREET. In Italy, we seldom eat breakfast outside. When we do it, that means we are sitting in a fancy coffee shop, savoring a fragrant croissant and drinking the perfect cappuccino. For this reason, imagine how startled I was when I discovered that most of the Chinese eat breakfast on the street.  But after five years in China, I think that biting into a warm baozi directly from the plastic bag which is wrapping it, on your way to the office, is one of the pleasures of life.

We Italians are obsessed with fashion. We could die for the wrong clothes match. Maybe we exaggerated it a bit, but we really care. Here in China, on the contrary, you could go out with the first thing you found in your wardrobe, without anybody noticing it. Dressing is a practical matter: clothes serve the use of making you feel warm, protect you from wind, sun or rain, cover your private parts. So, why should be so important to match the right color? I’ve never been a fashionista, and I believe that being free to wear whatever you want this extremely liberating! 

Here in Suzhou, in autumn, is very popular to eat the hairy crabs. My husband likes them, and a couple of time he went with his friends to the crab restaurant. Their only concern was that being a typical Chinese place, they didn’t have white wine to drink or bread to soak up the spicy sauce. So, no problem: they just brought in their own bread and wine, and nobody complained or said that they couldn’t do it!

I’m not kidding: every time I watch out of my window I notice a new building popping up from the skyline. The speed in developing new areas is incredible, workers work day and night, and a skyscraper is done in few months. 

Wearing pajamas on the street isn’t considered rude or strange in China. Instead, the one who can go out in his pajamas is regarded as a wealthy person, since he doesn’t need to dress up and go to work.
Even if nowadays fewer people go out with their night dresses (famous is the fight of Shanghai Municipality in 2010, before World Expo, to educate people not to do it), you can still see someone wearing slippers and quilted jammies on the street, especially at night when they walk their dogs.

Thursday, June 22, 2017


In today’s world write in a clear and fluent English is the key to reaching a larger audience. It has been a challenge for me, but I found some enjoyable ways to improve my writing.

I started my Italian blog in 2012. Back then, the idea of writing in English was simply unbelievable for me. After a while, though, I realized that having an English blog was the key to reaching more readers. I found the courage and started this blog. It was 2013, and my writing skills were everything but good. It took me a whole week to write a single post. After a while, I gave up.
But this year something changed: I released the English version of my novel and writing in English became the priority for me. I need to have an English blog! So, I started studying hard to improve my writing skills. I like this challenge: write in a clear and fluent English is vital to produce interesting blog posts, it can help me to find more websites on which publish my work, and it’s also important to post on Facebook or Twitter without making mistakes.

I’m still in the process, it takes effort and time, but I’m enjoying!

Today I’d like to share with you some of the tricks I use to study written English having fun. Methods that are not boring at all and not time-consuming.

So, you want to improve your written English? Let’s see if my five ‘secrets’ can help you!

1) READ ENGLISH EVERY DAY looks like a silly tip? Be honest: are you reading English every day? Are you googling in English, reading the news in English, watching Tv series in original language with English subtitles? Is the last book on your night table in English? 
I like to follow blogs about my favorite subjects and print some of the more interesting posts. I read them a couple of time, highlighting the words and expressions that I find more useful and original. Then I copy them on my vocabulary notebook (see point 7), and I use them to complete the next point.

2) WRITE ENGLISH EVERY DAY another silly tip, right? And yet, if you don’t commit to your goal to improve your written English by exercising every day, you will never achieve any decent result. The best way to be consistent is to set a weekly schedule, to decide in advance how many words you will write each day. 100, 500 or 1000 depends on how much time you want to dedicate to this project, but once you decide a number, stick to it. 
There are two ways to exercise your writing skills: the first, think about a theme and develop it, like writing a blog post, an article, a letter. The second is to write freely for 10 minutes letting the words flow, without caring about spelling, grammar, or topic: just let your hand write down everything that comes out from your mind. Both of this methods are useful: if the first one lets you develop a text-structure understanding and a proper vocabulary, the second will boost your creativity.

3) CHECK YOUR WRITING you should check what you produced. Don’t do it right after you wrote it though: wait some hours or a day, to be able to review it with a fresh mind. Check the spelling, the grammar, see if your sentences make sense. Rewrite your piece if needed. If you know a native speaker, a teacher or someone very good in English, you could ask them to help you. If you don’t know anybody, there are some great tools on the web (see point 5).

4) READ ALOUD a way to check if your writing flows and is fluid is to read it aloud. By reading, you can feel the music of the words, you can listen to the rhythm of your writing. Is your work making sense? Do the ideas flow logically? How about the punctuation? You could also ask a friend to read it aloud for you.

5) USE THE RIGHT TOOLS the most important tool you need is an excellent online dictionary: it has to be complete, easy to use, updated and with many choices of synonymous and antonymous.
Another great tool that can help you to improve your accuracy is GRAMMARLY. This app can help you check your spelling, grammar and has even a plagiarism checker tool. You can get the free version, which is already very complete and will automatically check everything you type on the web (emails, social media post).
I opted for the premium version so I can check more kind of mistakes - like correctly spelled words used in the wrong context - and I can get suggestions for a better word choice. It’s an invaluable help if English is not your first language, but can be very useful also for natives who want to write mistake-free.

6) HAND COPY take a pen, a piece of paper and copy the inspiring works of others. Sounds unattractive? Studies show that handwriting is an effective way to stimulate your brain and learn better. Copywork was one of the most used methods to teach children how to write and can be, for you, the key to becoming a better writer. It will develop your spelling, grammar, and focus. In the beginning, choose something short - a post or an article that you enjoy. Set aside ten - fifteen minutes each day to sit at your desk and to copy it. After a week you may already see the improvement!

7) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR NEWLY KNOWN VOCABULARY keep a vocabulary notebook in which you can write down all the interesting words or idiomatic sentences you’ll find on your way. You can review your list every day and use it to exercise (for instance, you can decide to write a small story using 10 of your favorite words or expression).