Interview with Kacie Rose Burns, the Florence-based content creator with almost a million followers on TikTok.
by Elizabeth Djinis
The Florence-based content creator now has almost a million followers on TikTok, where she posts regularly about life in Italy, the culture shocks of being an American living here and, among other subjects, how to eat your way around the country—and the globe. She has a bona fide following now, but it all started by chance. Burns and her boyfriend, Dario Nencetti, were making the move to Florence from New York in January 2021 after almost a year in the pandemic.
More of a passive TikTok user, Burns used the of-the-moment audio—a rendition of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On”—to edit a highlight montage of her and Dario’s time together. She posted it and thought nothing of it. But when she turned her phone on after the nearly-eight hour flight, she was shocked to see that the video had gone viral. Thus, a career was born.
Burns now runs a popular TikTok and Instagram, organizes group package trips around Italy and has written numerous e-books on how to travel Italy as an in-the-know tourist. She frames her work in part as helping people not repeat the mistakes she’s already made, because she’s been there.
She knows what it’s like to try to buy a birthday card at the pharmacy (note: pharmacies in Italy are not like pharmacies in the US) or wear a sundress when everyone else is wearing a down coat. She’s attuned to the intricacies of Italian daily life, but she still approaches them as an outsider. It’s this affable curiosity that has likely attracted so many of her followers and kept them engaged.
We sat down virtually with Burns to talk about how she got to where she is today, what she’s learned about Italy and what she’s learned about herself along the way.
Wanted in Rome: Talk to me about how your following first started. What do you think it was about that first video that resonated with people?
Kacie Rose Burns: Dario and I were long-distance for a year and then he was in New York for a year—then the pandemic hit. And so then we decided to move to Italy. I made a compilation video [on TikTok] of our relationship purely to show him, ‘Look, I made a fun video,’ and I set it to that song, showed him as we were taking off, uploaded it and then shut my phone off for seven hours. I reopened my phone when we got to Italy and the video had gone viral. At that point, Italy still had mandatory quarantine, and so we were stuck inside for two weeks. At the time, I was learning all this new stuff and thinking that I might as well make some videos about it.
…If I’m being totally honest, I think the timing of it all was a big factor. We were in the middle of Covid-19 and people were stuck inside. It was something positive that maybe distracted people from what was actually happening outside and allowed people to travel through their phones.
WiR: When did you decide that creating content was something you wanted to do as a career and not just as a hobby?
KRB: Honestly, it was such an accident. I was teaching English online, and that’s what I was planning on doing. We moved here on a six-month trial basis—I was a dancer in New York and my industry was shut down because of Covid and Dario’s visa was up. Covid kind of caused me to realize that maybe I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing anymore.
The change came when those six months started getting closer and we realized that we weren’t going to go back. I didn’t really know what I wanted it to turn into—I didn’t know what it could be. I was honestly just kind of rolling with it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be leading group tours, have my business, have written e-books and be flirting with the idea of writing an actual book.
WiR: What were some of the initial challenges when you first moved to Italy?
KRB: There are ups and downs to living here. It’s a beautiful place to live—the scenery and the food and the people are beautiful. But there are some pretty hard parts about living abroad. The homesickness was quite brutal. Things like going to the grocery store for the first time—I didn’t know that you were supposed to scan and weigh your fruit. The cashier looked at me and I panicked. I didn’t understand what he was saying. I had to get out of line.
After our mandatory quarantine, it was Dario’s birthday and I wanted to go to the farmacia across the street and get a birthday card—I thought I’d get some household cleaner as well and pick up some munchies. I went to the pharmacy and, obviously, there was nothing [like that] there. When I asked the pharmacist where the cards were, she looked at me and said, ‘This is a pharmacy.’
On a deeper level, one of the hardest things to overcome is the feeling of losing your independence. I was always very independent—I moved to New York at 17 and prided myself on that quite a bit. It was hard to go from that to not having a choice but to depend on other people to get you by for at least the first couple of months. I couldn’t speak the language. I didn’t know how to fill out a document. And there’s this weird guilt that you should be feeling grateful 100% of the time because you’re so lucky to live here. So many people want to be in your shoes, so you should not be sad. You feel guilty for feeling that way, but that’s not sustainable or true or helpful.
WiR: Do you feel like having an Italian partner has made it easier or harder to integrate? And how?
KRB: There is another set of challenges. It’s very much that. I feel guilty having to constantly ask him for help or to come with me somewhere because I don’t know how to talk about a medical issue or certain documents. I have made up a narrative in my mind that I am annoying him—it goes back to that feeling of losing your independence. With that comes a loss of identity and wondering who you are without your partner.
WiR: How has your view of Italy changed since you moved here?
KRB: It eventually hits you that you start to understand the difficulties of living here and that things aren’t so shiny and great. I’m still completely amazed by this country. But when you’re living here and when you’re traveling here, they are two very different things. When you’re living here, you have to start filling out documents and going to the doctor and figuring out the health system—the little things that you don’t have to worry about when you’re traveling. It’s also about integrating yourself into a culture that’s completely different than the one that you know. You almost feel like you’re five years old again and relearning how to do life.
When you grow up in a country, you kind of adapt to the not-so-great things about it. At that point, you’ve had time to accept them. Now you’re doing the same thing all over again as an adult in a new country. I love this country, but I’ve come to understand the parts that I don’t like, that are not my favorite, like the bureaucracy or that it’s not as mental-health-forward as I was used to in New York. I think the culture of slowing down that happens here is incredibly beautiful, but it’s not what I’m used to. Sometimes all I want is the hustle and bustle—let’s get it going.
WiR: What advice do you have for Americans that want to move to Italy?
KRB: Keep an open mind. Be open to learning and be open to adapting in all things, good and bad, and you’ll be okay. It’s not always easy, but it’s 100% worth it.
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