Wednesday, August 26, 2015

10 Things You Should Do BEFORE Moving to Italy

“Open my heart and you will see graved inside of it, "Italy".”  Robert Browning

Do you want to sell it all and move to Italy?   I've had the joy of living in Rome for the last few years and I am thankful for that amazing experience.  I still didn't realize the kind of pull Italy has on so many of us until last summer.  During a stay in Washington DC I took my sons to the Koshland Science Museum.  One of the interactive exhibits asked people to write down their biggest dream; as I browsed through the answers I was shocked to find so many entries about visiting, touring, and even moving to Italy.  I realized at that moment I was one of the lucky ones who was actually living the dream.  I also consider myself a realist and I know that even if you think you are living the dream, there are some days when you can have a nightmare or two...

Have you read the news about Italy lately?  You'll see words like "crisis, strikes, decline.."  What is that all about?  Italy is as wonderful as it is complicated, you can choose which side to dwell on, but you still have to live with both.

If you are visiting Italy (read this first!) you can concentrate on the beauty, the art, the wonderful cuisine and the wine.  But if you are moving there you do have to open your eyes completely and see the reality of the daily life.  Here are some pointers that will make your move a little less complicated:

  1. Learn the language, learn the language, learn the language!  Your experience will be completely different if you can communicate and eventually meet local friends.  The Italian language is beautiful but its grammar is very complex.   Any time you put into it will pay off at the end.
  2. Change your mind set.   Easier said than done.  Take the time to observe, and absorb the culture.   Read about it (I personally recommend "As Romans Do"by Alan Epstein), watch Italian films, get to know the local idiosyncrasies...  Do as the locals do (if you insist on finding eggs for breakfast you'll be disappointed, if you change to coffee and cornetto, you'll find yourself in the right place all the time!)
  3. Be patient!  Everything happens at a different pace over there.  Slow down and enjoy the vino!
  4. Make connections.  In Italy you're a stranger or you're family.  When you first get there you'll be a stranger, it takes time to make connections, start with your local market vendors, practice the Italian you've learned, be patient.  Try to go the same stores so the clerks recognize you and  you'll eventually become family.
  5. Enjoy your surroundings, if you are having a bad day, go for a walk around town and it will remind you of the reason you moved there in the first place.
  6. Look for a support group.  Find other expats in your city, they know what you're going trough and can help you when you hit a road block.
  7. Take it easy!  Rome wasn't built in one day.  And your life in Italy won't be either.  Italian bureaucracy is known for being complicated beyond belief and just the fact of  moving can be very stressful, so take it easy!
  8. Travel! Even after you settle in one city, there are 20 very different regions in Italy.   Venture out to the not-so-touristy ones.  See as much as you can, they are all wonderful!
  9. Stop comparing!  There is nothing helpful about comparing your new life to your old one.  If you moved there with children, read this! One Easy Think you Can Do to Help your Kids Adjust to a New Culture.
  10. Be patient!  The first year it's all about settling in, if you survive it you passed the test, you've made it! Every time after that will be a bonus.  

I hope these tips can help all the serious Italophiles have a better reality when they get to live the dream.

Arrivederci for now,

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Beware, we are in Ferragosto

"When all else fails, take a vacation" Betty Williams

Hello! If you are in the northern hemisphere I  hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer.  If you were in Italy right now, you would be immersed is some strange but lovely phenomenon called Ferragosto.

So what is Ferragosto?  Officially, Ferragosto is an Italian holiday celebrated on August 15 a tradition born 2,000 years ago when the Romans celebrated the end of the grain harvesting season with well-deserved festivities and a break from work.  The Church being unable to stop the festivities added the celebration of the Assumption of Mary to August 15.  But to say Ferragosto is a summer holiday would not be even scratching the surface.

In Itay and many other parts of Europe, most people take their vacation during the month of August (Agosto in Italian, hence the second part of the Ferr-agosto word).  If you are planning to  travel to Europe during the month of August make sure you book your accommodations well in advance, unless you want your only overnight option to be a yacht for 36,000 Euro a night; been there, have not done that.

But let's look a little more into the realities of Ferragosto:

  • As every employee wants to take their vacation during the month of August many small businesses just close completely for a couple of weeks in August.
  • If you are trying to get anything done during the month of August, Forget About It!  Just accept the fact that everyone you have to deal with is on vacation, about to go on vacation or not even there.
  • You can basically scratch the month of August from the calendar and join everyone else at the beach (like Sperlonga or Vieste) or the cooler mountains.
  • Be prepared for tons of traffic anywhere near the ocean.
  • If you decide to stay in the city, enjoy the abundance of parking spaces and zero traffic but remember, most businesses will be closed and is really too hot to do anything anyway.
  • There is even a word in the Italian language for the day when everything goes back to the normal daily routine:  "Rientro" meaning re-entry, after Ferragosto, or course.  
  • Look for the religious festivities of the Assumption of Mary, being one of the most popular celebrations the one in Siena.

As I day dream of past Ferragostos and get ready to continue the tradition this year, I hope you are enjoying the warm and long days of summer.

Arrivederci for now,