First Time On Surviving In Italy?

Your First Time Here? STOP. This is not a traditional travel blog. If you’re offended easily or struggle with sarcasm or irony you should skip my website and watch this instead. Also, I swear ALL THE TIME and ramble on about the capybara. You still there? Winning! I’ve Put Together Some Of My Most Popular Posts For You To Start With:

LIFE IN ITALY

21 Ways To Survive Being An Expat 

Why Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives

Christmas In Italy 2013: The Time The Blowdryer Ate My Mother-In-Law’s Head

13 Things That I’ve Learned From Marrying An Italian Man

17 Signs That Italy Might Make You Crazy Or Homicidal

Italian The Hard Way

10 Reasons That I’m Surprised That Someone Married M.E.

In My Husband’s Family, Leaving The Table Is Like Announcing You’ve Eaten A Child 

TRAVEL ITALY

7 Best Things To Prepare You For Italy

Dining In Italy: How To Avoid Making An Ass Of Yourself

Rome With Rick Zullo

Travel Bologna With Sarah Dowling

5 Steps To A Non-Conventional Night In Florence

A Weekend In Chianti

Vacation Apartments In Florence: How To Overcome Writer’s Block (Or Just Hang Out).

MOVING TO ITALY

Moving To Italy: Studying And Living 

Frequently Asked Questions: Jobs, Immigration, Circumcision, Love

31 Reasons You Would Be Better Off In Italy

How To Move To Italy

 

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The Beautiful People Of Italy At A Glance: Summer Italian Style

Italy is beautiful, there’s no denying it, but it’s not just the country that’s pretty. Sure, it’s full of amazing architecture, rolling green hills, and lovely blue skies. The really beautiful things in Italy, though, are the people.  Seriously, it’s totally unfair to the rest of the world. Even the old people are adorable and stylish and I just want to frame them all over my house or lock them in a glass case to just look at them. Seriously, LOOK AT THEM. With that olive skin, the stylish clothes, and the booming confidence, it’s impossible not to stare.

I took these photos throughout Italy from Cellole to Florence. It doesn’t hurt that the backdrops only highlight how goddamn cute the people are with their stupid pretty skin and irritatingly badass hair. I love the summer clothes too, loose fabrics, bold colors, tribal patterns, and low cut v-necks with jeans or slacks despite the 100 degree heat. That is some serious dedication.

Probably the most irritating thing about Italians is that they know how damn cute they are (why wouldn’t they?). The emphasis on beauty and aesthetics is one if the reasons that so much care goes into the way the individuals look, the way the country looks. For this reason, Italy will always be one of my favorite places for fashion and style.

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WWOOOF WWOOF (On Wwoofing In Italy) By Jenni Midgley

Wwoofing has nothing to do with dogs, dogging or doggy. I mention the last two for reasons that will become apparent later. No, WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. If you haven’t heard of it – it’s essentially sustainable farmers who seek help with their land/forest/vegetable patch/pigs/cattle/sometimes children. In return, those who go and help get to stay in a new location anywhere in the world, for little or no expense.

‘’What an amazing concept, it sounds right up my street!’ Well, if you’re savvy about it, it probably is right up your street. The best thing about WWOOFING is your destiny’s in your hands. You do need to know which country you want to be in, so you can’t just sign up and go the next day; that’s just a warning to anyone whose perilously close to running out of money and fancies a WWOOF to dodge their woes. For those sane people who know which country they wanna WWOOF in, congratulations. For a small fee you can become a member of that country’s WWOOF website and then off you go. Well I say off you go, that opens the gateway to a huge list of contact details for farmers who need help, then you have the task of dealing with a huge breadth of options.

I WWOOFED in Italy. For me, WWOOFing was a segueinto a lot of things. Meaning, I’m not much of a tree-hugger but I take a fashionable interest in sustainable living and completely alternative lifestyles. I was hankering to get out of London, sick of wittering away hours of my life on needless journeys to work, so I wanted to throw myself headfirst into something new. I left said job, flew to Rome and ended up right in the heel of Italy on a farm in deepest, sunniest, Salento.

My lovely farm Down by the veg

Having spoken to a lot of those who are on the WWOOF trail, some do it once, some make a life out of it for many years. No two experiences will ever be the same. So, while mine consisted of five weeks with an incredible family and a great work/life balance: five hours work each morning, many afternoons spent on breathtaking beaches, jumping off rocks into the Adriatic and learning how to cook, with ingredients they’d grown, like an Italian boss. There is really no telling what you’ll get.

The big DON’T is: don’t expect your time to be your own. While I was lucky in landing a pair of hosts who I got on incredibly well with (they were three years into it, ex-city dwellers. Incredible parents and farmers by day, swingers by night), all of my time, pretty much, was spent near them. For some people, this is just a big oh-no-no. Which I understand. The five weeks WWOOF was a big ask, I felt like I was in an alternate universe. I really did feel like the world consisted of me, the farm, my ‘family’, my bike and the 10 km radius surrounding me. While I know a lot of hosts will be in all kinds of locations, what I’m saying is WWOOFING ain’t a holiday. It’s not a way to pick a place you want to see and go chill there.

Tractor love

The big DO is: do try everything that’s thrown your way. I’ve never felt as good as when I was stood in a forest in the pouring rain with a swarthy Italian man in a JCB shouting at me to ‘pick up those logs and throw them in’ – those logs were each the size, and weight, of a teenage boy (possible exaggeration) – but, I did it. I really didn’t think I could but I had no choice and afterwards I felt like Wonder Woman. Really.

As always with anything travel related. Use your instinct. When you’re in touch with a few farms and are discussing dates and lifestyles, remember that this is just as much for you as it is for them. They are getting free labour and you are getting free board and food. This also means both parties are entitled to be happy and comfortable. Of the WWOOFing community I’ve met, they’re pretty open-minded and straightforward. Make sure that, before you say ‘yes’ to a host, you’ve asked them the right questions. For instance, it’s not embarrassing to care whether you’ll have WIFI or not but; they might not tell you that upfront. ASK. It’s all those little prep things that will make sure you wind up somewhere you like and enjoy. In the end, that’s what everyone wants.

Staggering sunsets

I  didn’t know I’d wind up with such an awesome, if outlandish couple, but all three of us got on like a house on fire. And they weren’t afraid to sit every night with me and answer ALL of my questions on their alternative activities, often leaving me open-mouthed and feeling like I’d only just been born – so tame are my sexy experiences compared to theirs. Whatever, we struck up a great, if slightly odd relationship. I knew we would because I had sent him lots of emails beforehand. Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, get to know them as much as you can through your contact before you arrive.

What I got in return for said preparation were beautiful sunsets on tap, a whole new way of life was shown to me and I made lifelong friends.

By the way, Salento, Puglia is Italy’s last laugh. I’d never really heard of it before I arrived and my god – it’s a rough, tough paradise! Only Italians seem to know it exists, for now, which makes it all the more beautiful. If you can get there (fly to Brindisi airport from all over Europe) it’s so worth a car and a week of coastline hopping.

Torre dell'orso Another Salento beach (1)

I did feel like I had Stockholm Syndrome when I left (for two days, then I got to Rome and partied like a maniac) so perhaps I should have struck up a healthier balance between leaving the farm and exploring Salento. Like I said be a little assertive when you’re working out what you’ll be doing on your farm.

If you’ve got this far and you’re still interested, here’s the all-important WWOOFing list (by no means extensive):

DO wear a hat or wet your head a lot. I hate this one but if you’re out in the sun all day…neither are sexy but neither is sunstroke

DO be open-minded, say yes to things. I mean this in the working/farming environment…we don’t have to say yes to everything

DO ask questions, not all farmers are hugely outgoing, cabaret-sorts

DO take clothes you don’t care about. I ruined everything

DO take time to consider your country/location

DO your research.

DO ask for rides on the heavy machinery

DON’T expect to wear makeup.

DON’T ever tell a host (especially an Italian one) you can cook

DON’T feel you have to offer yourself to work just because you’re free time is spent on site

DON’T sweat the small stuff, my feet were dirty for five weeks. Get over it

DON’T feel obliged. If both parties are unhappy, nothing’s contractually binding

DON’T bite off more than you can chew. Five weeks for a first time was pretty nuts. I’d probably do two first, if I had my time again

DON’T expect all WWOOF hosts to be swingers

AUTHOR BIO:

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Jenni Midgley is a 20-something writer. She left her 9-5 editorial role in London to reinvigorate her lost sense of adventure and to take more naps by the sea. She currently resides in Bologna, enjoying good food, better wine and writing about what happens whenever she leaves her apartment at jennimidgley.com. She loves Instagram.

Hiking Mount Vesuvius, Italy: Guest Post By Pamela Carey

Over the years we have fallen in love with southern Italy.  Life is exuberant and loud.  Neapolitans are brash, grabbing life as it comes and squeezing tight, as evidenced by the antics of twosomes on scooters or in passionate embraces whenever the mood strikes.  Neapolitans have ruled and been ruled, many times.  They know in the course of human events, cultures are fleeting.  The sea lies in front of them, with Vesuvius behind.

We go annually to the island of Ischia, and must pass through Naples.  Often we linger there, exploring the wonderful archeological museums in the city and nearby sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum.  We savor the Neapolitan pizza “pie” (the best in the world!) and walk the narrow alleys that pass for streets in the Centro, never at night and never with a purse or jewelry worth stealing.  We have taken on the native bravado only in moderation.

Which makes me wonder why we decided to hike to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius.

Here are some facts about 4,200-foot Mt. Vesuvius, the icon of southern Italy:

  • The devastation wrought by the volcano of 79 AD on Pompeii and Herculaneum (killing 10,000-25,000 in ash, poisonous gases in a surge cloud, and/or lava) was not an isolated incident.
  • Among the 100 eruptions since 79 AD were those in 1631, killing 6,000, and in 1794, 1908, and the 1920’s.
  • The last eruption was during World War II in 1944, when lava devastated the town of San Sebastian and others within two miles of the volcano.  A plume of ash rose 4,000 feet in the air.
  • Naples, with 3,000,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area, sits 5.6 miles from Vesuvius.  There is one major highway in and out.
  • It is estimated the caldarium of poisonous gases that swept through Pompeii travelled at 30-40 mph. Lava, heated to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, moved three feet a minute in 1944.
  • Scientists warn that Vesuvius is no less dangerous today, and is merely napping. The Osservatorio Vesuviano (institute) monitors all activity.

There are almost 200,000 visitors a year who trek up to the rim of the cone.  We were not alone.

There is a staging area at which we had to leave our vehicle (1000-car quota). We paid 10 Euros each to walk and obtained walking sticks for an additional fee. We didn’t hire a guide, but picked up a brochure describing the views from the summit. We wore hiking shoes (definitely no flip-flops!), because the trail upward was ash, with many small stones and larger rocks to circumnavigate. Hairpin turns provided occasional benches for rest.

It was hot as an inferno at the summit. Wear sunscreen and a hat.

An indescribable view of the Bay awaited us, with the city of Naples sprawled below and the Amalfi coast visible for fifteen miles. We could even see Capri in the distance.  Toward the rear was the valley decimated in ’44. Even more astounding was the view from the rim down into the volcano (700 feet deep and 1970 feet in diameter). Inside was a perfect cylinder of black at the top of the cone, with stratified deposits downward that resembled the turnings of a screw.  Plants have begun to take root and with them bird species.

We saw tour guides leading groups around the opposite side of the rim, where they could watch the steaming fumaroles. Scientists still report bursts of smoke creeping through the cracks from the magma chamber, five miles deep. With the main fissure plugged by rock, geologists agree any eruption will be explosive.

Which made me realize I wanted down-and-away as quickly as possible!  Easier said than done…the climb down made my legs wobble and my knees lock, braking all the way.  Or maybe it was just my nerves!

Author Bio: 

Climbing Mt. Vesuvius

PAMELA CAREY is the author of Minor League Mom, A Mother’s Journey Through the Red Sox Farm Teams (2009) and Elderly Parents with All Their Marbles: A Survival Guide for the Kids (2014). The mother of Red Sox farm team veterans Tim and Todd Carey, Pamela holds a B.A. from Colby College and an M.A. from Columbia University Teachers College.

A former information director for the Delaware Dept. of Education, she taught in Connecticut, Georgia and Maine. Later, she earned an advanced degree in interior design, and opened Interiors by Pamela in Cumberland, R.I. There, she taught adult education and served in many civic capacities. Pamela and her husband, Charley, are “snowbirds,” residing in Delray Beach, Fla., in the winter and Westport, Mass., in the summer.

Palazzo Belfiore: Possibly The Best Apartments For Rent In Florence, Italy

I’m always traveling. For the past ten years or something I’ve been constantly on the move, either visiting different states in the US or cruising around Europe. I’ve traveled on a college budget (think poor as F%&, sleeping in the airport), and I’ve done the luxury travel thing, too. Nice hotels are fantastic and you feel special and fancy but I always feel a little unsettled, like I’m in between something, a high-end hobo. In recent years I’ve stayed almost exclusively at apartments because I feel at home which is super important because I have OCD, I’m kind of crazy, aaaand I work remotely. Feeling good about where I am is crazy important to me because if I’m uneasy I can become homicidal or depressed or just weird. Thankfully since I travel a lot I’ve finally started to pin-point my fav stops for feeling comfortable without spending a billion dollars. I can “rough it,” I did it for years, but now that I’m older and…old, I’m basically just old, I need a bit more comfort up in my life but I would rather shop than spend a fortune on a room. While I’m still working out the wrinkles in a few of the cities I visit often, I feel like I’ve found a perfect solution for Florence for friends and my family. I just stayed in an apartment so epically badass that I had to write about it because everyone needs to stay at this place and I knew that all of you who love Italy (especially Florence) will be all about it. Seriously, even if you already live in Florence just go stay here because it is goddamn magical. So magical that I actually turned into a knight AND a unicorn.

 

If you’re planning a trip to Florence with family, friends, your kids, your partner, dog, whatever, definitely check this apartment out. Why? For starters it’s a historically amazing place. In 1394 three of the apartments made a townhome that was lived in by people affiliated with the Medici family and the bottom apartment used to be their “farmers” market (since the streets were too dangerous to venture onto). Also, the Clarice apartment, for example, sleeps six, has a huge living room, two bathrooms and has frescos from the 14th century (think, around the time of Leonardo Da Vinci, he probably totally boinked one of the guys that lived there because he had really good taste when it came to rooms and boinking…I imagine). The rooms are well-equipped with a kitchen, insanely comfy mattresses, adequate closet space, and decorated old school. Every second you’re in the apartment your brain is like, “HOLY SHIT I’M IN ITALY IN THE OLDEN DAYS!” Except there is modern plumbing, and a bidet, and no plague. It’s the best of all the worlds! All of the apartments are different and have cute names: Bianca Cappello, Lorenzo Il Magnifico, Clarice (my personal fave), Cosimo il Vecchio, Leone X, Caterina, and Francesca. They all fit a various number of people (the apartments, not the women…pervs) and I honestly cannot think of a better place for a bride and groom to stay the night after their wedding, on their honeymoon, or for a badass family vacation (Caterina has an upstairs loft, and 3 bedrooms… fits 6 super comfortably) or you can go with friends and split the apartment expenses to make it crazy cheap. I can’t see myself staying anywhere else or putting my family anywhere else in Florence. Oh! And my room had a sword in it! A SWORD! F was not excited that I had access to a sword or that I kept yelling, “I am a knight! Obey!” at him.

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I don’t actually have a beard in real life. I don’t know what’s happening here.

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The living room! Look at those gorgeous frescos!

Probably the best thing about the apartments though are the details that the management puts into the place. Federico Bonechi and his sister Francesca are from Florence, they know everyone, and they are amazing. I don’t like very many people enough to gush over them but seriously, they were so damn nice and helpful and I met so many great Florentines just by standing outside with Federico for five minutes and having a coffee with him nearby. Federico didn’t even smack me when I showed up late to the apartment to check-in (because I was having brunch with blogger babes Georgette from Girl in Florence, Gina from The Florence Diaries, and realized too late that a text I sent never sent).

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Federico! He’s handsome and incredibly hospitable.

 

Amenities That Made Me Insanely Happy:

  • Access for disabled people in the Francesco De Medici apartment (doesn’t sound like much but in Florence this is HUGE because most apartments are not wheelchair accessible).
  • Blowdryer AND hair straightener in every apartment (uhm, why the hell do other apartments not have a straightener? I needed this because F exploded mine at his parent’s house because he used it to “test,” a converter, NOT because he was trying to style his chest hair…this time).
  • Shampoo, sewing kit, body wash.
  • First Aid Kit in case you injure yourself with the random swords in the rooms.
  • Really plush, awesome towels.
  • Shower cap (can’t be bothered to wash my hair every day).
  • Washer
  • Vanity Kit
  • Sewing kit (so you can make yourself outfits).
  • 3 AC units (in the Clarice apartment where I stayed). Doesn’t sound impressive? It should, because I stayed in another apartment prior to this one with NO air conditioning in July when it was 100 degrees outside. I actually considered suicide multiple times per day.
  • Fresh in season fruit, and a nice bottle of Banfi, Tuscan wine (which I immediately guzzled like a rabid housewife) that they set out as a welcome gift for all guests. Seriously, how cute is that?
  • A special tea blend called Palazzo Belfiore made by a local tea house and it is freaking delicious. I like tea but I don’t love it. This blend I loved enough to bottle and carry around with me all day. They must put fairy crack in it.

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Services Upon Request (I will be taking advantage next time):

  • Housekeeping (40 bucks per day)
  • Dryer Service (clothes are returned folded)
  • Grocery Shopper (15 dollars)
  • Personal Shopper
  • Beauty service in your apartment
  • Breakfast in your apartment
  • Private driver and/or private tour booking
  • Italian language and cooking courses (in your apartment or in groups).
  • Private cook in your apartment
  • Luggage storage

Palazzo Belfiore is located on the Oltrarno in Florence, or as I like to call it, legit Florence. If you cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge and cruise over towards Santa Spirito you’ll find yourself in the same ‘hood as Palazzo Belfiore and here is where you’ll find tons of artisan shops, amazing restaurants, art, antiques, Made In Italy clothing, shoes, and general badassery. It’s my favorite area in Florence next to Campo Di Marte (Again, I’m oldish and Campo is chill). Belfiore is located between the main four points of the Ponte Vecchio, Santa Trinita, Santa Spirito, and is right next to Palazzo Pitti. It’s also right next to Piazza Della Passera, one of the few streets in Florence that was not rebuilt after WWII so it’s exactly as it was centuries ago.

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Quattro Leoni one of the last remaining lions in stone (if you concentrate on the gray cement).

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Santa Spirito

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Historic street in Florence near Palazzo Pitti, Via Toscana

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Local caffe around the corner from Palazzo Belfiore

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Palazzo Pitti

If you’re interested in booking an apartment email Francesca or Federico for pricing or bookings (you’ll get a better deal if you book directly instead of on a third-party site because they give discounts: info@residencebelfiore.it

Artisans Near Palazzo Belfiore:

Silvia Nesti: www.silvianesti.com she works with silver

Rentato Olivastri: www.olivastrirestauri.it he is a theacher in the Scuola del Restauro

Enrico Giannini : Master of the paper

Luigi Mecocci: Master of restauro

LIVE IT LOCAL: Such a great video, short, sweet, and full of places to go and things to try along with local artisans, cafes, restaurants, and even cake shops.

Recommended Restaurants In Florence: 

Classic Mid-range Tuscan Food (within € 40 per person):

Toscanella – Via Toscanella 32r – Tel. +39 055 285488

Magazzino – Piazza della Passera 2/3 – Tel. +39 055 215969

4 Leoni – Piazza della Passera 5 – Tel. +39 055 218562

Il Santo Bevitore – Via Santo Spirito, 64/66 – Tel. +39 055 211264

La Casalinga – Via dei Michelozzi, 9r – Tel. +39 055 218624

Lungarno 23 – Lungarno Torrigiani 23 – Tel. +39 055 2345957

Classic mid-high Tuscan food (€ 40 and up per person):

Buca dell’Orafo – Volta dei Girolami 28 – Tel. +39 055 213619

Coco Lezzone – Via del Parioncino, 26r – Tel. +39 055 287178

Mamma Gina – Borgo San Jacopo, 37 – Te. +39 055 2396009

Classic top Tuscan food (€ 50 up per person):

Cammillo – (Casual)

Buca Lapi – (smart casual – only open for dinner)

Borgo San Jacopo 57r – Tel +39 055 212427

Via del Trebbio 1r – Tel. +39 055 213768 (top end of Via dè Tornabuoni)

Vegetarian Restaurants:

5 & Cinque – piazza della Passera, 1- Tel. +39 055 2741583

Brac – Santa Croce Area – Via dei Vagellai 18/R – tel +39 055 0944877

Le Vespe Cafè – Santa Croce Area – Via Ghibellina, 76 – Tel +39 055 3880062

Il Vegetariano – Piazza San Marco Area – Via delle Ruote 30r – Tel. +39 055 475030

 

 

My Mother-In-Law Is Stalking M.E. And It’s Hilariously Traumatic

It isn’t uncommon for moms everywhere to be on top of their kids like, “flies on shit,” as my mom would so eloquently say and Italian moms are no different. Italy is famous for the food, the beauty, and the tight-knit families which naturally include Italian moms who are known for being great moms. They’re sometimes teased for being crazy moms that occasionally try to re-womb their adult children like in this ad from Norway. Apparently, that ever-present helicopter mothering can go on until their kids are elderly. I once saw an old Italian mom clad in widow black lecture her elderly daughter on a street corner, passionately waving her cane around. The daughter who was also wearing widow black and looked to be in her seventies or eighties argued back indignantly until eventually teetering away with her mom yelling in hot pursuit.

Sometimes the helicopter mothering can be crazy, other times sweet, and every once in a while it’s downright comical in a “holy shit,” kind of way. F isn’t Mammoni, but when my MIL is around she takes full advantage of her time by being ever-present, kind of like a stealth ninja. Over the past week my MIL has been stalking us while we stay at her home. Somehow, no matter what we do or where we go she’s there. Almost magically like she materializes out of thin air. She’s given me so many heart-attacks I’m worried about my cardiovascular health AND it’s made me a little paranoid. I actually checked under my bed and behind the bedroom door the other day. Yes, seriously.

One night, after being surrounded by people for a long ass time, were desperate enough to “be marital,” in my in-law’s guest room because we are idiots. It was 2 a.m. so we thought we were safe to make the boom-boom. After, I tip-toed to the bathroom (ain’t nobody got time for a UTI) through the pitch-black hall, passed my in-laws room. I reached out for the light switch on the outside of the bathroom door and right as my finger felt the plastic nub, I heard the thundering voice of my MIL from her doorway scream for my husband “FRANCHEH!” I reeled back, totally scared shitless. I stood motionless in the dark hallway, listening to her breathe only a few feet from me. Francesco responded from the guest room where he’s drifting off to sleep (how typical?) “Yeah Mom?” I opened the bathroom door and closed it quietly wondering if she’d somehow managed to hear us doing the nasty despite our attempt to be absolutely silent, like two corpses in love, silent. Had she seen me standing in front of her in the hallway or did she just hear me and assume it was F?  She continued to Francesco, “Turn on the fan on in your room and don’t open the window too much! You’ll get sick or someone will sneak into your room at night!”

“Okay mamma,” he replied.

I waited in the bathroom for a minute, hoping she’d go back to bed so I didn’t have to face her. Finally, I snuck back to the bedroom. I whispered to F, “Holy, shit. Do you think she heard something?” while crawling back into bed.

“Oh, gross! Ugh! I don’t want to think about it, honestly.”

We both stared at each other for a minute and drifted off to sleep feeling like we needed to take bleach showers with a scrubby brush.

***

It was Sunday morning so Francesco and I woke up a little bit late and slowly got ready to head over to my Sister-In-Laws house for our nieces birthday party. I teetered into the bathroom, noticing that the house was quiet and seemingly empty. I piled my hair on top of my head and secured it with a few bobbi pins, brushed my teeth with my electronic toothbrush that sounds suspiciously like a vibrator, and rubbed some creme de viso face wash into my cheeks. I rinsed my face and reached my arm out into the air to feel around for a towel, burying my face into it to pat it dry. I removed it and opened my eyes to find my MIL Standing in the bathroom with me, her hands on her hips, her face two inches away from mine.”CLOSE THE WINDOW,” she barked, gesturing to the window behind me. I jumped back, nearly tripping over the bidet and screamed, “WHAT THE MOTHER FUCK!” in English (which she can’t understand) because for a second I thought I was about to get ax murdered. She shook her head at me like I was insane, rolled her eyes and pivoted out of the bathroom.

***

“It will make you incredibly sick! You’ll hurt your stomach!” My MIL explained to my three year old niece who was begging for water. “No! NO! It’s too COLD!” My MIL held the bottle of chilled water above her head, out of my niece’s reach. “Ma DAI! NONNA!” my niece pleaded, desperate after running in circles in the ninety degree heat.

“No! NO! You’ll get sick!” She said. My niece opened her mouth and let out a shrill scream of frustration, wondering why she was not able to drink water when she was thirsty. I watched, equally as perplexed. What the fuck?

My MIL has decided that along with wind chill, cold water will basically kill you. Drinking cold water on a hot day will destroy your stomach, causing unbearable pain and ruining your life with gastric discomfort. I’d spent my entire life guzzling ice water during the summer and wondered what made me genetically capable of downing the liquid poison? Cold water had yet to make me sick. No matter, I was still forbidden from drinking it, instead we were told that we were only allowed to drink cups of liquid the temperature of fresh urine. Mmmm. Every time someone would raise a cold bottle of water to their lips to alleviate the hot, hot heat she’d burst into the room, pop out behind a door, or spring up behind them, scream, and take their water away. It became a sort of family joke where we’d hide our cold bottles, or sneak away to drink out of them. But once after being outside in the sticky heat, and returning inside to the apartment without air conditioning, Francesco forgot that his mother was lurking. He grabbed a bottle from the fridge, an extra cold one with condensation beads, and started guzzling away. His mom magically appeared in the kitchen like she’d jet-packed in from the balcony upon hearing him swallow, slapped him hard in the back of his head with a massive “THACK.” forcing water to spurt out of his mouth onto the cabinets like a sprinkler. “MOM!” he choked and gagged.

“It’s TOO COLD! DIO MIO!” She grabbed the water out of his hand and slammed the bottle onto the table on her way out of the room.

Francesco turned to me, “ouch!” and we burst out laughing.

***

We went out drinking with friends and returned to my in-laws home around midnight. We crawled into bed and Francesco dozed off right away but I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry and my blood sugar was too low. I tossed and turned, counted sheep, and eventually accepted that I needed to find food. I pulled on my pajamas before padding down the hallway towards the kitchen. I slowly made my way past the office which I assumed was empty since it was the middle of the night. Suddenly, the office light flipped on and my MIL sat up on the office couch, “What are you doing?” She demanded.

I jumped, “Holy shit! Uhm, I’m hungry?”

“There is cheese and bread in the kitchen.” She looked me up and down. Then, while still looking at me, she switched off the light. I stood in the dark hallway for a minute pondering whether or not it was possible that she had super powers. How else could she possibly be EVERYWHERE at every second of the day, always? I pulled some bread and scamorza from the fridge and walked back to the room on-guard yet feeling somewhat safe. Maybe we couldn’t drink cold water, make the boom-boom, or sneak a midnight snack, but least it would be impossible for someone to sneak into our house and murder us.

Going To An Italian Wedding In Italy

Last week Francesco and I attended a friends wedding near Cassino, Italy in Frosinone. I’ve never been particularly fond of weddings, or at least I didn’t used to be, mostly because a lot of weddings involve bored guests who stare absently into the abyss throughout the short reception, praying for it to end so they can get wasted and take off their damn ties and high heels. I love weddings where the guests just go nuts, celebrate, and have a wonderful time by sloppily flailing themselves around a dance floor or giving embarrassing speeches about the brides history of contracting crabs or the grooms decade as a gigilo… You know, fun weddings. After all, weddings are about celebrating love, and two people fusing their lives together despite their sordid past or addiction to fruity tootsie rolls. It should be fun, right? Luckily for me weddings in the south of Italy are usually a blast full of drink, merriment, and organized havoc. Yay!

In the morning of the wedding we got dressed in our “garden party,” best because it was a day wedding which is a hard outfit to pin down in Italy because weddings are surrounded by gossip and reputation is everything in these small towns. Day wedding doesn’t mean much in this part of Italy except for what you wear because the reception still usually goes well into the night. However, we would be eating lunch as the large meal instead of dinner, hence it being considered a “day,” wedding. Anyway, so we got dressed (and I wore a color that wasn’t back!!!! Go ME!) with my MIL pacing behind me saying “your dress could have been a bit sexier,” and “I don’t understand why you think you can do your own hair,” then we walked to the church in the center of Cassino where the bride and groom would be saying “i do.” In Cassino, it’s very rare to have a civil ceremony so pretty much everyone marries in the church whether or not they’re religious. All the guests met out front and waited for the bride to arrive in her cherry red sports car. She was a knockout, naturally.  I loved her backless, lace dress and regretted not wearing something a little more comfortable and sexy at my own wedding. Instead, I crashed down the aisle like a snow monster. She was damn cute (no pic though cause I try to respect people’s privacy and weddings are a big deal). 

We slowly made our way into the church behind the bride and groom. Immediately upon entering we were punished by the July sun because the church can afford a golf ceiling but not an air conditioner. Priorities. Plus, almost nowhere below the Bologna has bloody air conditioning for reasons I honestly can’t understand but I believe it has something to do with the Italians deep-seeded fear of wind and moving air. As we entered the church it was like walking into an oven. It was the first time in Italy that I was actually really stoked to have a vagina because I got to wear a dress while all of the men were suffering in full suits and I was all breezy and fresca. I watched sweat bead down the sides of their necks regardless of how furiously they fanned themselves.

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The ceremony was long compared to the one F and I had because I’m a heathen so they took all the religious stuff out of our “mixed ceremony.” Wew. Thank God. I had to sneak out with the guys a few times to get cold water because there was a real threat of dropping dead from the heat. Dying in a church during a wedding was not how I wanted to go because it would be embarrassing and God would be all “seriously?! Drink water you asshole!” God doesn’t like a wedding crashed either. 

They had a traditional Ceremony and they seemed incredibly happy, beaming tearfully at each other. The groom was all happy and crying but he said it was just swear beads to stay tough for his bros (who regularly wear turquoise pants…so something tells me they wouldn’t mind some crying or bear hugging). I really liked parts of the traditional ceremony and we incorporated some of them too. Like how the mom and dad stop halfway down the aisle in the beginning to exchange their kids, the mom hands her son to his bride, the dad hands his daughter to her groom (which I love) instead of the father “giving the bride away,” like he’s taking her to market for a cow and some chickens. It was also kind of gratifying for my MIL to hand me Francesco. I was like, “I win!!!! Thankyouverymuch! 

When the happy couple finally arrived before the priest in his white and gold robe my brain kind if turned off from heat. The priest talked about Jesus and stuff and then people prayed a lot. They exchanged rings, kissed, and signed the church document.

After the church we piled into cars to head to the reception location for lunch. In this part of Italy everyone has their reception at a restaurant but the restaurants generally have beautiful gardens or are located on mountain tops, etc. This restaurant was on a lake, surrounded by fields of wildflowers, and green grass. Absolutely stunning, and the perfect place for me and Dwayne to act out a scene from a Sophia Loren film. Dwayne would be Sophia, naturally, in Marriage Italian Stylr because sometimes Dwayne gets slutty. At the restaurant we hung out in the garden area with our friends Fusco and Roberto, watching waiters dressed in black bow-ties, carry silver trays of food to banquet tables for aperitivo (aperitif). The men folk huddled in the shade while I obnoxiously photographed them and wished that the waiters would stop rushing oysters to the tables and give us some damn water before we all turned to dust. I’ve probably never been more tempted to drunk lake water but Giardia wouldn’t go with my dress and who knows what explosive diarrhea would do for my reputation. Honestly, probably improve it.  Water did not arrive, but prosecco did, probably not hydrating at all but it numbed our thirst Or gave us brain damage that made us forget our thirst. Either way, prosecco is awesome. When the bride and groom arrived, followed by their paparazzi of photographers (seriously, they had like 7 that traveled in a pack, I’ve never seen anything like it, and I think one of them was also a Prada model that they kidnapped), aperitivo began.  It spanned four banquet tables: The oyster on a half-shell table, prosecco table, shrimp and calimari table, fish under oil, and fried fish table, and the cheese table.

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Bam! Winning at this wedding. #Italy #Travel #wedding

A video posted by Misty Evans (@m_e_evans) on

The reception, ladies and gentlemen. #Italy #wedding #Travel

A video posted by Misty Evans (@m_e_evans) on

Directly after the banquet tables were plundered until totally empty the party was moved inside (where they had air conditioning! yay!) for four food courses of saffron risotto, pasta with flaked fish, shrimp and Baccala. The food is the most important part of the wedding for Italians. For the next week the only question we were asked was, “but, did you eat well?” Even my eight year old neice walked straight up to me the next day to demand to know what we ate at the wedding. 

“Hai mangiato bene, zia?”

“Si” I showered her pictures. 

“Ma, solo questo?” She blinked, meaning “only this?” As in, “you only ate six courses?” 

Sigh, they learn young. Scrutinizing food is part of their livelihood and my little nieces have that shit down and have since about three. My niece also added, “zia, those shoes were a good choice with that dress. Very elegant.” 

Yes, at 8. 

Halfway through the #wedding lunch. Halfway. Ah, Italy! #Italy

A video posted by Misty Evans (@m_e_evans) on

After we ate four courses in the restaurant we were moved outside again for dessert, coffee and more prosecco. The dessert took up another four tables: A gelato table, a cake table with the whipped cream and chocolate wedding cake and ten other tiny cakes from tiramisu to strawberry cream, the tarte table with fruit and cream tarts, and the fresh fruit table full of berries, watermelon, and melon.

When we’d all eaten to the point of wanting to drop dead, the DJ (the same one that did our wedding in 2013) turned up the speakers and started to jam old Italian pop classics like, “Fare L’Amore Comincia Tu,” and “Fa L’Americano.” Our friends went crazy on the dance floor which I made sure to document because holy fuck it was amazing. And! There was some kind of air humping line dancing. Yes, line dancing! Haven’t seen a good humpy line dance since the movie Le Grande Bellezze. 

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Manhandling the groom. @emanueledicarlo84 auguri caro!!!! I love it. #Italy #wedding #Travel

A video posted by Misty Evans (@m_e_evans) on

Dancing, drinking, and general merriment continued until close to midnight, long after the entire wedding was shitfaced, multiple glasses shattered with enthusiastic dance moves, the men had long lost their jackets, unbuttoned their shirts to their belly buttons displaying glorious chest hair of various shades and thickness, and most of the women were barefoot, chucking their heels for comfort on the dance floor. 

And this is the Italy that I love. 

Rules of the Italian Kitchen: Guest Post By Jenny Marshall

In life, there is complicated and there is simple. The former category encompasses astrophysics, Zumba choreography, and divorcing with children. But breathing. Deciding not to wear Crocs in public. Eating. All of these, at least I used to think, fell under the latter.

And it would be so, if it weren’t for those damn Italians! They took a routine motion, something as seemingly simple as lifting food from plate to mouth, and they complicated it with all sorts of rules. Rules my untrained American stomach never imagined existed. Of course, they made the ritual act of eating 1,000 times better in the process, but man have they messed up my wonder-bread-bologne-sandwich game. I now have extreme guilt when I crave McDonald’s soft serve, or really anything that doesn’t resemble a labor of love.

If you’d like to remain blissfully ignorant of Italian culinary rules, read no further. You may be better off for it. If, however, you intuitively find the idea of combining dairy and seafood repulsive, you’re already half way to refinement. You might as well take the next step.

I must preface the following rules by saying that I’ve never actually lived in Italy, and three years residing in Spain doesn’t quite count as the same. I have, however, visited the Boot on four different occasions, staying with Italian locals and families, some of whom adored cooking. (Others, not so much. They have been ex-communicated.) And most influential of all, I’ve lived with and befriended several Italians while in Spain. One has told me that just looking at my typical morning oatmeal makes her nauseous. All have acutely judged me for drinking a cappuccino as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Me in Pisa 1

Through their tough love and brutally harsh mentoring, they have guided me towards the path of enlightenment that is the rules of the Italian kitchen:

1. No cold leftovers.

Cold pizza and pasta join the ranks of blueberry pancakes and Ben Affleck in the list of “Things I Would Like to Wake Up To.” But my Italian friends looked at me with that awful mix of disgust and pity when I declared during our last pizza and movie night, “No one eat the last slice, I need it for breakfast tomorrow.” Apparently congealed cheese and rock-hard dough have no place in a proper diet. So sue me.

2. Gelato just fills in the cracks.

There is always room for dessert. Always. Because actually ice cream is just liquid in a different form, and liquids don’t count. (Same goes for wine.) I feel like my American mother actually invented this rule but the Italians co-opted it and it’s one I can really get behind.

3. Pizza isn’t meant to be shared.

None of this slice business; a true Italian stomachs the whole pie. Sure, the crust tends to be thinner than what we Americans are used to, but I felt like that guy who polished off 200 hotdogs by the time I was just half through with mine. But no one let me off the hook. This was pizza from Naples, which means it’s actually more valuable than the current Euro.

pizza napoli

4. Bread is for doing “little shoe.”

In America, we scarf down a loaf of bread and a liter of olive oil at Italian restaurants before we even start the meal. It’s what I love most about my country. But in Italy, bread isn’t for tiding you over before the main course comes to the table; it’s for cleaning up after you’ve finished. “Fare la scarpetta,” or “do the little shoe,” is some really bizarre Italian idiom that means using bread to wipe your plate clean*. Someone was probably drunk off excellent Italian wine when they thought to use “little shoe” in this way, but it stuck. So don’t fill up on the stuff before the meal, just use it to your aid after the meal.

*Fare la scarpetta your face off but it’s not necessarily polite in formal dining situations.

5. Learn to embrace the metric system.

Bread is sold by weight, and pasta is measured into appropriate portion sizes, about 60-70 grams per person. The American obesity epidemic probably didn’t start from a couple of extra, unmeasured fistfuls of linguine, but one can never be too sure.

6. Avoid pairing certain foods together.

Parmesan cheese makes everything better, right?

WRONG, because dairy mixed with seafood wreaks havoc on the digestive process, or upsets the Pope, or something. Also mixing things that just don’t mix ruins the integrity of the meal, or at the very least doesn’t earn you Michelin stars. I would put Parmesan cheese in my morning breakfast cereal if it didn’t cost $14.99 a pound, but apparently I don’t know how to eat food.

prawns italy

7. Let the experts handle it.

Don’t show up to your friend’s house with the intention of learning to cook like her Neapolitan mother. She has years of practice, generations of family recipes, and Latin blood running through those veins. She may take you under her wing and agree to teach you how to make gnocchi from scratch, and you may have the best intentions in the world of trying. But after struggling to get the perfect curvature on each miniature dumpling and watching your hostess discreetly reshape every failed piece of dough you send her way, simply thank her so much for opening her kitchen to you and in return, offer to open her bottle of wine.

making gnocchi

8. Don’t stop eating.

This is especially true if you’re staying in an Italian household, and it’s the rule of God if you’re visiting over the holidays. People say Americans eat a lot, but that’s misleading. Sure, some American restaurants serve massive portion sizes, but in general Americans consume a lot of calories packed into very small quantities of actual food. Somehow that miniscule, wilting McDonald’s patty contains a year’s worth of saturated fat.

The thing is, Italians eat quality and quantity. And especially over the holidays, they eat appetizers, second appetizers, first courses, second courses, desserts, and barrels of wine. The dishes keep coming, like the host is trying to clean out the pantry before a long trip. But really there are no travel plans. There are just 40 variations of carbs and meat, and you better try them all.

Your pitifully shrunken American stomach is accustomed to “lunch” meaning 10 minutes away from the desk munching on a yogurt and a Cliff bar, so you better adapt fast. Four days clutching your stomach is preferable to insulting the host by putting down the fork prematurely.

9. Even Italians who don’t cook know how to cook.

My roommate’s mother is a badass. She refuses to slave away in the kitchen and rejects the notion that the kitchen is a woman’s domain. She throws together simple pasta dishes, sure, but also has the delivery guy on speed dial, which is almost sacrilege in a country where food equals religion. The mom dislikes cooking but what’s more, claims she doesn’t know how.

LIES.

If she doesn’t know how, then how do you explain our Boxing Day lunch? We’re talking tuna pate, grilled prawns with crudités, calamari risotto, leek and codfish stew, and homemade ginger cookies.

When I say, “I can’t cook,” it’s in reference to blowing up the microwave when I put some Indian takeout in with a metal fork. When she says, “I can’t cook,” it means she’s rarely attempted a 6-course meal, but this 4-course shit? She’s got that down pat.

10. Carbs only weigh down outsiders.

Because the cruel irony is, if you eat like this for a week, you come back five pounds heavier. If you eat like this for a lifetime, you can somehow still wear Valentino.

Arthur Bio:

Jenny Marshall at park guell1

Jenny Marshall writes about all things language, culture, and expat life over at A Thing For Wor(l)ds. Last year she “taught English” to babies in Barcelona, which really meant diaper duty. Luckily she also wrote for her blog and freelance travel outlets, so life wasn’t all just drool and poop. She recently moved back home to California, and is currently experiencing Iberian ham withdrawals. Keep up with her rants at her blog, or by following her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!