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).

Travel To Saint Vincent, Italy, For Poker, Hot Springs And A Hot Time

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

 

See Something You Like? Sharing Is Caring.

Newsletter

(The newsletter is rad and you’ll get things that everyone else doesn’t. Winning!)

images

Top 7 Weirdest Rituals In Italy

Everything in Italy is a weird ritual from blessing babies, to Mary’s flying through the air and chasing down a crucified Jesus, to ironing sheets. Seriously, a whole lot of weird going on. Since I don’t have all of the time in the world to go through ALL of them, I’ll have to settle for the top 7 weirdest rituals in Italy.

Baptism: When my niece was baptized I remember standing at the church door just thinking that the entire thing was objectively kind of weird. They basically put my infant niece in a wedding dress (like they were marrying her to Jesus), walked her up to the front holding her on the left side like a football (right side for boys) for good luck, strapped a garter belt on her head, and then handed her off to the priest who looked slightly drunk, and dangled her in the air all Lion King before dumping water on her and pissing her off. 

circle

Death: My husband told me that when his grandpa died they held the viewing in his house, so, there was just a dead grandpa hanging out, in the house, for days. It seems like the kind of thing that might traumatize kids. I asked him what would happen if someone was hit by a car, or otherwise mangled, “would they bring them into the living room to just like, hang out, so you’d be watching jeopardy with your uncle trying to ignore the fact that his head had been lopped off. How does that work?” He stared at me and walked off, probably to find a therapist for his ptsd. 

Another weird death tradition is that in the older generations widows wore black for the rest of their lives. In my old neighborhood of Campo Di Marte, an entire group of widows would hold hands and walk around the block together clad in black, like a little cluster of sad rain clouds.

I read that rich Italians from way back used to hire a “wailer,” to come and wail at the grave of the diseased. I’m not sure if that’s true but it brings to mind a lot of questions like, how does one get that job, and are there different prices for different levels of loud mourning? Twenty-bucks for weeping, thirty for crying, and fifty for an extremely loud ugly cry?

29e69875d5eb126d3808d2ed95d77a5b

EASTER: Easter is when shit really gets weird in the boot. My family takes a sticky ass jam jar to the church to fill it up with holy water. Back at the apartment for Easter lunch my MIL will dip rosemary into the jar and splash it around the table. Once she threw it in my face and screamed, “baptismo!”

In Florence they basically blow up a cart. I read that it’s done to celebrate the First Crusade, which is kind of shitty since it’s basically the celebration of murdering hundreds of thousands of muslim men, women, and children (maybe they could rethink this one?), in Prizzi in Sicily they have the Dance Of The Devils where people dress up as devils and harass people in the street. In Sulmona, Abruzzo, a statue of the Madonna is marched in. When she apparently lays eyes on the dead Jesus, she is sprinted across the square to him. During the sprint, her black cloak falls off and doves fly out.

easter-prizzi

Exorcism: The movie, The Exorcist, scared the living shit out of me when I saw it. I don’t even like the “E,” word, which immediately brings to mind an evil teenager crab-crawling across the floor, throwing up pea soup, and smashing her va-jay-jay with a cross. Nuh-uh, no thank you. So, you can imagine my horror when a friend of ours in southern Italy casually mentioned that he and his girlfriend had gone to their priest for an exorcism due to their recent stint of “bad luck.”

1973, THE EXORCIST

Reading Coffee Grounds: Most of the worlds traditions are actually pagan because as much as organized religions have historically tried to get rid of it (covering it up or renaming old traditions), our world is rooted in our ancestry, which was earth-based. So, as much as Italians are Catholic, they’re super, super pagan. Almost all of their traditions date back to the roman pagan times and a lot of the older generation, especially in the south, still practice a lot of pagan rituals. Like witches. My husband’s grandmother, for example, used to read coffee grounds in the bottom of cups and predict good or bad luck in the future.

Ironing Sheets: This isn’t a REAL ritual, but since every female Italian person I know does it with dedication and an almost religious fervor it basically could be. They’re REALLY into ironing sheets. And towels. They’re really into cleaning in general. Except for those nasty Italian women who lived in our old Statuto apartment before we did. Those assholes and their two-hundred ferrets were gross.

Throwing Salt: Recently Francesco was making pizza and he spilled some salt on the ground. He quickly pinched some from the salt bowl and threw it over his shoulder.

“What the shit are you doing? Are you planning on vacuuming after this?”

“Huh? Oh. Bad luck,” he grinned.

Apparently, Google says that this comes from the idea that spilling salt is bad luck, and the devil is always standing behind you, so throwing salt over your left shoulder (into his eyes), distracts him from causing trouble. Which seems wildly illogical to me. Everything that I’ve heard about the devil (mainly from my terrifying mom who has never learned how to be delicate in the delivery of terrifying information), dictates that he’s a super scary asshole. It’s probably best not to piss him off by temporary blinding him. Right?

IMG_1411

If there are any other strange rituals that you find particularly interesting in Italy, I’d love to hear about them! Tell us about them in the comments below. And, don’t forget to share this post, and share the weird.

AAAAAAND, THIS IS A C.O.S.I Post! Check out what my brilliant blogging friends from around Italy had to say on the same subject!

Rick’s Rome: Ridiculous Rituals In Italy/Under The Puglia Sun

Sicily Inside And Out: Culture Shock In Sicily

Sex, Lies, and Nutella: Coming Soon

An Englishman in Italy: Coming Soon

Girl in Florence: Coming Soon

 

 

 

SPRING BREAK ITALY: AGRITURISMO ECO-TRAVEL EDITION

 

2

Years ago one of my good friends and I rented a car and drove from Florence south towards Salento, Naples, and Capri. I’d just started dating Francesco at the time so we stopped on the way to have lunch with him in an agriturismo in Cassino. I met his best friend, Fusco, who seemed concerned about the hunting knife in my purse (mostly for cutting canvas cause art student, but also because rapists…chop chop), and also worried about my mental stability when I kept referring to a donkey as a “tiny horse.” I get it, my sense of humor takes some getting used to (but seriously, it’s basically a little fuzzy horse with derpy teeth). The agriturismo where we had lunch was surrounded by a garden and a small farm. Where, apparently, all of our food came from which was fine for me because I ordered a vegetarian meal. Yay, pasta. As a parting gift Francesco sent me off on my weekend vacation with a vat of local honey and an entire wheel of some kind of hard cheese. An. Entire. Wheel. It was sweet and also the single weirdest thing a guy has ever gifted me. “Enjoy your trip. Here’s a block of cheese.” Ever since, I’ve been in love with these charming little places. 

Farm to table isn’t incredibly uncommon in Italy which is awesome because the produce you get is fresh, ripened on the vine, full of vitamins, and tastes like delicious bursts of orgasmic awesome in your mouth. Plus, it’s better for the environment, the culture, and Italy’s economy. Eco-travel, baby, and I’ve been all about it lately. Why? Well, because in a global world like ours everything is mass produced from fifty countries away, a persistent global culture (Starbucks, McDonalds, Hilton) is permeating the fabrics of every society and the places we love to visit, to explore, to enjoy because they are different, are vanishing (example, Starbucks in Italy. WTF? WHY!? You don’t need a goddamn mochacchino that bad, buddy). The best way to help places retain their amazing individuality is with conscious travel. Let’s face it, if we want to vacation in an American Italy, we can just go to New Jersey, otherwise, let’s appreciate the real, legit Italia and revel in its weird magic. 

So, how does eco-tourism work? Basically, you just travel in a more badass way than usual, a more authentic way. Instead of resorts, you experience the real country and meet actual local people who feed you local cuisine. Sounds nice, right? Totally is. Trust me, you’ll be so into it. 

1

STAYING AT AN AGRITURISMO

In spirit of March and spring break, I give you a mini guide to eco-tourism via an agriturismo in Italy. You’ve still got time to plan a super fun, authentic vacation and stuff your gorgeous face with some farm to table freshness.

AGRITURISMI IN ITALY

Agriturismos are absolutely epic. They’re usually situated in places where you’ll be completely submersed in local culture, food is grown on-site (often organic, including wine, honey, and olive oil), and most are owned by families who will often make all kinds of cultural excursions or activities available to you. The architecture of these places is another bonus, they’re usually old, charming, and made out of large rocks (in a good way) and romantically rustic. It’s what most of us think of when we picture Italy. Why are they more Eco than hotels? They use less resources, food travels a closer distance (usually ten feet away), the smaller gardens are better on the soil with more sustainable farming practices, and you’re interacting more with local culture. Also? Did I mention romantic? Cause they will make your panties (or boxers) drop. Seriously, I stayed with Francesco in a farmhouse in Tuscany that had a fireplace in the room and gooood lawd. 

Places you definitely want to check out:

This monastery in Umbria on ecobnb

This gorgeous farmhouse in Marche

Hundreds of farmhouse options for every region to fit every budget on agriturismo.it

A list of even more fantastic agriturismo accommodations

Book your trip, a weekend, a week, a month, and let me know how it goes or if you have any questions, put them in the comments below! Been to a really great agriturismo in Italy? Share it below!

THIS IS A COSI POST! CHECK OUT THESE AMAZING POSTS BY MY BLOGGING BROTHERS AND SISTERS: 

Rick’s Rome: Favorite Spring Destinations in Italy

Girl in Florence: http://girlinflorence.com/?p=12562

Sicily Inside & Out: An Early Easter in Sicily

Sex, Lies, And Nutella: Food Traditions That Win Easter

 

5 Ways To Stop Hating Your Expat Experience

When I first moved abroad I was going to school and it was one of the best experiences of my life. That wuickly turned sour once I began dating an Italian man and began working and living in Italy as if it were my homeland.

But it wasn’t my homeland. Which was the entire reason I wanted to be there and yet…

It wasn’t my culture, my friends and family weren’t there, and I felt like an outsider every minute of every day. It didn’t help that my boyfriend’s family were the least welcoming people in the entire world and his friends were skeptical of my American-ness. Seemingly scared that at any minute I’d pull George Bush out of my bra and start attacking people with McNuggets. 

I quickly fell into a very dramatic depression and developed a strange form of agoraphobia. It wasn’t fun. And this continued for years

 

i apparently only have one boob that sticks out of my side. get over it.

 
I finally snapped out of it I realized that part of the reason I felt like I was floating, was because I was acting like the experience was temporary. I didn’t have regular hangout spots where I knew the people working, I didn’t attend expat events, or go to events at all, my entire life had become about day to day fighting my shitty feelings instead of building a life in Italy. Expat depression is very different than regular depression because it’s situational, and very few people seem to understand that it’s a thing. 

“But you’re in Italy!” Was the common response I received from friends back home. I was in Italy, a beautiful country that I’d always adored. But I was sad and alone and who gives a shit about cool buildings and great food when you’re sad as fuck? Nobody. 

In order to change my situation I had to follow these 5 Steps To Stop Hating My Expat Experience: 

1. Realize that my depression was situational and I had two choices: Force myself out of it or dump my sexy boyfriend/husband (he was my bf then became my husband, I didn’t have both a bf and a husband…that would be exhausting) and return back to ‘Merica.

2. Form habits and actually put myself out there to create roots. I started going to the same bar every day for coffee with Oliver and I started to ask the barista questions. Sure, his barista wife thought that I was hitting on him and glared at me at first, but afterwards they started to smile and say, “hey! ME and Oliver!” when I’d enter and as small and weird as it sounds it made me feel more at home. 

3. I started to go to events and make expat friends. This was hard for me because I’m not the most outgoing chic in the world. I’m kind of reserved, I swear like a sailor, and I have a tendency to make inappropriate jokes when I’m uncomfortable. Still, I somehow made friends in spite of myself and the more we got to know each other the less I wanted to stab out my own eyes every morning. Try taking dance classes, cooking classes, go to art shows, make projects and invite others to join in, host dinner and a movie night or game night at your place. Just put it all out there. Your friend making self. Not your lady pillow or you penis park. Keep those to yourself in public. 

4. I had to stop caring what people thought of me. For years I felt really out of place for being foreign to the point of being apologetic for it. And why? I was different but who gives a shit? Once I became totally fine with being the American at all of Francesco’s family and friend hangouts, and I was able to laugh at myself and our differences, I stopped feeling like such a freak. 

5. Write it all down. I’m a writer, but I shy away from writing about my feelings or complaints. However, my therapist a long time ago told me to rant on paper then either burn it and go back and read it a month later when I was having a good day. I remembered his advice and once I started to do it I felt immensely better. Some I burned, some I went back and read later, and I have to tell you that nothing will embarrass you or make you motivated to make changes like reading one of your highly emotional rants a month before. Very effective in terms of forcing yourself to think differently. 

You’re not alone, you can do this  . If you try these five steps you’ll be feeling better in no time, friends. Please keep me updated on your journey!

Have you ever experienced expat or travel depression? What did you do to feel better and get out of the rut? Help out our struggling expat brethren by commenting below! 

*if you’re having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please tell friends and family and get help. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to loved ones or professionals when you need it. 

You Put Out

Francesco recently tried to learn American slang. 

Male Friend: Hey remember when your husband, the sexy Italian, took me on a date? 

Me: Yeah

MF: And we went to Sundance. 

Me: Yeah. 

MF: That was fun. 

Me: Francesco said that you put out. 

MF: hahahaha. 

Later….

Me: Then I said, “He said you put out.” 

Francesco: huh? What does it mean? 

Me: Put out. Like had sex, sort of. 

Francesco: ha! I put it all out somewhere! 

Me: nope

F: No? 

Me: Nope. Not how slang works. 

F: oh…put it all…

Me: Nope. 

F: sigh. Fine. 

Christmas Insanity: A COSI Post

image via sleepshirt.com

Ah, the holidays in December, the wonderful time of year when you accidentally jam your mother-in-law’s head in a hair dryer, that lovely month where your mom gives you a framed family picture that she’s photoshopped your dead brother into. Oh, December, oozing with spiced wine, hot toddies and cheer. And the house is filled with threatening music as your Italian husband dances around singing “you better watch out,” over and over again because he only knows that one line from Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. And guys, you had seriously better watch out. 

I don’t know about all of you but the holidays are always pretty damn crazy for me. Let’s take this year, for example. Tonight kicked off my holiday week with Yalda, or the Persian Winter Solstice. We ate about 9 billion things that my aunt cooked. Then, my dad blasted Persian music and commanded us to all dance in the center of the living room while my aunt filmed it, then I had to chase my frosting covered dog around to clean his face after my brother realized that the little shit had been sneaking sugar cookies out of a bowl. All the while a woman in a white suit with enormous shoulder pads shaked, and shimmied on the t.v., singing some Persian song about love. My 11 year old little sister asked, 

“Will you give me a baby for Christmas?” Because she wants to be an aunt again. 

“No, because it’s illegal to gift babies. And it would be kind of suspicious if I gave you a box with air holes punched in it.” 

She’s been asking me to have a baby for months. A few weeks ago she offered to help me look into “buying a cute one from someone.” Because she’s my sister so she creepy like that. 

Then my dad chimed in that we will never have a baby so Francesco shouldn’t get his hopes up. My aunt, looking very cute and modest with her head scarf on (she’s visiting from Iran), laughed and said, “oh, but tonight is the longest night of the year, you both can have a lot of opportunities tonight.” 

My other sister added, “just eat a bunch of pomegranate sis.” 

And then we all laughed, because in our family it’s apparently way normal to coax each other into a night of heavy mating with the help of aphrodisiacs. 

This is just getting started. This week will be interesting. 

On Christmas Eve, Francesco will make a traditional Italian fish feast of Baccala, clams with spaghetti, and possibly sardines or something, even though this Christmas we’ll be in Utah. I’ll feel anxious about over-fishing and empty oceans while F labors intensely over the meal. Holiday meals are a big deal in Italian culture but especially near the south. Food is huge. His mom has called every day for two weeks to ask, “but what are you making for Christmas Eve dinner?” Then F explains, again, and she’ll quickly jump in with ideas and directions (the same ideas and directions she’s already given 9 times). Then, right before they hang up she says, “and lasagne for Christmas?” And when F says “no ” again for the many-ith time, she switches to a sad tone and with crestfallen eyes goes, “oh,” loud sigh, “okay.” Then F will sometimes tell her to come here to make it for him and she’ll remind him that last year when she came to the US for Christmas, she’d hated it. Like all of it. 

On Christmas this year we will go to my dad’s house followed by my mom’s house. At my moms house my parents will be hungover from their cookie-making tradition, where my stepdad straps on an apron over his bare chest and sings Christmas carols while sipping whiskey and baking 14 dozen amazing cookies. My mom watches him mix batter, pounds Bud Light, and giggles. A jolly night, followed by a “oh what the fuck,” day. Glorious. My little brother and his girlfriend will bring over one of my nephews at some point, and I’ll spend the remainder of my day trying to stop Oliver and the baby from maiming each other, because small dogs and fiesty toddlers don’t mix. Meanwhile, my mom and stepdad will look drained and nauseous in their recliners. My mom will briefly come to life when we open our gifts to declare herself an elf and laugh with Joy about the magic of Christmas. 

After this, Francesco and I will go to the home of my stepdad’s parents, and I’ll gorge myself on delicious food and way too much wine. Then, more likely than not, I’ll say random, weird things, often useless facts about animals, or spout off sex research I recently read in Mary Roache’s book, Bonk. Or, worst case I just drink too much wine and stare off into space or uncomfortably at someone. Francesco and I will arrive home around five and I’ll wonder just how weird I acted and hope that nobody noticed (they notice). 

Francesco and I will crawl into bed and I’ll mumble, “next year we are going to Hawaii because this is exhausting.” 

But next year will come around and we’ll choose family, insanity, and exhaustion again. Because it’s too weird and too important to miss. 

Check out these awesome Holiday COSI Posts From My Badass Friends. 

Rochelle, Unwilling Expat – A Panettone Story

Georgette, Girl In Florence — 10 Holiday Fails From Around The World

Rick Zullo, Rick’ Rome-Christmas In Italy

Italy This Week

Mount Etna Explodes In Sicily.  : Am I the only person who thinks of a really mad old woman throwing a tantrum here? Anyway, Etna is pissed, she exploded into awesome badassery and caused an epic dust-thunder storm. Etna is the most active volcano in Europe and she is terrifying and totally beautiful. The pics are incredible.

7 Things American Can Learn From Italians via Huffington Post: I’m on board with all of them except number seven because who has time to live your life based on what your village thinks of you? How boring.

The Vatican Like You’ve Never Seen It Before: An impressive light show recently transformed the Vatican into a breathtaking light show and you have to see it. It’s truly amazing. “The light show has the blessing of Pope Francis, who released an encyclical on climate change earlier this year, said Louie Psihoyos, another curator and director of the film “Racing Extinction.”‘

Lombardy Bans Burkas: Lombardy, the Nazi right-wing region of Italy makes the decision to ban burkas in public, because religious freedom can suck a di%k.

I’ll be the first (as the daughter of a middle eastern man) to say that I’ve never understood the concept of women covering their head or face. It’s a bit weird in my opinion. I have relatives that do it. My aunt is currently sitting on my dad’s couch with her hair covered. It’s adorable and I love her, I respect her religion and her choices. BUT the whole idea of modesty, blah, blah, blah, is just kind of stupid to me. Vaginas OUT everyone. But really, hiding yourself from everyone but your husband is a little bit like Oliver peeing on stuff he likes, it’s a little bit “MINE, DON’T LOOK AT IT.” I know that a lot of women choose to do it for their faith, to follow their religion, a lot of women love the whole modesty thing, and in some countries women do it to protect themselves from a man’s creepy gaze (and also a scarf looks badass with a giant ponytail and eyeliner if you’re Persian). But maybe we could just raise our men to have self control, take their entitlement away, and tell them that being rapey is bad. I want to punch people in the face all the time, but I don’t because that would be frowned upon by some people.  So dudes, don’t be shitty, and then some women won’t feel like they should wear tents in public.

Also, I get that old books from a long time ago had a big thing with women covering their heads, all those dudes that wrote those holy books had some weird “veil fetish,” I get it. It’s hot. Super religious Jewish women are supposed to cover their heads, Muslims, even christian women covered their hair for a long time. In my opinion it’s a little sexist because men don’t have to cover their faces or heads (except Jewish men a little but I don’t think it’s for the same reason) and I suspect that it might have something to do with mens bias since they wrote the books. HOWEVER, HOWEVER, I’m a firm believer in religious freedom. I believe that everyone should be able to live their lives according to whatever archaic book they believe in (or a new one if you’re Mormon). Personally, I think that “going fourth and populating” (ahem) is a little more dangerous than walking around the street dressed like a ninja everyday (because we have limited planet resources so fucking stop with the ten kids because my kids will want air and water too, damnit). I can’t imagine believing that God told me I have to do something, like wear a burka, then Lombardy telling me I can’t. That would be rough and stressful and alienating. Basically, just let people practice their shit even if you think it’s weird. Unless it’s like the crusades, or an eye for an eye, or throwing babies on rocks, or any of the other sort of murdery weird shit in ALL of those old books. Just be nice. Everyone be nice. Live and let live, ya’ll. And let people wear whatever they want if it’s important to them and their faith.

 

 

Grateful 

  
I just wrapped up a three hour game of Risk with my husband, younger siblings, my dad and my step mom. We had pie and drank coffee. Earlier today, Francesco and I had lunch with my mom, my step dad, my younger brother, aunts and uncles. There may or may not have been some male camel-toe action, cowboy boots, and my mom may have said, “oh yeah! I’ve been eating vegetables, i ate broccoli last week.” 

Man, are families crazy. 

But I’m so grateful for mine. Despite our collective flaws, quirks,  lifestyles, and varied opinions of Donald Trump (wtf?!), I’m happy to have the family I have and the experiences of gained from them. And their sense of humor. My eleven year old sister today made fun of me, “I hate t.v., it totally distracts from me saving the world. Wait, unless you want to watch a documentary.” Touché kid sister. 

Life is good. 

I’m also grateful for my husband. He drives me insane. I thought about creative ways to choke him to death at least three times today. I screamed, “I’m going to stab you!” At least once. But? He’s perfect. He’s so generous and giving and loyal and wonderful. He sings French songs threateningly at me in the car and it’s weird and adorable. Thank you, universe, for giving me too much vodka and dropping me in a bar in Florence. Disney should make a movie about it. Frozen…the margherita version. 

I hope that all of you had a fun-filled (wine soaked) holiday with your insane family. Also? Detail your funny story in the comments below! 

Tanti Baci. And tanti vino.