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

 

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Newsletter

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

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Where I’ve Been When I’m Not Here

Hey everyone! It’s been a minute and I miss you guys. I’ve been gone partly because I’ve been crazy and struggling with some anxiety and depression but ALSO because I totally finished my book! YEE-HAW!

Now, I’m moving on to making a cookbook with Francesco that will be super fun and awesome. And starting another photography/art book about Italy. FUN STUFF (just need to get this anxiety under control, STAT).

WHAT’S GOING ON IN ITALY RIGHT NOW

Italy: Clashes at anti-government March in Florence: Things got a little out of control in Florence recently during a protest. Renzi has proposed a referendum that will reduce regional power. He says it will streamline parliament, his critics say that it will concentrate too much power federally. Police threw tear gas, Italians threw fire-crackers. One cop was “hurt in the leg.” And as much as I’m sad that anyone was hurt, or that the protest became violent in any way, I sure wish we could learn something from the Italians over here in ‘Merca. If we threw firecrackers at police officers during a protest, I imagine much worse things would happen. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37886766

REVIEW: Elena Ferrante’s New Book: Frantumaglia: Alright, you guys might hate me but I don’t LOVE Elena Ferrante’s work. Sigh. I KNOW. Everyone loves her except for me and one of my best friends who discovered her together in a book club. Her writing is fantastic, but I have a hard time with her characters who are often really extreme female stereotypes, the insecure, self-loathing and petty stereotype or the martyr stereotype. However, that being said, her writing is beautiful and her books are based in the area that Francesco grew up. Reading her work is a great way to pull something about the culture of the place.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maria-laurino/review-elena-ferrantes-ne_b_12775280.html?utm_hp_ref=italy

Two Former Nuns Celebrate Their Love For Each Other In Italy: Two nuns recently left their convent to marry each other in Italy. All I have to say about this is, “awe.” It’s incredibly courageous, especially given their faith. It must have been very hard for these women to openly do what they’re doing. Love is love is love is love. And? I always wondered about nuns… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/former-nuns-marriage-italy_us_57ed31e2e4b082aad9b999cf?utm_hp_ref=italy

What’s new with you guys? Are you excited/terrified for the upcoming election on Tuesday?

Have Questions About Moving to Italy?


This Sunday at 9:00 am Mountain Time I’ll be hosting a live Q&A on FB. You can ask just about anything related to my Italian experience or any questions you might have about studying or moving to Italy yourself.

You can find the event on my FB page, let me know if you’re attending, start a discussion. And come hang out this Sunday. Seriously, I totally don’t want to be hanging out and talking to myself. More than I already do. 

Authentic Italian Cooking With Francesco: Ragu And Tagliatelle

Hello all!

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So, many of you already saw our instagram announcement that Francesco is making a series of cooking videos. Well, the first two are now live on Youtube. Woo-Hoo!

How To Make Authentic Italian Ragu

How To Make Tagliatelle By Hand

We will be using more professional cameras (if you’re wondering why I did a vertical shot, it was the only want to capture his head and what he was doing at the same time) in the future BUT for our first run it’s not nearly as insane as it could have been. And, how cute is Francesco!?

Since he’s shy and it’s his first foray into the public eye (he doesn’t even like Facebook), it would mean the world to me if you guys would head on over and offer some words of encouragement. Also, if you’re feeling super charitable, go ahead and share with your friends!

Questions or Comments about the recipe? Put them in the comments on Youtube and he’ll answer them asap.

Thanks so much and tanti baci!!!

Moving To Italy: 7 Things I’d Do Differently The Second Time Around

Sadly, I’m not a time traveler. I know that now you all think less of me, and that sucks, but I just wanted to be honest with everyone. But IF I COULD go back in time there are no less than 4,543 things I would do differently. How I went about moving to Italy would  probably be in my top 10 because I could have done it a lot better and my life would have been so much easier for years and year.

Vantage Points

1.I Would Have Learned More About The Culture: Without a solid grasp of the culture you won’t be able to understand your surroundings, to communicate, or to really understand the people you’ll meet, your partner (if they’re Italian) or their family. Americans, more than anyone, will not understand why this is number one or they’ll be like, “they like spaghetti, I get the culture.” The reason that Americans have a difficult time grasping how culture impacts communication is that American communication is really straightforward. Note: This has nothing to do with honesty. Americans can be liars (has anyone heard a Trump speech lately?) just like anyone. Again, it’s not about honesty, it’s about how we communicate. There aren’t a lot of hidden meanings in American communication, there’s no double-speak (unless you’re a politician or a Fox News anchor), and you don’t really need to understand the culture to understand what people are saying necessarily. Sure, there might be miscommunication, like how F used to always tell me, “well, nobody just says what they mean, so I don’t really understand what you’re trying to say.” And I was like, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!? Italy is not that way. Half of what people are saying is hidden below the surface and you have to understand the culture to get it. It’s not because everyone has some insidious intent, it’s just how the culture works. You can learn Italian, you can speak it fluently, but without a very solid grasp on the culture you will still be losing a huge amount of all communication. And, frankly, you’ll just be confused as shit all around. You’re thinking, “cool, I’ll just learn it from my husband or wife or nonna.” No, you won’t. Because they don’t often even know that what they’re doing is cultural or different from you. If you’re about to visit Italy, study in Italy, or move to Italy, you want to start reading, RIGHT NOW.

Resources For Learning About Italian Culture (From my Amazon Store)

2. I Would Have Learned Italian Months Before My Departure Date: Most likely you’re thinking like me and many of my friends who moved to Italy. “What better place to learn Italian than in Italy?” Trust me, no. You will learn Italian in Italy, for sure, and it is easier when you’re hearing it every day, but that first year that you’re there and unable to understand a goddamn thing is frustrating, isolating, and annoying as shit. Plus, people will expect you to speak the language even if you’ve been there for 20 minutes and the pressure certainly doesn’t help. Want to move to Italy? Great! But seriously, spend the money and buy Rosetta Stone, right now. No, you don’t have to buy it from my Amazon store, you can also buy it from Barnes And Noble. And, download Duolingo to your smart phone. The app is free, and even 15 minutes per day will be a lifesaver when you’re lost on an Italian street, unable to find your way home or your boyfriend’s mom is saying crazy shit to you and you need a classy response. You’re probably rolling your eyes at the Rosetta Stone, and so did I, until my roommate in Italy was able to speak Italian like a superstar 3 months into using it while I was barely able to name common household pets. It works. Use it.

Tips For Learning Italian While Still In The US

  • Rosetta Stone
  • Duolingo
  • Watch Italian films with English subtitles at least a few times per week (Sophia Loren films are a great place to start and work your way up to contemporary films).
  • Listen to Italian music, find the words in English, and it will help you memorize them by singing along.

3. I Would Not Have Spent Money On Dumb Shit. You’re moving to a new country and you’ll be tempted to buy 10,000 things before you go. Don’t. Italy has everything you could possibly need. And, their clothes are nicer and often cheaper than in the US. Save your money, get to Italy, and then buy all the shit you’ll need. The one exception might be makeup or skincare if you’re super particular. If you’re picky like me, then maybe you want to bring some of your favorite face stuff. Yes, Italy has great stuff but I like really specific stuff and the Sephora in Italy doesn’t carry any of the same shit that we have in ‘Merica.

4. I would have made it a point to do something new every day. I’m a habitual person. Really habitual. Like, when I wash my body in the shower I do it the same way every single day. When I find places I like, I tend to go there instead of trying new places. I travel a lot but I still tend to quickly find “my kind of places,” and go there. Last year when I was in Prague, I found a cookie shop that I liked and me and F would only buy cookies from THAT place. Mind you, it was the most adorable cookie shop in all the world. But still, I didn’t see any of the other cookies shops because of it. I did the same thing when I moved to Italy. While I definitely did a lot of stuff every year, I often found myself seeking the comfort of familiarity which prevented me from doing as much cool stuff as I could have. If you’re going to be spending a semester, year, or decade in Italy, I’d recommend forcing yourself to do something different at least every week, if not every day. Rent a car and drive around the country, try every cafe in the city, and every restaurant, too. Go tango dancing (I did, and it was SO FUN). The city has a lot to offer. If I could redo my student time there, that’s what I would have done differently. My friend and fellow blogger, Georgette, from Girl In Florence, is super awesome at getting out and doing EVERYTHING. She inspires me to be less boring.

5. Read the newspaper, follow current events, and pay attention. I got involved in this years after living in Florence and frankly it’s just embarrassing. If you live in any country for even a short amount of time it’s simply smart to know what the shit is going on in that country. TheLocal, is a great place to start to learn about what’s happening in Italy, in English. You’ll also look less dumb at dinner parties. For my first two years all that I knew was that Berlusconi was a douchebag. That’s where my knowledge ended and I really just reinforced the stereotype that Americans live in a bubble. You’d be surprised just how much you can learn about a culture, the people, and the history of the country by following politics and current events.

6. When dating, I would have set boundaries a lot sooner. My husband is a total badass but he’s also an enormous pain in the ass. And for a long time when I moved to Italy I forgave a lot based on “cultural differences.” Basically, I wrote off a lot of rude or stupid shit by justifying it in my head as “probably a cultural thing.”

No. Asshole behavior is the same in Italy as in the US. If someone is being an overbearing douche, you can say, “no thanks, asshat.”

Also, I spent years doing that American thing where I’m like, “well, I can’t very well be direct with his family because, geez, how rude. Tee-hee.” No. Italians, with all of their fashion and prettiness, are tough. They’re like bedazzled bombs. These are people who exist without air conditioning while wearing long sleeve button-ups and slacks. Don’t fuck with them. If you allow it, they’ll end you, and then the community widow will bake biscotti with your remains.

Also, Bella Figura. You know how high school girls are in movies where they’re like vicious monsters who are also perfect citizens and super polite in public and also sometimes to their enemies while they’re being horrible? A lot of that exists in Italy. Master that shit. Italians can insult you while smiling from ear to ear and being charming as fuck all the while. If you don’t understand the culture you won’t even know you’re being insulted. Also, if someone is opinionated, push back.  For example, my MIL will show up and be like, “yo, I’m decorating your house orange cause I don’t like how you did it!” And before I was like, “Oh, how kind,” while trying not to vomit. Now I’m like, “No, brown is ugly, no thanks.” And she’ll shrug and go, “ah, ok.” Stand up for yourself, family or friend, and lay down the law. Smile while you do it to add to the creepy factor. If you don’t have your own back, everyone will walk all over you, decorate your house hideously, dress you, and tell you that your dog is anorexic (the vet said he was the only dog of a healthy weight in all of Italy, the land of chubby poodles).

7. Spend more time asking question about others and less time observing them. I like to watch people. It’s a thing I do, often, in life. At parties I’ll usually be the person in the back, getting shitfaced while I uncomfortably stare at everyone. I did the same thing in Italy for a long time. I just watched people like a weirdo stalker instead of trying to get to know people and ask them about themselves, their culture, their family, etc. You can learn a lot about a place by paying attention, but you can learn a lot more by asking a lot of questions and getting to know people and getting their perceptions about their country. Find a language partner, or a cute barista, or bartender, and get to know them. Ask them endless questions about Italy. Maybe have sex with them if they’re into it (yay consent) and then ask them even more questions after the fact or during if you’re into that.

And there you have it! If you could move to Italy all over again, what would you do differently? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below!

 

 

Emergency

Guys, we have an emergency situation. As many of you know, F and I are in the US right now. He’s doing an MBA and I’m doing book things. 

However, enough is enough. Aside from Trump, the police shooting black men, and the uprise in outspoken hillbillies, Francesco is starting to scare me. 

I need an emergency jet to get us the hell out of here. My metrosexual husband is getting all “yee-haw,” on me and he needs to be returned to his homeland so he can remember that he’s Italian, superficial, and is NOT capable of mountaineering. We stayed in a cabin once and he considered it “roughing it,” because it was surrounded by trees. It had a jacuzzi. We’re talking about the same guy who screams and runs when he sees a spider. And he asked me if we can bring our pasta maker camping (this is his first time camping). 

Guys, a bear is going to eat him. 

Sarah Goes to Siena: Episode I: The Perils of Packing

HELLO ALL! This total badass Sarah contacted me a few months ago via email. Sarah is moving to Siena for school and asked if I’d be interested in sharing her journey with all of you awesome readers. My answer: Hell yes. And? She’s a great writer to boot. This series will follow her from her voyage from the US to Italy and her experience as a student in Siena. I’m REALLY excited for this series because who doesn’t want to follow someone’s new and amazing journey into newness? Plus, all of you who live in Italy or made the same journey know that it’s bound to be hilarious and super fun. Stay tuned every two weeks for a new installment of Sarah’s journey. Enjoy!

THE PERILS OF PACKING 

Packing is probably the least glamorous part of travel. While browsing all the beautiful travel sites out there, the process seems so simple: lay out all these pretty clothing items, take cute Instagram pics of you doing this, then magically all of it fits perfectly in your bag. You forget nothing, and then boom you’re on your way and you have everything you need and you dance through fields with butterflies and small adorable animals.

For anyone who is not a travel magician who writes about these things for a living or anyone, who like me, is fondly referred to by friends as “a mess,” the packing process is slightly more complex. Luckily I have packed for trips to Italy a few times now and done my reading and learned lots things.

As I mentioned earlier I am a complete mess, this means that often times my suitcase also becomes one big hot mess. This leads to sad things like obscenely wrinkled clothes, misplaced underwear, and a mingling of dirty clothes and clean clothes. To remedy my messiness, this time I am going to try using packing cubes to organize my clothing and other various items. These help to prevent messiness on long trips by compartmentalizing your stuff so that you just have to flip through bags instead of taking all of your clothing items out and having to refold them and put them back in. Also you know where everything is (ideally) and that is a win in itself.

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Packing cubes, hopefully the best organizing tool yet

What exactly you are going to pack is also kind of important. For the most part, despite what a lot of places want you to believe, what you pack really depends on you. This means that you can make packing into an introspective journey and ask yourself “What do I need in my bag?” or you could just know that flats hurt your feet and that maybe you shouldn’t pack those as your intended walking shoe. On that a few things that you should definitely bring regardless of the length of your trip or who you are and what you need, you should definitely bring: walking shoes because cobblestones want to kill you and your feet, a shirt that covers your shoulders so that you can visit cool old churches without being confused when an old Italian man runs up to you and starts making weird gestures and speaking rapidly in Italian in an attempt to communicate that you need to cover your shoulders with a scarf, SUNGLASSES because it suns everyday, also on that note bring sunscreen too especially if you are pale like my poor ginger self.

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My adorable cat Luna helping me pack by wrinkling all of my clothes with kitty love

Blending in is also something people are often concerned with when packing to visit Italy. I personally like blending in because then you are more likely to get shopkeepers to speak to you in Italian so you can practice and you get a more interesting experience, also most importantly you are less likely to be targeted by scams and pickpockets. Personally I have a decent amount of trouble with blending in because I am a ginger. There just aren’t many gingers in Italy. I usually try to keep count of how many Italian gingers I see. After traveling all over the country for two weeks multiple times the highest my count has ever gotten is about twenty five. However for those who have a slightly less red and freckled coloring, wearing solid colors more on the neutral sides of life (black, white, grey, denim, etc) and being dressed on the nicer side will usually do the trick. Personally I think what’s more important is your attitude. If you look confident even if you are not sure of yourself at that moment you are less things will work out much more smoothly. This is really important because although style can be generalized and mimicked if you have a confident attitude you will fit in much better regardless of what you are wearing.  However I still would not recommend wearing neon under armor shorts and a matching sweatshirt and confidently yelling “WHERE CAN I FIND A HAMBURGER AROUND HERE?” if you want to blend in in Italy.

Packing a carry-on is probably my preferred form of chaos as I feel like I am close to reaching the point of perfection in this area. My carry on also holds some of the most important things for my trip that I absolutely cannot forget. For instance bringing at least three to four days worth of your prescription medications with you or bring it all because if you get delayed, or they lose your bag for a little while you want to have that with you. Some more basics that should not be forgotten, glasses/contact case/solution, phone charger, outlet converter, any important electronics that you don’t want to be broken, some form of entertainment, and whatever you need to sleep, be it ear plugs, a neck pillow, medication, etc.

Also something I would recommend is if you bring a reusable water bottle on a plane most of the time the flight attendant will fill it up for you so you have a nice bottle of water at your seat instead of a little cup that will spill. Be smart and pack one that you know doesn’t leak so that unlike me you will feel clever and actually be clever instead of feeling clever and then discovering that your whole carry-on is soaking wet by the end of your journey.

One more, quick note about carry-ons and important things to bring, first off bring your passport, secondly chose a designated and secure spot in which to keep it the entirety of your travels. If you have a specific pocket where you put it and make sure you put it back there any time you have to take it out for security and customs it will save you a lot of stress. My friend was once yelled at by German airport security when he misplaced his passport in his bag and held up the customs line searching for it.

I am currently down to two days to pack for my upcoming two-month trip. As I am an anxious packer I have already had my packing nightmare for this trip. This time I dreamed that I arrived at the airport without a suitcase, which was completely terrifying. However now I feel like as long as I do better than that it will be a successful pack.

I look forward to updating you all on the failures and successes of my current packing plan in the near future! Ciao a tutti!

About the Author:

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Sarah is a college student with a minor Italian obsession. She is spending the summer studying Italian language and other interesting things in Siena. She loves cats, old things, pizza, and sarcasm. You can learn more about her crazy self and antics on her Instagram. (@gingersarahb)