A Dog In Florence: Bronchitis Italian Style

Oliver has been hacking like an elderly man with stage-four cancer. HACK-HACK-BLEEEH followed by some kind of white foam or whatever was in his stomach. It started around two a.m. the day before yesterday. We thought that it was one of his normal stomach issues since he gets sick at least twice per month somehow, no matter how careful we try to be. When he was still hacking yesterday afternoon I told Francesco that we had to go to the vet and the psychologist, “He’s obviously sick with some kind of respiratory dog plague and I need some kind of calming pill because I’m  having a nervous breakdown following him around cleaning up his gross every thirty seconds.” Every thirty-a-seconds-a? Dets exaggerating beb, F said. Oh? Tell me that later when you’re following him around with a handful of napkins, in the snow, walking up hill both ways. We took Oliver to the vet that evening. I’m always  surprised by how smart dogs are. I mean, the second Oliver saw where we were going he was like, “Oh no, seriously!? What the fuck did I ever do to you!?” And he tried to run away and I’m pretty sure he flipped me off.

We entered into a waiting room of sad faces. One dog howled and pawed at her family to leave, one sat between the legs of his guy with his head held high and proud despite his shaking legs, and Oliver did a combination of intense whining followed by barfing all over the floor. And on me. After an hour long wait, since they don’t do appointments here because it would be too easy, we found  out that he had some sort of canine bronchitis. His throat was bright red and he had a mild fever. “It’s an epidemic,” she said, “we see dozens of this every day right now.” Awesome. And here we are letting him whore his tongue around every public water bowl in Florence. Then she pulled out a huge needle and we had to hold him down while she shot him up with antibiotics and I was thinking to myself, “This vet is nice so don’t punch her to death for hurting him. It’s necessary. It-is-necessary.” My husband, the stoic and no- bullshit one had a severe look of empathy on his face, a rare thing, when Oliver jumped into his arms and tried to cling to him.

The bad part was over. We just had to weigh him and go. “But is he under-weight?” F asked. The vet laughed, “No, actually, he’s perfect. Most of the poodles we see are hugely fat, like their owners. I’m sure everyone tells you that he is sooo skinny and he has to eat. But no, he’s fine.” And we all laughed because that is a thing in Italy. EVERYONE NEEDS TO EAT. Everyone and everything is starving to death according to pretty much anyone. Strangers yell, “You’re too skinny!” to me and Oliver in the street. People try to feed him when we take him into stores. It was nice to hear from a professional that he is normal, not that it will convince anyone else, but at least I’ll stop feeling like I’m depriving him. When we arrived home after 107 euros, antibiotics, and aspirin Oliver was pretty tired. Yet, he couldn’t sleep because of the Hack-Hack-BLEEEEH-ing. F was all, “Wow, you-a-weren’t kidding. He is-a-REALLY barfing a lote.” I kill you with my eyes. We went to sleep around midnight as usual but Oliver couldn’t sleep. He coughed, and coughed, and coughed all night and like any animal when it’s sick he wanted to cuddle and cough into my face. Thanks Oliver. You continue to surprise me with your willingness to share. And somehow Italy wouldn’t be nearly as weird or like home without you.

This is us at 4 a.m. He decided that he had to sleep on my pillow with his face directly in front of my face so he could cough all over me throughout the night. If he has to be sick he might as well take us down with him. Well-played.

4 a.m. And Oliver Is Still Spitting Dog Cooties All Over My Head

La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty)

This weekend we went to see La Grande Bellezza. A film by Paulo Sorrentino, which covers the all too common Italian theme of middle-aged fantastical desire (general praise of “hedonism”) and the incredibly depressing, international theme of “lost love.” The life of the main character basically sums up the lives of a certain dying breed of European, the infamous “Eurotrash.” As described in the Urban Dictionary:

“A human sub-phylum characterized by its apparent affluence, worldliness, social affectation and addiction to fashion. Males are characterized by a semi-slovenly appearance (including half-shaven faces), greasy hair, rib-hugging shirts, tight jeans and loafers worn without socks. Women are easily distinguished by anorexia, over-bleached hair, gaudy jewelry, plastic surgery (particularly breast-enlargement) and their attachment to the male species. Both sexes greet each other with “air kisses,” immediately speak of their last trip (often Paris, Rome, Majorca), spend hours at “see-and-be-seen” restaurants and exhibit a world-weariness and pained sense of irony.”

Going to the movie is a rare thing for us. Our dog is a hysterical wreck so we can’t go out very often, it’s difficult and requires planning and a dog-sitter. We have had three, our dog walker- the girl we use for short-term visits, and two other women that we use for over-night trips and vacations. One of them has a dog sitting business so she’s usually not available on a whim (understandably) and the other is an American woman who has a garden and two dogs of her own so she occasionally watches other dogs. But these are two different stories. Sort of.

The Grande Bellezza is entertaining. Even someone who doesn’t understand Italian will enjoy it. The cinematography is incredible. Italians are famous for their attention to detail and incredible eye for style. It shows. The main characters life, a writer, was confusion and chaos, and a series of almost dream-like moments. His artist friends, obsessed with mostly bad attempts at being exciting, contribute a great deal of tragedy and entertainment in the characters life. There is a lot of cocaine, drinking, and super unattractive old-man sex. If I wrote a movie about my 20’s (minus the old balls) it would look a lot like the first scene of the movie but if you summed up my entire life it would come down to the terribly ironic moments. We left and I was feeling this very odd mix of inspiration (and accomplishment) with a tinge of depression which is probably how everyone feels after watching it.

We drove quietly through the deep green, sun-soaked hills towards Oliver’s sitter’s house. When we arrived the  dog-sitter, a pretty blonde woman, was laying in her hammock outside in the sun, her pregnant-tummy only slightly visible under her oversized striped t-shirt. She met me at the iron double gates with a smile and a look of mild concern in her eyes. “Now don’t feel bad,” she started, and my brain finished with, “but Oliver ate one of my nephews. He killed a homeless man. He lit our house on fire. He started speaking in tongues.” I looked down at Oliver who was so enthusiastic to see me that I almost laughed because I knew he’d done something bad, we were about to talk about it, and there he was tail-a-wagging, eyes all lit up, tongue flopped out from excited pants. “So,” she continued, “he got really sick  and pooped all over my rug and the really porous tile. He also peed on the guest bed. Oh, and he wiped his dirty butt on my couch.” Great. This is totally why you have no friends, Oliver. “Oh God…I’m so sorry. I don’t know what is wrong with this dog.” Look down, he’s panting, tongue flopping, tail wagging, feet prancing. He has no idea that we were discussing how bad he was. He really does need to be medicated, like the other dog sitter said a few months prior. “He’s very sweet but is it possible to get him some, I don’t know, valium or something?” I laughed but she had this look of desperate plea which led to an awkward moment where I realized that she was serious. I looked back up at the dog sitter who was smiling, “Oh. And he has poop all over his butt. Don’t feel bad at all. I have two dogs too. I know how it is. But maybe if we have to take him in the future we could use a crate? Does he have a crate?” Oliver you are so embarrassing. “He did but it was huge and F took it somewhere.” Damnit! Where is that crate?! Misty, leave the poor woman alone and run for the car. Now. Run. And then I ran to the car and I was like, “DRIVE!” and we disappeared into the grape vines. I mean, I didn’t, but I felt like it.

I tried to adequately apologize before leaving because I like her a lot as a human and I was like, “Judge my dog, not me, I swear I’m nothing like him. I would never pee on your guest bed! it’s genetic! He’s a product of Italy, not me!”. When I got into the car with Oliver I told F what happened. “You’re surprised? Really? He’s practically a canine Dennis The Menace. So, our dog-walker quit two weeks ago, I think this one is finished. Now we really need to train him. I feel really bad for them but I really can’t say I’m surprised babe.” He said matter-of-fact. I shrugged and laughed,”You know, we are a hot mess.” He smiled, “But Italy is beautiful, look at the hills, eh?”

Life is a movie. La Grande Bellezza

Moving To Florence: Studying And Living

A lot of people who read this blog are either drunk or interested in moving to Italy, or both, which is why my community of readers are both fun and adventurous and basically better than everyone else. Since I love all of you so much I’d like to help import you to Italy by supplying whatever information I’ve learned to get you here and keep you here (mostly) legally. If you live in Italy or have lived in Italy feel free to comment and add to my suggestions!

Staying Longer Than Three Months And The Dreaded Visa

Let’s start with visa information. Compared to other countries, it’s fairly easy to get a visa for Italy if you’re from a developed country (if your country is considered third-world, they’ll still give it to you but you’ll have a few more hoops to jump through. I’d recommend just taking a boat and running for it.). There are a few different visa options and what you choose will probably come down to what you can afford. Anything up to three months doesn’t require a visa at all and that’s great if you want to come and do some tourism or a WWOOF program for the summer.

After three months you’ll need either a student visa or an extended tourist visa. Getting a work visa in any country is nearly impossible so I wouldn’t even bother. If you choose to do some kind of study program here you are allowed to work twenty hours per week which is nice although keep in mind that the average hourly pay here is like seven euros. The easiest way to come here is if you’re already attending an American Uni that has connections with a Uni here in Italy. However, I didn’t do that. I took out huge loans and attended the post-bachelorette program at SACI. Though, there are much cheaper schools here for literally everything you can imagine from cooking to wine-making, to sculpture and language and let’s not forget about apprenticeships. Getting a student visa is a pretty straight shot. The website lists everything you need to do and submit and once you do that you should be fine for whatever amount of time you’re studying. If you are an artist or a writer you can probably do a Self Employed Visa, the only downside of this is proving you have the financial means to coast through a year or so. You’ll find the information on the same website I linked above.

Money is for sure the biggest problem to tackle because getting a visa requires you to have 1,000 bucks in the bank for every month you ask to be in Italy. It can be a lot. I didn’t do that, instead I submitted bank statements showing that I get paid regularly a certain amount and then I had my mother do the same and write a letter saying she would help me financially if I needed it and that worked just fine. (You should try to have at least a couple grand saved before you move here just in case you don’t find a job right away.).

With that said, I do know a few people who never bothered with the visa, instead they just leave the country every three months to go on a mini-vacation outside of the Shengen area. Apparently, this works, although the risk is that if you get caught over-staying your visa you are banned from Italy forever and also it’s not easy to find work if you’re not legal. Probably better to get the visa.

After you get your visa, when you arrive in Italy you need to go to the Police station within eight days and apply for a Residence Permit or a Permesso Di Soggiorno. I’ll be honest and say that IT FUCKING SUCKS. You’ll be in line for hours, plan on having a shitty day, it’s part of immigrating here. The Permesso is nice to have because once your student visa runs out as long as your Permesso is up-to-date you can  still stay. My old room-mate originally came on a student visa, but then she found a job as a tour guide and stayed on her Permesso alone. Make sure you have it and keep it current. 

Schools

Going to an Italian school is a good deal cheaper than going to an American school. Well, basically going to school anywhere on earth is cheaper than an American school but Italy is really cheap. As far as grants and loans are concerned there are a number of cultural grants that one can apply for from most countries (I know Canada offers them for example). The downside is I haven’t found many in the United States because ya know Ammmmmerca doesn’t fund a lot of cultural exchange programs. However, Italy gives some money to humans who want to study in Italy. 

Finding the right school can make all the difference. If you study your ass off before you come to Italy you can go to an Italian school which is cheaper, but everything will be taught in Italian. If you are like me and you suck at languages (because you are shy and awkward), you can find schools that are affordable and cater to English-speaking humans. Make sure the school is reputable, and that the degrees, certifications, etc. transfer to your home-country. More than anything just make sure you cross compare schools to make sure that you’re not getting ripped off. And do not do housing through the school! They always jack up the prices on student apartments and many schools make a large profit on the apartments. I know from experience.

A Few School Recommendations For Florence:

http://www.artfuji.it/

http://www.lorenzodemedici.it/en/home

http://www.scuolacucinaitaliana.com/

Rent And Apartments

I think it’s similar throughout Italy but most of my experience is with Florence. In Florence you’ll pay around 300-400 euros per month to rent a bedroom in a shared apartment. I highly recommend doing this. Frankly, it’s better for  money, you’ll learn Italian faster, and you’ll be living like the locals. Italians don’t rent their own apartments usually. They live with their parents or they rent a room in a shared apartment. They’ll probably ask for a deposit and first months rent, you’ll most likely have to sign a contract which you can break anytime in Italy with a written notice. Most rent should include utilities. The best way to find a room for rent is to come to Italy and go to universities or cafe’s and look at bulletin boards. This is how most people find room-mates and places to live. Ideally take a friend or someone with you just to be safe. If you are in Florence and insist on an English speaking room-mate try to find someone from the rent wall at the European Institute.

Jobs: How To Make Money

Almost everyone I know either works as an English speaking tour guide (easier to qualify for the job than you might think), teaches English, or works in a pub of some sort. There is also the dog-sitter or nanny thing but those are jobs that take some time to establish. Most other jobs will require to to speak Italian fairly well.  A lot of the people who I know that teach English just tutor kids or whomever here or there. You can advertise in a number of ways from putting up an add online to posting things around the city. Remember, Italy is not very internet friendly. Most things are still done in physical form such as posting “English Teacher” ads on boards in coffee shops or at schools etc. around the city. It’s not easy landing a job before you arrive here. People conduct everything face-to-face (a cute habit which quickly becomes irritatingly inconvenient.). Another option is to do freelance work for American companies. That’s what I do and I love it. You can sign up to a number of freelance websites to write (textbroker.com or freelancer.com are examples), or do graphic design, or a number of other things. If you can do this steadily before moving to Italy it’s probably the easiest option in the beginning.

Romance

You’ll probably arrive here and fall madly in love with some Italian Stallion because a lot of them dress well and they are good at the sex. It’s not that difficult to land an Italian man these days since there are way more of them than there are Italian women. Most of them, because of the culture, are what anglo-saxons equate with “prince charming.” Although keep a few things in mind: His mother probably controls his life and irons his panties. He is probably still friends with every girl he has ever slept with and he comes from a country where having a little somethin’-somethin’ on the side is considered normal and is talked about openly among dudes. He also might be fascist like all “yay fascism”. If you find one who isn’t a cheater, who has stopped breast feeding from his poor mom’s dry and chaffed teets, who isn’t pro-mussolini, and who washes his own panties: marry him. Then you can stay forever and make super cute mixed babies. Tuscan rainbows.

What would you add? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below. 😉

Sucking At Life And Soccer In Italy

Moving to another country long-term changes you. In some ways you grow and improve and in other ways you start to suck horribly bad. Since living in Italy I’ve sucked at life so epically bad that most days I am embarassed to admit that I know me. It’s not Italy’s fault, we just have a lot of bad days together. I’ll admit, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, in a non-medicated way (and maybe that’s the problem), but I’ve always had enough positive experiences around me to kind of pull me up and dust me off. Here, not so much.I’m not a show my emotions on the outside person. I’m not. I don’t do vulnerable. Instead I do wine, cigarettes and jokes. So, living in a place away from everyone I’ve ever loved and known, and exposing myself in ways I never have before is hard. Exposing in the sense of letting myself look like an idiot all the time. I haven’t taken up the habit of flashing my vagina around town. Yet. Wait…art school. Maybe. (That’s another story. You guys have to hear that story because you will die.)

An example of this would be soccer. I played soccer growing up. I watch soccer pretty regularly. I know the game. So when I was asked to join a team for the Coppa at the EI I thought, why not? Of course I was nervous and out of practice but I like to think I’m fairly smart (denial) and athletic (lying to myself) and I assumed (wrongly) that I would pick it up fast enough. The question here is: Why? Why would I assume that?

I showed up to the pitch in my black running leggins, white cleats, and blue “dolphin” jersey with my husband who was so excited to be playing soccer with his wife. Honestly, in some ways I’m starting to wonder what is wrong with him. He maintains this naive confidence in me despite the fact that I always, without exception, let him down. We warmed up by hopping about before heading into the field to start the game. The game started. The only other girl on the team played first. After about ten minutes we switched. I was fine for about ten minutes and then suddenly something happened. My hands and face went numb, I was dizzy, and I couldn’t think straight. I remembered that I didn’t eat before the game, a fairly stupid move considering I’m kind of diabetic. When I’m at home and my sugar is low I’ll stare at the computer without moving, practically drooling on myself and hoping that someone else will put food in my body because I can’t think clearly enough to do it. This effect on a football field looked something like me, running aimlessly in circles, unable to remember who was on my team and who wasn’t, and incapable of focusing on the ball. Panicked I thought, “just play defense,” which didn’t make any sense when we were attacking since I was playing the striker position. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I couldn’t stop it.

This is basically what it looked like:

Afterwards everyone was avoiding eye contact with me, naturally, so I bought alcohol and tried to remind myself that my whole life is basically a series of humiliating moments so I shouldn’t be bothered by a small edition to it. But, it’s not easy for me to not care when it impacts him. I’ve never given a fuck before. Not one. But it’s really changed recently. My weirdness has had an impressive impact on Francesco. He’s lost friends over me, nearly lost his family because of me, his co-workers think I’m a fucking wreck. He went from looking kind of awesome to looking like a crazy person who married “that socially retarded and wholly uneducated American dipshit.” Once again I made him look bad. Does it ever end? I was determined to make it up to him at all costs. I WILL PREVAIL! I thought.

The next day there was another game and I was ready. I made sure to eat as much food as I could fit into my body. My mind was clear and I was actually feeling pretty okay. We arrived at the pitch, stretched, I wasn’t nervous or bothered because I was determined to make it better even if I had to actually kill someone from the other team. Game started. Game ended. I was not allowed to play. Which, was a very smart move because it was an important game and I fucked up royally the day before. If I were them I would have done the exact same thing (and I would have also beat me with a soap-filled sock). It was the right decision, only, I never got a chance to make up for what happened. Kind of a bummer that nobody felt comfortable to talk to me about how much I sucked. At home, my friends would have yelled at me, told me what to fix, and held me accountable (possibly with a beating) if I didn’t “man,” er, “lady-up” the next time. Here though, nobody wanted to criticize me, and it was easier to just prevent me from making any further mistakes. However, now I have to feel the burden of disappointing other people for like the next decade. I try to laugh it off because it’s kind of hilarious (only I could get myself into something so stupid.) Currently the only solution I have is to never leave my apartment again, avoid human contact and hope that Francesco will divorce me and find another wife immediately (at least he could find someone who cleans).

This is how living in Italy has changed me: I’m more subdued and self-conscious. As my friend Ryan asked, “Since when do you give a shit? I’ve known you for a long time and you’ve never cared what other people thought of you. You’re the same girl who used to tell everyone during puberty that something was medically wrong with them because all of their nipples were too pink because they didn’t have tan nipples like you. Seriously. Where is THAT girl? Where is my super bitchy friend!?”

She’s embarrassed and hiding from M.E.

Random Stuff I Found When I was Bored: Entertaining Things From Across The Globe

“Struggle is proof that you haven’t been conquered, that you refuse to surrender, that victory is still possible, and that you’re growing.” -Walden

Dolphin Dog: Adorable dog named Grizzly who swims with Dolphins on the reg. If you’re having a shitty day this will surely cheer you up.

Woman from Milan Who Offers Her Virgin Ass As A Reward For Someone Who Finds Her Lost Cat. “My grandma gave me that cat,” she says in the ad. I’m sure the ad is totally granny approved. If granny was a prostitute.

Amazing Photo of Nude Mother and Her Two Daughters. Say what you will, but I love it. My conservative husband (that’s right F, CONSERVATIVE!) shit himself and was all, “Oh MY GOD! Why are they all naked!?” But I think the photo is amazing and you will too if you don’t suck.

For Laughs: Great Pinterest Board Full Of Funny Stuff. I wish I would have made up some of this stuff.

Visiting, Moving, or Living In Italy? What Can I Do?

Are you coming to Italy? Want to visit or live here? Trouble with your visa? Are you already living here and there is something you just can’t figure out? Is your new Italian boyfriend sending mixed signals? Want to know where you can get the best local food? Best shopping? A recipe for something? If there is something you’d like to know? Do you want to contribute and be a guest blogger? Do you have restaurants, clubs or things to suggest? I’m always looking for interesting articles to write and obviously the point of this blog is to make all of you happy. What can I do to make it better?