Italy is a beautiful country and there’s absolutely no denying that. However, when you live in Italy for a while there are certain things that can take some getting used to, and some things that you’ll never get used to, and those things will make you insane. A friend of mine refers to expats in categories based on how well-suited people were to move to Italy in the first place. I’m not exactly sure which category I’d fit into because honestly I can identity with pretty much all of them. There is a part of me that is the Hopeless Romantic: I’ll always love and appreciate small things like bright flowers against stone buildings, entire families sitting down to wine and dine, and old women, widows, in black strolling the streets together. I’m also a Snob: Living in Italy because it’s just classier and a little more “cultured.”At times I’m the Adventurer: I love Italy’s close proximity to other parts of the world. And then, for many months out of the year, I am the Ren-Fair expat. The Ren-Rair expat is a word that my friend coined that means, “renaissance fair” expat, an outcast, quirky but also creepy, bitter, and a little bit insane (to be honest that’s kind of me even in the US…so….
For the Italophiles out there, you’re thinking, “oh no! Not me! If I had a chance to live in Italy, oh boy! I’d enjoy every minute of it!” And you know, you’d probably enjoy most of it but then something totally crazy will happen that can only happen in Italy and you’re suddenly like, “I NEVER WANT TO SEE PEOPLE AGAIN! FUCK THIS PLACE!” Then you don’t leave your apartment for a week except to walk your dog while you hiss at people who pass you on the sidewalk. It’s part of living the immigrant life in a country that could not possibly be more different than most other places on earth. So, here is a list of reasons that Italy might make you (temporarily or permanently) insane:
1.You function best with rules, order, and structure.
1. You love pizza. Honestly, you love all carbs.
2. Good wine is more important to you than lots of money.
I’ll be the first person to admit that when you live abroad it can be pretty difficult to be fair and avoid putting people into one large category. It’s human nature to group people in a way that makes it easier to understand them, identify them, avoid or relate to them. When your world is confusing you’ll try to make sense out of it in one way or another.
One of the first things that I caught myself doing as I parachuted into Italy was compare everything to my own culture, and figure out how I could fit in. It was especially difficult for me coming from a degree in sociology. People were practically test subjects. Observing cultural characteristics is totally fine, and totally necessary if you ever want to comfortably live somewhere. However, it’s important to avoid stereotypes as much as possible. Stereotypes kind of piss people off, justifiably so. I’ve spent the past five years being stereotyped as, “that probably slutty, stupid American who hates family and love and probably stabbed her teddy bear to death as a child.” Writing a blog about living in Italy can be kind of sticky since I spend a lot of time discussing my experiences, making the occasional cultural and social observations, all while trying not to be too much of an asshole. There is a difference between dialogue, observations, and just being a dick. Even while being conscious of it, it’s kind of difficult to avoid being ethnocentric, though. It happens. It’s especially rough when I’m away from home, feeling nostalgic, and some crazy lady is screaming at me in the street because MY DOG IS TOO SKINNY, and then twenty old men in the bar are rambling about their hero Berlusconi. It can be really, really, difficult.
I have to admit that I’m not much of a foodie. I know, I know, STOP SHOUTING AT ME! I’m kind of a freak in that regard. However, there are a few cooks in Italy that could easily have me sitting around all day stuffing my face. Two of them are the mother and father of our close friend, Leo. His parents are located in Vaiano, and they are incredible cooks. They cook typical Tuscan/Florentine cuisine, and speak Italian with a heavy Florentine accent. The last time we were there they told us a cute story about our friend and how he couldn’t spell. Florentines pronounce their “c” as an “h” so when our friend was in kindergarten, he was spelling his name phonetically with an “h” instead of a “c” which is kind of adorable, guys. His parents are super cute and I’m currently on a campaign to get them to adopt me. Anyhow! Here was the last lunch with them in their apartment in Vaiano, Italy. Also, if anyone knows how to make this rolled bread/carne dish below, PLEASE TELL ME. I’m not even sure I know what it’s called, I’ve only ever eaten it at their home. It was amazing.
And Leo: Face-lick.
La Strada Viano
The Tuscan Kitchen
Pasta In Italy
Lunch In Italy
Arles, France Shrunken Granny
The Dali Museum in Figueres
Beachy in France
Pirate Dreams! Another Day..
Nightclub in Barcelona
Don’t Judge. I have a thing with door knockers.
Picnics And Family
Ferragosto is celebrated on the 15th of August. It was originally a pagan thing like most of the holidays we celebrate (What!? I’m SORRY! It’s TRUE! What does a giant bunny with treats have to do with Jesus? Nothing! That’s what!). Ferragosto was celebrated clear back in Roman times as people thanked Goddess Diana and the God Vortumno for awesome crops and all of that. Woot! Now, Ferragosto is a day of picnics, fun, and family time. In our family it is often the day of stuffing your face for four or five or ten hours until you pretty much barf, or try to barf but can’t, or just eat , sleep and dream about barfing.
For me Ferragosto signifies something even cooler than crop celebration (although celebrating food is kind of a big deal, too). It also signifies the beginning of summer vacation for many of us. In Italy, a good number of citizens get around three weeks of vacation per year. Two weeks in August and one week in December. It’s kind of amazing and probably why the homicide rate is lower in Italy than in the US. I’d be less inclined to kill people if I got to go on vacation every August, too. Last year my husband and I went some friends to Barcelona and the south of France beginning on Ferragosto. We drove from Cassino all the way to Barcelona and back. We had a blast. We danced in a nightclub that was on the beach. I convinced everyone afterwards to go “kind of skinny dipping” in the Sea. Drunk. Which is basically the only way you can get me near water because SHARKS. Then we went to some other city that was really amazing that I can’t remember because I’m not a travel writer but it was cute. We rented a paddleboat with a plastic slide on top where I sat -perched like a dog on a floating door after a flood-surveying the area for SHARKS while the guys swam. In the south of France we visited Arles, Ax-En-Provence, and Montpellier. In Arles around 1 a.m. I dragged my husband out for a hot date (me in a leather skirt running up and down the back streets making motor boat noises and summoning sailers) and we almost became Pirates. Which was like a dream come true.
Ferragosto to me is a reminder that there is more to life than work and productivity. That there is family, friends, places to see, things to do, outside of an office and without deadlines. Much of the world could learn something from Ferragosto itself and the following weeks of vacation that allow people to be people again.
This Post Was Part Of Così (The expat mafia).
Check out what the other members of C.O.S.I had to say on the same subject.