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 lie 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), 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 HELL 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 of 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!

 

 

SPRING BREAK ITALY: AGRITURISMO ECO-TRAVEL EDITION

 

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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. 

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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

 

Northern Italians Versus Southern Italians. Are They Really That Different?

My situation in Italy is a little unique. My husband is from a small (tiny) town between Rome and Naples but we live together in Florence. He’s lived outside of Italy in Spain where he made a lot of friends from the Brescia area who he is still very close with today. We have friends from the upper thigh of Italy all the way down to the toe and the heel of this country’s geographical boot. And, unfortunately, before I met my husband I dated someone from Brescia and I went on a few dates with a few Florentines as well because apparently I’m a giant whore. Some of our closest friends are in Florence, Rome, and of course Cassino and Naples. As an outsider I’m always observing people, watching their interactions, listening closely to their words. Following them home and then watching them eat dinner through their fourth story window. Just kidding. As a sociologist I’m constantly looking for what societal factors are influencing certain behaviors, what motivates people, what separates them, what makes them the same and what makes them different? Continue reading

3 Women Of Different Nations Hold The World Together By Talking Shit On Italian Men

Some of our friends drove down to Cassino to see F and I, while we were staying at his parents apartment a few weeks ago before the holidays. The dudes went out to do some running around and they left us women at home to continue drinking and talking shit. Me, my australian friend, and a Florentine friend were sipping wine and cocktails in the living room in front of the stufa chatting about cultural differences between our respected motherlands, and of course men. One thing that all nations have in common is the need to talk about the opposite sex on occasion. It’s shit-talk that binds us. So basically we were trying to hold the world together. Peace on earth exists because of us.

Australian Woman: I really do love F. He’s lovely. I’d love to marry an Italian guy from the south one day. I love how family-oriented they are and the large meals and the close family. It’s really lovely.

Italian Woman: Really!? Are you-a sure about-a dat? I wouldn’t be-a so sure-a.

Australian Woman: [In a cute australian accent that I don’t know how to write in convo] Really? Well, why not? Because of the south? I know that the north and south have their differences.

Italian Woman: No. I mean yes, but no. Italian men-a in general. In my opinion dey expect too much from-a women. There are exceptions, clearly, but most of them just expect their wife to do too much.

ME: I think you have to be careful in every country. American men can be cold, aggressive, and kind of monkey-ish. The key is to find one that is really “weird” in the sense that they’re not “typical” in any country. F is weird and he’s pretty awesome but I watch a lot of his male friends with their partners and it’s really a lot like watching a mom with a son, it totally freaks me out and seems incestuous. The men expect a lot and the women feel a lot of obligation it seems. Most of my Italian female friends don’t want to marry their boyfriends because they say they aren’t willing to be “his mother.” In fact you can see that in the nations marriage statistics now. Italian women are not getting married anymore. Now they’re traveling and partying. Women should party more. Men should cook and clean more. And they should start giving birth, too. Everyone wins!

Australian Woman: What do you mean?

Italian Woman: It’s a problem in Italy that mothers do too much for their boys and so very few men have no responsibilities growing up. Sometimes they are treated like princes. When they get married they expect to be treated the same way by their wives. Before, in my parents generation it was normal but now women have careers and options and they’re not willing to cook, and clean, and raise childrens alone. But as I said, there are exceptions. There are a few men out there who are not this way.

ME: Do you have a brother?

Italian Woman: Yes.

Australian Woman: Did you notice a difference in how you were treated growing up?

Italian Woman: Yes. I was given responsibilities around the house for example. My brother was never expected to do anything. I’d help cook or clean and he’d sit around. It was considered normal.

Australian Woman: Ah, yes! I had an Italian boyfriend for a while. I remember being at his parents house and he would just sit around and do nothing. He never helped his mother clean up or set the table. Nothing. I remember thinking that it was the strangest thing.

Italian Woman: That’s normal in many Italian families.

ME: Ah! Same with my in-laws! My F’s sister was expected to help and do chores. F never had chores around the house. He was also allowed to stay out until midnight while his sister who was five years OLDER than him had to be in by eight p.m. because she is female. Now, in her own family, she works and so does he yet she does all of the housework and all of the cooking.

Australian Woman: NO BLOODY WAY! In my family we all had to help out. Girls and boys, everyone! And in a marriage there is no way I’d do it all by myself. That would drive you mad! That’s incredibly sexist, isn’t it?

Italian Woman: Yes, in the south that’s not so surprising about the earlier curfew for the girl. It’s still a little traditional in some parts of the south. But even in Tuscany the men typically rely too much on their mothers and are not expected to help very much. I have a friend who bought an apartment recently. He didn’t build a kitchen in it because he said he didn’t need it since his mother would bring over his food. He can’t even make coffee in his home because he didn’t install a stove. In 2013.

ME: My mother would let me starve. I’ve heard these types of stories before and I’ve seen it a lot too. I have a few friends who own business’ yet they live at home and their mums still do their laundry, cook all of their meals, etc.

Italian Woman: Yes. It’s common. But I think it’s the problem with the mothers. They like to do these things for their boys but the problem is that they are not teaching them to be independent. How can they be a good husband if they are raised like this? If the man lives alone for a long time, travels a lot, or lives abroad they are not usually like this. But the ones who live at home or near their mothers and they don’t travel…I wouldn’t marry one of them. I wouldn’t date one of them.

ME: Do you think they really like to do it or do they do it because it’s how they show love according to society? My suocera does these things too because she loves her family but when I talk with her about it she hates it . She says, “Italian women we have to do too much. I work full time. I cook. I clean. I raise the children. We do it all and in the end we’re insane because this is our life. Too much expectations and the men do too little.” However, she doesn’t want her son to feel “unloved” so she continues to do it.

Italian Woman: That is a possibility. It’s changing. Italian women are smarter and are not interested in this position of maid and mother anymore. Men are changing, too. When men move out of Italy for work now and move far away from their mothers for at least a few years. Once they become independent I believe men from my country can be really great husbands and fathers. But, I would never be with a man who never traveled or who has lived with his mother. For example, so many men live with their mothers until they marry. This is normal in Italy. But it never gives them a chance to become independent so they go from the house of their mother into the house with their wife and they just assume that the woman will do all the laundry, all the cooking, do everything, like his mother. We don’t have this problem with women. Women, it’s assumed that they are independent, they even move out younger. My advice to you [to my Australian friend] would be to find an Italian man who has traveled, lived outside of Italy for even a year, and who lives in a different city than his mother. Then he is probably a great man. Otherwise, I would be very careful.

Me: F moved away for a while and he’s very modern. We do everything 50/50 unless he’s at his mother’s home and then he’s nearly useless. But most of our friends who moved out for university are very modern and different, too. That seems pretty true. If F decided that he was a prince and stopped helping I would just let him live in his own filth until hepatitis set him straight. I have shit to do. Cannot do the maid thing.

Australian Woman: Well now I’m bloody scared!

Italian Woman: Yes. Well, welcome to Italy.

 

 

 

Wishing You All A Happy New Year And 2013 In Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog, and basically everyone is just here for the Zebra sex.

F left his crown in the car "on accident."

F left his crown in the car “on accident.”

 

2013 In Review (Holy Shit! I Survived!)

  • I had my Italian wedding in May and did it without a complete meltdown. We were married by a really nice hobbit in Cassino Italy. Dinner lasted for seven hours and my mum-in-law had to unzip my dress because I was fainting.
  • I went to Thailand for my honeymoon. It was amazing and everyone should go there at some point in their life. I saw so many hot lady-boys and the best fake boobs ever. But the elephant Trekking made me cry. That shit is sad. Go to an elephant sanctuary instead!
  • There were many epic in-law battles but in the end I think we learned to see eye-to-eye or at least I drank enough wine that it seemed more peaceful.
  • F got his Greencard! But only because the evil woman who probably hates kittens wasn’t there that day. I lost my ability referr to him as “my WOP” which was hard but I worked through it.
  • I went viral a few times! Well, my blog went viral, I don’t have any diseases that I know of. I had over 80,000 views in November, I gained a ton of new followers, made some new friends, and received a lot of great feedback that was awesome. Unfortunately some people were dickheads and I got some really “colorful” comments that were so ridiculous that I made a video about it.
  • Oliver was put on at least twenty different sex offender lists for his “LET ME LOVE YOUR LEG” bullying. We’re not proud. Well, both of us aren’t.
  • My most popular posts of 2013 were: 25 Things I’ve Learned About Italy18 Differences Between Living In Italy And The United StatesWhy Everyone Should Live In Italy At Least Once In Their Lives, The Big Cheat: The Truth About Italian Men, and 13 Things That Marrying An Italian Man Has Taught Me.
  • A lot of people came to my site by searching for: Midget Porn, Florence Italy Street Fashion, And Zebra Sex. I feel like Google finally gets me.

My New Years Resolutions are to: Do one thing every week to make the world a better place. Publish my book. And to bring back the running man. What’s yours?

13 Things That Marrying An Italian Man Has Taught Me About The World

1. Everyone is trying to steal from me. This includes children, animals, and department stores.

2. The best way to get something done is by going through a long network of connections. “I know a guy,” means, “this will take four or five hours but by God we’ll save a buck-fifty it is kills me.”

3. People REALLY want to see into our apartment. At this moment there are probably hundreds of people in the bushes with binoculars just waiting for me to open the blinds. That’s why the blinds always have to be shut. Always.

4. Nothing expires ever. Salmonella doesn’t really exist. Many people have died from air conditioning.

5. The best way to accessorize a t-shirt is with chest hair.

6. Wildly waving hands, screaming, making intense eye contact, can be used not only for anger but also to ask, “Where are my glasses,” or, “You have an adorable dog.”

7. You can still be masculine while wearing a pink shirt and riding a bike that has a wicker basket.

8. Google knows significantly less than any grandmother or mother.

9. Pesto does not go on bread. EVER. Seriously, like fucking EVER.

10. You can catch a disease from walking barefoot but not from going to the bathroom without washing your hands.

11. Every activity has to have a special outfit. You cannot wear your day clothes to the park. The park requires your park outfit which is basically your day clothes but with ugly tennis shoes.

12. Everything can be done tomorrow. There’s little or no reason to do anything today.

13. There is no privacy when it comes to family. This includes lengthy discussions about my underwear choices:

Father in law: I can see your underwear. Does your husband know that your pants are transparent?

Me: Uhm, I don’t think so. He didn’t say anything.

Father in law: What color are your underwear? Red? Black? Blue?

Mother in law: BLUE!

Father in law: Red!

Me: Uhm…They are black? Okay. I get it.

Mother in law: You cannot wear black underwear with that. You need to buy white, or skin-colored, or off-white, or a thong. Maybe not a thong. You need something like this, [leaves and returns with a pair of white granny panties].

Me: Awesome. Yeah. I’ll buy some. Okay, thanks. I’ll change before I leave.

Father in law: Because if you can see your underwear people will stare at your bottom.

Mother in law: And your HUSBAND should know better! Everyone is looking at his wife! SHAME! Shame!

Me: Dear god. I said I get it. The whole town is not staring at my ass. I’ll change.

Father in law: You can’t wear black with that.

Mother in law: White or nude colored.

Father in law: Your husband! Shame! I would kill my wife!

Mother in law: He would. He’s jealous! Francesco should care more!

Me: Sigh. [Face in hands].

And this is the life of marrying an Italian man and being an American expat in Florence. Did I miss anything?

 

 

Mamma Rosa Part 1, Cellole Italy. 2013. Melanzane alla Parmigiana (Eggplant Parmesan)

This blog, ComeTiPiace (pronounced comeh tee pee-awsh), meaning “how you like it,” is seriously awesome. The blog documents the journey of a young Italian man as he travels throughout Italy visiting different homes to learn how to cook some of the family’s favorite dishes. He posts recipes, photos of the cooking process as well as short bios of the people he visits. If you want to learn how to cook authentic Italian food I promise you that it does not get more authentic than this. Here is the latest post:

Mamma Rosa Part 1, Cellole Italy. 2013. Melanzane alla Parmiggiana (Eggplant Parmesan).

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