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!

 

 

Italy In The Winter: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Baby, It’s Cold Outside. And Inside. I’m Basically Dying Of Hypothermia In Florence, Italy

Let’s start this winter post about Italy with a short apology: I’ve been sort of absent lately. Not because I want to be but because Francesco was laid off after 3 weeks at a new job (the CEO decided to close the branch, you know, for funsies), and we had to move for the second time in ONE MONTH. He finally found a new job that is totally awesome and started yesterday, we move yet again next week, and all the while I’ve been editing my book with two completely badass editors who have worked for a bunch of fancy publishers and it’s been glorious. Unfortunately, I’ve been pulled in so many directions, and my head has been lodged so far up my own ass, I’ve hardly had time to be here, with you guys, doing what I love. However, my beloved COSI GROUP was all, “Nuh-uh, bitches,” and they collectively pulled all of us out of our slumber (there’s been a few of us struggling lately…this summer/fall has been a real pain in the ass), to get back on the COSI bandwagon and blog. This month’s theme? WINTER IN ITALY. And guess what? This subject could wake me from the dead because there’s nothing that causes me more suffering, or makes me whine like a toddler, than the cold.

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Does This Country Make Me Look Fat? Guest Post By Melissa Kulp Frankenfield

This morning, someone asked if I was pregnant. Again. *Sigh* And she was a beggar. So, it was practically a hate crime.

Since this faux-pregnant gal is all for improving human-relations, I just graciously smiled (and swore off eating) as I assured her “No, bambini! No bambini! Mi dispiace.” I actually apologized. For not being pregnant. Does this country make me look fat? Apparently. No thanks to my steady diet of wine with a side of wine.

Here are my (unsubstantiated) anthropological findings: Italy is a study in contrasts. Legislation and liberty. Restraint and moxie. Beauty and decay.

For example: The Italian government gives trash removal the same oversight a TSA agent grants a passenger named “Kamil” with pilot’s license. Clear plastics must be separated from colored plastics which must be separated from glass which must be separated from paper and so on. Basically, it’s the IRS of trash laws.

So, you have that regulation. And then you have this liberty: While recently dining at a local trattoria, the proprietor/probable mafia godfather approached my entourage. The invariable first question is always as to whether all three are mine. All. Three. Friends, “three” does not even qualify me for a TLC reality show.  But, maybe I just seem that overwhelmed. Or like a child-trafficker.  You decide.

*Tight smile* Yes, yes, they are all mine. But, we aren’t sure about the father.

Kidding.

Then, suddenly, this hairy godfather reached down and plucked my toddler right out of his seat, holding him in his floured arms as he pinched his cheek and kissed his head.  Kissed. His. Head. And I hadn’t even signed a “photo release” form yet. Liability release forms. That was my first thought as he affectionately stroked my toddler’s chubby face. On one hand- I can hardly blame the guy. My man-child is edibly adorable. It’s his fatness. (An unfair asset for only the very young.) But, still, can you imagine a comparable situation in say- an Olive Garden? Um, never.  You would be on Megan’s List, labeled as a predator before the day ended.

But, to be honest- my “creeper radar” registered nothing on this old mafia kingpin. Most likely, he was one of those fabled Italians, who actually love children. And frankly, it is the trash police that we could do without. Cause ain’t nobody got time for that.

About The Author:

Melissa Kulp Frankenfield is a washed-up high school actress. Obscure pageant finalist. Child-wrangler. Homeschooler. Wannabe spy.

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Oh, Angelo: Possibly The Hottest Italian Man Living In Florence

A month ago some friends of mine from the AZ area joined me and Francesco in Florence for a week. For the first part of our trip we stayed in an Airbnb apartment near Santo Spirito. The apartment was sunny, newly renovated and modern. Well, mostly modern. It didn’t have air conditioning for reasons I’m still trying to work out in my mind. It was July, hot as hades, my boobs were sweaty and my makeup melted down my face the second I put it on so I looked like a whimpering mime most of the time. Since it was so hot in our apartment we mostly avoided it altogether, jetting out in the a.m. and wandering the streets like dried prunes till the evening. On one particular day the heat had become too much for me (since I’m apparently a delicate flower), and I started feeling dizzy. The last thing I wanted to do was faint in the middle of the street, something I’d witnessed a few years prior when a friend of ours from Brescia visited Florence and she dropped like a sack of potatoes on the Ponte Vecchio from heat exhaustion. She spent five hours hooked up to I.V.’s while a drunk man belted out tunes across from her. No thanks. So, not wanting to faint, we beelined it back to our hot ass apartment so I could take a cold shower.

When we walked into the apartment building we were hit by a gust of cool air. Turned out that the floor level was nice and cool, the sun hadn’t managed to work its way through the three meters of cement slabs. The main floor, the hallway, felt air conditioned and glorious so my friend Karen and I took a seat on the steps until my light-headedness passed. Francesco ran upstairs to our apartment on the fourth floor to grab some bottled waters from the fridge. Karen and I talked on the cold cement steps, enjoying a few wonderful minutes away from the hot air outside that felt like a blow-dryer on the nape of your neck. My face returned to its normal tone, my cheeks lost their bright red flush, and I felt fine again.

At about this time, the front door of the apartment building opened and a tall Italian man enters dressed in a navy blue suit. His head is shaved, he’s wearing D&G sunglasses and Italian leather shoes. He shuts the door behind him, pivots, and stops cold when he sees us on the steps in front of him. A smile slowly spreads across his face, a perfect smile, revealing an excellent set of the whitest pearly whites I’ve ever seen in Italy outside of a magazine ad. He pauses there for a moment just smiling, then walks with purpose directly up to Karen and I. Standing only a few inches from our feet he cocks his head to the side, the smile has only spread wider at this point,

“Hello,” he says in Italian, “what are you doing here?”

I respond, in Italian, “It’s hot outside and it’s much cooler here. We are renting an apartment upstairs. I’m just waiting for my husband.”

He nods, “but you’re not Italian. Why do you speak Italian?”

I smile, “because my husband is Italian.”

He bows slightly, “I understand. Well, enjoy your day,” he raises his sunglasses revealing one of the most attractive faces I’ve ever seen (aside from my own husband’s). I’m not easy to impress, neither is Karen, but we were both fucking impressed. “Ciao.” He walked passed us to the apartment located directly behind where we were sitting.

He took out his keys, “I lived in the US for a while,” he put his key into the hole, “it was wonderful.”

Francesco came walking down the stairs. He saw the man talking with us and flashed me a “are you getting hit on?” smile.

“Ciao,” he said to the handsome man going into his apartment.

“Ciao,” the handsome man replied, “I was just telling your friends that I lived in America for a while.”

Francesco stopped to talk with him, “really? Where?”

Turned out, the handsome man had lived in Florida for a while, partied a great deal, worked in a number of bars, had a marvelous time, and returned to his beloved Florence.

“But why do you speak Italian?” he asked Francesco.

Francesco laughed, “Uhm, because I’m Italian?” They both laughed.

The handsome guy said goodbye and disappeared into his apartment. Francesco walked over to me and Karen,

“Wow, that guy is hot.” He noted.

“Right? Wow.”

“I can see what all the fuss is about now with Italian men,” Karen laughed, “The confidence! He walked straight up to us with a determination I’ve never seen before.”

“Oh, welcome to Italy. That’s what makes them so damn attractive, the guys, they give zero fucks. That’s exactly how Francesco was when we started dating too. Insanity.”

“I like it.”

“He’s REALLY hot,” Francesco said, again.

“Yeah babe, I noticed. You gonna leave me for him?” I laughed, “Anyway,” I stood up, “I’m going to go change. Be right back.”

“I’m coming too,” Karen followed me upstairs to our sweltering apartment.

I threw on a cooler dress and more comfortable sandals. I was on my way to meet up with Georgette from Girl In Florence and I didn’t know how far I’d be walking. Plus, I didn’t want to show up a disgusting sweaty mess so the least I could do was put on a clean dress for her. I liked her, I didn’t want to knock her out with my potent b.o.

Karen and I ran downstairs to grab Francesco before heading to a bar to meet Georgette. Only, Francesco was nowhere to be found. Karen and I waited outside, and waited, and ten minutes went by and he was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, the door popped open and F stuck his head out,

“Babe, I’m hanging out with Angelo*, that’s the hot guy’s name. Come hang out!”

“Francesco, I’m going to be late!”

“Just two minutes!” Francesco grinned.

Karen and I followed Francesco into Angelo’s apartment and out to his garden where Angelo was seated, practically naked. His six pack glistened in the afternoon sun, his biceps bounced as he stood up to shake our hand.

“This is my apartment,” he said, in English this time, “I amAngelo, I own a bar nearby.” He smiled, again.

“Can I get you guys a drink? Something, else?” He paused and flashed a smile.

Angelo proceeded to roll a special variety of cigarette.

Everyone smoked the cigarette except for me because I prefer vodka.

“You sure?”Angelo asked, flashing a crooked smile.

“Yes. I’m meeting a friend for drinks.”

He shrugged.

Angelo made small talk about Florida and his life in Florence. Sweat beads occasionally fell between his well-formed pecs.

A few minutes later we excused ourselves to run towards the bar to meet Georgette. As we exited his apartment, a little old Italian woman entered from the apartment next door.

“Oh, my jesus,  his mom lives next door.”

“Of course,” Francesco added, matter-of-factly.

————–

I’m fairly certain that he has a girlfriend because it’s impossible he doesn’t BUT  if you’re interested in seeing this majestic creature in the wild visit: LANGOLINO in Santa Spirito. I’ve heard that he can be found here often. Order drinks, and thank mother nature.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

Palazzo Belfiore: Possibly The Best Apartments For Rent In Florence, Italy

I’m always traveling. For the past ten years or something I’ve been constantly on the move, either visiting different states in the US or cruising around Europe. I’ve traveled on a college budget (think poor as F%&, sleeping in the airport), and I’ve done the luxury travel thing, too. Nice hotels are fantastic and you feel special and fancy but I always feel a little unsettled, like I’m in between something, a high-end hobo. In recent years I’ve stayed almost exclusively at apartments because I feel at home which is super important because I have OCD, I’m kind of crazy, aaaand I work remotely. Feeling good about where I am is crazy important to me because if I’m uneasy I can become homicidal or depressed or just weird. Thankfully since I travel a lot I’ve finally started to pin-point my fav stops for feeling comfortable without spending a billion dollars. I can “rough it,” I did it for years, but now that I’m older and…old, I’m basically just old, I need a bit more comfort up in my life but I would rather shop than spend a fortune on a room. While I’m still working out the wrinkles in a few of the cities I visit often, I feel like I’ve found a perfect solution for Florence for friends and my family. I just stayed in an apartment so epically badass that I had to write about it because everyone needs to stay at this place and I knew that all of you who love Italy (especially Florence) will be all about it. Seriously, even if you already live in Florence just go stay here because it is goddamn magical. So magical that I actually turned into a knight AND a unicorn.

 

If you’re planning a trip to Florence with family, friends, your kids, your partner, dog, whatever, definitely check this apartment out. Why? For starters it’s a historically amazing place. In 1394 three of the apartments made a townhome that was lived in by people affiliated with the Medici family and the bottom apartment used to be their “farmers” market (since the streets were too dangerous to venture onto). Also, the Clarice apartment, for example, sleeps six, has a huge living room, two bathrooms and has frescos from the 14th century (think, around the time of Leonardo Da Vinci, he probably totally boinked one of the guys that lived there because he had really good taste when it came to rooms and boinking…I imagine). The rooms are well-equipped with a kitchen, insanely comfy mattresses, adequate closet space, and decorated old school. Every second you’re in the apartment your brain is like, “HOLY SHIT I’M IN ITALY IN THE OLDEN DAYS!” Except there is modern plumbing, and a bidet, and no plague. It’s the best of all the worlds! All of the apartments are different and have cute names: Bianca Cappello, Lorenzo Il Magnifico, Clarice (my personal fave), Cosimo il Vecchio, Leone X, Caterina, and Francesca. They all fit a various number of people (the apartments, not the women…pervs) and I honestly cannot think of a better place for a bride and groom to stay the night after their wedding, on their honeymoon, or for a badass family vacation (Caterina has an upstairs loft, and 3 bedrooms… fits 6 super comfortably) or you can go with friends and split the apartment expenses to make it crazy cheap. I can’t see myself staying anywhere else or putting my family anywhere else in Florence. Oh! And my room had a sword in it! A SWORD! F was not excited that I had access to a sword or that I kept yelling, “I am a knight! Obey!” at him.

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I don’t actually have a beard in real life. I don’t know what’s happening here.

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The living room! Look at those gorgeous frescos!

Probably the best thing about the apartments though are the details that the management puts into the place. Federico Bonechi and his sister Francesca are from Florence, they know everyone, and they are amazing. I don’t like very many people enough to gush over them but seriously, they were so damn nice and helpful and I met so many great Florentines just by standing outside with Federico for five minutes and having a coffee with him nearby. Federico didn’t even smack me when I showed up late to the apartment to check-in (because I was having brunch with blogger babes Georgette from Girl in Florence, Gina from The Florence Diaries, and realized too late that a text I sent never sent).

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Federico! He’s handsome and incredibly hospitable.

 

Amenities That Made Me Insanely Happy:

  • Access for disabled people in the Francesco De Medici apartment (doesn’t sound like much but in Florence this is HUGE because most apartments are not wheelchair accessible).
  • Blowdryer AND hair straightener in every apartment (uhm, why the hell do other apartments not have a straightener? I needed this because F exploded mine at his parent’s house because he used it to “test,” a converter, NOT because he was trying to style his chest hair…this time).
  • Shampoo, sewing kit, body wash.
  • First Aid Kit in case you injure yourself with the random swords in the rooms.
  • Really plush, awesome towels.
  • Shower cap (can’t be bothered to wash my hair every day).
  • Washer
  • Vanity Kit
  • Sewing kit (so you can make yourself outfits).
  • 3 AC units (in the Clarice apartment where I stayed). Doesn’t sound impressive? It should, because I stayed in another apartment prior to this one with NO air conditioning in July when it was 100 degrees outside. I actually considered suicide multiple times per day.
  • Fresh in season fruit, and a nice bottle of Banfi, Tuscan wine (which I immediately guzzled like a rabid housewife) that they set out as a welcome gift for all guests. Seriously, how cute is that?
  • A special tea blend called Palazzo Belfiore made by a local tea house and it is freaking delicious. I like tea but I don’t love it. This blend I loved enough to bottle and carry around with me all day. They must put fairy crack in it.

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Services Upon Request (I will be taking advantage next time):

  • Housekeeping (40 bucks per day)
  • Dryer Service (clothes are returned folded)
  • Grocery Shopper (15 dollars)
  • Personal Shopper
  • Beauty service in your apartment
  • Breakfast in your apartment
  • Private driver and/or private tour booking
  • Italian language and cooking courses (in your apartment or in groups).
  • Private cook in your apartment
  • Luggage storage

Palazzo Belfiore is located on the Oltrarno in Florence, or as I like to call it, legit Florence. If you cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge and cruise over towards Santa Spirito you’ll find yourself in the same ‘hood as Palazzo Belfiore and here is where you’ll find tons of artisan shops, amazing restaurants, art, antiques, Made In Italy clothing, shoes, and general badassery. It’s my favorite area in Florence next to Campo Di Marte (Again, I’m oldish and Campo is chill). Belfiore is located between the main four points of the Ponte Vecchio, Santa Trinita, Santa Spirito, and is right next to Palazzo Pitti. It’s also right next to Piazza Della Passera, one of the few streets in Florence that was not rebuilt after WWII so it’s exactly as it was centuries ago.

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Quattro Leoni one of the last remaining lions in stone (if you concentrate on the gray cement).

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Santa Spirito

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Historic street in Florence near Palazzo Pitti, Via Toscana

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Local caffe around the corner from Palazzo Belfiore

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Palazzo Pitti

If you’re interested in booking an apartment email Francesca or Federico for pricing or bookings (you’ll get a better deal if you book directly instead of on a third-party site because they give discounts: info@residencebelfiore.it

Artisans Near Palazzo Belfiore:

Silvia Nesti: www.silvianesti.com she works with silver

Rentato Olivastri: www.olivastrirestauri.it he is a theacher in the Scuola del Restauro

Enrico Giannini : Master of the paper

Luigi Mecocci: Master of restauro

LIVE IT LOCAL: Such a great video, short, sweet, and full of places to go and things to try along with local artisans, cafes, restaurants, and even cake shops.

Recommended Restaurants In Florence: 

Classic Mid-range Tuscan Food (within € 40 per person):

Toscanella – Via Toscanella 32r – Tel. +39 055 285488

Magazzino – Piazza della Passera 2/3 – Tel. +39 055 215969

4 Leoni – Piazza della Passera 5 – Tel. +39 055 218562

Il Santo Bevitore – Via Santo Spirito, 64/66 – Tel. +39 055 211264

La Casalinga – Via dei Michelozzi, 9r – Tel. +39 055 218624

Lungarno 23 – Lungarno Torrigiani 23 – Tel. +39 055 2345957

Classic mid-high Tuscan food (€ 40 and up per person):

Buca dell’Orafo – Volta dei Girolami 28 – Tel. +39 055 213619

Coco Lezzone – Via del Parioncino, 26r – Tel. +39 055 287178

Mamma Gina – Borgo San Jacopo, 37 – Te. +39 055 2396009

Classic top Tuscan food (€ 50 up per person):

Cammillo – (Casual)

Buca Lapi – (smart casual – only open for dinner)

Borgo San Jacopo 57r – Tel +39 055 212427

Via del Trebbio 1r – Tel. +39 055 213768 (top end of Via dè Tornabuoni)

Vegetarian Restaurants:

5 & Cinque – piazza della Passera, 1- Tel. +39 055 2741583

Brac – Santa Croce Area – Via dei Vagellai 18/R – tel +39 055 0944877

Le Vespe Cafè – Santa Croce Area – Via Ghibellina, 76 – Tel +39 055 3880062

Il Vegetariano – Piazza San Marco Area – Via delle Ruote 30r – Tel. +39 055 475030

 

 

My Mother-In-Law Is Stalking M.E. And It’s Hilariously Traumatic

It isn’t uncommon for moms everywhere to be on top of their kids like, “flies on shit,” as my mom would so eloquently say and Italian moms are no different. Italy is famous for the food, the beauty, and the tight-knit families which naturally include Italian moms who are known for being great moms. They’re sometimes teased for being crazy moms that occasionally try to re-womb their adult children like in this ad from Norway. Apparently, that ever-present helicopter mothering can go on until their kids are elderly. I once saw an old Italian mom clad in widow black lecture her elderly daughter on a street corner, passionately waving her cane around. The daughter who was also wearing widow black and looked to be in her seventies or eighties argued back indignantly until eventually teetering away with her mom yelling in hot pursuit.

Sometimes the helicopter mothering can be crazy, other times sweet, and every once in a while it’s downright comical in a “holy shit,” kind of way. F isn’t Mammoni, but when my MIL is around she takes full advantage of her time by being ever-present, kind of like a stealth ninja. Over the past week my MIL has been stalking us while we stay at her home. Somehow, no matter what we do or where we go she’s there. Almost magically like she materializes out of thin air. She’s given me so many heart-attacks I’m worried about my cardiovascular health AND it’s made me a little paranoid. I actually checked under my bed and behind the bedroom door the other day. Yes, seriously.

One night, after being surrounded by people for a long ass time, were desperate enough to “be marital,” in my in-law’s guest room because we are idiots. It was 2 a.m. so we thought we were safe to make the boom-boom. After, I tip-toed to the bathroom (ain’t nobody got time for a UTI) through the pitch-black hall, passed my in-laws room. I reached out for the light switch on the outside of the bathroom door and right as my finger felt the plastic nub, I heard the thundering voice of my MIL from her doorway scream for my husband “FRANCHEH!” I reeled back, totally scared shitless. I stood motionless in the dark hallway, listening to her breathe only a few feet from me. Francesco responded from the guest room where he’s drifting off to sleep (how typical?) “Yeah Mom?” I opened the bathroom door and closed it quietly wondering if she’d somehow managed to hear us doing the nasty despite our attempt to be absolutely silent, like two corpses in love, silent. Had she seen me standing in front of her in the hallway or did she just hear me and assume it was F?  She continued to Francesco, “Turn on the fan on in your room and don’t open the window too much! You’ll get sick or someone will sneak into your room at night!”

“Okay mamma,” he replied.

I waited in the bathroom for a minute, hoping she’d go back to bed so I didn’t have to face her. Finally, I snuck back to the bedroom. I whispered to F, “Holy, shit. Do you think she heard something?” while crawling back into bed.

“Oh, gross! Ugh! I don’t want to think about it, honestly.”

We both stared at each other for a minute and drifted off to sleep feeling like we needed to take bleach showers with a scrubby brush.

***

It was Sunday morning so Francesco and I woke up a little bit late and slowly got ready to head over to my Sister-In-Laws house for our nieces birthday party. I teetered into the bathroom, noticing that the house was quiet and seemingly empty. I piled my hair on top of my head and secured it with a few bobbi pins, brushed my teeth with my electronic toothbrush that sounds suspiciously like a vibrator, and rubbed some creme de viso face wash into my cheeks. I rinsed my face and reached my arm out into the air to feel around for a towel, burying my face into it to pat it dry. I removed it and opened my eyes to find my MIL Standing in the bathroom with me, her hands on her hips, her face two inches away from mine.”CLOSE THE WINDOW,” she barked, gesturing to the window behind me. I jumped back, nearly tripping over the bidet and screamed, “WHAT THE MOTHER FUCK!” in English (which she can’t understand) because for a second I thought I was about to get ax murdered. She shook her head at me like I was insane, rolled her eyes and pivoted out of the bathroom.

***

“It will make you incredibly sick! You’ll hurt your stomach!” My MIL explained to my three year old niece who was begging for water. “No! NO! It’s too COLD!” My MIL held the bottle of chilled water above her head, out of my niece’s reach. “Ma DAI! NONNA!” my niece pleaded, desperate after running in circles in the ninety degree heat.

“No! NO! You’ll get sick!” She said. My niece opened her mouth and let out a shrill scream of frustration, wondering why she was not able to drink water when she was thirsty. I watched, equally as perplexed. What the fuck?

My MIL has decided that along with wind chill, cold water will basically kill you. Drinking cold water on a hot day will destroy your stomach, causing unbearable pain and ruining your life with gastric discomfort. I’d spent my entire life guzzling ice water during the summer and wondered what made me genetically capable of downing the liquid poison? Cold water had yet to make me sick. No matter, I was still forbidden from drinking it, instead we were told that we were only allowed to drink cups of liquid the temperature of fresh urine. Mmmm. Every time someone would raise a cold bottle of water to their lips to alleviate the hot, hot heat she’d burst into the room, pop out behind a door, or spring up behind them, scream, and take their water away. It became a sort of family joke where we’d hide our cold bottles, or sneak away to drink out of them. But once after being outside in the sticky heat, and returning inside to the apartment without air conditioning, Francesco forgot that his mother was lurking. He grabbed a bottle from the fridge, an extra cold one with condensation beads, and started guzzling away. His mom magically appeared in the kitchen like she’d jet-packed in from the balcony upon hearing him swallow, slapped him hard in the back of his head with a massive “THACK.” forcing water to spurt out of his mouth onto the cabinets like a sprinkler. “MOM!” he choked and gagged.

“It’s TOO COLD! DIO MIO!” She grabbed the water out of his hand and slammed the bottle onto the table on her way out of the room.

Francesco turned to me, “ouch!” and we burst out laughing.

***

We went out drinking with friends and returned to my in-laws home around midnight. We crawled into bed and Francesco dozed off right away but I couldn’t sleep because I was hungry and my blood sugar was too low. I tossed and turned, counted sheep, and eventually accepted that I needed to find food. I pulled on my pajamas before padding down the hallway towards the kitchen. I slowly made my way past the office which I assumed was empty since it was the middle of the night. Suddenly, the office light flipped on and my MIL sat up on the office couch, “What are you doing?” She demanded.

I jumped, “Holy shit! Uhm, I’m hungry?”

“There is cheese and bread in the kitchen.” She looked me up and down. Then, while still looking at me, she switched off the light. I stood in the dark hallway for a minute pondering whether or not it was possible that she had super powers. How else could she possibly be EVERYWHERE at every second of the day, always? I pulled some bread and scamorza from the fridge and walked back to the room on-guard yet feeling somewhat safe. Maybe we couldn’t drink cold water, make the boom-boom, or sneak a midnight snack, but least it would be impossible for someone to sneak into our house and murder us.

Travel Tips: Choosing Where To Travel In Italy

It’s summer and the emails are starting to come in asking for my recommendations for travel. Since I’m working on a series of guides and some super in-depth posts about travel that I’ll have up soon, I’m just going to keep this short and sweet with the highlights of my favorite places to go. I hope this helps at least some of you plan your Italy trip this year.

Choosing a destination depends on what kind of traveler you are and what you’re seeking. Are you a history buff? A food lover? Wino? Artist? Do you love culture and people-watching (legal stalking)?

I’m personally really into culture. I love watching people. If you see me in Florence I’m probably sitting on a bench taking photos of perfect strangers while they smoke cigarettes or talk about their partner or cake recipes. If this sounds like you then you might want to do an off-the-beaten-path trip. Honestly, one of the best ways to travel Italy in my opinion is to pick somewhere less touristy and spend a good amount of time there. There are tiny towns and villages throughout Italy that don’t get a lot of attention in tourism magazines but are well worth visiting if you’re looking for an authentic cultural experience.

Florence, Rome, and all of those places are beautiful, historical, and amazing but they’re swamped with visitors and because of that a lot of the charm is lost as restaurants, stores, try to accomodate visitors. I’m not entirely complaining about that because it did bring large coffee cups to Florence, God bless ya’ll, but it also removes the “authenticity,” and love that normally goes into Italian products, and food, from certain areas. Sometimes in larger cities if you want to really experience them the best way to do it is with a local, or a ton of research to avoid tourist traps which can certainly be exhausting. However, if art, history, and architecture are important to you then working larger cities into your trip is probably a good idea. I vote for going off of the beaten path and spending most of your vacation there but maybe taking short weekend trips to larger cities. For example, I love Gaiole in Chianti. Obviously, it depends on how long you have off.

Gaiole In Chianti

Gaiole In Chianti

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