Checklist: Packing For Italy In The Spring

image packing for italy

So, you’ve booked your trip to Italy and you’re super excited, right? But, then you remember you have to wear clothes and bring things and then you get stressed out and your brain implodes. I get it. Packing is my least favorite thing in the world.

But, after years of global travel, I’m pretty good at it. And since I get asked about packing so much, I thought a checklist would be helpful.

Random Stuff You Need: 

Ziplock bags

Grocery Bags

Men’s Clothing

  • Skinny jeans in a light wash or brightly colored skinny pants. Let your inner peacock fly.
  • A few button-up shirts for dinner. In Italy, its considered nasty behavior to show up in public in sweats and a basketball jersey.
  • Converse are always in style for any age.White is most common in the spring/summer. A pair of boots and some nice shoes are great for rainy days and evenings. Wrap them in the grocery bags so you don’t smell up your luggage (if you don’t have a separate shoe compartment.
  • Slippers (the floors are always cold in hotels and Airbnb rentals).
  • Robe (again, they go easy on the heat, you’ll thank me later).
  • Sunglasses
  • A light scarf. They’re worn year around and you’ll see a lot of guys wearing them.
  • Cardigan for cooler days
  • Jacket for cooler nights
  • T-shirts to match your jeans and cardigan combo

Toiletries/Hair/Face

  • Even if you’re a man’s man, bring moisturizer with SPF because you’ll be outside a ton and the long flight to Italy is brutal on your skin.
  • Get a stylish haircut because you’re coming to the fashion capital of the world and the men invest in how they look.
  • Shampoo bars. Easier to transport than liquid shampoo. I buy Francesco’s at Whole Foods but you can get them on Amazon.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

Women’s Clothing

  • Skinny jeans or fitted jeans. Even if you’re 50, mom’s don’t wear “mom jeans,” in Italy. But if skinny jeans are too uncomfortable, go with comfortable trousers.
  • Stretchy slacks for chilly evenings
  • Black tights with a black dress (black is always in).
  • Boots that are comfortable to walk in for both day and night. Think booties. I wrap all of my shoes in grocery bags if I don’t bring a bag with a separate shoe compartment.
  • Would NOT recommend heels because the cobblestone makes it pretty damn difficult, unless you’re going to a city that doesn’t have cobblestone which is pretty damn hard to find.
  • A nice blouse or two for dinner
  • Scarves (used year-around)
  • Sunglasses
  • Converse or comfortable sneakers (but maybe not those crazy huge Reebocks with thick white athletic socks).
  • Slippers (otherwise your feet will freeze in your hotel or apartment). Also, being barefoot inside is considered kind of weird in part of Italy.
  • Robe so you don’t freeze
  • Cardigans because layering is always important
  • Light jacket for chilly nights. You’ll see a lot of trench coats this time of year. 
  • Bring a few different purses. Ideally, small bags that won’t kill your back. You really only need to fit your credit cards, cash, and passport or ID. And like some lady products.

Toiletries/Hair/Face

  • Pack all of your liquid toiletries in ziplock bags for the airport. Remember, all liquids, creams, etc., need to go in here. I buy a lot of solids for travel like lotion bars, shampoo bars for Francesco, etc. They don’t leak and they’re easier to bring and don’t have to be shoved into a ziplock. Lush has shampoo bars, lotion bars, conditioner bars, all that jazz. And you can find it on amazon.
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Body cream
  • Soap
  • Contact solution
  • Mascara
  • BB Cream with SPF (I like this because it’s a bunch of products in one)
  • Eye pallet
  • Eyeliner
  • Lip gloss
  • Blush (I buy BITE’s 3 in 1 sticks because they work for eyes, lip, and cheeks. I’m lazy.
  • Think natural for the face and hair so I wouldn’t go crazy bringing a ton of stuff. Makeup and beauty are personal and everyone is different but you definitely see more natural looks in Italy.
  • Waterproof mascara because the humidity is brutal
  • Anti-frizz cream if your hair gets crazy in humidity
  • I see a lot of women wearing just black eyeliner in the tear line and lash line for night.
  • Nail polish remover wipes
  • Polish (I always get gels before I vacation because I’m too lazy to bother with my nails on a trip).
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Rollerball perfume
  • Deodorant
  • Q-Tips
  • Dry Shampoo

For The Plane

  • Emergen-C packets because getting sick on the way to Italy sucks. Trust me, you’re trapped in that tiny area with a bunch of people. Germs spread.
  • Moisturizing face masks. I bring the sheet masks with me and I throw one on in the plane because the ride makes your skin feel and look terrible. Plus, what else do you have to do for hours and hours?
  • Snacks
  • A book to read, magazines or a crossword puzzle
  • Aloe socks. Now, you’re thinking that this is the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard of but trust me. Once you wear these on a long flight, you’ll never travel without them again. I wear sandals to the airport and I slip them off in the plane and put on my aloe socks. Amazing.
  • Lip balm. Trust me.
  • Melatonin or some other natural thing to knock you out if you suck at sleeping on planes. Note, I am clearly not a doctor.
  • Tea (because plane tea is nasty).
  • Download podcasts or movies before you leave in case you have a delayed flight or shitty layover.
  • Moisturizer
  • Face wipes/makeup remover wipes
  • Contact cases/Glasses
  • Ibuprofen or whatever in case you get a headache or cramps or something
  • Eye mask
  • Ear Plugs
  • Travel blanket
  • Travel Pillow
  • Toothbrush
  • Kleenex

Other Essentials

  • Converters (a power converter, otherwise you’ll explode your hair dryer or curling iron and possibly your phone or other electronics).
  • Plug Adapters. We bring at least 3.
  • Medication or vitamins. I bring a little 7 day container and I pre-fill it before I go.
  • Camera with extra memory cards
  • Italian/English dictionary
  • Download DuoLingo like 1 month before your trip and do it every day for ten minutes
  • Lady products because you never know
  • Glass water bottle
  • Earphone
  • Chargers
  • Keys
  • Wallet
  • Id/Passport
  • Boarding Passes
  • Cash/Credit Cards (and make sure to call and tell them you’re traveling)

Resources

  • Check out my Amazon store for my recommendations. Your trip will be so much more interesting, comfortable, and more enjoyable if you take the time to learn a little bit of Italian, and learn a little about the history and culture.
  • Packing Tips Video

What are your packing tips and tricks? Put it in the comments below!

A Weekend Getaway: Exploring Italy’s Rich Music Scene By Paul Giltern

italys-music-scene

Like most European countries, Italy has a wonderful music scene welcoming international acts to cities such as Turin, Rome and Milan every week.

For the most part, quaint Italian music venues litter the aforementioned cities, hidden in the back streets of these bustling urban metropolises. Once bands have played Italy for the first time, they appreciate the intensity and passion of the music fans in Italy and always look to comeback whenever they get the chance.

The lure of performing at the likes of La Scala in Milan (main picture) or Teatro dell’Opera di Roma and Villa Celimontana is often too much to resist, according to Guardian when they looked at the best music venues in Rome.

But it’s not just the big cities that attract some of the world’s most celebrated artists. Italy is known for its outdoor festivals and concerts – basically, the weather in Italy is a little more pleasant that in some neighboring European countries. Hence why so many European travelers who love music end up booking weekend getaways to Italy in order to attend a festival or concert. There is a ton of annual music festivals held in Italy including festivals such as Lucca Summer Festival, Umbria Jazz Festival, Puccini Festival and Verona Opera Festival among others that have been listed on Ciao Citalia.

Italy’s wealth of festivals welcomes thousands of tourists each year, but this year there will be a special event held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, just north of Bologna. On June 10, 2017 Guns N’ Roses will play their only Italy show of their world tour. The band that recently announced they were to reform have been playing a slew of North American dates recently in preparation for their huge world tour.

The concert goes to show the pulling power Italy has when it comes to attracting the biggest bands in the world. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola is an outdoor concert space, which according to reports can accommodate up to 30,000 spectators. Aside from U2 announcing they will play Rome’s Olympic Stadium on June 15, the Guns N’ Roses show will be the biggest event in Italy’s music calendar in 2017. The Rock Blog were the first to announce the show and revealed that the presale tickets went on general sale on December 9.

To get fans excited about the concert, here is a video of the band’s recent Las Vegas show.

The upcoming Guns N’ Roses show is expected to sell out. The Imola racetrack is usually used for Formula One racing but has proved to be a great venue for outdoor concerts over the years, and will undoubtedly be the perfect setting for Axl and Slash to rattle through their back catalogue.

The reforming of one of rock music’s greatest ever bands hasn’t just captured the attention of Italian music fans – its put the band in front of a global audience once again. As news broke of the band getting back together, memorabilia started flooding online for fans to buy. Regardless of Axl’s past legal issues with video game company Activision, they are reports circulating that there could well be another Guitar Hero game on its way after the band release their new album. Additionally, a slew of awesome online games have started springing up online including the Guns N’ Roses Video Slots game released by renowned gaming portal Slingo. All of this is in anticipation of Guns N’ Roses upcoming concert at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola. The band are a cash cow, and with fans anticipating their return to European shores, the GNR band shirts, videogames and remastered albums are making the band huge sums of money in royalties.

So if you are a music fan and need an excuse to venture to Italy, why not either look up the venues we’ve mentioned in this article or book yourself a ticket to see Guns N’ Roses or U2 and witness how passionate Italian music fans really are.

About Paul Giltern: A music fan for over 30 years, Paul first fell in love with David Bowie’s music. Fast forward to the present day and Paul contributes to a slew of online publications. He loves going to concerts and collects vinyl. Away from music, Paul enjoys traveling and reading.

Note: Collaborative Post

WOOT! Sound The Bells

So, after a turbulent three month fight with depression and anxiety, the clouds have parted, and I’m feeling GREAT. The meditation, vitamins, therapy, and very low dose of Gabapentin have be feeling more or less back to my self. Which is annoying for Francesco because he’s like, “Oh My GOD! How do you have so much energy in the morning?” And I’m like, “Shh, Franny, I’m over here writing the mayor (again) about some shit that I think we need to change.

Also, I’d like to take this moment to thank my doctors. You guys, I have an incredible therapist and psychiatrist. And also, I’ll never be skeptical of meditation again. THAT SHIT WORKS. I use an app called Headspace for ten minutes in the morning before I get my lazy ass out of bed. Seriously, try it. It’s totally not just for hippies. Also, I’m reading a book right now that my therapist recommended called, The Body Keeps The Score. Really good, kind of intense, but incredibly interesting. Have any of you read it?

In other news, I’m on my way back to Italy to do some pretty epic things. I’m hoping to hook up with some of my old blogging pals (Girl In Florence, anyone?) and be AWESOME TOGETHER. In other, other news: Oliver crapped himself the other day and me and F got into a HUGE fight because I wasn’t holding him “the right way,” over the sink. I’m sorry, FRANCESCO, but what’s the RIGHT WAY TO HOLD  A SHIT STAINED POODLE? And how do you have so much experience in this area that you’re somehow an expert? Seriously, I want to know. WE ALL WANT TO KNOW.

Things you can look out for in the future from me:

  • The site is getting a pretty badass overhaul in a minute and I have a SURPRISE FOR ALL OF YOU THAT YOU WILL LOVE.
  • More cooking videos from me and F that actually look professional and do not appear to be filmed by crack heads.
  • A travel coffee table book of images I took in Italy along with tour information and anecdotes. I promise, it will be funny and not at all stuffy.
  • More shit from Dwayne. ONE DAY! ONE. DAY.
  • MY MOTHER F#$&ING BOOK! I’m sorry, I get a ton of emails about this but it took me much longer to write it than I ever anticipated. It was hard, guys. Really hard.
  • Tons more blog posts and travel stuff! I’m filling up my editorial calendar and you’ll finally be seeing regular posts from me.
  • A new blog! Well, many of you already read my other blog but that’s getting an overhaul, too. It will be about my day-to-day life, travel, eco travel, and eco beauty. I think that some of you will be pretty into it. Now, I just need a new name. Ideas, anyone?

Also, I love you guys. Thanks for being patient. Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see in the comments below and I’ll make sure to cover it!

Tanti Baci.

 

 

 

 

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

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

Vantage Points

1.I Would Have Learned More About The Culture: Without a solid grasp of the culture you won’t be able to understand your surroundings, to communicate, or to really understand the people you’ll meet, your partner (if they’re Italian) or their family. Americans, more than anyone, will not understand why this is number one or they’ll be like, “they like spaghetti, I get the culture.” The reason that Americans have a difficult time grasping how culture impacts communication is that American communication is really straightforward. Note: This has nothing to do with honesty. Americans can 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

GE DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo: http://www.fontechiara.com/

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

 

Christmas Insanity: A COSI Post

image via sleepshirt.com

Ah, the holidays in December, the wonderful time of year when you accidentally jam your mother-in-law’s head in a hair dryer, that lovely month where your mom gives you a framed family picture that she’s photoshopped your dead brother into. Oh, December, oozing with spiced wine, hot toddies and cheer. And the house is filled with threatening music as your Italian husband dances around singing “you better watch out,” over and over again because he only knows that one line from Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. And guys, you had seriously better watch out. 

I don’t know about all of you but the holidays are always pretty damn crazy for me. Let’s take this year, for example. Tonight kicked off my holiday week with Yalda, or the Persian Winter Solstice. We ate about 9 billion things that my aunt cooked. Then, my dad blasted Persian music and commanded us to all dance in the center of the living room while my aunt filmed it, then I had to chase my frosting covered dog around to clean his face after my brother realized that the little shit had been sneaking sugar cookies out of a bowl. All the while a woman in a white suit with enormous shoulder pads shaked, and shimmied on the t.v., singing some Persian song about love. My 11 year old little sister asked, 

“Will you give me a baby for Christmas?” Because she wants to be an aunt again. 

“No, because it’s illegal to gift babies. And it would be kind of suspicious if I gave you a box with air holes punched in it.” 

She’s been asking me to have a baby for months. A few weeks ago she offered to help me look into “buying a cute one from someone.” Because she’s my sister so she creepy like that. 

Then my dad chimed in that we will never have a baby so Francesco shouldn’t get his hopes up. My aunt, looking very cute and modest with her head scarf on (she’s visiting from Iran), laughed and said, “oh, but tonight is the longest night of the year, you both can have a lot of opportunities tonight.” 

My other sister added, “just eat a bunch of pomegranate sis.” 

And then we all laughed, because in our family it’s apparently way normal to coax each other into a night of heavy mating with the help of aphrodisiacs. 

This is just getting started. This week will be interesting. 

On Christmas Eve, Francesco will make a traditional Italian fish feast of Baccala, clams with spaghetti, and possibly sardines or something, even though this Christmas we’ll be in Utah. I’ll feel anxious about over-fishing and empty oceans while F labors intensely over the meal. Holiday meals are a big deal in Italian culture but especially near the south. Food is huge. His mom has called every day for two weeks to ask, “but what are you making for Christmas Eve dinner?” Then F explains, again, and she’ll quickly jump in with ideas and directions (the same ideas and directions she’s already given 9 times). Then, right before they hang up she says, “and lasagne for Christmas?” And when F says “no ” again for the many-ith time, she switches to a sad tone and with crestfallen eyes goes, “oh,” loud sigh, “okay.” Then F will sometimes tell her to come here to make it for him and she’ll remind him that last year when she came to the US for Christmas, she’d hated it. Like all of it. 

On Christmas this year we will go to my dad’s house followed by my mom’s house. At my moms house my parents will be hungover from their cookie-making tradition, where my stepdad straps on an apron over his bare chest and sings Christmas carols while sipping whiskey and baking 14 dozen amazing cookies. My mom watches him mix batter, pounds Bud Light, and giggles. A jolly night, followed by a “oh what the fuck,” day. Glorious. My little brother and his girlfriend will bring over one of my nephews at some point, and I’ll spend the remainder of my day trying to stop Oliver and the baby from maiming each other, because small dogs and fiesty toddlers don’t mix. Meanwhile, my mom and stepdad will look drained and nauseous in their recliners. My mom will briefly come to life when we open our gifts to declare herself an elf and laugh with Joy about the magic of Christmas. 

After this, Francesco and I will go to the home of my stepdad’s parents, and I’ll gorge myself on delicious food and way too much wine. Then, more likely than not, I’ll say random, weird things, often useless facts about animals, or spout off sex research I recently read in Mary Roache’s book, Bonk. Or, worst case I just drink too much wine and stare off into space or uncomfortably at someone. Francesco and I will arrive home around five and I’ll wonder just how weird I acted and hope that nobody noticed (they notice). 

Francesco and I will crawl into bed and I’ll mumble, “next year we are going to Hawaii because this is exhausting.” 

But next year will come around and we’ll choose family, insanity, and exhaustion again. Because it’s too weird and too important to miss. 

Check out these awesome Holiday COSI Posts From My Badass Friends. 

Rochelle, Unwilling Expat – A Panettone Story

Georgette, Girl In Florence — 10 Holiday Fails From Around The World

Rick Zullo, Rick’ Rome-Christmas In Italy

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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