I had a laugh and quick dose of reality when my mother-in-law said “I have to book the cow for the ricotta cheese.” Excuse me, you have to what? I said it in Italian “Come´? Excusa??” My husband began to laugh. Apparently we have an appointment in a few days to go see the cows. This is just one small example amongst many of situations you’ll need to get accustomed to after moving to a small town in Italy.
Moving To A Small Town in Italy
I keep hearing about how lucky I am to have moved to Italy. I do feel lucky. But there’s more to it. Maybe I’m wrong but I think friends picture me having long lunches everyday on bougainvillea covered verandas overlooking the canals in Venice or waters of the Almalfi Coast. Or running through vineyards lined with cypress trees in a sundress. To be clear, this only happens some days, not everyday 🙂
Moving to a small town in Italy is a bit different from vacationing in Italy. You won’t really understand that concept unless you’re an expat. Everyday life must go on. And with any beautiful city, location or thing… there is a flip side. Back to the ricotta cheese, you can find it at the supermarket but it’s just heaps better when fresh from the farm.
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Some other things you’ll need to get accustomed to when moving to a small town in Italy:
The town shuts down for lunch:
Lunch hours don’t just last one hour, they last three. Many shops and services are shut everyday from 12:30 to 3:30pm and completely close on Sunday. The said places also close for the day at 7pm. I still haven’t wrapped my head around how working people run errands during the weekday with this schedule or how these shops make any money considering the town population of 60,000 people. This won’t really be an issue in a bigger city though. What stumped me the most? The pizzeria was shut for lunch. Huh?
Babies Are called Bimbos
For the future, I really hope I don’t have a girl just because of this. In Italian, the name for baby is bambino… or bimbo for short. You’ll see signs for “Bimbo Store” around town. To the Americans reading this post, I don’t think I need to explain this dilemma further.
Meal Timings Are Explicit, Certain Things are Only Eaten at Certain Times
Restaurants and eateries have very specific timings and if you miss lunch, tough sh*t. You might find a little stand open that serves some fried goodies or a small eatery with some pickings left from earlier in the day but that’s about it. And don’t order a cappuccino past 11am, it’s bad form. Also, supermarkets and restaurants sell and serve only what’s in season and foods that are region specific.
Say Goodbye to Food Delivery and Fast Food
I’m happy to say that there is only one McDonald’s in town and its’ location is hidden in some obscure strip mall. No other major fast food brands exist. And, the only food that is delivered is pizza. This is a tough one. I was able to have Thai, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, vegan, raw, Italian, groceries, you name it delivered to my doorstep any time of day. Not here.
I know it’s a good thing but as we await the completion of our kitchen renovation, the pizza pictured below took about 90 minutes to be delivered on a rainy evening last week. Do you see what I did with the picture effects? Did you?
I do miss my international food but seriously, I can’t complain. The food here is outstanding and the freshness of the ingredients is reflected in every single thing you eat. If I made the same recipe using the listed ingredients exactly to specification anywhere else in the world, it just wouldn’t taste the same. The dough is different, the eggs are different, the water is different, the soil is different, the animals are different. They are better, Period.
There aren’t Many Overweight People
I think the two points above have a lot to do with it actually. Not eating dinner past a certain time and not having access to outside food whenever we desire is probably better for our health than we realize. And everyone eats pasta and other carbs, it’s just not combined with certain things. Plus, the bike culture in Italy is huge. It’s no Amsterdam but you’ll see people riding bikes everywhere. My 70+ mother-in-law rides a bike when she doesn’t feel like driving, it’s the cutest thing really.
Old School Medicine
This might be the case when moving to a small town in general but its also the case when moving to a small town in Italy. I visited a specialist last week and this doc was old school. Not just old but old school. There are plenty of good doctors but this one really needed to step away from the 1970s medical textbooks.
Doctors are not God and you should always question them, in a respectful manner of course. I can’t care less if I earn a reputation of being the pushy American after a visit. Doctors need to be kept on their toes and abreast of new insights. I’m pretty relaxed in other areas of life but not when it comes to my health. So I scheduled an appointment with another Doc in a major city a half hour away for next week. Italian doctors are some of the finest in the world but it doesn’t mean you can find them practicing medicine in every small town.
Barely anyone speaks English:
I am completely immersed in the Italian language apart from speaking English with my husband. While this is excellent for my aspirations to quickly master the language, it’s definitely a challenge. Apart from visiting a restaurant where I can point to a menu item, I don’t see any possibility of visiting anywhere important for the time being i.e. bank, doctor etc without my husband. Good thing I like him a lot. Another plus is that I am picking up loads of new words everyday.
Getting An Italian Driver’s License Seems Like An Impossibility
Maybe I can rent a Fiat 500 to cruise around the countryside but driving my car, which is currently in a sea container heading this way, seems like it will be more difficult than I anticipated. Italy no longer converts drivers licenses from the United States and my international driving license won’t help either. Obtaining an Italian driver’s license as a non EU citizen is an arduous process. The test is practically designed to make you fail. And you must be pretty fluent in Italian to pass. I guess living in a town where only Italian is spoken will be helpful 🙂
Moving to a small town in Italy does take some getting used to. But there are way more positives than negatives. The sense of community is huge, the historic buildings are inspiring, the food is unbeatable, lifestyle admirable, the countryside is beautiful, good wine is like water, major points of interest are a short drive away and you quickly learn that sweating the small stuff, like intermittent internet, has no place here or in life.
I’ll be writing more about my experiences here. Stay tuned.
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