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Finding your way in Italy

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met through the years who are dreaming and hoping, or actually jumping into life in Italy. I can't blame them. I "moved in" 26 years ago. Not a day goes by when I’m not asked what brought me to Italy. The short answer is always “a plane” and the longer answer is, well, a longer one yet nothing really specific. I had only been to Italy once before on a high school excursion when I was around 16. It was, in fact, a trip to Florence and I recall the overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by so much history, for the very first time. I remember wondering how it would be to live in such a place. The vino tasted quite nice...not sure we were supposed to sip it back then! So when I was around 20 (in the mid 90'ies - yikes!), I got a rather spontaneous one-way ticket to Florence without a solid plan but with the goal of hopefully learning some Italian and…just living Italian life. In Florence, when you hit those cool alleyways and tread the uneven cobblestones glaring at the 500-year-old buildings around you, your senses awaken and you feel alive, connected (in the sense of the word pre-worldwideweb). Then beyond Florence you see Tuscany and the amazing beauty that surrounds you is endless and you become so addicted to it that you can’t live without it! Anywhere else you go is anything from nice to beautiful, but Tuscany's stunning! And that makes me smile because I'm not quite sure I even knew this about Florence when I naively picked it all those years ago. However, whilst you’re in this renaissance-scented bliss reality starts to dawn upon you, just when you start understanding conversations and utter your first comprehensive sentences in Italian. There’s a whole culture to be uncovered which lies behind the mere language skills, let alone figuring out how you could fit in. Nope, grammar lessons won't do it all. The road is bumpy. No matter where you come from, Italian society is intriguingly complicated to figure out. It’s not very user-friendly, and nothing’s straightforward or easy. On the bright side, you enjoy the colourful scenery, the delicious food & wine that you can indulge in (and actually afford), the theatrical hand gestures and the beautiful language that makes you feel you could break out in an uncontrollable opera solo at any time! On the darker side, you bump into bureaucracy, and inefficiency, and then stores close in the middle of the day, can you believe it?!! No instant gratification to come after here. 26 years later… Many people I’ve known over the years came, saw and…have moved on. Some because they needed a better career (not easy to get that sort of thing in Italy), others because they eventually awakened to what or who they had left behind. I stuck with it through many ups and downs, for various reasons I suppose, but mostly because I felt invested and perhaps couldn’t think of anything better. And, luckily, I am still excited about the challenge of finding the way, while trying to enjoy the ride as much as possible. Would I recommend it? I’m sure if one were to do a move today, it would be somewhat simpler. It’s easier to come by information with the internet and a lot of Italians today speak English. And there is less troubles to be had if you have the financial means (there are jobs here, but don't expect much). So yes, if the thought is on your mind, I think that life is too short not to try. Maybe not a full-on move, but perhaps a longer stay in a foreign country…why not? It opens your mind and broadens your understanding. You’ll get that kick of adrenaline that will last until things feel normal and perhaps that day may never come. And that’s sort of blissful!

May 2022 - In Alba (Piemonte) last week at the beginning of a Grapetrotters trip around Barolo, Barbaresco & Roero.


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