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Living Slow in Italy

Valerie Schneider (Valerie)

Valerie is a freelance writer, who lived in New Mexico for twenty years before trading the high desert for the medieval hill towns of Italy in May, 2006. She is a regular contributor to Slow Travel, pens travel agency newsletters, and has written for Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel. She and her husband, Bryan, currently reside in the United States and conduct small-group tours called Panorama Italy. Read about her Italian adventures in her monthly here on Slow Travel and on her blog, 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree. See Valerie's Slow Travel Member page.

Contents

Dreams Do Come True: We are moving to Italy. I have repeated that statement countless times over the last few months as we have made the announcement to family, friends and acquaintances.

A Couple of Smart Cookies: During the months we spent deliberating about moving to Italy, we'd get take-out and, with chopsticks flailing, discuss the pros and cons, the dreams and fears, and logistics of such a move.

Ignorants Abroad: We have been in Italy for almost two months, and while we are very happy to be here, we find that we frequently feel like stupid children.

Wheeling and Dealing: My first car was a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba, a big gas-guzzling silver thing with that famous "Corinthian leather" interior.

A Place to Call Home: We have packed our duffel bags, bid farewell to friends, and informed a couple of baristas that they will be seeing a marked drop in profit.

Family Ties: We stood silently in the chilly, high-altitude air under a vibrant blanket of stars listening to the musical sound of the cow bells, staggered by this astonishing day.

My Christmas List: We have passed the six-month mark of our residency in Italy and have settled in, finding ourselves content and happy here. Postscript added January 2007.

Vagabonds: During our tenure in New Mexico we had our fair share of visiting family and friends, drawn to a place they'd not seen before, and to spend some quality time with their loved ones (that would be us).

Italy is Dangerous for People Like Me: I'm not exactly known for my gracefulness. In fact, I can't think of a single person in my family who is known for grace.

Going Postal: The notice in our mailbox brought glad tidings of cheer from someone far-away. Bryan dutifully went to collect the parcel from the ufficio postale, hurrying home with a grin ... a package from his brother.

Wanted - Italian Blood Donors: The more time we spend in Italia the more I have become convinced that we have drawn the short end of the gene-pool stick.

The Year in Review: One year ago we arrived in the bel paese and planted ourselves into this ever-fascinating, beautiful place.

Summer Heat: The last few weeks I awake each morning with beads of perspiration formed on my brow. My heartbeat is quickened and my body feels clammy. A recurring nightmare?

Men in Tights, Sleepless Nights, and the Wine of the Holy Thorn: There are three public announcement sites in town, places designed for the dissemination of local information where posters get slathered across the walls to publicize the upcoming activities.

Is There A Mason-Dixon Line in Italy?:"Watch your pockets," we were gravely warned. We had just informed our landlord of our plans to travel to Basilicata and deep frown lines quickly emanated across his forehead. His mouth was drawn in, showing obvious distaste at our news.

Mastering The Time Warp: September arrived with a bang. Literally. I heard the familiar clatter of metal door shutters being noisily rolled upward, signaling officially the end of August.

A Pain in the Pants: Searching for affordable clothes that fit in fashion conscious Italy.

The Three Ps of Natale: The holiday season is upon us.  We know this without a doubt because the Festa della Immacolata Concezione has come and gone, ushering in the official start of la stagione natalizia in these parts.

Coffee, Coffee Everywhere But None That's Fit to Drink: "Bryan, just give it up. You're not going to find coffee like in Italy." And, to think that he never even drank coffee until our first trip to Italy.

The House That Patience Built: Valerie and her husband decide to move from their cramped, dark apartment to a ... cramped, bright apartment. And, it's not as easy as you might think. Valerie also talks about her friends, Francesca and Giorgio, and their thirty-year wait to move into their new home.

Haircuts from Hades: Valerie enlightens us with her entertaining, never-ending journey to procure an appropriate haircut amongst the very "fashion-conscious" world of Italian hair stylists.

Internal Affairs: Valerie's family and her life in Italy have taught her that one must know how to nurture one’s own internal affairs, for Italians are obsessed with la digestione.

Mal di Primavera: The arrival of spring brings hay fever allergies to Valerie, along with the dreaded spring cleaning, which is much worse than its counterpart activity in America.

Bittersweet Journeys: Travels planned around a wedding celebration in Illinois also end up including a funeral of a ninety-seven year old maternal grandmother. To every thing there is a season.

Backdoor Bureaucracy: Like real doors in Italy, there are barriers, but pushing the right button or knowing the right person swings them open.

Arrivederci Estate: Valerie says goodbye to the summer that wasn't.

Every Day is a Holiday: Although there is no official Thanksgiving Holiday in Italy, we have plenty of other holidays to enjoy, and lots to be thankful for.

La Vita e` Meravigliosa: Despite the twinkle lights and colorful displays that had been festooned around town, Valerie was feeling decidedly un-festive. This article details how things changed and the fog dissipated.

New Year, New Adventure: Valerie says tearful goodbyes to friends in Ascoli Piceno but she and Bryan plan to take advantage of a stay in a villa of a friend on the Costa del Cilento and practice faster 'slow travel'.

Predictable Unpredictability: Once we settled in, find our way around, explored a little, and figure out the local customs, we quickly found that the driving is crazier, the accent is thicker, and the coffee is something to swoon over.

The End is Nigh: All through the piazza echoed an old-fashioned preaching-to, with words ebbing and flowing that were mostly incomprehensible to me, except for the repeated refrain of the Italian equivalent of “The end is nigh.” I couldn’t help thinking, don’t I know it.  Not the end of the world but the end of our Italian adventure...

Just What the Doctor Ordered: Our Farewell Tour wound down with two weeks spent in the Motherland, where we holed up in a small apartment at a wonderful agriturismo and wandered to all the sights around Basilicata we had not yet had the opportunity to see.

Resources: Websites and books.

See Valerie's articles on Slow Travel.

Valerie and Mount Ascensione

Valerie at Meletti


Valerie sends us an article each month telling us about her move to Italy. To read more details, see Valerie's blog 2 Baci in a Pinon Tree and her husband Bryan's blog 2 Italy.

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