Our Italian Adventure: The Expected and the Unexpected
Updated: Jan 3
This part is about: What went as expected and what went a different way in our move to Italy?
PART 11: I thought it might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.
We are in Puglia until the end of September, then back again in the winter.
The topic we will explore is "The Expected and the Unexpected."
Step 1: We began planning our sojourn in Italy years before we did it this year. With so much planning, some things went as expected, and some things were unexpected. What were some of these things so far? What were some of our fears, and how did they play out?
Step 2: Some of our fears: We expected to have problems with the internet and were concerned because of our remote work obligations. However, we've had no problems or issues at all! I bought an Italian SIM card (Iliad), inserted it into my phone, and now use it as a hotspot for the computer and TV.
Another fear: Would we become bored being in Puglia as a resident rather than a tourist? This fear was also not realized: our lives are fuller here than in California, and we have had no occasion or opportunity for boredom.
We had other fears, including feeling like outsiders or isolated, spending over our budget, and getting homesick. But none of these fears have played out.
Step 3: Some things that we expected: We already had a group of close friends who are locals in Italy, and we expected our friendships to grow. With the focus on community and relationships here in Puglia, our local friends feel like family.
What did we expect about food? On previous visits, we experienced the high quality of food in Italy, especially the produce:
The tomatoes taste like tomatoes rather than the tasteless red balls we buy in California.
The cantaloupe is fantastic.
Watermelon is like sugar.
Our taste buds continue to rejoice here.
Another aspect of Italian life we were aware of and expected is life on the streets since we visited before moving here. In the evenings, we don't need a plan to go out; we walk outside or drive over to Lecce and become part of the life around us. We have also been to several village festivals; it is terrific to see grandmas dancing with their grandchildren and teenagers laughing with their parents.
Since we are a gay couple, we wondered about acceptance. When we expressed this to our local friends, they told us that our city's provincial police chief and mayor are openly gay, and one's sexual orientation is pretty much a non-issue. We haven't encountered any homophobia or even discomfort in this area.
Step 4: Unexpected: The unexpected events are what transform our experience in Italy and ourselves, and we are so grateful for these.
Connecting with expats is one of the highlights of our first three months here. It has been amazing to meet so many fascinating expats who want more out of life than just dreaming but are willing to take a risk for the life they want. We have met several and are grateful for the foundations of friendship.
Another unexpected event was the ease of accessing medical care. I needed to see a doctor for something minor. A few blocks away, in our neighborhood, is a private clinic where I paid a fee and saw a doctor in 5 minutes. He diagnosed my heat rash, wrote me a prescription, and I filled it at a local pharmacy. The whole thing (doctor, pharmacy, medication) took about 20 minutes. Some of our local and expat friends have also advised us that healthcare is a fundamental human right in Italy, which means that public clinics and hospitals provide care to whoever needs it.
We have also found that pharmacists are willing to help, support, and advise.
Shopping can be a slightly confusing experience since objects are grouped differently than they are in California. We went to a store looking for a digital clock among electronics and found them next to the candles; we went price bikes at our local shop, which also sells washing machines and fans.
We also found that local stores provide better service than larger ones: the proprietors remember who we are and generally seem interested in how our time is going here.
The intensity of friendship and the ease of making connections with locals in Puglia were both expected (we experienced it during visits) and unexpected (the rapid growth of our friendships). A sense of family and connectedness prevails.
One last point that was unexpected is the curiosity that we encounter. In our or any town here in Puglia, if anyone is staring at us, they will get a "Buon Giorno" from me. Some stop and ask where we are from. When we respond "California" it is as if a magical veil has lifted. Smiling locals often ask why we are here, how life compares, etc. Curiosity can lead to friendships.
Step 4: Insights: I've been reflecting on how the mixture of the expected vs. unexpected affects our lives or changes our viewpoints. Though this is a journey, the first insight is about priorities, which we find are realigning for us. Relationships seem more intense and are given more importance in one's life in Puglia. Many years ago, a friend told me that "friendships are like investments; they won't grow unless you spend time and energy cultivating them." Growing friendships is a priority in Puglia, and I am learning that there is more to living than I previously envisioned; I owe this realization to our friends here and our sojourn in Italy.
Watch for my book coming around the 1st of the year: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy".
More next time.