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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: How life in Italy is changing us

PART 63: 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 live in Puglia in the Summer and then back again in the winter.

Step 1: We came to experience life in Italy and are discovering that we are being changed by living here.

I want to reflect on how this is happening so far.

Step 2: Planning and spontaneity

I hate to admit it, but I am a planner to the extreme. It may come from 25 years as a classroom teacher, but I like to have everything lined up before I step into a situation.

Always wanting to lock things in is not necessarily a negative quality, but it can become obsessive: I used to wake up, and the first thing to rush into my brain was the question, "What do I need to get done today?"

Overplanning can take away the enjoyment of the moment, the acceptance of spontaneity, and the experience of gratitude.

Some of our local friends in Puglia are not planners but live more in the moment. Last-minute invitations to the beach or for a pizza are standard; at first, the planner in me resisted. But little by little, the more laid-back Puglian life has seeped in, and we have experienced that the most unplanned moments tend to be the most beautiful.

So, being in Puglia is helping us to be more open to what the day or moment may bring rather than feeling like we have to have every hour pre-planned and locked in.

Step 3: Values and priorities

Establishing a life in Puglia has provoked soul searching as we ask ourselves what is more important. Choosing where to live brought these questions to the surface, and we really had to travel a bit, reflect a lot, and discuss together what we are looking for here.

Years ago, when we were looking for a place to settle in Italy, I visited a beautiful medieval town near Rome; I thought I had found the right place to establish our life. Stunning vistas, historical architecture, and charming streets make for an ideal-looking town. But after a day, I noticed what was missing: the town seemed deserted. Nobody was on the streets, no visible life, and few businesses were open.

I realized that living there would be like a gilded cage. We wanted a more active lifestyle beyond watching TV or sipping wine on a terrace every evening. We wanted more.

Moving to a dying Italian town because the housing was cheap wasn't a good fit for us.

After that visit, we started reflecting on our connections in Italy and wondered if we could build on those.

Step 4: Relationships

We had/have a circle of friends in Rome, and some of these friends are teachers and are from Puglia. Every time school is out, they come down to southern Italy. We visited them several times in Puglia, and they came to California to visit us.

During the pandemic, during a Zoom call, it dawned on us that these friends were like family.

What do we want in Italy? Beautiful vistas, historical buildings, and great food are valid draws for life in Italy, but what was important to us?

Spending time in Puglia has changed us because it has helped us sort through all the reasons we would want a life here and clarified that relationships are the most important thing for us.

Sometimes, I can't remember where a beautiful church, building, or art exhibition was, but I remember the human encounters along the way.

So our town in Puglia became the logical choice, where we already have a community of friends to share our lives with.

Step 5: Horizons

Europe is accessible from our place in Puglia, so our horizons have gotten bigger. "Do you want to go to Budapest?" my partner asked before we went last month. "Can we go to Ireland for a weekend in August?" he asked yesterday.

It seems strange to be able to go to a unique European city for a weekend, but that is entirely doable here. So, our horizons have expanded, and we can easily experience a different culture, history, and people.

We have become more aware and appreciative of the diversity of cultures and histories within our geographical area and beyond.

Step 6: Dreamers and adventurers

An unexpected result of our life in Italy is that we have met many interesting people on similar or parallel adventures.

We realize it is easy to dream, but dreaming only brings results with action. "Oh, I wish I could do what you guys are doing!" we have heard repeatedly.

But as we step out and make our dream a reality, others seem more open to looking at life in Italy as a real option. Maybe they think, "Well if these guys can pull it off, anyone could!"

Along the way, we meet other adventurers living in Italy full or part-time. Whether from the UK, US, or other countries, each brings an exciting story and perspective. But we each have the same passion: a desire for a bigger life. So we experience a sense of camaraderie with those we are meeting as we encourage one another, share resources, and allow ourselves to be inspired.

Insights: We didn't expect Italy to transform our daily life and ourselves, too. Deciding what is most important, discovering other cultures, and being open to the gift of every day are ways we are being changed.

More next time.

My book is "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy." Amazon US:

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