Monday, August 13, 2012

One Year in Italy! Un anno in Italia!

This post is dedicated to Jon's grandfather, Donald Litt, who passed away on Friday. Don was a world traveler and was very excited about our adventures. Every time he read a new post of ours he would tell us his own story of his travels to the same place. No matter where we went he had already been there, most places several times! Grandpa, we love you and you will be missed!
October 28, 1924 - August 10, 2012
May 2011
August 10th marked our one year anniversary of moving to Italy. Can you believe it? Each day passes with new adventures and challenges, and while there is still a lot to learn and see, we have made a nice life for ourselves here. Travel-wise, we've been to seven other countries including France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Croatia, and Montenegro, with Czech Republic, more of France, Monaco, more of Germany, and Spain planned through October. We've seen numerous cities within Italy, some that we didn't even know existed and some that we have always wanted to go to. We have also done three trips (four for Jon) back to the U.S., for Dan and Rachel's wedding and interviews for Jon.

We feel like we've integrated pretty well into our Italian neighborhood (though we are the americani).  We shop at the fruit and vegetable market, buy our meats from the butcher down the street, buy our cheese from our "cheese guy", get fresh fish at the port or mussels from our "seafood guy", and have a regular pizza place that we frequent once a week. We've made friends with both Americans and Italians, get together for dinners with our Italian neighbors, and have a beautiful house overlooking Lago D'Averno and Capri.

From our yard, Capri in the back.
A zoomed in shot on another day.
But it hasn't been easy. Learning a new language is a very humbling experience. It takes time, patience, and work, and it doesn't happen overnight. It's a big ego stomper to say the least!  There are some people that come here for a few years and move back to the U.S. only knowing the words vino, grazie, and ciao... and that's okay. We set out to learn Italian, and to learn it as best we could with our short stay here. We meet with our tutor, get together with Italian friends, speak Italian when we're out (even if they start speaking in English to us) and practice on our own. It has added a new dimension to our lives and I think we can say we are grateful for that. In no way do we speak the language well; in fact, it's pretty bad and we still have a long way to go. We can definitely understand more than we speak. During our second week here I couldn't get back to our hotel because of construction and while people did try to help me, I couldn't understand them, nor could I relay what I needed. Out of frustration I started crying much to their confusion. Now, we can hold a conversation (for over 4 hours at dinner!), take tours of vineyards in Italian, and survive out in town. A long way from my crying breakdown a year ago!

Yes, trash is a problem in Naples especially in the summer. We are lucky to live in an area where we don't see a lot of the problem, but we still have to bring our trashbag in our car to try and find a nearby dumpster (which seem to move around a lot). Local Italians don't make the situation much better by littering out of their cars, or throwing trash right next to a trashcan instead of inside of it. If you drive just an hour outside of Naples you can see a tremendous difference in the cleanliness of towns. Speaking of driving... it's lawless, the craziest in Italy and Europe. Northern Italians say that they are afraid to drive down here and wonder how we do it. We find it hard to walk Maya outside because of stray dogs and random garbage. While violence seems to be a non-issue here, theft is rampant in Italy and especially in Naples. I feel like we are always living under a cloud of thievery, especially since our house was robbed over New Years. You always have to watch your back(pack). They do not make life easy for themselves in Naples and frustration levels seem to rise every time we head back into the area from being somewhere else. But, if you can look past all of these things (and at times it is very hard) you will see a family-oriented culture filled with tradition, history, and delicious food :) Most of the people are very welcoming and patient with us. They will help you if you're in need, apologize for their "bad" English (if you're fluent it's not bad!), and drop everything to look at a baby.

We're often asked by our friends and family back home what we miss about the United States and what is a welcoming change. So in no particular order here are our top lists:

Things we miss about the United States:

1) A variety of food. Don't get us wrong, the food here is spectacular. But Naples doesn't provide much variety in the food department. It would be nice to have a great sushi dinner or a big burrito once in a while without having to drive forever in search of one.

2) A dryer. Hanging clothes outside to dry every time we do a wash gets old fast. Italians just don't have functioning dryers (or dryers at all). The Italian dryer's purpose is to "fluff" the clothes after they've already dried outside... and that's all it's good for. And while we're at it, a washer that actually cleans the clothes.

3) Central air conditioning. No explanation needed.

4) Stores that are open from 1-4pm. Or at least stores with hours posted. I've seen the meat place open at 11pm, but closed at 4pm.

5) Dinner at 7. Sometimes you just want to go out to dinner before 8:30.

6) Fast meals. A 2+ plus hour meal where the only diners are me and Jon can feel like an eternity. If we wanted to sit, drink wine, and stare at each other, we could sit on our comfy couch.

7) Trust. Brings us back to the whole thievery issue. It takes us 15 minutes just to lock up our house and shutters, and another five to leave the three gates out to the main street. Not that we ever kept our doors unlocked in the U.S., but with the security features that we're required to have on our house here one would think they would be impenetrable. But then again some local Neapolitans have been learning how to break through layers of security since they were five...

8) Personal Space. No concept here whatsoever. The line will not move any faster if you are stepping on my heels.  And if you're just hanging out in a doorway, move out of the way!!!

9) Reliable internet. It's not terrible, but it's not great.  Scratch that, it is terrible.

10) Doggie day care and proper boarding facilities.We're fortunate to have found a couple of people to watch our furry child when we go away, but there's no substitute for a good doggie day care to get the crazies out of Maya!

Things we enjoy here more than the United States:

1) No people of Walmart sightings. We're not saying Neapolitans are the best dressers, but people in Europe at least remember to put on pants in the morning. If you don't know what I'm talking about then go here and click on photos.

2) The country (and Europe) is environmentally conscious. They do not waste electricity or gas here and use only what they need. They charge for plastic bags at stores. The electricity in hotel rooms shut off when you leave them. Their cars are manual and many take diesel gas.

3) Fresh and local produce.  Having a vegetable stand every block loaded with what's fresh that season or a fish guy that is selling what he caught that morning is refreshing.

4) The proximity of so many different countries. It's amazing that we can go away for a quick weekend to Paris or London.

5) The variety of things to do in the area. From the historical sites to the beautiful islands and beaches, there is always something to do!

6) Restaurants. Many restaurants will just make whatever fish they caught that day, or whatever they find is the freshest to make. It's fun going into a restaurant, not looking at a menu, and having them serve whatever their specialty is.

7) The wine. Not only does Italy make some of the best wine in the world, but where else can you go and get a 4 euro bottle of wine that would normally be at least 30 dollars in the States?

8) On-time plane arrivals. Every plane, every time.

9) Time to learn new trades. Jon isn't very busy at this hospital and since I'm not working while we're here we've picked up a few things. For one, my cooking skills have definitely improved since being here. Jon has gotten into woodworking and I'm starting to "can" and make jams from the fresh produce. We've also gained somewhat of a green thumb.

Checking on some of our veggies. 

So there you have it. With a year under our belts we're wondering where the time has gone. This year has given us so much, but has also made us realize how much we miss the everyday comforts of living in the U.S.  Maybe our lists will change next summer... we'll just have to wait and see.


  1. I absolutely loved reading this blog! First of all, and most importantl, I want to say that your tribute to Jon's grandfather was beautiful. I love the picture of the four of you. I can just imagine how proud he was of the both of you and how he must have loved reading each and every blog that you posted.

    I can't believe it's been a year since you moved to Italy! You both have accomplished so much since you've been there. It's wonderful to see how well you have adjusted to a much different way of life in a very different country. You have traveled to so many new and exciting places and I always look forward to reading your blogs! I feel like I'm right there traveling alongside with you guys. Your pictures and stories are amazing!

    We are so proud of the both of you and we are so happy and thrilled that you have this wonderful opportunity to live in such a beautiful place for two years!

    Enjoy the second year of your amazing adventure! We love you and miss you both so much!!
    Mom and Dad

  2. As always, I am jealous. You are so fortunate to be able to do this, and I am so glad you appreciate the opportunity. As for the dryer situation---I seem to remember a certain sister of mine that rarely (if ever!) used one. Could it just be karma?!

    Love you!

    Auntie Stacy

  3. Wow guys, what an excellent post! I am sorry to hear of Jon's Grandpa's passing. You have our sympathies. I think you have inspired me to create a year down, one year to go post about Okinawa. Love you guys!

  4. Wow, great post! I love the lists! I've made some, too. All of your stuff is on my list, except we bought a dryer. :) My additions: Public bathrooms go on the US list, as well as actually frequently seeing non-white people. And updated web sites with useful information. And the ease of doing bureaucratic things. Seriously, send a bouquet of flowers to your local DMV! The Italy list also gets history! Italians don't appreciate their long history, the fact that they walk down streets that are sometimes thousands of years old, live in a building 500 years old, etc. I also love that everyone walks here or takes a bike (at least in Pisa). I love seeing little old ladies and priests on bikes. The weather is nice, too. And I love the gesturing and the passion of the Italian people. And how much they love kids. I go through town with the kids in the trailer behind the bike, followed by shouts of "che carini!" or "bellini!," by people of all ages. Young men nudge each other, point at the kids, and share a smile. Oh, and gelato. I love seeing tough men in construction outfits licking an ice cream cone. Seeing the students hanging out at gelaterias instead of bars at night. Pisa doesn't have the trash problem of Naples, and our internet connection is fine. It's the Italian web sites that stink! Thievery, especially bike thievery is a real problem, and several friends have had their apartments robbed. But then I've been to small towns where bikes are left outside without a lock next to strollers.

    PS - that people of walmart site is scary!

    1. I love your additions! They really show the "true" Italy. I only disagree with the one about the weather... it is way too hot in Naples! Much better weather where you are!