Moving to Italy: One year later

in Travels

If a year ago someone were to tell me that I’d be siting here today writing this post I’d probably first laugh at the absurdity of how impossible that might have been and secondly probably slightly hope it were true.

I sit here in the house I’ve been slowly turning into a home, looking out of my window over-looking the picture-perfect yet imperfect Tuscan countryside – where the stillness of it all is seldom disturbed by a lorry or two passing through this part of the superstrada FI PI LI. (I did not even know of the existence of the FI PI LI till a year ago…for those of you whom, like me, are unaware of what it is – it’s a motorway which connects Florence to Pisa and Livorno (and any other towns and cities who happen to be on the way).

A year ago I would have probably laughed at the absurdity of how impossible sitting here in the future might have been because I couldn’t even conceptualise “a year from now on”. It’s safe to say that I’ve lived my life day by day up until a couple of months ago – I had just moved to Florence a month before, and I was already packing my bags to visit my family and friends in Malta for the first time. I had no idea of what Florence had in store for me, how even more beautiful my days would have gotten, but also, how bad some of these days could get.

For those of you who don’t know me, first of all y’aaall thanks for coming over. Secondly, I’m this weird person from Malta (#azurewindow) who fell in love with Florence at the age of 19 and then shaped her life around the fact that she wanted to move to Florence. I once moved to Florence without any plans whatsoever because…LOGIC IS USELESS, and a couple of moves later ended up right back in Florence after being offered a job here, and had to move here in three bloody days 🙂 Now that you know, I can move on…

I think moving to Italy is something you either really want to do, or else don’t want to do. Sure there are people who fantasise about moving here to live in an olive grove or right next to a vineyard and learn Italian in like 6 weeks because Eat Pray Love and Under the Tuscan Sun happened and they gave very unrealistic versions of Italy…or so I believe. Most people think that living in Italy is pretty much not doing anything during the day because most people believe Italians are lazy af, returning home (in a vineyard, obviously) and then riding your 500 or vespa to the pizzeria where someone with a Neapolitan accent (even if you’re actually living in Florence or elsewhere but Naples) will prepare your pizza margarita and hand it right to you whilst fixing his thick black moustache.

It’s actually not. To pour my heart out to you: living in Italy is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The first months are beautiful and you walk past the Duomo in Florence everyday and you forget it’s there, and one day you look up and it’s 7.30pm in June and the sky is the colour of Brunelleschi’s cupola and you need to be pinched to realise you’re actually there. However even through the first months, but mostly after the first couple of months – the real Italy starts to hit you with bureaucracy, nepotism, unfairness, things that don’t work, train strikes and not being able to walk in city centres because of mass tourism etc etc.

Unfortunately, also due to cities like Florence, and suburban towns and cities surrounding (provincia) having such tightly-knit communities; actually breaking through and forming friendships with some Italians might be hard af not because they don’t want to get to know you but mostly because they don’t need to get to know you. Mind you, there are many who are an exception to this and are some of the best people I’ve ever met. Also international communities are awesome but usually leave you heartbroken because many people just transit through Florence to study or for a relatively brief period: and be it because their course is over, or be it because they cannot handle life here, most of them leave.

Prior to moving here, I was always quite curious about why so many Italians decide to leave Italy and move on to somewhere else. Most Italians have always told me that it’s because of lack of opportunities, or most of all, not being able to envision a future here, not being able to save any money, not being paid enough, not being acknowledged enough for your qualifications…and so on. Most Italians who, on the other hand decide to stay here despite it all usually answer my questioning of “why don’t you move elsewhere” with “how can you move elsewhere?” … which is kind of true. Italy can be a real bitch – Italy is like a woman who’s beautiful and knows it, the woman who flirts her way out of parking tickets, the woman who leads everyone on uselessly. Italy shapes Italians, or anyone who becomes Italian by adoption…whether they decide to stay, or whether they move elsewhere. Italy makes you tougher – because being here is tough.

It’s also beautiful. It’s Sundays pinpointing a random destination on a map and finding yourself either in the quaintest village with two restaurants and one church, or else finding yourself walking the same streets one artist or another treaded 500 years ago. It’s overlooking the same countryside that inspired Leonardo da Vinci’s genius in Vinci (Tuscany), it’s walking past the Colosseum in Rome and remembering that this city dates MUCH BEFORE CHRIST. It’s sunsets on Ponte Santa Trinita in Florence, playing tourist, missing the train to take at least one shot. It’s aperitivo on a summer’s evening when the sun sets at 9pm and the air is filled with aromas of different foods being cooked in homes and restaurants. It’s everyone helping each other out in some way or another. It’s listening to a song on the train to work and remembering the exact feeling you used to get dreaming of moving to Italy, before you actually did.

…It’s wanting to leave and thinking “how can I move elsewhere?”

3 Comments

  1. It’s also hearing opera as the “muzak” in the grocery store……watching your step on uneven cobblestone streets (and don’t forget to watch for the dog poop and those suspicious little puddles against the stone walls),,,,,It’s having friendly little old Italian ladies on the bus suddenly speak to you in Italian, unaware that your conversational abilities are limited to colors and names of vegetables…..It’s glancing up and noting a bit of art –hundreds of years old– above a doorway on high on a building, that you’ve not noticed before even though you walk by regularly…..It’s having a favorite restaurant where, if you don’t drop in for a couple of weeks, they greet you next with “Where have you been?” and a free top-up on your usual 1/4 liter of wine…..it’s walking by a church “founded by the Knights Templar in the 900’s” on your way to the train station…..and so much more!

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