Living in Italy

Living In Italy: Expat Reflections Of The Good, The Bad & The Great

Wow, I can’t believe that it was one year ago I boarded a plane at the Honolulu Airport and moved across the pond to start a new chapter of life here in Italy. My husband left soon after we got here and I remember the isolating feeling of sitting in my empty apartment with no money, no car, no job, no friends and now no-one to talk to and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into like it was yesterday. Where did that time go? Though I spent most of my time here alone, a lot has happened in my first year. I survived my first winter, I stumbled through communicating with a language barrier, I visited too many lakes and cities to count, I went on 9 international trips and I ate some a lot of the most delicious pasta on the planet (most of which I am now trying to get rid of from my hips before summer comes)! It certainly doesn’t feel like a whole year has gone by and I still feel like the new kid in many ways but since the calendar is telling me that I’ve been living in Italy for a year I figured it was a good time to reflect and write a little anniversary post to my adopted home.

 Living in Italy – Expat Reflections of The Good, The Bad & The Great

If you're wondering what it's like to be living in Italy, check out this post where I reflect on expat life to share the good, the bad & the great.

The Good

The History

I think I especially like this one because I’m from such  young country in comparison, c’mon there are doors here older than Australia, but learning about the history here in Italy is fascinating and never ending. You don’t have to dig your head in books either, it’s easy to just look around and appreciate the history by what you see with your eyes. When I saw the defensive walls that are still standing in places like Marostica or Perugia it’s like I am transported back in time, imagining guards on top of the walls keeping a look out for any threats. The sheer size of The Arena in Verona is nothing short of a marvel considering the time in which it was built and walking through this historic colosseum surely awakens the imagination. There are a lot of plaques, museums, walking tours and guides to learn more as well so you are not limited to what your eyes see.

Living in Italy

The Variety

I feel like there is something for everyone in Italy. If you like beaches, then you can head south for beaches that look like they are straight out of a Nat Geo magazine. If you prefer hiking in the mountains, then you can head north to the Dolomites for endless trails with scenic landscapes. If you’re more of a city-going, museum and lunch type then each city has a lot to see and each has its own charm and personality as well as plenty to see and do. There is constantly different festivals and events running from arts and crafts to cultural events to the hot air balloon festival and, my personal favorite, the chocolate festivals! There’s just so much on offer all in the one country and I think there is a place for everyone in Italy.

The Pet-friendliness

Since I am such an unashamed dog-mum this has been a real treat! Whether you’re going shopping at the mall, eating a nice meal or paying your bills at the post office – you can take your dogs with you just about anywhere in Italy! It’s even really easy to find pet-friendly accommodation. I remember when I first moved here I used to get so excited seeing the cute pooches out and about everywhere we went and it’s still something I love. Sometimes, when passing, I even say ‘hi’ to the dogs and forget to say ‘hi’ to the human! I often see water bowls left out by businesses and every time I take my spoilt princess dogs out they always get a lot of extra cuddles from strangers. People seem to just really love dogs which is such a lovely thing to see. Vet visits are also a lot more pet-owner friendly here too – there seems to be more emphasis on getting the animal care instead of charging for every minute.

Living in Italy

The Bad

The Driving

This might be the thing I dislike most about living in Italy because when you are out on the roads you are likely to be surrounded by impatient, aggressive drivers. Every time I drive out of the quiet, little town where I live I have someone tailgating me only a couple of inches from the back of my car – even if I am going well over the speed limit myself. On the highways I often see truck drivers who, in most other countries tend to stay in the slow lane, zipping and zagging to overtake other trucks! It’s weird because in other aspects of life Italians operate at quite a relaxed pace which is really nice, but, as soon as they get behind the wheel, everything changes.  I found it quite intimidating (and unnecessary), and still do to be honest.

The Food

I should start this one off by saying that Italian food is actually amazing! I think we all already know that if there’s one thing that Italians do well, then it’s cooking. I said this when I first moved here and it still rings true that the quality of the ingredients is by far a higher standard than anywhere else I have lived, especially fruit and veggies. It’s amazing how fresh everything is! The downside to food in Italy is that when you live here you are often left with choosing between Italian and Italian for dinner as good quality food from other cuisines can be harder to come by. No matter how great Italian food is, sometimes it’s just nice to try something different when you’re eating out.

Living in Italy

The Public Transport

I think that public transport is a bit of a grumbly subject no matter where you live really. Aside from the usual of buses and trains always running late which is quite common here, I’ve noticed that the public transport in Italy could use a little updating compared with some of the other European countries I have visited. They’re ok between some of the main cities but if you’re not on a major line then it’s been common for me to not be able to find a screen or anything to see the upcoming stations, in some there was no English translations of announcements and I’ve even been on a couple where they made no announcement at all of what station was approaching. It’s been very different to say Switzerland, Norway, England or Iceland where it was a little more high tech and tourist friendly.

The Great

The Dolomites

I LOVE the Dolomites! I remember when I first moved here and began taking trips up to these rugged mountains and the lakes they shelter. I didn’t know much about the Dolomites at all but I would just pick an area and then drive around to hike and explore. I quickly found that it’s an outdoor lovers dream, and with the long stretches of scenic landscapes, the natural beauty of the Dolomites is a whole new level of magnificent! There is so many different outdoor activities to do as well from hiking, to mountain biking, to kayaking or tubing and even if you just want a more relaxed day in the outdoors, it’s nice to just go for a drive up to the mountains and relax with a picnic or a good book. I’m very biased because I love being in nature, but experiencing landscapes with a beauty on this scale has been a huge highlight for me.

Living in Italy

The People

It’s crazy because I have experienced a lot of rudeness with locals here. I’ve been refused service at cafes, I get glared at up and down every time I go out and even my local post office refused to serve me when I tried to get my own mail. But, at the same time, I think of my neighbor who gave me homemade jam and helped me set my heater up once winter set in, or the kind lady at the coffee shop who noticed I was always alone when I go there and stopped to chat with me each time, or my jazzercise teacher who wouldn’t let me walk home in the rain and insisted on driving me. What about when my other neighbors stopped their Saturday plans to help me when I locked my keys in the car with the car running – yes, I have a special set of skills like that! I have experienced some of the kindest and loveliest people here and my impression of Italian people is that they don’t give it away for free – they have a cold exterior, but once they get to know you then they will always look out for you and treat you like you’re family. When I think of people in Italy I always think of the generosity and kindness instead of focusing on those bad encounters.

The Lifestyle

There are two things that I love about the Italian lifestyle the most – the sense of family and community and the relaxed pace. I don’t think it happens as much in the big touristy areas, but certainly where I live and the surrounding towns, almost everything closes at lunch time. People go home to their families for a long lunch break and even the kids at the local school come home for lunch. It’s not all about the go-go-go-time-is-money attitude and everything is not accessible 24-7. It’s more about slowing down, enjoying life and spending quality time with those around you which is refreshing. At the community level there are many local gatherings, kids play outside in the street, neighbors help each other out. It feels like there is a strong sense of importance when it comes to community and family is the same. From what I’ve seen the family unit is still alive and well here in Italy. People aren’t too busy to spend time with their kids and I often see families going for evening walks or weekend outing. When you see families out and about they’re interacting with each other, not putting a screen in front of the kid to distract them. The pace of life and importance of family and community is inspiring and continues to make my heart happy!

Living in Italy

If you’ve experienced living in Italy or even if you’ve just been over for a visit, do you have anything else to add to the list? 

6 Comments

  • Malia May 25, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Let me know if you ever decide to come to Slovenia, small and beautiful country. And they’re super friendly here, I get odd looks or the double look every now and then. But it doesn’t bother me too much. Your adventures have been amazing!

    Reply
    • Katie Mac May 29, 2017 at 4:37 pm

      I have been to Slovenia once – it’s awesome and lots of beautiful nature. I can’t wait to see your adventures out there! I’ll let you know if I’m visiting again 🙂

      Reply
      • Malia June 10, 2017 at 4:31 pm

        Yep, please do!

        Reply
  • Cherene Saradar May 27, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    I’ve spent time in Italy and totally agree about the food and driving. Nice to hear how pet friendly it is! Would love to hear your recommendations for the Dolomites!

    Reply
    • Katie Mac May 29, 2017 at 4:39 pm

      I have a few posts here on the blog if you want to see a few of the places I have loved in the Dolomites and there’s more on my Instagram – Lago di Carezza, Lago di Fimon, Lago di Corlo. Also I don’t think I have blogged it yet but I love Lago di Tovel too!

      Reply
  • Stef Smulders September 30, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    Love it, all very true. We have the same experiences as you may read in my book Living in Italy: the Real Deal. Preview at http://bit.ly/live-italy

    Reply

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