It’s now almost a year since I pulled up stumps and headed for Italy on a permanent basis. And on my own too. What a move!
Visiting Italy as a goggle-eyed tourist, who fell head over heels in love with an entire country, I have found that actually living here is a totally different scenario. But I like to look on it as getting married: the initial rose-tinted spectacles have been replaced with ordinary bi-focals, as the reality has hit home. In the nicest possible way. And I’m not considering applying for a divorce either! Quite the contrary. We are a match made in Heaven.
I would say that I came here originally for the weather, scenery, culture, food and wine, and had forgotten to take into account Italy’s best bit: the people. This essential component of Italian life is under-sold in the glossy travel magazines who promote all things Italian, but rarely the Italians themselves. Personally, I have never come across such kind, courteous people, who have bent over backwards to ease my transition from living on the west coast of Ireland to taking up residence in the amazingly beautiful Veneto.
Good manners are the norm here. No jostling or aggressive behaviour – except perhaps at the cheese counter – and politeness built into their very bones, the Italians have figured out a set of rules to live by. Even entering your home they cry “Permesso!” from the doorstep. It took a few weeks to discover that this was supposed to be responded to by a welcoming “Prego!” from me. But, hey, you learn these formalities on a day to day basis.
It has been a long, hard slog to get myself sorted out. The mountains of paperwork to sign, have photo-copied and stamped over and over again were a bit wearing; bureaucracy on a grand scale, to be honest. However, I was genuinely lucky with my choice of lawyer and estate agent. Purely by chance really. They, together, ironed out many problems and assisted me with my residency and lengthy hassles with my builder. (That’s an epic story, too long for a mere blog. *cue snarls*)
Just after I got here I was sent an angel of mercy, in the form of a kind and wonderful lady, to help me to sort out my house. Not only did she take on this mammoth task – unpacking multitudinous cardboard boxes full of my paintings, books and more – she accompanied me to Ikea, organised my Italian lessons and rubbish collections. Furthermore, without one single word of English, she even helped me to negotiate the best price for my new car. Quite amazing! I still haven’t figured out how someone with no English whatsoever has become my translator. But this is Italy, where anything is possible!
Then, of course, there are my lovely neighbours. One actually wired up my outside lights, DVD and CD players, while yet another showed me how to put the tops on my bottles of draught wine (essential information); others showed me the best restaurants and watering holes, while others still introduced me to the best local walking trails. And all carried out with the incredible enthusiasm, tinged with the intrinsic politeness and courtesy, which is singularly Italian.
It has been a huge move and I will keep blogging about it. But I must use this opportunity to say a huge Thank You to all the wonderful Italian people who have helped to transform a potentially difficult move into a really happy one.