Ready To Take the Plunge and Hit Reset?

Jed Smith Photography

Puglia Plunge © 2017 Jed Smith

If you’re moving to Italy you’d best be prepared to hit reset.

Why do I say this? Because, in my experience, many people can be so swept along by the romantic notions of living in Italy that they end up being blindsided by an avalanche of change. Other people are purposely steering into major change and are itching to hit reset. Either way, life is going to change significantly.

I recently returned from a trip to the States. It has been almost five years since I jumped off the cliff and left my American life in the rearview mirror. I don’t know if the amount of personal transformation I’ve been through just now is hitting the tipping point, but on this particular trip I was homesick for Italy and I didn’t have the least bit of nostalgia for my former surroundings (exempting, of course, my close friends). I felt like a tourist in my country of birth. And, when I returned to Italy and stepped off the plane, I breathed a sigh of relaxation. I was home, truly home.

This is my wish for all of you who embark upon the journey of moving to Italy, to embrace Italy fully and eventually feel in your bones that she is home.

But…

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Dying in Italy – Know the Landscape

Jed Smith Photography

Cypress Silhouette © 2018 Jed Smith

Recently, I wrote philosophically about Learning to Dance with Both Life and Death. I shift now to navigating the practicalities of dying in Italy.

Dreams of living in Italy often include a vision of riding out one’s years here and drawing one’s last breaths in the country they’ve come to call home. If that is your dream, and a possible reality, then I recommend knowing the lay of the land. Dying in Italy can come with complications if you’re not prepared.

Know the legalities.

You don’t want to be caught unawares if you or your significant other dies while living in Italy. I suspect many people will read this post and exclaim “What a downer!” But I’ve promised to be faithful to addressing the full gamut of what life in Italy entails, and that includes the potential hurdles that can come with dying in Italy.

Having a relationship with a local attorney can be advantageous. He or she can help you navigate the laws and bureaucracy if you or the person who ends up being responsible for funeral and burial arrangements hit a snag. In my opinion, there’s no better person than one who knows how to navigate the often sticky Italian red tape rather than trying to figure it out on your own.

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The Shadowy Faces of Venice

Venice, Italywise

Proceed At Your Own Risk – © 2018 Jed Smith

Venice remains my favorite city in Italy. I never tire of her beauty and charms. I’m also fascinated by her dark side and her complicated past, which seems to be reflected in the many dark faces of Venice that adorn countless walls and doors.

Don’t get too comfortable.

That’s my interpretation of these dark and foreboding faces of Venice. On their own, they can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but throw in their location in the maze of dark and confusing alleyways, and you have an excellent setting for a thriller or horror movie. Who can forget the final scene in Don’t Look Now? (The creepy knife-wielding dwarf elevates the spooky factor).

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The Extraordinary Street Perfomers of Venice

Venetian Street Performers

Glass Symphony – © Jed Smith 2018

Street performers in Venice have a never-ending audience of tourists flooding the city. If you’re an artist and you’re good at your craft––or if you’re particularly adept at being novel, you might be able to make a decent wage.

It’s pretty easy to find a musical maestro

Consider the photo above. I know people have heard plenty of glass music, but this fella is something to behold. How a person can coax music with such dimension out of the glasses is beyond my comprehension.

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The Gift of Winter in Italy.

Winter in Italy

An Umbrian Winter © 2018 Jed Smith

A confession right up front: for most of my life I’ve despised winter (even winter in Italy) and looked on it as something to just get through. I adore warm weather and living in shorts and flips flops. Sure, I know how to dress warmly and keep the colder elements at bay, but I’ve done it with a certain amount of resentment and an attitude of “less than.” This is my fifth winter in Italy and, thankfully, this normally-challenging season is opening my eyes to the beauty that I’ve refused to see for most of my life.

The beauty of being stripped naked.

Why haven’t I seen this before?

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The Power and Perils of Being Liked

Being Liked

Being liked. Am I too motivated by approval?

This question has been percolating for at least a month. In fact, I considered making this subject the launch into the New Year. But, as with many topics, I needed a bit of reflection first. Now, I’m ready to share my musings.

Why, you might ask, is being liked relevant to this blog? As I enter year four of ItalyWise, I’ve been asking myself how influenced my writing is by a need to please other people and generate comments and subscriptions as validation. I ask myself if I’m willing to “damn the torpedoes” and be unflinchingly true to myself. Do I compare myself to others too much? Am I chasing a definition of success that is measured by likes?

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Immersed in a Culture of Train Travel

Train Travel, Italywise

Split Screen – © 2018 Jed Smith

I love trains and train travel.

Ever since I received my first Lionel train set for Christmas at age four, I’ve been hooked. But, the view I had of trains was pretty much all about hauling freight––not people. Fast-forward sixteen years to when I studied art in Italy for the summer, and I looked at trains with fresh eyes. I fell in love all over again. This is so cool, I thought. A country and a continent whose transportation arteries of the railroad network rivaled, and often surpassed, that of the highway system. People have real travel options.

When I returned home after my Italian summer,

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Learning to Dance with Both Life and Death

life and death, Italywise

San Michele Cemetery Angel

I believe spending time in cemeteries helps remind me to wake up to the intrinsic dance of life and death. That’s why I love, in particular, Venice’s San Michele and Paris’s Pere Lachaise cemeteries. They help me to zoom back to the present and examine my life and whether I’m living on autopilot by keeping death at arm’s length and pretending that I’ve got nothing but time.

You may be reading this and proclaiming “How morbid!”––especially as a New Year’s contemplation. Stick with me, as I believe my musings are ultimately hopeful.

Two things conspired to bring the dance of life and death to my attention.

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Venice Postscript: The Working Man and Acqua Alta

Acqua Alta, Italywise

Sloggin’ Through Acqua Alta © 2017 Jed Smith

Yep, it’s that time of the year when Venetians start dealing with the acqua alta more frequently.

The high waters associated with fickle tides keep the people of Venice on their toes. Just a couple of weeks ago I published a photo essay and tribute to the working man of Venice. I forget to point out an added complexity of their lives. That’s the acqua alta. Locals stay abreast of the “odds” given by the local weather reports. Everyone waits and dreads the siren that goes off city-wide to warn people to “get ready”.  Usually, when you hear the sirens, the high waters will be making their appearance within a couple of hours.

Venice is constantly in readiness to respond to the acqua alta.

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Buone Feste! Let There Be Magic!

Buone Feste, Italywise

Buone Feste! May you have the happiest of holidays! © 2017 Jed Smith

I am indeed fortunate to be living in Italy and experiencing yet another magical holiday! I confess, a long career in advertising and marketing had almost depleted my stores of holiday cheer. Yes, a bit of “too much Christmas” for commercial reasons. Yours truly had become a bit of a Scrooge. Until my move…

Thank You, Italy, for bringing back a hearty Buone Feste into my life!

Maybe it’s the juxtaposition of holiday lights with ancient architecture and streets steeped in history. Maybe it is a matter of letting go of the former life and being able to see with fresh eyes. Maybe it’s the unfettered enthusiasm with which Italians celebrate the holidays. Whatever the answer, I just know I’m grateful to feel like a kid again.

Wherever you are, may this holiday season be full of magic and warmth.

Jed

 

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