Benvenuto! If living in Italy is your dream, I’d love to be a resource.
I created Italywise.com to share my journey of living in Italy as an American Expat. For me, moving to Italy required great preparation and diligence, as did navigating the many legalities of becoming an Italian resident. I depended heavily on the advice and experience of others who had already made the journey, so I know the value of resources that can help you build a plan to execute your dream of living in Italy!
My story has multiple parts, and so I have organized this blog accordingly. Some people mistakenly assume, by leaving life in the U.S., I effectively entered retirement. I have an allergic reaction to that word because I am hungry to learn and do. And, living in Italy affords me the opportunity to embrace and develop ALL of my interests. Being an artist and writer is hard-coded into my DNA, so I can’t tell my full-story without sharing my creative journeys as well.
I hope you’ll find ItalyWise intuitive and easy (don’t hesitate to contact me with feedback).
I’ve endeavored to provide valuable information and tips on not only moving to Italy but thoughts on navigating the requirements and legalities of becoming a resident here. You’ll find tips for buying a house (fairly easy) and buying a car (not so easy), tips for navigating the permesso di soggiorno and residency process, and a host of other necessities of daily life in Italy.
I write about the Italian culture, and hopefully, I can alert you to potential missteps when assuming the “American Way” applies everywhere.
While the practicalities of being an Italian resident still occupy a good part of my time, I’m not concentrating on exploring Italy and writing about and photography the gems of my discoveries. Hopefully, I’ll share some perspectives that will lead you off the well-worn path.
I would be remiss if I told the story of my “new” life in Italy, without sharing the emotional and psychological journey that accompanies starting a new life. I’m learning more about myself, and how life flows.
While I worked for many years as a creative director, I’ve always nurtured my identity as a fine artist, photographer, and writer. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing my visual expression as a complement to my written accounts of living in Italy.
And Italian faces are endlessly fascinating to me. Being married to an Italian has taught me firsthand that the passion that is so integral to the culture rarely hides behind a poker face. Hands fly and faces have countless ways of expressing mood and sentiment.
In the States, I grew up in the South. Be polite. Don’t make other people uncomfortable. Keep your feelings (other than joy, happiness, and peace) at bay. That was the pervasive conditioning. Talk about growing up with a leash on one’s emotions!
As a photographer and artist, I’m drawn to portraiture that captures the telltale signs of emotion. Placid, expressionless faces hold no appeal to me from an artistic point of view. There’s no “juice” to inspire capturing an image, whether in a photo or with my paintbrush.
My press pass at La Giostra Cavalleresca di Sulmona gave me plenty of new inspiration.
Guess who scored a press pass to La Giostra di Cavalleresca di Sulmona?
That would be lucky, lucky yours truly, thanks to Saint Novelia, my dear friend and “partner in crime” (when we get together we cook up all sorts of good trouble!). Yes, I had a front row seat to this incredible event! And, I was ready with my best equipment.
This event is held the last weekend in July every year.
La Giostra di Cavalleresca became an annual event in Sulmona starting in 1994. It pays tribute to jousting events from centuries ago and Abruzzo’s rich noble heritage.
On Saturday and Sunday, around four in the afternoon, a long, seemingly endless procession of people dressed in exquisite Medieval garb makes its way up the Corso to Piazza Garibaldi, Sulmona’s main square.
If you’ve followed previous photo posts, here and on my Instagram feed, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of capturing nuns when they’re out and about in everyday life. Most paparazzi perk up when they see famous personalities. I perk up and swing into action when nuns show up.
When did we become convinced that answers should be ready on command?
In my case, I suspect it happened when I began to think abstractly (early teens?) and was taught about the prowess of the mind, relegating other avenues of discovery and knowledge (e.g., intuition) to second or third-tier status. In short, I was taught, quite successfully, that I could think my way through or around any obstacle. I could force answers.
I’ve spent too many mornings of my life waking up to a mind furiously churning to identify any outstanding elusive answers to burning questions or situations.
Why this topic of elusive answers and what does this have to do with moving to Italy?
Unless you’ve had the road to a life in Italy or any similar momentous life change roll out the red carpet of a smooth transition, then you’ll relate.
I argue that it makes both, especially after another guided journey in “la cucina” with my dear friend Novelia. Could spaghetti alla chitarra be that much better than spaghetti made with an expensive KitchenAid? Plenty.
Can the hands infuse some magical quality to pasta?
After this experience, I’d say “Yes!” Maybe grounding oneself in the simplicity of days gone by has benefits. Maybe making pasta without the help (and ease) of modern technology can bring us back to an essential reverence for creating that which sustains us.
Novelia, with her spaghetti alla chitarra has made me a convert.
The word can connote giving up or giving in. When a person is said to have resigned themselves to a situation, it often implies waving a white flag to something beyond their control or their liking.
Then, there is choosing to resign when a person realizes something isn’t working for them, or when they’ve explored a path and gracefully backed out and said, “No, thank you.”
Enter Pope Celestine V
I knew nothing about the man who was chosen as Pope during the 13th century and during the last non-conclave choosing of the Holy Father—that is until I visited L’Aquila with my dear friends Novelia and Peppe. I had, just the day before, visited Celestine’s remote hermitage in the Morrone mountains and seen the small, cramped cell where he had slept. In L’Aquila, I saw Santa Maria di Collemaggio, the inspiring basilica born of his dream. There, I learned the fuller story of the first Pope to resign.
Actually, I’m recovering from an investment in the illusion that multitasking is even possible.
You may have noticed that ItalyWise has been quiet for the past couple of weeks. I took a real vacation with my dear sisters in a classic, shabby-chic beachfront cottage. I brought my computer and camera. I had visions of working on blog posts, taking and editing photos, catching up on emails, and working on my second novel. Big plans. Big ideas of dancing back and forth between tasks in such a tranquil setting would surely turbocharge my productivity.
Then, I realized I had been on the verge of burnout, and I needed a break badly!
What the heck does letting your story unfold have to do with building a life in Italy? Well, plenty.
The “Middle Way” can be your sweet spot.
If there’s anything my life in Italy is teaching me it’s that being successful and being happy (and sane) means finding the balance between well-laid plans and loads of flexibility. I’ve written about this before, but the more I doggedly adhered to my structured outline of how I thought my journey was to play out the more I was cutting myself from other possibilities—possibilites that were WAY better!
At the writing conference, I heard, loud and clear, how writing with an outline sitting on one’s altar can become a straightjacket to creativity. “Letting your story unfold” seemed to be a reoccurring theme with other speakers as well.
Mid-conference, I paused, and said to myself, “Message received.” It was as though the keys to my self-imposed jail cell of control had been handed to me with the message, “Free yourself!” I vowed to place greater trust in my inner writing muse.
Then I shifted gears to reflect on my first five years in Italy.
Cerano Montepulciano d”Aruzzo Riserva from Pietrantonj
One thing leads to another.
This is becoming my motto in life, with one additional clarifier. One thing leads to another when you give yourself over to the flow of life and say “Let’s play!” Well, my introduction to Pietrantonj, Abruzzo’s oldest winery, is a prime example of things organically falling into place. First, came my visit to Sulmona and a fulfilled wish to witness my dear friend Novelia crafting her handmade pasta. I was over the moon that Novelia invited me into the kitchen with my camera to capture her artistry. As Novelia and I were plotting our cooking session, the topic of pairing wines worthy of her creations arose. Immediately, Novelia exclaimed, “Pietrantonj, of course!” Then, Novelia made a call to the Pietrantonj family and I was in like flint in short order to have a personal tour and tasting with Alice Pietrantonj, one of the three daughters.
Just wanted you all to know that ItalyWise is anything but asleep or on vacation this week. Since I’ve thrown myself headlong into the world of video production, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in shooting and editing video footage—all with the intent of making ItalyWise an even more dimensional experience. I want to make videos a regular part of my posts and I have ambitious goals for building out a robust YouTube channel.
So, I’m utilizing this weeks post as a marquee to whet your appetites for what is in store in the coming weeks.
ItalyWise takes you, once again, to one of my favorite places in Italy: Sulmona, Abruzzo. Held the last weekend in July for the last twenty-four years, this is a Medieval festival and jousting event not to be missed. I’ll take you from the processions of rich costumes and pageantry to the highly-competitive jousting event held in Piazza Garibaldi.