Evaluating 1 Year in Italy: Is it What We Expected?

A year really does go by so fast when you are busy with the business of living life. It’s hard to believe that a year ago we arrived in Italy- jetlagged and uncertain. Marcella would stay up all night manically playing until the people below us banged on the ceiling for her to be quiet.

Plenty has happened in the past year- we found ourselves an apartment, I got my 5 year visa and we’ve gotten used to the day to day Italian life. Marcella changed from a baby to a little girl, both Mike and my careers have changed shape dramatically, and Leo, well he’s basically the same.

So has Italy been what we expected so far? Yes and No.

My other experiences living abroad tempered my expectations for this move to a much more realistic place than they might otherwise have been. I know that escaping home doesn’t do much to solve all your problems, and that you are still you, even in a beautiful setting. I knew that moving would transform our lives, but I also knew a lot of ways it wouldn’t.

Expectations Met/Exceeded

La Bella Vita

On a superficial level, living in Italy is everything you might hope expect. It’s beyond beautiful, even just walking the dog is a cultural experience that I haven’t yet grown immune to.  We eat amazing Italian food whenever we want, we drink wine on our patio while church bells ring, and we live just a block from the best gelato place in town. Unsurprisingly, Italy itself is pretty great.

Our Apartment

I knew that apartment hunting was going to suck and be stressful and it absolutely was. I did not at all expect we would end up with such a lovely and LARGE place. I was sure we would be downsizing but our apartment is probably twice the square footage of our last place, with an enormous patio.

After almost a year of living here we’ve finally got some of our pictures up on the wall and it’s really starting to feel like home. I do miss wall to wall carpeting a lot though.

We Have Friends

One thing I did worry about when we moved was the fact that we knew nobody in town. It’s not the first time I’ve found myself in that situation, but I was pleasantly surprised to make some good friends quickly. The kind you take vacations with and watch your kids grow up together.

Not surprisingly to me though, they are almost all Americans. Hopefully this next year we can make some Italian friends finally.

Marcella

Unsurprisingly (to me), Marcella has been thriving here. Italy is a fantastic place to raise a kid, not in the least because of financially friendly childcare. We’ve been able to give her opportunities we simply could not afford in Seattle. She loves “school” and every day comes home with more Italian phrases. The other day it was (no joke) “mamma mia!”

Marcella going to daycare half the day has also been wonderful for me, from a work perspective (I’ve doubled my income this year), as well as from an engagement perspective. I feel like I’m much more present in the time I spend with her, now that I have a bit of a break.

Day to Day Life

As I expected, our day to day life doesn’t look all that different from how it did in Seattle. We work from home, we walk Leo and play with M, we do our hobbies after bedtime. I still cook almost every night, mostly NOT Italian, thanks to the very good Asian supermarket I’ve found. We just life our very normal toddler-parent lives.

Actually the biggest improvement to our quality of life since we moved here is probably the fact that Marcella now reliably sleeps at night. Oh, also that we have a housekeeper.

Areas for Improvement

Italian Skills

I knew this was going to be a major challenge for me, and it truly has been. Even after a year in Italy my Italian skills are really terrible, and honestly Mike’s aren’t much better. It’s hard to find time to study and way to easy to get by without it. 

I do know our experience here would be vastly improved if we spoke better though, so I am renewing my efforts to learn this year.

Travel

This is the part where I sound like a spoiled brat. Because we literally just got back from a massive trip. According to TripIt we spent 50 days on the road in 2018. Most of that however, was spent returning to North America to see family and attend weddings. We really didn’t get to do as much Europe travel as I wanted. There was a little bit of Italy travel, mainly day trips with gamily, but aside from a weekend trip to Malta back in February we didn’t travel internationally in Europe at all! 

This year we are really trying to focus our travel time and money on this side of the Atlantic. In a couple weeks we are going to Austria to see the Christmas markets. In 2019 we already have confirmed trips to Morocco and Spain and we will hopefully hit up a couple other places too. Plus there is still so much more of Italy to see.

Homesickness

I actually miss Seattle a lot more than I could have imagined. Almost every day really. I know it’s not the place for us right now but I can’t help but hope maybe we will return someday. After a year Bologna feels like home, but it doesn’t really feel like a forever home. 

Much of our immediate family has been out to visit us, and will probably come back again (Italy is a pretty attractive place to visit it turns out). I do miss the people we haven’t gotten to see as much though, especially our niece and nephew who are growing so so fast!

Bottom Line

Over all I would saw that moving to Italy has been a positive experience for our family. We’ve got some work to do, but this next year seems poised to be a really good one.

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