• Falling for Rome

    You might say that I’m living the dream.  A few years ago I came to Italy on an extended vacation (I called it a “sabbatical” just to make it sound impressive, but let’s be honest…). 

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    Falling for Rome
  • Living in Italy

    However, Italy is not without its challenges.  When we see the movie version in, “Eat, Pray, Love,” or “From Rome, With Love,” we see an overly-simplified, idealized presentation.

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    Living in Italy
  • Dispatches from the Blog Tour

    In the summer of 2014, I set out an epic journey the length of the Italian peninsula. With wife and baby along for the ride, we traveled from Lake Como to Trapani, and everywhere in between, over the course of six weeks.

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    Dispatches from the Blog Tour

Elements of the Good Life in Northern Italy

bagni at riolo termeWe could translate the terms benessere (well-being) or buonvivere (good living) literally, but that wouldn’t quite relate their full meanings.  Here in the Romagna region, it encompasses all the elements of a healthy lifestyle.  Not just a healthy body, but a healthy mind, a healthy community, and a healthy environment.

I stayed at the Grand Hotel Terme Riolo during my visit to the area for La Settimana del Buonvivere.  Right away I began to gain a sense of this holistic approach to the proverbial good life, as it’s defined in Italy.  The lush grounds evoke the heath resorts of past eras, where ladies in modest bathing suits soak in thermal baths, and men drink herbal tonics while reading the paper and discussing politics with their fellow spa-goers. Folks engage in calisthenics, eat simple food, and of course submit to various time-tested natural spa treatments.

This particular resort was built in 1870, but the therapeutic use of the local natural springs dates back to—who else—the Romans (the hotel even displays some actual ruins on-site).  The curative waters arise from the Romagna Chalk Vein Regional Park, from the water table at 60 to 80 meters below ground, charged with mineral salts present in the earth’s crust for more than 500 million years.  That sort of time scale makes even the Romans seem like yesterday’s news.

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Beam me to Verona, Mr. Scott

quick trip to verona

No signs of intelligent life

The line was about six deep at the hotel reception desk, and moving slowly. Tired and restless about a week into my travels, I decided to wander the luxurious, modern lobby and have a quick look.  From around the corner, I heard some music and laughter, so I followed the sounds to investigate further.  I found a hostess standing in front of the entrance to a big, vaulted space; behind her, a Plexiglas dome with several large spheres swinging from the arches, all lit up with black light and pulsing laser beams from every direction.  Electronic music blasted from the speakers.

The hostess asked me, “Klingon, Romulan, or Federation?”

“Come again?”

“È Klingon, Romulan, or Federation, Lei?”

I pulled my passport from my jacket pocket, “American.”

She rolled her eyes and pointed me back to the reception desk in the lobby.

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Expats Working in Italy for fun and profit

working in Italy

Trying not to work too hard.

After a sputtering restart following the summer holidays (we’re in Italy, after all, it takes a few weeks to crank it back up), our nutty group of expats has returned with a vengeance to tell you all about working in Italy without getting caught—I mean, how to find a proper job with a legal contract.  Never mind that 1/3 of the economy is in nero (under the table), we’re here to help you do it right.  Sort of.  I mean, if you’re not ready to master l’arte d’ arrangiarsi (the art of “getting by”) then maybe you should just stay in Kansas.

But very few things are black and white over here, so you’d better decide how much “gray” you’re comfortable with before you sell all your furniture. For those fearless souls like us that have more enthusiasm than common sense, let us explain a thing or two about working in Italy as a foreigner.  It should be mentioned that this particular type of experience is actually much more rewarding than that of the lucky few who can afford to finance their dreams without working.  By immersing yourself fully into the culture by way of a job, you become an active participant in your journey rather than just an observer.  From the start, you should view this as an advantage, and not just as a necessity—even if it is.  (OK, yes, I’d rather be toasting George Clooney’s nuptials with him at his Lake Como villa, but short of that, working for a living isn’t so bad.) [Read More...]

Teaching our child to be bilingual

teaching our child to beMy little principessa turned one year-old recently, and this is a great time for being a parent. She’s discovering the world, learning to walk, and saying her first words.  It would not be an understatement to say that hearing her call me, “Da-da” for the first time was the best moment of my life so far.  However, it comes with a little anxiety, too.  She’s learning English and Italian at the same time, and I can’t help but feel a little guilty about intentionally causing all this confusion in her developing brain.  I tell her “shoe,” and Jessica tells her, “scarpa.”  Poor thing.

My wife and I have both been language teachers, so you’d think that teaching our child to be bilingual would be an easy task.  The obvious fact is, it’s not the same thing teaching a language to an infant as it is to an adult.  In some ways, it’s easier…at least for our “student,” who has no blocks and no preconceived notions of grammar rules or pronunciation.  For the teachers, however, how do you “explain” something to a little person who has none of your linguistic reference points?

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