August 24


FCI 017 – Answering your Common Questions about Italy

By Rick

August 24, 2015

to be a travel blogger, you must be a good writerBlogging and social media. They are the new forms of “journalism” in this globally connected digital age. But unlike traditional journalism, this new style is designed to be bi-directional. It’s a conversation instead of a speech. The writer and the reader feed off each other, and the result is a greater depth of knowledge for both parties.

That’s why I enjoy writing about Italy so much. Every time my enthusiasm plateaus, somebody sends me an email with photos from their trip, or posts a big “Grazie!” on my Facebook Page for answering a difficult question that somehow made their vacation more memorable, or their expat transition a little more smooth. Really, it’s the best reward for a writer/blogger (which is a good thing, since there isn’t much financial reward).

So today on my podcast I’m answering some of the most common questions about Italy sent to me via email, voicemail, Twitter, or the search engines. I didn’t identify any of the questioners by name, but instead I lumped the inquiries into general topics that come up frequently.

Common Questions about Italy

Obviously, this could a very long blog post and podcast, but I cut myself off after just seven questions that touch on diverse areas of life in Italy, the expat experience, and tourism information. Perhaps in another episode I’ll take on another round. But for now, here they are the general areas of discussion addressed on this podcast episode, and the corresponding resources on my website to help you understand these topics.

Il Permesso di soggiorno_smallQuestion 1: How to be an expat. I still get lots of “how to” questions about the practical steps for residing in Italy. At a certain point, I just couldn’t keep up with all the individual inquires anymore, so I composed a free downloadable guide to walk people through the process, complete with sarcastic jabs at the notorious Italian Bureaucracy. It’s all here:

The Definitive Guide to the Permesso di Soggiorno

Q2: Dating in Italy. This is now my most popular search engine keyword for some silly reason, and most of the results point to this article on my blog:

The Italian Dating Scene

In the podcast, I’ve also recruited the advice of the female perspective from my previous guest, Cinzia Giorgio, who is the author of the book, “The Erotic History of Italy.”

Q3: Buying and Restoring a Tuscan Villa. It takes about a week and a half of living in Italy to recognize that this is a colossal, life-altering mistake for 99% of the people who entertain this all-too-common fantasy. Why is it that every mid-level manager from Milwaukee wants to sell all his possessions, pick up a hammer, move to Tuscany, and become a carpenter? Listen, unless you already possess mad skills with a circular saw (not to mention the Italian language), keep the dream alive by renting, and leave headaches to the people who know how to deal with them.

Buying Property in Italy

Q4: The “Next Tuscany.” It’s a common thread to hear people claim that they “want to get off the beaten path and discover the ‘real’ Italy, away from those other annoying tourists.” Then often, these same folks are shocked when the “real Italy” doesn’t speak English, shuts down for the four hour afternoon pausa every day, and has never heard of a dish called Lobster Fra Diavolo.

Well my friends, I’ve been off the beaten path in Italy, and I can tell you that sometimes it’s truly resplendent:

An Organic Farm in Umbria

And sometimes it’s as frustrating as can be:

Frustrations Encountered While Traveling in Italy

But in any case, you’d better learn to speak the language if you really want to enjoy it:

The Best Way to Learn Italian

Q5: How do I know if I’ve been cursed with the Malocchio? This is another popular search engine term that finds its way to my blog. I personally don’t put any faith in any of these beliefs, but I still always find it interesting to explore the intersection of superstition and religion in Italy. Throw in a dash of mythology and a pinch of astrology for good measure, and you’ve got a curious blend of supernatural beliefs that is ripe for conversation.

Catholicism and other Superstitions in Italy

dress_FREEQ6: How Do I Dress Like an Italian? For some reason, many people are keen to “blend in” with the locals while on vacation in Italy, and they seem to think that the correct fashion advice will accomplish this in short order.

What they fail to understand, as I did, is that it’s not only the clothes. There’s a whole aura that’s impossible for any foreigner to copy. Still, it helps to at least keep a few “don’ts” in mind to avoid looking totally clueless.

How to Dress Like an Italian

Q7: Restaurant Advice. Unfortunately, it IS possible to pay a lot of money for a bad meal in Italy’s tourist cities. Marketing can be a powerful force and so too often we are drawn into restaurants against our better judgement.

People have actually asked me where to get the best Chicken Alfredo in Rome. (Sigh) The truth is, this dish doesn’t exist. There is a restaurant called Alfredo’s in Rome and they do sell a signature pasta dish by the same name. However, very few Italians have ever heard of it, and in fact it bears a striking resemblance to the simple pasta al burro that one gives to finicky children who won’t eat anything tastier.

If want some solid restaurant advice, listen to my friend and fellow blogger Eleonora Baldwin. She wrote about some of Rome’s better eateries in my restaurant guide, and her blog provides one of the best resources on Roman/Italian rest_FREEcuisine in the English language.

Our Favorite Restaurants in Italy

Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

And if you want to know about finding authentic Italian food outside of Italy, listen to what my friend Paolo had to say about the topic in a recent interview on my podcast.

Disgraces on the Menu with Paolo Rigiroli

OK, amici, that’s all for now. I’ll be back soon with another guest to dive deeper into this ever-fascinating, rich and complex culture that is Italia. Ciao!!

Click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.

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About the author

Living in the Caput Mundi and trying to decipher Italian culture for the English speaking world.

  • Hi Rick – great blog. This is a very random question but how available is American-style deli lunch meat (specifically, bologna/baloney) in Rome and on the Amalfi Coast? I mean something like Oscar Meyer. Someone I am traveling with has specific dietary needs. Thank you!!!

  • Thanks Rick. What I learn about regarding the immigration crisis is from U.S. media resources…. It is disturbing – was just thinking about how it might be impacting day-to-day life there (I suppose in some ways, a lot and, in other ways, some of your life and routine continue on as they should.) I can understand the hesitation for a post, and know that you’re more about focusing on hope and growth. As far as media, I was thinking that, if I were to live there for a time, that I might need to rely on new sources for news (as some things, like public radio in the U.S., may not be so easily accessible.)

  • p.s. a somewhat off-topic question: How are you, and Rome itself, impacted by the many people suddenly seeking safety in Italy and other European countries? (And a second more random question: what media do you reply on for reliable news of America while you are abroad? Do you rely on the websites of major American news outlets? Or more social media sources?) Grazie.

    • Juile, I’ve been thinking about writing a post on the topic of the immigration crisis, but not sure that people really want to read about it. It’s disturbing, with little hope in sight at the moment. As far as keeping tabs on the news, I think I probably scan social media for topics, then click over the source sites for the actual story. I try to get a balanced view, and not only the American one.

  • Once again, with many thanks for such a candid, informative and helpful podcast – this has some really wonderful insider information, and I value your continuous empathy for both the American and Italian points of view. Grazie mille!

  • Another good podcast Rick, thanks for answering some interesting questions for us all. No mention of Umbria though in your answer about the next Tuscany?! Shame on you…haha! 😉

  • Fantastic work, Rich. First of all, I really applaud the initiative to do a solo episode. It’s true that you have a variety of really juicy subjects, but it’s still not easy to go through such a range of topics as smoothly as you have. Second of all, your examples are often hilarious! My favorite is the part on the various superstitions (some of which I did not know, possibly because of them being regional). Thanks so much for this! I think you are really helping the relations between the two countries!

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