New Year in Italy

By Rick

December 28, 2019

A New Year in Italy. It’s that season again when we all reflect on the year that has been (or maybe not this year), and look forward to the one ahead. We make resolutions and then promptly break them before January is even finished. Like going on a diet, for example. Yes, I need to lose a few pounds, but kicking off the New Year with cotechino and lenticchie isn’t a good start.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with this New Year in Italy tradition, cotechino is a large sausage, made entirely of fresh pork taken from the cheek and shoulder of the pig. The flavor is fairly mild, but it’s a heavy dish due to the high fat content. It is served with lentils, which symbolize money (coins). The more lentils you eat, the more prosperous you’ll be in the New Year—or so the legend goes.

The cotechino sausage, improbably, represents luck.  For the life of me, I can’t work this one out, because when I’m lying in bed trying to digest this enormous pork bomb at 3:00 a.m., I certainly don’t feel too lucky. But there you have it.

So I’m not too optimistic about my dieting prospects for the New Year. Regarding my blog/writing, however, I pretty determined to step up my game after slacking off a bit this last month and a half. Here are some of the things that I have in mind.

Refocus the blog. I get easily distracted and tend to wander off on topics that, while interesting to me, don’t really engage my readers. The other day I took a quick glance at my site’s stats and it reconfirmed what I already knew. My most popular posts are about intercultural relationships (i.e. hooking up with an Italian), food, learning the language, and travel. Therefore, I’ll be writing more on those topics in the coming year.

Sportello AmicoBUT…believe it or not, even more popular than these themes is the discussion surrounding the quixotic “Battle Against the Beast,” also known as navigating Italian bureaucracy. With this in mind, I’ve completed a couple of posts and an eGuide to spell out the exact steps necessary for victory. You can download the guide here: Il Permesso di Soggiorno

In the coming months (maybe March or April), I’ll be setting my sites even higher. I’m hoping to conduct an interview with the Italian consulate to clear up some of the nebulous visa questions once and for all.

Improve my Italian language skills. Yes, this might seem like a strange goal at this stage of my journey, but I have a very strong motivation. My daughter is now 16 months old and she’s really picking up the language fast. Her vocabulary is incredible, as is her pronunciation. I think I’m safe for another couple of years, but the day when her Italian is better than mine is in the foreseeable future. The race is on!

Therefore I’m returning to my beginnings and starting back with the software again. For using the language nothing beats living in Italy. But for studying the language, I’ve found the software to be the best method by far. And at this point, I can jump right into Level 3/Advanced. I feel that I’m fluent enough, but now I really want to work on my accuracy again. Specifically, I’ve never mastered the passato remoto tense. And since my daughter is half-Sicilian, it’s best that I learn this before she does.Averna

Revive my podcast. I’ve been wanting to (re)do this and I think that the time is right in 2021. Starting in late February/early March, my plan is to restart my weekly Q&A sessions, inviting questions from readers, or listeners, or anybody that wants to chime in. Again, this is part of my overall effort to refocus the blog on what the readers want instead of what entertains me late at night when I’m sitting alone at my computer with bottle of Averna.

I’ll probably ask some guests join me from time to time, and soon I’ll be sending out requests for juicy questions. Start thinking of some good ones now!

Visit a new region. It’s been a long while since I’ve ventured off my own beaten path. In 2014 I discovered Romagna, and I look forward to going back there one day. But it was such a magnificent surprise, that it made me wonder, “What other regions have I foolishly left unexplored to date?” Right now, I’m looking at the opposite geographic extremes; Puglia or Piemonte. Any suggestions?

cooking at fontanaro
In my dreams…

Learn to cook. Like anybody living in Italy, it’s not hard to get caught up in the food culture. I’ve done a great job of acquiring a lot of second hand knowledge about regional specialties and the overall philosophy of how to “Eat Like an Italian.” However, my own skills in the kitchen are sorely lacking. It’s time to “get my hands in the dough,” as they say.

Inspiration came this last summer when I spent 4-5 days at an authentic organic farm in Umbria called Fontanaro. The mother and daughter owners, Lucia and Alina, were extremely patient with me as I had my first lesson in making fresh pasta. And when I say fresh, I mean the egg that I used was still warm from the chicken when I cracked it over my little mountain of flour. With their help, the dish turned out perfect. But I’d like to be able to do that on my own without a safety net.

Write another book. A few years ago, the idea came to mind to write a series of books about life in Italy. I did that, published them on Amazon, and have seen a fair amount of success in that venture. Who’d have thought? Those Live like an Italianbooks were written on a whim, really, and I didn’t understand much about publishing or promoting a book at the time.

Now I’d like to revisit that idea with the benefit of more knowledge and experience. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with non-fiction, such as a memoir, or if I’ll try my hand at a short story collection. We’ll see, but by the end of 2021 I’d like to have at least one more book on my Amazon bookshelf.

Speaking of books, I’m also working with Alina from Il Fontanaro on compiling a small book of some of the recipes from her family’s organic farm. If you’re interested, you can download it for free here: Italian Organic Recipes

Get my Italian citizenship. This might be my most ambitious goal of all, and even if I begin the process now, I’m quite certain that it won’t be completed until at least the following year. I guess my main motivation is that my daughter is a citizen, so I’d like to share that with her. She’s also the reason that the government will let me “fast-track” the process (well, “fast” by the Italian government’s standards). The law says that as a parent to an Italian child, I may apply for citizenship after 18 months…she’s seven years old now, so hopefully I’ll have my passport by her 18th birthday. In any case, I’ll be carefully (painfully) recounting the process for the benefit of all to see.

See you all in 2021!

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About the author

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

  • Hi,
    I just found your blog and have been reading some of your interesting posts. I live in the Milan area with my American husband and our three children. Myself and the kids are Italian citizens (through my mother, who was born and raised in Italy) and my husband just applied for his Italian citizenship (he also was “fast-tracked” because of the kids). I have to say that the citizenship paperwork made the permesso di soggiorno paperwork seem like a walk in the park. It was terrible! But, we finally handed it in, and are in the system….now waiting the 740 DAYS it takes for the average application to be processed and (hopefully) approved! Good luck with your application, and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have if you find yourself confused by the bureaucracy! Also, I recommend Puglia for your next trip. It’s breathtaking!

    • Ciao Chiara! Thanks so much for your input, and yes, I’ll probably be contacting you when I get to that point. Puglia is DEFINITELY on my list!!

  • Those sound like some pretty great resolutions, I hope I get to meet you again and your family! Also starting a podcast – I think, no I KNOW you need to do this. I could totally see this being your calling Rick…

  • Ciao Rick,
    Buon nuovo anno a tutti voi.
    I will add another vote for Puglia. I’ve been to Bari and surrounding area only once (2013) with Lisa. She has family in a small town which the name escapes me at the moment but I can ask her and let you know.
    The people, the food, wine and landscape are somethings I want to go back to enjoy again and again. There are beautiful places to see and many things to do and I was only in one small area. Gotta go back!! Of course like you I love the south of Italy. Especially Sicily.
    Hope to see you in March. I’ll be touring around your neck of the woods.
    Un grande abbraccio

  • Buon anno nuova. love your blog which I only came across recently through Italy Magazine.
    I am SouthAfrican with a Sicilian grandfather. I have citizenship through him. My husband applied through mine just over 2 years ago…we are waiting patiently…they say 24 – 36 months! We paid our 200euros into the account in Roma…and now we wait!
    I think starting with the” permesso” is a fab idea. You have also reminded me that I need to go back to my grammar…still have so,so much to learn.
    We are planning to make another trip to Italy as soon as my husband has his passport.

  • Ciao Rick! You might not remember me, we met in a Japanese Restaurant in Boca Raton a couple of months ago.
    I didn’t know you were so passionate of Italy!
    You’re American and It’s amazing the love you put in your words when you write about our suggestive country.
    And also when you talk about food (which I adore), I like your style! 🙂
    Very pleased to have met you, hope to see you soon, quando ritornerete in Italia?
    Buone Feste, Felice 2015
    Rita (from Milan)

    • Hey Rita! Of course I remember you!! Thanks so much for your kind words. I might have to interview you about the il cibo milanese, of which I know very little. Un bacio, Rick

      • Wow! An interview, that would be my very first time!
        So excited about that 🙂
        Of course I know a few special places, I mean restaurants, where you can eat “OSSOBUCO ALLA MILANESE CON RISOTTO”, “POLENTA CON SALSICCIA E FUNGHI”, COTOLETTA ALLA MILANESE VESTITA”… and so on.
        And there’s a characteristic little tavern (trattoria), not very far from Milan, where the Owner only serves organic great food, tasty, very good, in so many imaginative ways.
        I can provide you a list (sacred, secret list).
        Un bacio da Milano!

  • Hi Rick,
    A little late posting this since I lost the column before reading it on my tablet while in Florida. Since you are on my tool bar I have now read it. I do enjoy your columns, but mostly right now I want to say Buon Anno Nuovo and keep up the good work.
    A presto,

  • Rick, what a fun post! I have many of the same goals. Good luck to you. I’ll be checking in to see how it’s going and perhaps a little “misery loves company!” LOLZ

  • Hey Rick,

    Love the blog and have been a big fan most of the year since I discovered you. I’ve written to you in the past and I appreciate the responses; since you asked for some suggestions, let me see if I can help.

    I’ve lived off and on in Italy for over 30 years. The Permesso is a pain in the ass; the REAL problem isn’t just getting it, it’s understanding how to roll with the punches when you try to secure one in different areas. I’ve gotten one in Rome, one in Bologna, one in Padua and three in the southern regions. Let me tell you: if all my kids resembled my Permesso experiences, they’d look like they came from different continents.

    The “trick” I find is to find a sympathetic avvocato or omsbudsman of some sort. We Americans want things and we want them now. As I’m sure you’re well aware, patience is the key. And there is nothing even resembling “going by the book.” I’ve read several books, articles, blogs and even instructions from various Italian embassy sites and, so far, nothing has even resembled my experiences thru the years. Some towns you go to the police station, some you go strictly thru the postal system, sometimes a banker has the reins. It’s pazzi!

    As far as your suggestion on what region to write about, I would suggest Puglia. Nobody I’ve ever read has done it justice yet. I absolutely fell in love with Lecce, a jewel of a city in the lower heel of the boot. The people are fantastico, there is a heavy Greek influence (naturalamente), the beaches are impeccable, the costs are low…the list goes on and on. As an avowed oenophile, the wines almost give the Vino Nobile a run for its money.

    I feel the best thing you have done in your books and blog is convey the feeling you (and your family) get when you travel to different places. And you aren’t too heavy on being Mr. Tour Guide, either. That’s really good. You can’t make a fat American get off his or her butt and travel, but you can tell him where to drink, or something to that effect! There is so much to see and so much written about museums, attractions, restaurants and what not that the guide books cover pretty well. Your personal reaction to these things gives the average traveler (and potential expat) something to look forward to. If you do it in “real time,” such as a step-by-step travelogue based on your own personal experiences (and problems/pitfalls), the reader will love it.

    One last thing…Many of us frequent travelers/expats have experiences which parallel yours to some extent; this includes perhaps other sites and resources that maybe you haven’t used or seen yet. Any way to get those into your blog?

    Keep up the great work!

    • Hey John, great stuff. If it’s OK with you, I’m going to contact you via email to expand the discussion further. In fact, I’d like to quote some of your comments on my next post. Ci sentiamo presto. Rick

  • Looking forward to your enhancements in the new year, particularly the podcast. I think Puglia is the first place to explore new food options. The cuisine of Puglia, and the entire area in general, is underappreciated. I recommend starting your adventure with a visit to The Awaiting Table Cookery School in Lecce []. My favorite place to stay in Lecce is La Bella Lecce B&B []. Good luck with acquiring Italian citizenship! Tanti auguri per uno splendido anno nuovo!

    • Earl, I REALLY appreciate the advice! Emotionally, I’m always drawn to the south. Then sometimes the practical aggravations push me away. But Puglia has been “on my list” for quite some time. If I make the decision to go, I’ll certainly be hitting you up for advice. Grazie tanto!!

  • Buona feste! My expperience living in Italy was 1958 1962 then back and forth last trip was 1997 early years I lived comfortably dollar bought me great bargains. now uffa! Tony

    • My friend Mary and I got a traffic violation by parking in a historical spot in 2009. It was expensive also! The aggravation of an appeal would not be worth it for us.

    • Not a bad idea for a future topic. However, I don’t think the choice “appeal or not,” but rather, “pay or not.” Unfortunately. 🙁

  • Que Bel Articolo! Che vita eccitante tu hai in amata Italia — You captured so many interesting things in your post. Un giorno, I can’t wait to be in that “fila del Sportello Amico” all’ufficio postale for my PdiS :). Complimenti in anticipo on your Italian Citizenship e buon anno 2015 a te e la tua famiglia…

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