Moving to Italy
By Joanne Kelsay
I have always dreamt of living in Italy. I have been going to Italy ever since I was an infant. My mother was Italian and her family never left Italy. She did when she married my father who was in the Army and stationed in Vicenza where my mother grew up. I have always had a passion for the Italian culture, the country, the food, the people, the language, and the sense of family I felt every time I came to visit. My son and I started the process of obtaining our Italian citizenship several years ago and finally after collecting all the documents, certifying them, translating them into Italian, we were able to apply at our Italian Consulate in Miami. We were given dual citizenship in October 2019. I got the news while in Vicenza with my family! This meant that we could stay in Italy as long as I wanted to and fulfill my dream to live there. I returned to the Italian Consulate in August 2021 and picked up my Italian passport. Before this I had taken action and learned what I could about moving to Italy (I took an 8 week course called "How to Move to Italy" by Samantha Wilson) and joined other Italian Facebook groups. I connected with people who were of the same mindset and with those who had already made the move. I sold my house, gave away or donated many of my belongings, and stored the few I wanted to keep. I bought a one-way ticket to Lucca, Italy (Tuscany region) and booked my AirBnBs for several months. My dear friend, Lauren, came with me for the first part of my journey.
We spent my first week enjoying the town of Lucca. Lucca is surrounded by well-preserved Renaissance walls where people walk and ride their bikes along the tree-lined pathways along the top. We enjoyed bike riding, eating at the restaurants, and taking the train to explore the surrounding areas. Train travel in Italy is so easy and convenient. Places we went to included Carrara, a city noted for its white marble that is quarried there, Pisa and the Leaning Tower of Pisa (you can climb the 294 steps to the top of the tower), Cinque Terre, hiking a portion of the Sentiero Azzuro The Verde Azzurro path, or "Blue trail" is a hiking route that runs entirely within the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site... (Blue Trail) from Monterosso to Vernazza (this trail stretches along the Cinque Terre coastline, approx. 12 km long and connects the 5 villages of Cinque Terre. The trail is moderately difficult due to the many steep steps but the views are truly amazing), and Florence.
We stayed for one week in Florence. There is so much to do in Florence and so much history! To name a few of the sites when visiting Florence: the Duomo (you can climb the 464 stairs to the top), the Uffizi Gallery, the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens, the Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza della Signoria, and the Ponte Vecchio (noted for its shops for jewelry, leather, and gold), and the Arno River. We walked along the outskirts of the city up to the Piazzale Michelangelo (where there is a bronze replica of the statue of David and awesome restaurant). We took a cooking class and learned to make 3 different pastas and then ate what we made. We traveled by bus to Greve in Chianti, another beautiful Tuscan city famous for its wine, art, and history. Lauren returned home and I continued my life in Lucca.
I settled into my AirBnB and started taking Italian classes online. I felt very comfortable in Lucca because there are many expats and English speaking people. This has actually slowed my learning Italian since it is extremely easy to find English speaking people to talk to. I decided to sign up for Italian lessons online. My instructor was very good and I enjoyed learning Italian although doing it on Zoom was not for me. After a month of lessons I decided to learn by emersion. I can decipher much of a conversation but being able to speak is definitely more difficult. My next plan is to attend the language school (LIS-Lucca Italian School). Here you learn by emersion along with an instructor and other non-italian speakers. I will let you know how that goes!
Towards the end of October friends joined me for 3 weeks and I felt like I was on vacation mode once again. I was now becoming a tour guide having been to some of the cities several times now. We went to Pisa, Carrara, and around Lucca. We took the train to Cinque Terre and hiked the portion of the Sentiero Azzuro from Vernazza to Corniglia (a different section than I had done with Lauren). We rewarded ourselves with a wonderful meal at a quaint restaurant and wines from the region. Cinque Terre is a part of the Ligurian region and noted for their white wines.
Our trip included a two day stay in Florence (an hour train ride from Lucca). Here we met up with my friend’s daughter and son-in-law who were on their honeymoon! I had helped arrange their tour with my friend Paolo Di Gangi (Limo Services & Travel). We climbed the Duomo at sunset and took amazing photos of the city of Florence. We did a walking tour, shopped for leather purses and shoes, and ate some incredible Florentine dishes.
Florence is famous for their food including dishes such as bistecca alla Florentina, ribollita, and gelato, however the pistachio gelato is one of my favorites!
A few other towns we went to are Pietrasanta, Viareggio, and Forte Di Marmi. These beautiful seaside towns are popular destinations for many Europeans and are very crowded during the summer months.
Next we headed to the south of Italy to Sorrento. It is close to the Amalfi Coast. I had an AirBnB close to the city center and we were able to walk every where. The food is very different than that of the north and consists more of seafood. We did enjoy fantastic pizza at Franco’s Pizzeria, and limoncello. We visited a limoncello factory and tasted several flavors (melon, licorice, and orange). October begins the rainy season in the south and we had to work our schedule around the weather. Ferries to Capri are determined by the roughness of the seas and when we had a calm day we took the ferry to Capri. It is just a 30 minute ride and the ticket costs $43 round trip. Once we arrived in Capri we took a guided boat tour around the entire island. We were able to see the Blue Grotto and incredible views of the famous rock formations coming out of the water. The name of these formations is Faraglioni. These are three towering rocks which jut out from the Mediterranean. The water is so blue and clear you want to dive in! Many people swim here in the summer. Capri is filled with high end shops, beautiful gardens, and several walking paths. I took the one from the town of Capri and headed down Via Vittorio Emanuele to Via Camerelle, then followed Via Tragara towards the Arco Naturale. We had a gelato at Chiosco Tizzano, the first gelateria in Capri.
On another day we took the infamous bus ride to Positano (an adventure in itself!). We ate paninis and chatted with the 80+ year old owner of the restaurant about the pandemic and the age of technology. After wandering around we found a fantastic hole in the wall restaurant (La Marinella) that was shutting down for the season. It was their last day open and we enjoyed Negronis (Campari, gin, and Prosecco) and seafood. They had American music playing and we danced and sang songs with the staff!
The southern Italians are very friendly and love to sing and dance. There is wonderful shopping to be done here and my friends bought a set of handmade ceramic dishes! They will have their names painted on the plates (backside) and I can’t wait to share a homemade meal with them served on these!
One last adventure before their return to the US was a trip to Naples! Wow! This city reminds me of New York City. The traffic, the shops, the restaurants, and the crowds. We waited in line to eat at Sorbillo (a well known restaurant for its Napoleon style pizza), to the cathedral of San Gennaro, the Piazza del Plebiscito and to the Gambrinus for pastries and cappuccinos. Another spectacular day!
Once my friends left to return to the states I continued to explore the Amalfi Coast and the surrounding areas. I took the ferry back to Capri and hopped on the bus to the other side of the island know as AnaCapri. AnaCapri is more rural and is widely known for its picturesque views of Naples Bay and historic sites to include Villa San Michele. There is a chairlift that connects Piazza Vittoria to Monte Solaro. I decided to hike every where instead. I hiked to Punta Carena Lighthouse Located on the island of Capri on the head of the same name, about 3 kilometres southwest of Anacapri. and down to the Blue Grotto. I walked on the path (Sentiero den fortini) along the edge of the island. There you can see plaques that describe the nature of the island, birds, plants, and flowers as well as its history.
During my stay I met and hired a guide named Franco. He owns his own company Franco Trekking Positano and is a native to Positano. He took me on a hike to the Hole in the Rock in Positano where the story goes that the hole was created when the devil challenged the Virgin Mary to see who could pierce the rock. The Virgin Mary touched the rock with her forefinger and the rock crumbled and formed a hole where she walked through it. We hiked the famous Path of the Gods starting in Montepertuso and ending in Agerola! This path has spectacular views of the entire Gulf of Salerno and the Gulf of Naples. Along the way we stopped at a little restaurant where you can sit and relax, enjoy the view, and have a snack and a lemon slush. We reached the end and took a bus back to Positano.
Another amazing hike and life changing one for me was the hike to Monte Faito. A 1,500 meters high mountain in the Monti Lattari, a small mountain range chain in the Campanian Pre-Apennines, on the Sorrentine Peninsula of southwestern Italy. We began our hike in Vico Equense at a small bar called Terrazza Belvedere The most beautiful bar in Italy with breathtaking & gorgeous views... where I enjoyed a delicious cappuccino and a pastry. Franco had prepared for the hike and we had hiking poles, gloves, hats, and heavy jackets Cold-weather gear & warm . The snow and ice made this hike particularly challenging and the narrow path along side the mountain was a bit scary. I kept my view directly on the path ahead and tried not to look down the side. At the very top stood a huge cross and the views were absolutely breathtaking. When we returned to town we enjoyed an amazing steak dinner at Il Ghiottone (The Glutton)! Here they have slabs of beef You Decide! on display and you decide the amount and cut of beef you would like. Then they cook it to how you desire. It was amazing especially after hiking all day long!
My time in Sorrento ended in the beginning of December. I returned to Lucca where my dream life continues. I will be staying in Lucca permanently as I have signed a 4 year contract on an apartment! I will be moving in on April 1st. I am sure I will have lots and lots of adventures of the Italian lifestyle and the Italian bureaucracy (a whole other topic!) as I learn the ways of this incredible country and culture.
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