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Category: Braving Italy

A statue in The City of Como (Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy)

The Notorious Italian “Furbizia”

Since living in Italy, it’s become abundantly clear that there’s a cultural concept Jason and I are (and have been) entirely unaware of. It’s something Italian’s know well and are always on the lookout for, but we have been blind to.

It’s called: furbizia.

The word furbo often means “clever” — but also “sly”, “sharp”, “crafty”, and so on. It’s more sinister meaning is what typically prevails: clever in the sense of “taking advantage” for one’s own personal gain.

Which is a virtue in this country? I’m not sure.
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Wooden, hand-painted sign of "Rooms For Rent" hanging from a red post
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The 6 Lessons Of Italian Apartment Disasters

No matter whether you’re buying or renting, finding a place to live in a new city or town can be daunting.

You finally find the right place, but it’s out of your price range. You find the right price range, but you’d rather live in a cardboard box than in that neighborhood. Or on that street. Or with those people nearby. You’re always two hours too late to beating the person who “just signed the lease,” or two months too early to the current tenants vacating.

In a foreign country, however, home hunting can be epic. The contractual rules, the currency, even the living standards are different, and then to negotiate all those things through the veil of another language…? Well. You might as well have landed on the moon. (more…)

Running the race with Fernando's wife (Val di Non, Italy)

A Snowless Snowshoe Race: Val di Non’s “Ciaspolada”

The gun sounded and they were off. Their pronged snowshoes digging into the trail, sending snow spray in a zealous arc behind them. These were the die hard competitors, leaving the rest of us in the proverbial “dust” at Val di Non’s Ciaspolada snowshoe race that day.

I tried to take it all in — the news helicopters circling overhead, the building-sized sponsor banners, the fanfare and commotion of so many people at one winter sports event. And as I looked out at the land beyond the snowy trail, trying to gauge the distance to the finish line, all I could see was green.

That’s right: green (or greenish-brown, really). (more…)

Tractor Spreading Muck (Val di Non)

Muck Spreading Season

Val di Non summers are short and cool; the winters, longer and harsher than I was used to, coming from Seattle, WA (USA). That makes spring and fall these sort of brief, frenzied seasons that leave your head spinning. You’d think just four seasons would be enough to round out the year — but no. There’s a fifth season in Val di Non, one people don’t bring up, or fail to mention, or refuse to acknowledge at all.

Yet everyone knows it’s there.

So long as your olfactory senses are intact, you can hardly miss “muck spreading season”. You’ll be forced, in fact, to breathe it in and wonder about it every time it leaves you gagging, grasping for air. And as you ask, How long will it last, this time? (more…)

Rainbow at dusk.

Life On Beautiful Street

Almost anything in Italy comes with paired chaos.

As if Italians are just better adapted to (more tolerant of) what we American’s would consider discomfort. Things don’t bother them. Everything is a mess. There’s always noise. People tell half-truths and don’t follow through with things. The heat’s broken. The oven was never properly installed.

It’s what’s expected, and no one is let down. (more…)

View of Downtown Seattle, WA (USA) from Kerry Park.

What We Talk About When We DON’T Talk About Amanda Knox

Merely mention that you lived in Seattle (USA) for 9 years, and you’ll likely get asked by the people of Perugia, Italy: Do you know Amanda Knox? As though, somehow, by living in the same city of 3.5+ million (where Amanda Knox now conducts her prison-free life), ones chances of knowing her are better than any Italian’s.

They’re not. And no, I don’t know her. Haven’t met her. Don’t plan to.

Nothing against the girl (and I won’t get into her guilt/innocence here), but the point is: if you’re an American traveling or living anywhere near Perugia, Italy: DON’T bring up Amanda Knox. Più, più, più! (more, more, more!)

SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: 3 Things Not To Do (Part 4)

This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:
* The Encounter (Part 1)
* The Aftermath (Part 2)
* The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)
* What Not To Do (Part 4) 

A dog is running your direction. Perhaps it’s friendly, perhaps it’s not — you aren’t sure. It’s getting closer, but its tail is not wagging, and it’s charging, and…holy h#&*! Within mili-seconds, you’re hit with the realization: this dog is on attack.

Most of us react to a scary dog out of instinct (screaming, running), but this will only put you in greater danger. To keep yourself safe, here are THREE THINGS NOT TO DO in the event of a potential dog attack: (more…)

A darkened tree in water

SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)

This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:
* The Encounter (Part 1)
* The Aftermath (Part 2)
* The Invisible Wounds (Part 3)
* What Not To Do (Part 4) 

dog attack was not on my list of things to plan for in life.

At first so grateful to have survived, to have incurred so little injury and to have just walked away, I didn’t stop to think: there could be psychological repercussions from this. I kept telling people, “It could’ve been a child, for God’s sakes. Or an elderly lady.” Instead, it was me: able-bodied, resilient adult.

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t see it coming. Hadn’t anticipated the shock that was in store in the days and weeks following the attack. A year and-a-half would pass before I put the pieces together, before I understood: being jumped by a German Shepherd had rattled me to the core. (more…)

Hike with our neighbors' sweet German Shephard

SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: The Aftermath (Part 2)

This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:

I was bleeding out of my stomach.

It wasn’t a large wound, but there was blood and a visible entry point where the dog bit into me. Today, a scar remains—and in the shape of a dog’s tooth (no less). Looking back, I probably should have had stitches, but the doctor/dentist never offered, and I wasn’t keen on sewing up my own flesh.

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Dog baring teeth

SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK: The Encounter (Part 1)

 This is one post in the four-part ‘SURVIVING A DOG ATTACK’ series, including:

I’ve been around a lot of dogs in my thirty-some years. I mean a lot.

My childhood involved everything from mutts and a Dalmatian to a brood of Alaskan Malamutes my siblings and I raised with our mother, hooking them to wheeled rigs that we rode around the park (yes, this happened). We’re all bleeding-heart dog lovers, as a result, who take in the strayed/abused/neglected canines of the world — and, today, I’m the only one without a dog.

Which is why it’s so puzzling that, the only time I’ve ever been attacked by a dog was when living abroad. Dogless. And in Italy, of all places.

In Cavareno, to be precise.

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Happy wood stacks
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HOW TO TALK ‘NONES’ – Making Friends (Part 3)

This post is one of the four-part HOW TO TALK ‘NONES’ series, including: 

As I mentioned in It’s A ‘Nones’ Life, the Nonesi can be a little hard to get to know — any real entry into Val di Non culture can be a bit of a challenge. As one of our [non-Val di Non] Italian friends living in in the valley explained to us: the Nonesi are as friendly as they need to be, with the expectation that you’ll soon be on your way, returning to wherever you came from.

This is precisely why I’ve put together a cheat sheet, of sorts: lists of things to prepare you for life (or extended travel) in Val di Non. Hopefully you’ll be better prepared than we were when arriving in 2012…as unsuspecting as fish in a stock pond. (more…)