My former students in Val di Non

“Dopo Lady” & The People Of Val di Non

She has a thick, low voice. Raspy, like a smoker’s. Or like she’s had reflux for the last 25 years. Her skin is the color of curdled milk, and I’ve never noticed the color of her eyes, but the rest of her is stout and square, with a similar face. Her hair is always cut in an awkward series of right-angles, bangs the result of the ole bowl-over-the-head-method.

And she almost never smiles.

She is ‘Dopo Lady’, and she is our anonymous, unwitting Val di Non friend.

Click here to read more…

Close-up of man's hands bricklaying (spreading mortar between bricks.).

Construction Trauma

Before moving to Italy, I couldn’t have ever said, “I’ve been traumatized by construction.” But after living in this country for the past three years, I can say that now. It must be part of the initiation phase:

-Do you have what it takes to live in this country? 
-I’m not sure…
-Well you’ll soon find out. Because Italy doesn’t give a damn whether you make it… Hey look, there’s more!

German Infantry, 1914

Trentino’s Bloody Past – Part 2

If you missed it, check out the first installment, Trentino’s Bloody Past – Part 1, where I explain Italy’s northernmost region, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol.

To continue, dear readers, let’s take a trip down history lane: WWI (aka ‘The Great War’) was epic. The war of all wars, with roughly 32 countries involved, worldwide.

But how did it all start, you ask?

Well…some Serbian dude named Gavrilo Princip (I love this name!) had to go and assassinate the Austro-Hungarian Archduke, Franz Ferdinand. Naturally, Austria-Hungary is irritated, so backed by Imperial Germany (naturally), they declare war on The Serbian Kingdom.

Makes sense. Kill our leader and we’ll fight you with our fists and guns…

Read More

Men fighting in northern borders.

Trentino’s Bloody Past – Part 1

This post is part of a two-part series, Trentino’s Bloody Past – Part 1 and Part 2.

Who out there doesn’t like blood, guts and gore?

If you’re at all familiar with European history, you’ll know it’s no stranger to violence and mayhem of the political-religious-clashing sort. Today, though, you see little of that. Which is why it was so surprising to learn that the part of Italy Jason and I called home for two years had once been a major battlefront.

The insistent pounding of the world wars left their mark. And it wasn’t pretty…

Bloody hell, there’s more…

Entrance to Nazi labor camp, 'Struthof' (Alsace, France)

Labor Camps With Germans

It was a strange set of circumstances: a weekend in France, a bonafide German, and a Nazi labor camp. Add in two unwitting Americans and it made for a perfectly awkward—if not memorable—encounter.

The story begins with Jason’s German friend, Volker Haas (first name pronounced like a mix of ‘Valka’ and ‘Falka’), had been an exchange student at the University of Washington (Seattle), back in the 90s. For a year, Volker and Jason were roommates in the same house.

Fast forward to 2012, where I spent a month in Strasbourg, France, obtaining my ESOL Teaching Certificate (CELTA), and right before Jason and I came to Italy. And that’s where the Nazi labor camp comes in. Oooh, la la…il y en a plus! (there’s more)

Bar in Parma, Italy

THE ITALIAN “BAR” – Leave Your Laptop At Home

We would’ve missed so much if our faces had been glued to computer screens. But I’ll get back to that. First, let’s begin with some terminology.

BAR: your one stop shop for everything pick-me-up in Italy.

In Italy, there is no such thing as a café. That’s a French idea, adopted by the Americans (who-knows-when). A bar in Italy, though—that’s where you want to go. Where they serve coffee beverages and all kinds of alcohol. Where there’s sometimes food*. Or live music (er, ummm…bad English hits). And pastries. Where people chat and mingle and catch up…

All in one place. Lookey, lookey, there’s more!

Horse figurines

Horse Meat, Anyone?

Horse is not my first choice of meats. Cow, pork, chicken—those are the usual ones. Duck, rabbit, even venison or buffalo are all acceptable animals to eat. But horses? They are friends, not food.

Being from Kentucky, and having ridden horses all my life, I always swore that horse was the one meat I could never eat. Yet I seem to be a homing device for bizarre foods: sea snails, cow tongue, haggis, blood sausage, tripe, geoduck, crocodile, and hippopotamus—I’ve tried them all (drawing the line at goat’s eyeballs).

But call it peer pressure, chock it up to an impulsive thirst for adventure, blame it on a moment of insanity…the truth is, when faced with the option (and the challenge), I broke down.

I ate horse. Giddyup for more!

Normal driving conditions in Puglia (Italy)

Crazy Italian Driving, Demystified

Admittedly, when I first arrived in Italy in 2012, I wasn’t prepared for the left lane etiquette of “get out of the way, or else”. I was frequently incensed. These truculent, Italian road warriors had it all wrong, and Jason had to remind me, over and over, “Erin, it’s their culture. We’ve come here—not the other way around.”

He had a point.

If you’ve ever been on an Italian roadway, especially a highway, you’ve probably learned that Italian drivers can…well—be a bit rowdy. But step back from whatever cultural framework you come from, and you’ll see there’s a lot more to the Italian roadways than meets the eye. Read More

Apartments for rent in Perugia, Italy

The Key To Being A Tenant In Italy

There is a secret to being a tenant in Italy, and it involves only three things:

  • proximity
  • money
  • documentation

Allow me to explain.

First, a good relationship with a landlord is one of proximity. By which I mean: do not under any circumstances live near them (not in the apartment upstairs, in the house out back, or in any attached part of the building…not even if they beg you).

Check it out, there’s more!

Large, teardrop-shaped bread of Altamura (Italy), scattered on a shelf.

The Hunt For Altamura’s Secret Italian Bread – Part 2

This post is one of a two-part series, The Hunt For Altamura’s Secret Italian Bread — Part 1 and Part 2.

“He said go that way,” Jason explained. He was nonchalant in his lack of concern for precision.

“What do you mean, ‘that way’?” I urged. But he ignored me.

I followed.

We wound onto side streets and shimmied through narrow corridors between buildings built so closely together you could reach out of one window and touch the other.

Dish up some more!

Various breads spread among different baskets.

The Hunt For Altamura’s Secret Italian Bread – Part 1

This post is one of a two-part series, The Hunt For Altamura’s Secret Italian Bread – Part 1 and Part 2.

Every culture in the world has their version of it. The Russians have their rye, the German’s their white braided breads. India has her naans and puris, and France has her world-renowned boules and baguettes. Italy, however, is not the place I think of when I think of good bread.

When I think of Italy, I picture squishy, pure white balls of mozzarella. Shiny sun-ripened tomatoes. Earthy, cloudy extra virgin olive oils. I picture a place where pasta fresca is as ubiquitous as American corn.

But exquisite bread? That belongs somewhere else.

Admittedly, I’ve been wrong about things before. And so I must now hang my head when I say: I was wrong about this.

Hungry for more?