Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop (Part 3)

This is the final post in the series, Seattle To Italy In One Not-So-Fell Swoop, including:
Part 1 and Part 2.

Today, most of Jason’s remaining Italian family live up north, far from Puglia’s pane e pomodoro. Relatives on his mother’s side reside mostly in Milan, while his father’s relatives are clustered in a valley far off in the northern Alps. A valley called: Val di Non.

To get started on our own immigration process, we knew we would need the help of family, and since Milan was not a place either of us wanted to live, it was: “Apple valley, here we come!”

Trentino cliffs (Italy)
Trentino cliffs (Italy)

Eventually, we arrived at the towering mountain cliffs of Italy’s Trentino region (more about this area later), winding up the switchback roads and landing in Cavareno, Val di Non, at 8 o’clock at night.

View of Val di Non from our second Cavareno apartment (Trentino, Italy)
View of Val di Non from our second Cavareno apartment (Trentino, Italy)

It was 8 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

One of Jason’s second cousins gave us the keys to a family apartment, and we shivered the night away under as many blankets as we could find while we waited for the wood stove to warm up the floors and walls.

It was a long night.

Jason starting a fire in the 'stuffa' (wood stove) (Romeno)
Jason starting a fire in the ‘stuffa’ (wood stove) (Romeno, Italy)

This, however, is where things got interesting.

Val di Non is in the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region, which is is the northern-most region of Italy. It was once a part of the former Austrian-Hungarian empire, and wasn’t annexed into Italy until roughly 1920.

The houses look like Austrian village ski-chalets, the German Shepard is the dog of choice, and the staple foods of wurtzel sausage and sauerkraut proliferate.

The very "Tyrolean" architecture of Val di Non (Trentino)
The very “Tyrolean” architecture of Val di Non (Trentino, Italy)

It felt like a really cool adventure I couldn’t have scripted, and even though my mind was having one of those moments of “What the hell am I doing here…?” I didn’t dare turn around and run.

Still, the shock of being in this particular region was coursing through me. This is where we are going to start our “Italian” life? I thought. In the least Italian part of Italy there is?

We would call Val di Non “home” for the next two years.

Rows of apple trees in Val di Non (Trentino, Italy)
Rows of apple trees in Val di Non (Trentino, Italy)

And so, dear reader, you’ve made it through the very condensed story about how Jason and I got to Italy. Congratulations!

What follows in other posts (current and future) is the story of two American expats living in a part of Italy that you could safely say is “off the beaten path,” a place that’s known more for its apples and wood burning stoves than anything conventionally Italian.

Two expats who continue the laugh-a-minute ride when they relocate to the more “Italian” Central Italy (in Perugia, Umbria): a good compromise between north and south.

Northeastern view of Perugia (Umbria, Italy)
View of Perugia, towards the northeast (Umbria, Italy)

What ensues is nothing short of hilarity and frustration and insight and beauty and lots and lots of growth and change and shouting and laughter and love. There is/are:

  • car “trouble”
  • street food sampling
  • swimming in sea caves
  • fights in the middle of traffic-heavy streets
  • mountainside trailblazing
  • dog attacks
  • not-so-successful attempts at homemade pasta
  • countryside bike rides
  • cheese tastings
  • landlord squabble, and
  • double rainbows

This is love. This is sacrifice. This is forging a new life in a strange country based on the blind hope that it’ll all work out.

You may be wondering, like many people, about the real reason we left your lives in the US. Were we running from the law? Fired from our jobs? Looking to branch out into organized crime?

I assure you, it’s none of the above. A sense of adventure, a thirst for the unknown, and a love of other cultures and languages compelled us to take the leap. A sense that you only have one life to live, and quite literally, you better do all the things you ever wanted to do because, one day, there won’t be another chance. And all you’ll have left are the memories you created to look back on.

THIS is that story.

J and I outside Strasbourg (France)
J and me, outside Strasbourg (France), trying to take a selfie with the beautiful view, only — I got the ugly flag pole. 🙂

Have you ever made a radical change in your life that left your head spinning? Was it worth it? And what advice would you give others if they were to do the same? Share in the comments below, and I’ll compile your responses in a post about advice on radical life change.

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