10 ways living in Italy has changed me

Italy has changed me

At the moment, as I’m going through a heavy bureaucratic period in my life, I’ve been thinking about how much Italy has changed me.

I had major surgery in Naples back in December and I’m now dealing with the aftermath of doctor visits and further tests. That part is straightforward, but along with that comes the bureaucratic mayhem of getting referrals and prescriptions, filling out forms, and navigating the labyrinthine system of requesting hospital records. These bureaucratic things often require multiple visits to the offices because the steps are so complicated that no one knows the exact procedure and I keep having to go back to different places because someone, somewhere in a back office, didn’t do what they were supposed to do. And until that anonymous person does what they’re supposed to do, I can’t go on to the next step.

So I’ve been dealing with this, going back and forth to Naples and to various offices on the island, making phone calls, and asking friends and family for ideas on how to get it done. I still haven’t achieved what I’m supposed to do, but I keep going.

This morning I hit another road block. But instead of getting upset, I went to the bar and had a coffee, running into a friend along the way. I then walked back home in the sunshine and took a moment to sit on a bench and watch the sea.

I’ve often thought that if all of this health stuff had happened during a different period of my life in the past, say when I lived in Rome 10 years ago, I would have freaked out, broken down and questioned all of my life choices that brought me to this point.

But now, I don’t feel like freaking out. It’s wasted energy and I’d rather take a moment to focus on all the good things in life – like a sunny day, a tiny cup of coffee with a friend at the bar, and the very big reality that I survived the surgery and I’m feeling a lot better and stronger. It’s this new philosophy that makes me I realise how much Italy has changed me, so I thought I’d try to reflect on 10 different examples.

Italy has changed me

10 ways Italy has changed me

1. I’m much more patient and much more zen. It takes a long time to accomplish things, especially anything bureaucratic. Very little can be done over the telephone or online. Often times you have to show up in person to get any information or get something done. This requires long amounts of time waiting. In the past, this would make me an anxious and nervous wreck, but here you can’t resolve things with anxiety and impatience.

2. Nothing in Italy is black and white and while I just said above that I’ve become more patient, I’ve also become more aggressive and assertive. Especially since I had surgery in December and now have to deal with the bureaucratic and chaotic aftermath. This has been a difficult learning curve, because normally if a doctor I need to see is in her office with the door open and talking to her colleagues, I will wait outside until she finishes talking. Except here, the doctor will never finish talking and I might just sit there and wait and wait and wait until I realise that the doctor has left for lunch. So now, I knock on doors and I interrupt conversations.  I walk down corridors and ask every person I see the same question until I can find someone who can give me the answer I need. And if someone tells me to wait, I don’t sit down on a chair down the hallway, but stand in front of the door and keep watch.

3. I talk to strangers and have spontaneous conversations. One of my new year’s resolutions back in 2006 when I was living in New York City was to talk to more strangers. It didn’t really work because 1) I was shy and 2) New York is a big city and most people go about living their lives on the street anonymously. But here, it’s different. I’m not as shy, I have spontaneous conversations with people on the street, in the supermarket, even with people on the sidewalk while I’m sitting in the car at a red light. Personal space is different here in Naples, you don’t have to be afraid of bothering someone.

4. I eat dinner later. In London, I’d eat dinner around 8 oclock and if I met up with friends after work, we’d have dinner a bit earlier. But here, if I eat at home it’s around 9 and if I go out with friends, it’s easily around 10 pm or 1030, especially in the summer time. Now when I go back home to the States, I find it so funny to have dinner at 5 pm. But at the same time, I appreciate it too, because you can still go out and do things after dinner.

5. I use my middle name. Back in the US and UK, middle names were treated as something ornamental, you can omit it or have it show up as an initial, but here I have to use my full name on everything that involves official business. And in Italy with all of its bureaucracy, everything you do is official business. You are not who you say you are if you leave out your middle name. I quite like using my middle name (which is Carla, by the way), it feels like a more rounded and fuller me. Not exactly a new identity because I’ve always had this name, but now I’ve gotten a chance to show a side of me that I never really paid attention to before.

6. I’m content with less and my money priorities have changed. I don’t spend money to be more comfortable or to make my life more efficient. This has a lot to do with having less disposable income, but also it doesn’t seem necessary to spend as much and honestly, I don’t feel like things are lacking in my life.

7. I don’t like ice in my drinks or water that’s too cold. I used to looooooovvvve ice. When I was little, at our house in Italy, we had a fridge with an ice machine. I loved glasses full of crushed ice that I could chew on, but all my aunts, uncles and cousins would go crazy when they saw me eating all that ice. They said I would get sick from all of that cold and that I would get a fever. Now I’m afraid that I’ve been converted to the power of no ice. It’s not that it makes me sick, but if I have a glass packed with ice and water, it’s too cold and hurts my teeth and stomach. This aversion to ice may also be a sign that one day I will believe in the famous colpa d’aria and avoid cold air. Although gelato and granita are wonderful and have no negative side effects.

8. I can handle uncertainty. Someone says something will get done or that they’ll call you with more info, but they don’t tell you when. I’m okay with that now, I know it will eventually happen and I can always follow up on it if I don’t hear back from the person. I’m confident that things will happen even if I don’t know when.

9. I’m a much better driver. I got my Italian driver’s license last year and learned to drive stick. I was terrified to drive in the beginning, but I soon became more confident and now I can navigate these tiny roads and drive along with cars that follow none of the rules (although I still do – using my blinker and refusing to pass a car on a curve). I can parallel park, back into a narrow parking spot, park on a sidewalk, and drive backwards up a steep driveway and into the street. Who have I become?

10. I can speak Italian and live life in another language. I’ve lived in Italy before and have been studying Italian for decades, but my Italian since moving to Ischia has greatly improved. One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to write more in Italian and I’ve started a journal in Italian which I’m having a lot of fun with. It’s great to write and not care about making mistakes because no one is going to read it. This way I can be more spontaneous with the language, take the time to look up new vocabulary and review some grammar structures.  Maybe one day I can write blog posts in Italian???

Italy has changed me

So there you have it! Are there any ways in which Italy has changed you, too?

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  1. Bravissima. Living in Italy does change you. Hope you are on the mend and savour everyday you have on Ischia?

    Posted 2.19.20 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Thanks so much, Rochelle! These sunny days on the island are helping with the healing. Hope winter is just as warm and bright for you down in Sicily. xx

      Posted 2.21.20 Reply
  2. Antoinetta Silicato wrote:

    Your 10 ways living in Italy has changed your life really hit home for me. I have returned to the states a year ago after being in Taormina, Sicily for 5 years. I starting going to the island in the early 1980’s and have been back and forth over the years with several extended stays. One of the first things I learned, with time, was to slow down from y NYC pace. Living there was good for my soul in so many ways. Being back in the states and on the east coast, reminds me how much the Sicilian climate nurtured me and how I learned to just go with the flow of life rather than push life. I pray that God opens the door for me to once again return to live out the duration of my life. Keep enjoying your beautiful Mediterranean life.

    Posted 2.19.20 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Hi Antonietta, I hope you get a chance to move back to Sicily one day. I lived in Rome about 10 years ago and then moved to London, but it always my plan to figure out a way to move back to Italy and I didn’t like it go. When the opportunity came up, I ran for it. xx

      Posted 2.21.20 Reply
  3. David Pearson wrote:

    Hi I live in Pineto in Abruzzo and want to get an Codice Fiscale and wonder if you have any tips/help you could give me. I to have spent many happy holiday hour’s loving the scenery and lifestyle. Now i am living here I have the time to travel around this beautiful country. Hope you are well after your operation and able to enjoy Italy even more now.


    Posted 2.22.20 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Hi David, Thanks for your message! Getting the codice fiscale is probably the easiest bureaucratic task in Italy. You just need to go to your local agenzia delle entrate and request a codice fiscale. They should be able to give it to you right away. All the best x

      Posted 2.22.20 Reply
      • David Pearson wrote:

        Thanks for your reply What documentation do you need to take with you.
        Regards Dave

        Posted 2.24.20 Reply
        • Giovanna wrote:

          I’m not sure of the exact documents, but I would bring your carta d’identità, PdS and passport.

          Posted 2.24.20 Reply
  4. Rowena wrote:

    I’ve heard of different experiences from expats regarding the health system – some good, some ok, and some not so okay. I, myself, have my own hospital and it would’ve been better if the doctor had known that I could at least understand Italian and not just walk away with a dumb embarassed look on his face.

    Hope things are looking a little more positive for you, especially in these trying times given the current situation.

    Posted 3.9.20 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Hi Rowena, Things are a bit more positive and I managed to get the last of the bureaucratic things done last week, just in time. Hope this time passes quickly for you, too. x Giovanna

      Posted 3.9.20 Reply
  5. Yasmin Rivera wrote:

    Ciao Giovanna, just finished restoring a farmhouse in Pesaro (Parco Bartolo) we bought 5 years ago. I too learned patience (even though I had a lot before). I got overly sensitive being called the “Americana” and not taken seriously unless I said “my husband wants it that way”! Using my maiden also took time getting used to. I had surgery in December (gallbladder) and must say that the doctors were great and the hospital too. The weird part was my doctor giving me a prescription for an antibiotic using needles instead of like in New York a ?

    Posted 5.1.20 Reply
    • Giovanna wrote:

      Ha! I couldn’t get used to the needles instead of pills. I also had to take an anti-inflammatory in powder form dissolved in water three times a day. yuck yuck yuck. Congratulations on completing your farmhouse and for your success surgery! xx

      Posted 5.4.20 Reply
  6. Olivia Fong wrote:

    Hi, I am Olivia soon will move to Italy once get married with my bf. Your stories and posts have inspired a lot. I am a bit freaking out after reading all the requirements especially getting the PDS( I am a Malaysian by the way). I guess my journey will be tougher and even more time consuming after the fact of pandemic. Anyway, your post calm me down and I also looking forward of the changes and how life will take me once I move to Italy. And wish you stay well and enjoy your life.

    Posted 10.10.21 Reply
  7. Lisa wrote:

    I should have ended up in Italy as am now retired and ended up in Alicante, Spain for a bunch of reasons. My Spanish learning is mixing with my Italian.
    Inevitable but helps keep my cervelos flessible. LoL! Living in a foreign country certainly emboldens you. I’ve shared some of your exact experiences. Salutate!

    Posted 11.25.21 Reply
  8. Mario Cappuci wrote:

    For whatever it´s worth, I am really healthy and never get sick, except every time I change countries. I‘ve always done so when I was completely fed up by a place and had reached my limits. I am convinced there is some kind of deep purging that has been involved in all cases, as well as some kind of detoxification. Maybe that is what you also needed to go thru in order to get on track for a healthier mental, physical, emotional and spiritual life. So happy to hear you are better =)

    Posted 7.23.22 Reply


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