Italian Word of the Day – “Visto”

La Maestra Maldestra

La Maestra Maldestra

This post is about a word that has come to mean so, so much to me.

It’s not long and complicated and stuffed with syllables, like “figuriamoci“. It’s not short and sweet like ““. It doesn’t mean something extraordinarily Italian like “gelato“, and it doesn’t carry with it undertones of “amore” (love), or “odio” (hate). It’s not fanciful like “pipistrello” (bat) or abrupt like “gru” (crane).

So what does it mean? I know the anticipation is killing you…

It means “living in Italy”. It means “working in Siena”. It means “open door” and “welcome mat”. It means “legitimacy”. It means “hard work pays off“. It means “perseverance is rewarded“.

In short, it means “dream come true”.

Well, for this girl, anyways. Because “visto” in any Italian-English dictionary worth its salt means “seen”, but it also means “visa”. As in “entrance visa” or “tourist visa” or the one I’ve toiled for a year to get: “work visa”.


So, it’s official. This girl, this blog, and two suitcases of her stuff are moving to Italy! To Siena, precisely (where else?) for the foreseeable future. Thank you to everyone who has followed this visa quest with me through this blog and through Facebook. Your kind words and thoughts are always so appreciated. I promise, a post or two on the “hilarity” of this whole bureaucratic process are in the works.

When’s the big move? T-14 days. Two weeks. June 8th.

There’s lots to do between now and then, so wish me luck!

Italian Life Olympics – Event #2

Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"If you missed my first post on Italian Life Olympics, click here to catch up.

So, back to event #2: crossing the street in Italy.

No, no! It’s no joke. In order to correctly perform this task in busy, crowded, car-congested cities like Roma or Napoli, there’s a certain level of skill required or else –


Some Mario Andretti wannabe will remorselessly metterti sotto (run you over) in their little Fiat 500 without a backward glance while you’re left, stuck to the pavement, newly resembling a human pizza. Fiat 500

Wishing earnestly to avoid this fate, you keep your wits about you and gear up for the event. (Some people choose to say a hearty goodbye to their loved ones beforehand – you never know!).


“Today I’m crossing the street.” “Call when you get to the other side.”

You walk to the curb of the street you wish to cross and size up the amount of traffic (probably molto) that’s crossing your path. You pay no attention (this is important) to what’s going on with the semafori (traffic lights) or the strisce (crosswalks), because the drivers don’t either. You take in the speed, the size of the vehicles and any other obstructions in the area. You toe up to the edge.

Then you turn your head towards oncoming traffic and catch the eye of a driver in the lane closest to you. Now, they’re not really slowing down yet, but you know this is your chance. You maintain eye contact with the driver, steel yourself for the exertion ahead, step off the curb and you…

Walk into traffic.

Chin up, head high, like you own the street. And you keep walking.

You catch the eye of other  drivers as they approach you, and something miraculous happens. Sensing that you’re actually serious about traversing their path, and that their sewing-machine engines are no match for you, they’ll take in your confident stride and acquiesce. Momentarily.

And like Moses parted the Red Sea, the traffic will part, if only briefly, to allow your safe passage to the other side.

But don’t dawdle, and per l‘amor del cielo (for goodness’ sake), don’t run. You’ve gotta look like you’re in control or else someone’s foot might get a little heavy at your display of weakness and – POM! The human pizza fate is once again yours.


All of this fuss can be avoided if you can cross in the company of a nun or priest. Italian drivers will sooner crash than harm someone in a habit!


Italian Life Olympics – Event #1

This post has absolutely nothing to do with the actual Olympics or any of the Italian Olympic teams. Mi dispiace.

Successful travel often requires travelers to have packed a fair dose of adaptability and resourcefulness in their luggage. At times it really does take skill to get from one place to another, work out a sign in a foreign language or make sure you’re not eating kitten tails for dinner.

But Italy… Italy’s another story all together.

Resourcefulness, adaptability, and furbizia (trickery) are brought into any experience in Italian society, even by the locals.  Especially by the locals.


Because successfully living in Italy is an Olympic sport.

Take, for example, the Key Toss. It goes like this:

You live on the top floor of a wonderful palazzo in a place like, say, Siena. You’ve got 110 steps between your place and the portone, the ground floor door into the building. You’re supposed to have a citofono (intercom buzzer system) to open the portone for you, but yours hasn’t worked since you moved in, and, in good Italian fashion, you’ve resigned yourself to the fact that the likelihood of it ever getting repaired is nulla. Which means it’s actually 110 steps for you to go down and let someone in, then 110 steps back up to your abode. Never having been friendly with the StairMaster, you become the master of the Key Toss.


Your friends arrive in the street in front of your house. They know your buzzer doesn’t work, but they want in. Some might send an sms or give you a call on the phone. But the die-hards, they yell.

“Saaaaaa-rahhhhhh! Siamo sotto casa!” The first cry alerts you to their presence. Literally, “Sarah! We’re under house!”

The second contains your mission. “Butta le chiavi!” Throw the keys!

You snap into action, going to whichever room faces the street. You open the window and poke your head out.


Grabbing the set of keys you keep just for this purpose, you take aim and launch them. Out the window. Into the street. To your awaiting friends.

Points to you if they don’t get stuck on someone else’s roof. Or in a drainpipe. Points also to them if they catch it.

Your friends then let themselves in, brave the stairs, and return your keys to their spot near the window when they finally make it to your place. You rest easy, satisfied in having saved yourself the fatica (exertion) of doing 220 stairs.

Check back soon for Italian Life Olympics – Event #2!