And Back to Italy She Goes

Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” — Anna Akhmatova

What have I been doing in the last few weeks since I haven’t been blogging, you ask? Well, let me tell you:

1. I’ve been working on other writing projects for Panoram Italia Magazine.

2. I’ve been finishing up the first part of the Teaching English as a Second Language course that I’ve enrolled in, in hopes that it’ll give my career a bit of a boost. (If you’re wondering why my career needs boosting, click here to read the post about how I got kindly ousted from my most recent lavoro).

3. I’ve been looking for a job. Need to feed my salvadanaio (piggy bank).

4. And last but not least, I’ve been trying to find a way to get back to Italy. Obviously.

So how did I do? Sono riuscita. I succeeded. In all of it.

Articles to be published in April? Check.

Part 1 of TESL course passed? Check.

Found a job? Check.

Found a job that is interesting to me? Check.

Found a job that is interesting to me and pays me to go to Italy? Check, Check, Check!

Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with the way life is going right now. I’ve still got a bit of time (73 days, but who’s counting?!) before I leave again for bella Italia but the fact that I know I’m going placates my Italylust just a little bit.

So what is this lavoro dei sogni (dream job) that I’ve landed?

I’m going to be the Program Manager for a study abroad program to Italy. Bello, no? (Nice, eh?) Now, I’m sure it won’t all be Prosecco and la dolce vita – I will be working, you know – but it’ll be a great experience all the same.

I’m sure this next sojourn in Italy will provide me with much more fodder for Not Just Another “Dolce Vita”, and I’ll be sure to chronicle the best of my (mis)adventures for you right here!

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum


Closer to Life – Zona a Traffico Limitato

Once again I find my mind wandering to the many ways in which my life in Italy makes me feel as if I live more in tune with life, more in harmony with life, closer to life.  In my first post on this subject, I used the example of finestre aperte – open windows – and how my open, screenless Italian windows helped me live closer to life. Now I’d like to share with you how the Zona a Traffico Limitato (ZTL, pronounced “zehdda-tee-ehllay”) doesn’t limit me, as its name may suggest, but invites me to get out into the world.

In my Italian home, the charming, medieval city of Siena, the historic town centre is almost entirely free of cars due to the ZTL that encompasses most of the centro storico (old town centre). Siena was the first city in Europe to outlaw cars from its centre, allowing only some taxis, few buses and a minimal number of motorini to wind their way through the labyrinthine streets. For most people, the main mezzo di trasporto (method of transportation) is the heel-toe express.

ZTL at Porta Pispini – Siena

How annoying, people lament when I tell them this. You mean you have to walk everywhere? They actually feel sorry for me. What do people with cars do? They park them ouside the city walls (like in the photo), or get a special permit if they live inside the walls. But isn’t it inconvenient? Not really. I actually quite enjoy it. Oh, I could never do that much walking.  You could if you had to. Well, we’ll just not visit Siena then. It sounds like too much trouble. You’re the ones missing out!

In Canada, I live in a lovely suburban neighbourhood. I go for walks to get my exercise, but I can’t actually really go too many places of interest on foot. In Siena, I find that all the walking makes me feel like the city is my home in Italy, where I belong in Italy. My feet are stepping on the same stones that the Senese people – nobles and peasants alike – have been treading on for hundreds of years. It’s a connection to the past. With every step I take I’m making the city my own. I’m becoming familiar with it. It’s becoming familiar with me. I feel the breeze (or lack of one) come from the countryside. I feel my legs working to climb the many hills that adorn the city. In my sandals, my feet sometimes touch the cobblestones that they’re attempting to navigate.

I also notice that when I’m camminando (walkingand not preoccupied dealing with the gas-brake-horn-horn-HORN-blinker-gas-gasssss-brake-horn-horn-horn cycle of driving, I’m able to pay more attention to my surroundings. As I walk (or sometimes stumble embarassingly) over the uneven cobblestones, I find myself thinking not so much about my destination, but about the people and places I pass on my way.

I might notice a shop, bar or restaurant that I haven’t seen before, then duck inside to check it out. I might pass a friend in the street and stop to chat. I’m more inclined to follow where my curiousity may lead, to explore, to discover. As I look, I appreciate.

Exploring the alleyways of Siena

And funnily enough, in Siena, I don’t use music to block out the world around me. When I drive, the radio is on. Always. When I go for a walk to get some exercise, the iPod is on. Always. When I walk in Siena, you’ll never see me with my earbuds in. Never. I welcome the sounds of Siena.  All the walking and being in the street amongst the other pedestrians, with the odd vehicle slowly cruising by, the odd horse being led around – it’s nice. It makes me feel as if I’m a part of something bigger – a feeling I wouldn’t necessarily get from driving around cooped up in a car.

ZTL, you don’t limit me. You help me live closer to life.

Closer to Life – Finestre Aperte

Lately I’ve had this idea – a type of realization that’s been forming slowly in the back of my mind -about some of the things that make me so enjoy life in Italy. Beyond the obvious, of course. And as this idea has taken shape, the only way I could describe it is like this:

In my Italian home, Siena, I live closer to life, if you will. Closer to life in a raw, unrefined, unchanneled state. Closer to life. That’s the phrase that first came to mind, and the only way I’ve been able to describe it. Closer to life. And I love it.

In my life in Italy, there seem to be fewer barriers – not counting Italian Bureaucracy, which is a barrier to everything. Barriers to what though? It’s hard to put a finger on it. Fewer barriers between myself and the world that is in motion around me, I guess. Fewer barriers between my life and the lives of others.

Take windows, for example. Open windows. Finestre aperte. Italian windows are always open and mostly screenless, allowing the clamour of the neighbour’s dinner dishes, the crowing of a nearby gallo (rooster) in the morning, or the sound of people talking in the street to float freely into your living room and your life. Fewer barriers allow for lives to mix and for people to live more comunally. It’s beautiful.  Getting used to sleeping with my screenless windows open, although a very trivial thing, was somehow quite liberating for me. Instead of trying to keep the world out, keeping my windows open was like an invition to invite life in. All of life. The good, the great, the bad and the ugly. Welcome world, benvenuto a casa mia.

Taken from my window in Siena

I’ve also found that I try to control fewer things and allow myself to be gently rocked by the ebb and flow of life. A complicated, chaotic country, Italy has taught me to be more flexible, more adaptable, and less demanding, among other things.

Let’s go back to the finestre aperte example, shall we? Keeping my windows open is something I do out of both pleasure and necessity. Italy gets pretty darn hot in the summertime, and I’ll take any venticello (breeze) I can get. But it also means my house isn’t climate controlled. It isn’t air conditioned. I’m not worrying about opening my windows or my door and “letting all the bought air out” as some of my fellow North Americans might say. I don’t worry about being in a room that is always 20 degrees celcius, no matter what’s happening outside. I adapt to the heat, and bundle up for the cold. I’m ok with things being out of my control. Life is more natural that way.

As I write this post, I realize I could go on forever. So maybe this Closer to Life post will become a Closer to Life mini-series, with this installment, Finestre Aperte being the first of many posts that talk about the aspects of life in Italy that bring me contentment and happiness, that allow me to live more simply, that bring me closer to life.