Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Living in Italy: Rethinking Life’s Routines

We ‘lived’ in Italy for a very short time this fall. Staying in apartments that allowed us to play house, we were able, for a brief moment, to experience what expats must when dealing with new cultures, customs and behaviors. 

We sampled this travel style last year in Spain and were eager to try it again in Italy.

Two apartments. Two cities. Two completely different experiences.  But each provided us an opportunity to re-think the routines of daily life.

MilanBolgTusc2012 100Our first home was a warm, cozy place in Bologna,  where the owners had anticipated  our every need, right down to scotch tape and scissors.

  VeniceSanJuanIsl 052
Our Venice home was  functional, but lacked the warmth and charm of the first place. You can probably tell that  from the photos.

If you’ve ever lived – for however long – in another country you know that everything about daily life is sort of the same as the one you live back home, yet different.

VeniceSanJuanIsl 188Different, in visible ways,  like water-craft ambulances in Venice and gas stations to fill up your boat (photo below). 

Tasks as simple as turning on the dishwasher, washing machine, adjusting the heat, buying groceries and cooking, finding the ATM machine, even locking the front door were just enough different to require some thought about how to accomplish them.

MilanBolgTusc2012 070
Our first night in Venice, a bit tired, somewhat disappointed in the apartment and short-tempered, we thought we’d locked ourselves out of it because no amount of turning the key opened the door.
Why hadn’t we tried the lock before both of us stepped outside and shut it? How could  it be so impossibly difficult? we grumbled.

You  are probably thinking, wouldn’t it be much easier to stay in a hotel? For that matter, it would be easiest to stay home where those day-to-day routines require no thought whatsoever. 

But one of the great things about this type of travel is that it forces us to sometimes live on the edge of comfortable. 

VeniceSanJuanIsl 097It makes unlocking the front door a high-five accomplishment and  turns fresh bread, cheese, olives and a glass of wine – eaten ‘at home’ – into a feast.

It forces us to turn off life’s auto-pilot and rethink the art of living. It also makes us grateful for the familiarity of the home we return to after each trip. 

It’s a great way to take travel to a new level. We’ll do it again and would recommend it, but with reservations because it isn’t for everyone. 

VeniceSanJuanIsl 189

On this Travel Tip Tuesday:  We recommend that before before booking such a stay, you ask yourself:
1.  Am I comfortable not having a front desk resource available 24/7 to answer questions, provide maps, and solve problems?  Can I figure out how to call for emergency response (medical, fire, police) if the need were to arise?
2.  Do I want to go grocery shopping and prepare some meals at home?
3.  Have I researched the area and the user reviews of the place enough to feel comfortable, if not eager, to book it?
4.  In case I find myself in a neighborhood where English isn’t prevalent, do I speak enough of the language to get by?
5.  Am I ready to live on the edge of comfortable and rethink the routines?

If You Go:  We booked both our apartments through the on line rental agency, Vacations to Go.  Another similar site is HomeAway.  Both these websites offer user reviews, but we often check TripAdvisor as well.

Have you ever traveled on the edge of comfortable? If so, where was it that made you re-think routine?


  1. Living like a local is a fun adventure and turns you from just a tourist into a traveler. I just had a lovely lunch here in Malaysia with an Australian woman whose family is slowly making their way around the world. They stay in each country for 1-2 months before moving on.

  2. I keep reading about more and more 'world citizens' like that. If we'd admit it to ourselves, I think these little test runs we are making are to prep us for such an adventure. You are right about the tourist/traveler observation. Thanks for writing Michele.

  3. I already think of you both as "world citizens"!!


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