My Move & first day in Italy

move to italy

On Nov. 1, 2010, with my four suitcases and a cat in tow, I arrived in Italy.

(article written Nov 1, 2014)

I departed from LAX airport on Halloween – kind of a weird transition from the USA seeing everyone dressed in costume.  Thinking about it, I don’t really think it would have mattered if it was Halloween or not, my head was spinning from the past few months of craziness getting ready to move and thinking about all of the unknowns that were ahead.  I was fortunate that my dear friend, Vicki, wanted to come with me to help me get settled the first week.  My friend, my cat and a few basic necessities were all that I had left as my ‘familiar’, everything else was the unknown and a blank slate.

It was time to leave the US of A.  I had sold my house, my belongings, had signed a 1 year apartment lease in Italy – no turning back now.  No expat package, no job waiting for me, I don’t speak Italian and I don’t know anyone in Rome.  Eeek!

P1000861

My storage POD which is now sitting in a warehouse for the last 4 years.

I arrived in Rome on November 1, 2010 – a Monday morning.

Flight was on time, now it was time to wait for all the baggage and the most important part, to see how the cat survived the long trip.  At this point, she had been in her cage for over 19 hours.  It was a nerve-wracking wait for the cat, but they finally arrived through a side door by the baggage area.  Since I had a lot of stuff, with our non-existent Italian language we managed to find a very helpful porter, with a huge cart to help us get through Customs.  Now, one would think Customs may be a bit tricky with all the oversized luggage and an animal – but nope, we just wheeled through without any questions.  (Note: this was the easiest portion of my life in Italy…..not knowing it, it was all about to change.  They let you in, but then – surprise! 😉 )

I had arranged for a driver & van to transport us from the airport to my apartment (an apartment I had never seen in person, only photos).  All that I knew, ‘Fabio’ would be waiting with a sign with my name on it at arrivals.  Coming from the USA, when I heard the name Fabio, I thought of the ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ commercial.  You know the one, the big buff, long-haired blond man.  As we exit Customs, we find Fabio holding the sign with my name on it.  Is he like the Fabio I pictured?  Nope – he was a short little, bald fellow.  He spoke some English and was as nice as could be – that is all I cared about.

Considering I rented a fully furnished apartment;  meaning it had dishes, pans, bedding, etc., in addition to furniture, I knew we had ‘everything’ we needed to get by, except some necessary toiletries.   I assumed since we arrived on a Monday, it would be no problem to run to a store to get the basic necessities but also the most important, some kitty litter and a litter box.   As we’re chatting with Fabio the driver about this, he informs us that today is a holiday and everything is closed.  What??  Here comes the conditioned USA mindset… how can this be, it’s Rome, the capitol of Italy – how can everything be closed???  We’re thinking there must be something like a Target, a strip mall – some place we could run into and get cat supplies.  Nope, not today, especially not in the neighborhood where my apartment is –  that’s what he said.

He realized this wasn’t something that could wait a day, so he took a detour off the highway and stopped at some type of weird convenience farm-like store.  It was open and we knew this would be our only opportunity not being familiar with Rome, plus we were super jet-lagged.  I wound up buying some odd plastic dish-bin and pine scented rabbit pellets.  That’s as close as we could find that could substitute kitty litter, it would have to do.

Finally, we arrive to the apartment.  All we need is to get the stuff upstairs and we can breathe for a minute.  Then came another, ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore‘ moment when I saw the elevator.  Not exaggerating – it was about 2’x3’ in size.  Boy, what a fun time it was shoving the cat cage into this tiny space.  Three people, a cat, four huge suitcases took about five trips.

When they say furnished, it doesn’t mean it’ll be comfortable or match 😉

OK – Fabio has done his job and is now gone.  Pissed-off cat have been released after too many hours in a cage only to be greeted by pine-scented ‘litter’, making her even more pissed-off. Vicki and I sit down staring at this strange new place that is my apartment – my ‘home’.

The day goes on and we’re exhausted and hungry.  No internet, no hotel concierge  as on vacations, it was time to find something in the neighborhood where we can get some type of food and WINE!  Oh, and we also realize we need some toilet paper and hand soap to get us through to the next day.  We head out to this unknown neighborhood.  Considering it was a holiday, it was pretty much a ghost town even though it’s not that far from center.  We walk a bit and find a small hotel – it’s open, if it has some food – perfect!

The hotel didn’t have a true restaurant, but they were willing to prepare some food for us in the bar area.  As long as there was wine, we were happy.   As we’re finally relaxing, enjoying our tasty wine and not-so-good pasta, we think about our toilet paper and hand soap predicament.   I head to the restroom in the lobby with my big purse – I know, I know – not classy, but what would you do?  Yes, I did stick a roll of toilet paper in this wonderful big purse of mine.  But, there was only liquid soap in the bathroom.  Hmmmmm, what to do, what to do?   Well, of course, go to the front desk, make believe your a guest and ask for some bar soap for your room 🙂

Bellies full, wine has numbed the jet-lag, toilet paper and soap acquired – it was time to head back to this strange apartment of mine.

This was the my first day in Italy as a resident. Not quite how I had imagined it.
My head was spinning, I was full of emotions, I was exhausted,

BUT …
I had officially crossed that line –
Crossing over FROM a thought, the ‘what if?’
TO the other side ,‘I did it, I am here!’

Day 1 lessons learned:

  • November 1 is a holiday in Italy
  • Rome’s airport customs is very lax
  • Apartments you see on the internet are not necessarily what you get
  • Hotels are a refuge on a holiday
  • Cats don’t like pine-scented rabbit pellets 😉
  • Take it one step at a time and try not to freak out
  • Friends helping you along the journey are priceless!

Stay tuned for more stories….

Day 2, getting coffee in ‘to-go cups’  was a hoot!  Still makes me laugh – silly, stupid, naive Americana that I was 🙂

11 Comments

  • JTDEZIGN says:

    Hello Curious Cat! Your blog has helped me a ton as I am preparing to move to Milan very soon. I was wondering if, you still have the company information for the transportation you used that picked you up from the airport? If not, do you have any suggestions of shuttles or transportation service that would pick up a passenger and drive them to their apartment? I understand the trains, bus, etc. are a great way to use as means of transportation in Italy (in general) but, carrying around luggages would be a pain after a long flight. I would appreciate your suggestions. Thanks!

    • Inta -Curious Cat Expat says:

      Hi JTDezign – Very exciting, and I’m sure a bit nerve-racking, about your upcoming move! I’m glad I could provide some helpful information. The driver I used is in Rome, a private company, so it won’t be helpful for you in Milan. I haven’t had a need for a shuttle/private car in Milan as of yet. I’d recommend asking some fellow expats in Milan- here are a couple of Facebook groups where you can ask.
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/225786517611364/
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/41081648360/
      Sorry I don’t have a specific contact for you. Good luck with your move!

  • The “Parking in Rome” picutre is HILARIOUS. I lived most of my life very close to the Olympic Stadium and whenever there was a game I was amused to say the least at how Romans “invent” parking spots 🙂

  • Lisa says:

    I wish I had the courage to just move to a different country. Kudos to you for making it happen and for just going with the flow when things didn’t go as planned:)

    • Inta -Curious Cat Expat says:

      Lisa – it’s not the easiest thing to do, move to a different country. However, if you really want to, you’ve got to take the leap. It’s not always easy, but there have been so many rewards and the inner growth is huge.

  • Sarah Ebner says:

    Am sure you’ve learnt so much – and good to know you still love it there.

  • I know exactly what you are talking about because I felt like that the first day I arrived in Taiwan. I was exhausted but there was a wave of emotions inside and the biggest one was I couldn’t believe that I was actually doing it. And that was over 15 years ago now!! 🙂

    • Inta -Curious Cat Expat says:

      Constance – 15 yrs, wow! When did it start feeling like ‘home’? After being here 4 yrs now, I feel like I’m stuck in a vortex – stuck somewhere between the US & Italy…ha ha !

  • David V. Lytle says:

    Italy is awesome and beautiful country!!! My wife and I were in Italy for 3 weeks in September and October of 2013. Much better country than USA. We are mission to move to Italy 2017. I know, lots of homework to do and jobs will be difficult to find. Ciao everyone!!! :o)

    • Inta - Curious Cat Expat says:

      David,
      Yes, Italy is beautiful! I’ve been here 4 years and still have that tourist excitement of ‘Wow, look at that!’ You are definitely managing your move better than I did – you have 3 years to get things in place. Best of luck to you & your wife

      inta (italy-connect)

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