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!
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.
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,
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 🙂