Nick and I recently had a discussion about how different our lives are in Italy, and how much we enjoy our new lifestyle. It seemed like the perfect topic for this installment of our blog. So, in no particular order, here are the top 10 ways our lifestyle is different in Italy.
1. We walk more
In Italy, people walk. In upstate NY we would never consider walking a mile each way to shop at the local grocery store, go to a pub or grab a cup of coffee, but we walk every day in Italy. We walk through hill-towns. Like the Italians, we often we walk just for the joy of walking (buona passagiato!).
There is less traffic on the rural roads here and the views are mostly pretty and often spectacular. Walking is a great way to explore at a slower pace. It’s also an excellent way to get in better shape, greet the neighbors and tire out our dog, Bella.
2. When we’re cold, we put on a sweater
At “home” in the USA we would simply turn the heat up if we felt the slightest chill. Natural gas was automatically piped to our home and it was cheap.
Here in Italy we had one-half of a tank of propane or 500 gallons delivered when we arrived in mid-February for about 700 euro, a little more than $700. Energy and fuel in general are very expensive here. Our propane tank provides gas for both our heat and hot water. We’d like to make it last for the full six months of our stay.
For the first month or so we had to turn on the heat in our Rustico home. Rustico means “old un-insulated stone house”. Amazingly the old stone house stayed warm and comfortable. Now that spring has arrived, the heat is off, period and we have a new love for the cashmere sweaters we both brought.
3. When we’re warm, we open the windows
Our home in upstate NY had central air. When heating season ended, AC season began. We rarely opened any windows in our home, but lived in a comfortable, climate-controlled, air-filtered environment.
There is no AC in our Italian rustico, and the summer will be HOT and HUMID. I’m not sure how we will get by without AC. Thankfully we have a pool to cool off in, and there are fans that we can plug in when the warm weather hits. We’ve installed screens on the windows that didn’t already have them. It’ll be interesting to see how cranky we get when the hot weather hits.
4. We eat a lot more vegetables and much less meat.
For the most part, the groceries in Italy are very reasonably priced and the quality of the food is outstanding. It sounds unbelievable to say that everything tastes better here, but it really does.
Nick and I debate the reasons why food is so much better here. We think it’s because they don’t use GMO seeds or as many chemical pesticides and fertilizers on their farms in Italy. Also, I think Italian consumers may be choosier about what they buy. Finally, perhaps Italian consumers buy more fresh produce, fish, and cheese here because it is the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle, as well as affordable and beautiful.
Meat, on the other hand, is more expensive in Italy. There are no big honking steaks in the meat cases, and if there were we would be too frugal to buy them. So, while we eat meat, we eat it less often and in smaller portions.
5. We don’t snack as much
Nick’s snack of choice is pretzels and I love cookies. There are no pretzels in Italy and the packaged cookies are not what I am accustomed to. Our local grocery store has the most amazing frozen tartufo and tiramisu. We try not to buy them too often. No snacks in the house means, no snacking.
6. We sleep better
Both of us are serious snorers, but we both snore less in Italy. Go figure. I’ll leave it to the scientists to explain it. Perhaps it’s the improved diet, additional exercise, or fresh air. We fall asleep quickly, and sleep soundly until morning.
7. Our little aches and pains have disappeared
Our backaches, heartburn, headaches are all gone. We both retired a few months before we moved to Italy, and continued to suffer with these minor aches and pains. So I can’t attribute this change to the reduced stress resulting from retirement. Whatever the reason, we are feeling great without any medicines.
8. Our dog, Bella goes just about everywhere with us.
There are several reasons for this. At our home in upstate NY, Bella had a secure, roomy outdoor kennel with a tarp to provide shade and a heated dog-house if it was cold. We could leave her in the kennel for the better part of a day if we needed to and know that she was safe and comfortable.
Our yard in Italy is fenced, but not entirely secure. Bella has already established that there are at least three ways to get out of the yard. We bought a baby-gate to confine her to a single room in the house, but she quickly showed us that she could (and would) leap over the gate the minute we leave the house.
On our only attempt to give her “run of the house” she proved to us that she could not be trusted (don’t ask). We finally ordered a roomy dog-crate on Amazon just like the one she slept in at home every night since she was a wee pup. Now when we leave the house she is in her comfy crate. Bella doesn’t mind spending a few hours napping in her crate, but it’s not a solution we want to use every day.
Also, Italy is very dog friendly. Most of the places that we go, Bella can go too. I think we’ve all been surprised how well Bella has done on this adventure. She’s gone up escalators, been in crowded elevators, ridden on trains, walked through mobs of people, been sniffed (both ends) by hundreds of different dogs and has taken it all in stride. We enjoy experiencing Italy with Bella and in fact she adds so much to our daily activities and life.
9. We hang our clothes out to dry
There’s a washer in our house but no dryer. In Italy no one has a clothes dryer. I’ve seen washing machines for sale all over but I’ve never seen a dryer. Electricity is expensive, living spaces are often small and the Mediterranean climate is perfect for drying clothes.
Saturday night is laundry night all through Italy. Every Sunday morning the real flags of Italy are flying on the laundry racks hanging on the balconies around town.
It turns out, I like hanging our laundry out to dry. It must be the Italian in me. They really do smell better when air-dried. And on a quiet afternoon, I’ve been known to sit on the terrace with a glass of wine (or two) and watch them dry.
10. Bugs in the house? No problem, the lizards will eat them!
I can’t even describe some of the bugs that we’ve seen in the house. They are like nightmare bugs on steroids. If we saw bugs like that at home, we’d be launching full-on, chemical warfare.
Instead, we step on them. Or smash them with a book or magazine. If the bugs get away, we’re pretty sure that the lizards we’ve seen in the house will get them. Seriously, there are a bazillion lizards in and around our stone house (mostly outside, thank goodness). Bella loves chasing them. We know she’s caught at least one as we saw the little tail disappear from sight….
There was a recent article all over the news that in the Bloomberg Global Health Index rated Italy the #1 healthiest country of 163 countries scored. After living here for just two months, I can see why. But even though we both love this new lifestyle, I’m confident that if we returned to upstate New York tomorrow, we would very easily slide back into our old habits. So maybe we’ll just stay here awhile…