Dreaming In Italian

One thing just leads to another.

Monday, August 6th, 2018

So I have the visa, I have the apartment, so what else is there to do. I will say that the hurdles that I have overcome seemed daunting and I’m glad that’s behind me. Now the next series. As in the track and field there’s never a single hurdle. My original plan was to minimize risk by renting my house furnished for a year with an option on a second year. That way I could gracefully retreat to the homeland after a year. I didn’t think that I’d want to do that but it seems almost always useful to hedge one’s bets. I’ve successfully rented my house multiple times from 2 to 4 months so it seemed like a reasonable proposition. Well, I engaged my great realtor to help me with the rental and there were a lot of interested parties but nobody wanted to rent it furnished. In addition people wanted at least a two year lease. That makes sense in retrospect but I just hadn’t thought it through. I mean who wants to rent a furnished house for a considerable period of time? Almost everyone that fits into the category of a trustworthy renter is not a student and usually has their own furniture.

My first thought was that I would just put everything in the garage but gradually my thinking evolved. First of all because some prospective renters wanted to use the garage. Then as I continued to ponder the possibilities I finally came to the realization that even if I did come back after a couple of years I don’t think that I’d want to live in the same house. I mean it’s a nice house and I’ve made it quite comfortable for myself and I like the San Francisco Bay are but… There are several “but”s. I’ll at that point be used to having access to good public transportation, much less automobile traffic, much lower costs of housing, and god knows what else. So at some point in the future I’ll probably sell the house and profit significantly from the insane real estate prices around here. And then what will I do? If I’m still living in Italy which is definitely in my mind a better than even bet then what would I do with that furniture – put it in storage at a cost of probably hundreds of dollars a month?

As my mind continued along that path I realized that I’m not really as attached to my furnishing as I had thought. The things that I’m attached to are art works or little items that I’ve picked up in my travels so I’m finding it liberating to free myself from most of my belongings. In fact I found that there are a hell of lot of things that I have that I haven’t used or even touched for years. This happens each time I move ; I shed such things but this time is different. I’m shedding almost everything. I fortunately have a little shed (well, not that little) shed behind the house that’s lockable and contains a sauna. I’ve never used the sauna but the advantage of it as a storage space is that it’s basically vermin proof. Things that I store there will not deteriorate any time soon. So that’s the plan. I will go with two big suitcases and return in a year with a nearly empty big suitcase as well as an large old one that I have around for the rest of the meaningful personal items.

So I have rented the house on a two year lease to a very responsible couple with a young child. So now I’m busy burning some bridges although it really doesn’t seem that way to me.

So as I write this I’m 5 days away from a moving sale. A woman helping me is going to advertise it as an estate sale which indicates it’s not just the dregs but a lot of good stuff. So below are some photos of things that I hope sell.  I’ll let you know how it works out in the next installment.

Living room – if you can see it is for sale.

Kitchen stuff – partial assortment (there’s a lot more)

More kitchen stuff in the pantry area.

Even the bookcase that I made (the Italy map will move to Italy at some point)

Everything in the guest bedroom and almost everything in my bedroom too.

Navaho stuff goes hopefully

My god I have a lot of these glass containers

My antique table plus all of the stuff on it as well as the cabinet on the wall. Not much space for dinner just now.

And of course my wonderful little car has to sell also.

Wish me luck and and stay tuned. There’s yet more to the story. Subscribe if you like what you see.

  • Share/Bookmark

So you want to live in Italy?

Wednesday, August 1st, 2018

I’ve been this route before and have learned from the experience. Almost any country is pretty selective about who they will let come in to their country to live. Italy is no exception. There are a number of possibilities for receiving a visa; work, school, family, religious reasons, etc but if you just want to live there because you like the beauty of the cities, the excellence of the food and the style of life there is only one option – Elective Residency.  On the consulate website they warn you that this is the most difficult visa to obtain. The two key hurdles are a place to live and income that you have without having to work for it. The latter because you are prohibited from working in Italy in any way.

So first of all you need a place to live. You have two options, buy a house or apartment or rent. For me, since I don’t want to buy that leaves a rental. But of course you need to have a rental contract, i.e. lease BEFORE you can apply for the visa. They also warn you that it can be up to 60 days (!!!) before you get a visa and of course there is no guaranty that you will get it at all. So in my case, and I’m sure in anyone’s case that means that you need to lease an apartment in Italy, return to the U.S. make the application and the earliest that you can reasonably plan to return to Italy is 3 months. So that means that you either have to be extremely lucky to find a place that is being advertised as being available 3 months from when you’re looking (and that you like) or you wind up paying rent for a couple of months when you are not there. That is what I am doing. So there is a significant financial risk that you need to take to attempt to get a visa.

The second hurdle is the financial one – income that you receive without working for it, pension, investments rents from properties, etc. The consulate says that it must be “substantial” income. So what does that mean? They won’t tell you. So there’s another risk factor added in. I found through talking to people and probing the nooks and crannies of the web that perhaps $35k- 40k dollars a year is probably OK. Fortunately I qualify on that front.

Most of the other stuff is not particularly onerous but they do advise you not to book your ticket until you receive the visa. Now think about that for a minute. Say that soon after returning to the U.S. you go for an appointment to apply for a visa and it is approved in even 30 days. So after perhaps 2 weeks you make the application and after another 6 week you receive the visa, now you are just 30 days from your desired departure date. Now you will probably be purchasing a one-way ticket which is, by the way, more expensive than a round trip. And now you are doing it with only 30 days before the flight. Can you say extraordinarily high ticket price? That seems the norm for flights near departure date. So in early June I found a reasonably priced one way ticket to Italy and bought it. It was with Iberia, the Spanish airline, at a little over $1000 which is not bad for a one way. The cheapest competitor at the time was Lufthansa at $1700.

Add to this the difficulty of getting an appointment at the consulate. In April when I was still in Bologna and had decided to take a shot at making the move I found that the first appointment at the consulate was in August! Fortunately there are so called, honorary consuls in each state. In California there is one near me in San Jose, another in Sacramento and a third in Fresno. The guy in San Jose refused to even make an appointment. I guess he doesn’t really understand the nature of his job. The person in Sacramento was going to be out of the country during the entire month of June so that left Fresno. The guy there was very accommodating and I made an appointment for mid June.

I did find an apartment reasonably near the very center of Bologna. It’s a nice place, on the 2nd floor (here it would be the 3rd) but with an elevator (yippee!), reasonably energy efficient (energy prices are much higher in Italy) with air conditioning to deal with those hot muggy summer days and pretty close to a bus stop and good food shopping opportunities. It’s also nicely furnished complete with kitchen stuff and  about everything else I would need. Just about perfect. So I have a lease, registered with the city and that hurdle is overcome.

So I did get the visa and in just about 30 days.  I was so happy to see that visa in my passport when it was returned from the consulate that I danced around the kitchen with tears in my eyes. A break in the anxiety of so much at risk can be very emotional.

The visa

But the story doesn’t end there. Stay tuned for the next installment.

  • Share/Bookmark

Visitors from planet BO

Sunday, July 29th, 2018

Not long after I returned form Bologna (BO) I had the pleasure of having two good friends from there come to visit for about two weeks; the sisters Liu’ and Monica. I tell people that they are both my bosses there. Liu’ is responsible for the principle volunteer work that I do at the Biblioteca Salaborsa and I did a fair amount of volunteer translation of tourist pamphlets from Italian to English for Monica.  Actually most of them weren’t translations directly from the Italian but often corrections of translations done by non-native speakers. It is always best to have native speaker do the translations to the target language as I found when needing to make major changes to existing translations.

The threesome me, Monica and Liu’

Anyway Liu’ is the organizer and had an incredible list of activities for San Francisco. She had done a lot of research about the subway (BART here) and free guided tours in the city. From my house they could walk a 100 yards or so and take the bus to a BART station, freeing me to join them or not. I did join them a couple of times in the city and it was really a pleasure to the city as a tourist. It really does have some interesting neighborhoods. I met them for lunch in the Mission district one time and strolling from Bart to the restaurant I found the diversity of the neighborhood fascinating. We went to see the sea lions at one of the piers on the bay, took in a museum, went to some great view points and had a dim sum lunch – an experience unlikely to be available in Italy.

Gawking at the seals (sea lions?) in San Francisco

Atop the de Young museum

The magnificent view from Twin Peaks – always windy.

dim sum lunch


The activities included a session of “lindy” dancing (swing dancing) in Golden Gate park. Both sisters take lessons and dance in Bologna (who knew!?). So this is the 40s era dancing which is much more stylized than I had ever thought (like tango) and the other dancers in the park were all ages and ethnicities. Unfortunately I made a major mistake with photo handling so have no pictures of some of the adventures but…

Goofing around at the Marin Headlands

We also took a trip to Monterey  where they had other American friends that they had met in Bologna. Of course we went to the amazing Monterey Bay aquarium. These friends had a bocce ball court in their back yard and I, ahem, won the championship of this relatively small group.

Arriving in Monterey – three people in a FIAT 500 is amazingly comfortable.

The winning form of the bocce champ.

I remember just a couple of their observations. One was their being appalled, as I am, at some of the homeless in San Francisco, even people shooting up on the sidewalk. It really is something that I find truly shameful in the city but a hard problem to tackle.  The other was the willingness of Americans to start conversations with complete strangers. Still I think that they had a great time and I loved having them here.

  • Share/Bookmark

The Elusive Lia

Friday, July 20th, 2018

I’ve been back from my spring jaunt to Bologna for almost two months and have not written a blog post for what seems like ages. Other than my usual laziness I do have have something of an excuse which I’ll explain in a post before long. But right now the subject is my friend Lia.

I met Lia at the central library, the fantastic Biblioteca Salaborsa. She is a volunteer in the same way that I do. She has a conversation in her native language (madre lingua – mother tongue) which is, of course, Italian. We kind of hit it off and to my surprise she accepted an invitation to join me one evening for aperitivo. She’s too young for me, 19 years is too much of an age differential, but we enjoy each other’s company. During this last winter period we exchanged emails almost daily, an exercise which was a great learning experience for me and really improved my Italian. Since we’re both unattached we hung out together quite a bit. We went to a couple of movies at Cinema Lumiere where they show movies in the original language with subtitles. We’ve had meals at each other’s houses and met for “aperitivo” and even went to a location where there were people dancing tango – a surprisingly popular activity here. She dances, I watch. She staunchly resisted my attempts to photograph her as you can see from the photos that follow.

At a bar in centro

At another bar for aperitivo – almost got a decent photo

At a gelateria – foiled again

And again

Aha – a least I now have a profile. She REALLY likes gelato. This is her second one.

Finally, the diminutive Lea center and another good friend Liu’

Lia loves an active life. Born and raised near the Dolomiti mountains she is really a mountain girl at heart and likes to be always on the move. Her activity was curtailed some years ago (3 or 4) I think when she fell from a climbing wall in a gym in Bologna and fractured her ankle and a bone in her calf quite badly. It never completely healed properly after surgery so she had to give up running and long distance hiking – things that she really loves. So this summer she is have remedial surgery which will hopefully restore much, but not all, of the activity to her life. The cast just came off today and after another month she should be fully recovered.

A gift from Lia before I left. A doll made of napkins and kitchen towels for when I stay in Bologna. Very thoughtful and cute.

I’m looking forward to seeing her when I return in September.


  • Share/Bookmark