Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Now that I’ve been back in the U.S. for awhile – in fact over a month. I’ve had a lot of time to try to adjust. From living in a lively beautiful medieval city to – Oakland. I certainly miss Bologna I’ve been thinking about the experience I had and what I would do differently the next time around as well as just general things that I’d advise.

  1. Arrive a little early to avoid the jet lag problem.

I did this and was glad that I did. I was able to see my friends in the Frankfurt area and arrived in Bologna with my wits about me.

  1. When making departure plans – plan backwards.

I wish that I had investigated the flights from Frankfurt to Bologna prior to making the flight plans round trip from San Francisco to Frankfurt. I wound up with only a day in Frankfurt when I’d have preferred another day or two with my friends.

  1. Pack less

Of course this is a standard. I thought that I was pretty good about this but found that 3 pairs of jeans and one pair of khakis was plenty (and I could have done with only jeans). I wore long or short sleeve T-shirts almost the whole time because there require such little care. I’d leave all but maybe one fancier shirt at home the next time around. The sport coat I wore exactly once – another leave at home item.

  1. If your Italian is beyond beginner level stay in a shared apartment.

The idea of staying with a family seemed appealing. I thought that I would speak more Italian but in fact spoke less. A single mother tends to be pretty busy and a teenage boy (in this case 14) has little patience with a fumbling Italian speaker. Plus if you cook reasonably well or room with others that do you’ll probably eat better and have interactions in Italian at stores, etc.

  1. Take advantage of as much school activities as you can tolerate

I think that I really missed out on lots of opportunities to practice Italian by not going on every available afternoon tour or weekend day trip. On these you’re exposed constantly to Italian and it’s quite worthwhile. Also there were 2 evening aperitivi gatherings which were excellent opportunities for practice. I wish I’d gone to all of them.

  1. Think before you discard

I think about that Internet Key which I discarded and would have found useful for that one night in Sicily. If it’s small and useful carry it around awhile before discarding it.

  1. Don’t rent a car in Palermo

Probably true for any big city in Italy where it might be challenging to find your way around. It took a long time to get out of the city and an equally long time to return. The next time I’d take a bus to the airport and rent the car there – avoiding major in/out of the city hassles. A corollary to this is to have a credit card that can run through a hand imprinter. See the post on the car rental in Palermo.

  1. Check everything before leaving a place.

Perhaps you read the post about leaving my passport at the hotel in Bologna and paying a taxi driver to deliver it to the airport. Double check – enough said.

  1. Sometimes forget the planning.

I found great places to stay two of the nights in Sicily without benefit of the web. Research can be good but serendipity can be really sweet.

  1. Above all – do it now

It’s really a great experience to be in one place and establish a routine as if you were (in fact you are) a short term resident. You’re not getting any younger. What are you waiting for?

  1. Last but not least – expect re-entry to be difficult.

If you really love Italy (perhaps there’s someone that doesn’t) it’s hard to come back. Almost everything in daily life suffers by comparison to the life in Bologna.

And in the spirit of the season, a Christmas card to all. It’s one of my all time favorites with absolutely nothing to do with Italy. You definitely need to click on the photo to see it meaningfully.



6 Responses to “Lessons Learned”

  1. Victor Says:

    Good advice, Joe. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Joe Says:

    So when are you going for a little language study Victor?


  3. Joy O'Neal Says:

    Now you have to go back and do all of that! Love the card. Have a sweet holiday

  4. Joe Says:

    Thanks Joy. Still a shock to be back here but already planning the next trip.


  5. Kongo Says:

    Joe, this is really a great article! You must take Kongo to Italy with you on your next trip.

  6. Joe Says:

    Well, I’m leaving for Bologna on March 28 so he can come if he wants.


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