We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Living the dream- 4 am on Rio Cazziola - part two

I have to say, as annoyed as I have been at being woken at 4am every morning by screaming seagulls, I would never have discovered something else going on here on Rio Cazziola at that hour of the morning if it weren’t for the birds.

I’m not sure why I do this, but since I am awake, I get up out of the bed and go open the back door. The dogs usually run down the back steps into the garden, and I wait for them. That’s how I discovered another early activity here on our canal. There on the back steps I am catching the whiff of some wonderful smells. What can this be? OH MY--- the Panifico just across the bridge and two doors down is baking bread here just across from my back door! Yes, that is what this heavenly smell is.

The scent of freshly baking bread is intoxicating. Every morning between 4-5 am I am treated to one of life’s simple pleasures, the smell of fresh bread floating across the canal and right through my open windows. This might just be the perfect way to start the day. A little early for me, but the trade off seems worth it.

Tops on the con list for keeping the shutters wide open is the luscious smell of fresh bread. There is no dilemma here, the cons win. I tolerate the birds, and waking up early. The birds stop squawking after 10 minutes, and I am left with such a special treat.

We are living the dream here! Not only have we found ourselves dropped into a little slice of paradise right here on the corner of our two canals, we are also blessed with the heavenly smells of fresh bread every day.

Life is good.

Living the dream - 4 am on Rio Cazziola

When it’s not absolutely sweltering, we throw open the windows here in the apartment, day and night. I’m not sure how other Italians manage, because they button up their homes every night tight as a drum. Shutters get closed every evening.

I had my doubts about closing the shutters at first, but now I can see the pros and con’s of it.
I’ve spent several early mornings awake pondering those specifics. I am awake because the windows were wide open, and the seagulls start up their morning racket every day at 4am.

The first time I heard them, I thought someone was being murdered on the street. There was awful, awful screaming. Bloodcurdling noises, actually. I went from window to window seeking the source of the ruckus, and discovered there were seagulls circling a huge tree in our neighbor’s yard at a furious pace, making those screams as they went. It’s their wake up call, it seems, because it is an every morning ritual. I wish they could find something a bit more quiet... an alarm clock perhaps!

I hadn’t heard it before because the windows had been closed all through winter and early spring. That explains it. The next day I tried closing the shutters when I went to bed, and I was not jolted out of my bed at 4am. I didn’t hear a thing. Hmmm--- maybe my Italian neighbors knew something I didn’t, and that’s why they are bolted shut every night.

So now the first item on my Pro list for keeping the windows shuttered every night is “Drown out the seagull nonsense”.

Unfortunately, the top of my Con list contains a much more compelling reason for keeping the windows wide open!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Living the dream- 8 special nuns in Venice

I’ve had other visits from new friends who have found me via my blog besides the ones mentioned in my last entry. Today’s blog is all about a particularly special group of ladies who sought me out when they were planning their first trip to Venice not long ago.

Their email came quite unexpectedly- I opened my inbox to find a lovely letter written by a woman from Amityville, New York who explains that she has been following my adventures in Italy for a few months now, would be in Venice soon and wanted to meet me while she was here. She and a group of her friends will be staying only 2 nights then on to Florence. And she also tells me her name is Sister Patricia, and she is traveling with 7 other friends, also nuns.

I knew immediately that I wanted to meet them as well. There was no way I could let this opportunity pass me by! Sister Pat and I emailed back and forth a few times to work out meeting arrangements. I couldn’t have been more excited at the prospect of meeting this bunch! During our conversations, another interesting fact came to light- the nuns had booked rooms in a convent house here in Venice, Casa Carburlotti, which turns out is located just around the corner from my apartment. It even appears, from the house address at least, that this convent house is on the other side of my garden wall.

Is this coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe things happen and that the people you cross paths with during your life time do so for a reason- something I understood more completely after having read The Celestine Prophesy. I’m meant to meet these eight women from New York, of that I am certain. And how intriguing that of all the places they could have chosen to stay in Venice, Italy, they will be right over my garden wall? I’m thinking there is a divine hand at work here, it isn’t just the Internet Gods at play.

I’ve felt that divine hand several other times since I started this wild notion of mine to move to Italy. I’m not a particularly religious person either. I believe, but I don’t expend any energy towards it. I don’t go to church, but was loosely raised as a Catholic. When I decided I wanted to move to Italy and started putting the wheels in motion, things really moved in the right direction for me. Like I said, I felt that divine hand on my shoulders several times. So now, when 8 Sisters from Amityville, New York are scheduled to arrive in Venice with plans to visit me, I’m definitely thinking this is not a coincidence. I don’t know why our paths will cross, I’m sure I will discover that in time.

On the appointed meeting day, I only had to walk a couple of minutes from our apartment over to Piazzale Roma to meet the bus coming from Marco Polo airport where will I gather up 3 of the nuns. The other 5 arrived on a different flight about 2 hours earlier and had made their own way to Casa Carburlotti via water taxi. We never had any discussions about how we would recognize each other – it just happened. Three women got off the bus and went towards the luggage bin, I looked at one and asked “Sister Pat?”, and sure enough.. it was her. Pat and I shared a big hug, I met Sisters Ginny and Judy, we collected their stuff, and set off to meet the rest of their group.

It took a little bit of doing to locate the right address for Casa Carburlotti. Typical Venice- the house numbering system here in Venice is pretty mysterious. Where 315 should have been, it wasn’t. There was 505 instead. How could the numbers go from 314 to 505, and what happened to the houses in between?? We looked up and noticed a nun in long black habit waving at us from way down the street. That must be it. Maybe we had the house number wrong? I’m familiar with this street, I walk it almost every day. Sure enough, at the end of the street is Casa Carburlotti, at number 315!!! Definitely a case of odd house numbering! Sister Olympia, one of the local nuns in residence, led our 3 nuns to their rooms where we met up with the other 5- Sisters Peggy, Diane, Gerry, Kathy and Eva.

After briefly settling in, I walked them all over to Campo Santa Margharita where I left them to have some dinner. The next morning I picked them up and we made our way first to the train station to procure their train tickets to Florence for the next day, and then we took vaporetto #1 to the Rialto market. We weren’t there 2 minutes when the skies opened up and let loose. We were soaked! What a rough morning for sight seeing. I left the nuns to tour St. Marks on their own in the afternoon, with a plan to meet up for dinner later.

My husband Michael joined us all for a nice dinner at a local place we love, Trattoria alle Burchielle near Tre Ponti. It was good food, good wine, great fun with special new friends. Thanks to Sister Peggy’s parents, gelato for all was dessert. We hated for the night to end, as we were learning so much about these wonderful women and having so much fun!

The next morning I ran over to Casa Carburlotti to say goodbye before the Sisters left Venice. I teased them that I needed them to start working on some prayers to help my house in Baltimore get sold!

The house is still unsold, ladies!!!!

Just in case you are reading - many thanks to my special friends Sisters Pat, Ginny, Kathy, Peggy, Diane, Judy , Gerry and Eva for giving up so much of your precious vacation time in Venice to come find me! Come back soon!

Clearly, I don’t attribute this new connection to the Internet Gods entirely. Somehow I think there are other forces at work, and I am sending an appropriate special thank you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Living the dream - meeting new friends!

I have had a successful professional career in the Information Technology field for many years. Ha, let me re-state that- many, MANY years! And in the course of those years, I’ve had to keep up with and learn all the new technologies. Of all those new technologies, it’s the internet that has changed the course of my life the most, I believe. I say that because of the people the internet has brought into my life. Strangers one day, friends the next- all because of an email or a blog entry. From all walks of life, from all over the globe. How amazing is that!

If you have been reading my blog, you are aware that my quest for dual Italian citizenship opened some interesting doors. If it weren’t for the internet, I would not have found and met Luigi Paiano and his office full of wonderful colleagues who are helping me navigate the tangled bureaucracy here in Italy. But I have blogged about Luigi already. The focus of this blog is on the others who have found me along the vast super highway of the internet.

It’s one thing to read a blog, and then it’s quite another to pick up the electronic pen and send a response off to the writer, because something they have written has ignited a spark for you somehow. On a rare occasion, I have been known to contact someone because of their blog entry. I write a blog, but honestly, I do that for myself. I worry that someday in my crotchety old age, I won’t remember some of the events that are changing the course of my life right now. That’s really the purpose of my blog. I want to be able to re-read the journey… to remind myself when I can’t remember on my own! I never in a million years expect that anyone else is reading along with me.

What I want to focus on here is that statement I just made.. I never in a million years expect that anyone else is reading along with me. Wow. I get emails all the time now from people all over the United States who share my Italian heritage, and are either in the process of their own quest for the dual citizenship or are thinking about doing it. We have an instant bond.. it’s our mother, or our grandmother, father, maybe great-grand father. All these Italians who have come before us link us, like a new little extended family. We have lots to talk about, this email family of mine. Where are they in the process, how is it going, where is their family from in Italy, have they been here yet? We compare notes. We commiserate. We hopefully will one day all celebrate our successes in finally obtaining that elusive Carte d’Identitie which signifies we made it!

So what is even more awesome than the fact that I now have a group of new friends via email who have found me because of my blog is that in the last two weeks I have met two of these compatriots face to face right here in Venice, Italy! Yes, right here, just around the corner from me!

One of them has come to begin his own incredible journey to obtain his Italian citizenship. Alan and I have been corresponding for a few months now on and off, discussing some of the unbelieveable roadblocks I’ve encountered along the way. I knew Alan planned to be here during the summer but I didn’t know exactly when. A few weeks ago I got a phone call on my Italian telephonino – he’s arrived! A day or so later, I just happened to look up as I was passing an apartment building not far from us and noticed Alan’s last name on a piece of paper taped to the doorbell there. I stopped--. pointed it out to my husband Mike, and exclaimed, “ I bet this is where Alan’s rented apartment is!” Just around the corner and down the street from us. Wow, really small world!

Alan and his wife Gail invited us to dinner a few days later. On that night, we toasted our hopefully soon Italian citizenship. When Gail told me that reading my blog and the story of my experiences inspired them to come here to pursue Alan’s citizenship also, I was blown away. Literally, blown away. As I said, I never in a million years expected to have anyone read my blog, and here is this woman from the west coast of the United States telling me that my story motivated them to get over here with their own stack of documents to deal with the Italian government. I’m honored, humbled, and very, very grateful. AND- I made new friends!!!

Perhaps even more astounding is that in the same few weeks, another of my email correspondents has arrived in Venice. Mary, also from the US west coast, has already submitted all of her citizenship documents to the San Francisco Italian consulate two years ago and is in wait mode—like so many others of us. She and I have been emailing ever since she stumbled over my blog several months ago. We’ve used email to share our stories, and get to know each other a bit. She also loves Venice! Mary and her daughter were going to be vacationing in Italy, with a first stop in Venice. We’ve been planning a rendezvous here at a lovely little bacaro in Dorsoduro, to share a glass of prosecco and some cicchetti and meet face to face.

Finally the designated meeting day has arrived, I am waiting canal-side in front of our designated meeting spot, and over the bridge come Mary and her daughter Christine. Once again, I am so aware that the world has come to me, all via the internet and my blog, and the courage it took these people to step our of their comfort zone to respond to me with an email. Here’s a new friend! I am lucky beyond belief, aren’t I?

Mary and I shared another fun evening dinner together before she and her daughter continued on to other parts of Italy on their vacation. We’re already back to corresponding via emails, but we’ve added the face to face dimension to the relationship. Perhaps some day Mary will also live here in Venice, but in the meantime, we’ll continue the friendship, using the Internet
to connect.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be meeting new friends the way I have been. Not in my wildest dreams!

Thank you, Internet Gods!!!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Life in Venice - new experiences - the bus strike!

I had heard about how strikes happen suddenly in Italy, but I must admit that until you experience one for yourself, you just don't seem to "get" its full impact. I now understand. I “got” the complete whammy recently!

Here's my whole sorry little tale:

I had finally gotten brave, found my sea legs, and ventured out of Venice for my first shopping adventure to Panorama. Panorama, by the way, is in Mestre ( on the main land, as the locals say), and is about as close to a Wal-mart as we're ever going to get over here in Venice. We'd been told by our friends Marco and Alice that Panorama was worth finding, it had good prices on food and other items, and they would deliver your purchases to your door in a day or two. That last little feature is a big incentive for those of us who are without a decent means of hauling packages. Without a car, we are limited by what our little Italian grocery cart can hold and what we can reasonably push/pull behind us in that cart.

Buses to Panorama run frequently from Piazzale Roma, which is fairly convenient to get to from our apartment. I did my research, knew which bus to take, got up and out early, purchased my bus tickets, and was on the bus headed to Panorama at 8am. I wanted to be there when they opened the doors at 8:30 am. Great plan. The bus ride out of Venice happened without a hitch. I was so proud of myself for navigating this on my own. What an adventure! I spent about an hour and a half in Panorama, and also took a few minutes to check out the nearby Benetton shop. Having completed my tasks, I wheeled my little grocery cart over to the waiting area for the bus back to Venice.

The bus is scheduled to run every 15- 20 minutes, or there abouts. I waited, the first scheduled bus didn't arrive. More waiting.. the next two buses I would have expected didn't arrive either. At this point, it is apparent that something is not right. There is one bus in the lot, however. I approach the bus driver of that bus, and in my broken English-Italian I attempt to ask him if he knows when the next bus to Venice will be coming. He understood me. "No bus to Venice today", he says. What??? "No, no bus to Venice today. Strike in Venice. "

How in the world did they let me get OUT of Venice and then go on strike so I couldn't get back??? Just perfect. Now I had to figure out what my options were for finding a way back home. I'm running through some possible solutions in my head when the bus driver tells me that if I get on his bus, he will take me close to the train station in Mestre, and from there I can take the train. That sounded complex, but it could work. I went for it. This bus driver was a god-send. When he got to the point where he was as close to the train station as his route went, he stopped the bus, motioned for me that this was the exit for me, then he got off the bus and pointed out the route to the train station. I love this man! I made the left, then right, then right again that he had shown me, and there, sure enough, was the train station. For about one more Euro, I had a seat on the next train from Mestre to Santa Lucia station in Venice.

Back in Venice, with my grocery cart behind me, I decided not to walk the 10 minutes and several bridges back to our apartment. Instead I got on the vaporetto to Piazzale Roma and would walk from there. At Piazzale Roma, the entire parking lot, which is normally packed full of buses coming and going all day long, was completely empty. Not one bus. Yup, there really was a bus strike going on in Venice. This was so out of the ordinary-- it was surreal to see. How would all the people who arrived in Venice for work by bus this morning find their way home tonight?

I am just thankful that I found a way home . And now i have another Italian experience under my belt. Strikes are common, I had better get used to them.