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

Sunday, December 30, 2007

365 days of Venice - Campo San Maurizio

Here's a typical everyday scene in Venice-- a local produce stand in Campo San Maurizio. Even though this campo is located on an easy walking route between San Marco and the Accademia, it's one of those litle places that is not overrun with tourists. That's why I love it so much. Here is everyday Venice, at it's best.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

365 days of Venice - sneaking a photo in

The holidays have kept me more busy than I had hoped- I find I am behind in my posts. If I don't sneak this one in here, I will really be behind on my goal of 365 photos of Venice. So- a day or so late, here's one more...


High Water, or Aqua Alta, is when the lagoon water level is higher than the level of the land, forcing water onto the city streets ( calles ), campos and piazzas. All around Venice you will see these elevated platforms, which are laid down in preparation of high water so people can navigate around without getting wet.

If you are a tourist should you worry about Aqua Alta? No, please don't be. In fact, look forward to it. If you should happen to be in the city on a day when high water does hit, embrace it. It's something so unique to Venice, consider yourself lucky to have been there to see it for yourself!

High boots, called "Wellies" are typically available in an apartment if you have rented one there, and disposable boots are sold by street vendors on days when there is high water. You'll see all sorts of makeshift accomodations, like plastic bags over shoes. The raised platforms to walk on will keep you dry,so get out and enjoy Venice.

365 days of Venice- in Castello

Castello is one of the six Siesteres ( districts) of Venice. It's boundaries run from just beyond the bridge of Sighs to the western tip of Venice. It's here you will find the Arsenale, the Biennale, San Zaccharia church, Campo Maria Formosa, Marco Polo's home, the Giardini, and Via Garibaldi, to name just a few of it's highlights.

If you wander down towards the Giardini, you will find Via Garibaldi, pictured above. Most tourists stop walking way before they ever get this far into Castello, but it's here where you will find the locals out and about. This is a great example of backstreet Venice - one of the areas you should seek if you want to find the real Venice.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

365 days of Venice- to the Airport, please

One of the three possible ways to and from Marco Polo airport is to go by this boat, the Alilaguna. Your choices are private water taxi, bus to Piazzale Roma or this direct boat, the Alilaguna.

For about 12 dollars, you are transported to the most romantic city in the world in about 25 minutes. Not too bad. If it's your first visit to Venice, you will be so excited to be on the lagoon. Trust me, you will be excited. You can't help it. You've read and researched preparing for this trip, you know from pictures what things look like, and now you are finally here. And can't wait for the trip from the airport to be over.

All you see is water at first, and you are impatient for your first sight of the city. Finally, you begin to see something recognizable.... the Campanile at St. Marks Square and the Doges Palace coming into view. For me, there is no better way to arrive here than this. The water approach to the city on the Alilaguna.

365 days of Venice- picture for a missed day...

A view from the bridge.. the Accademia Bridge, that is.

This is taken standing on the bridge, looking up the Canal ( hmmm, is that up or down? Not really sure) towards the Rialto bridge. In this picture you can see up the canal to the point where it makes a large bend to the right. That's the first bend in the "S" shape the Grand Canal makes.

It's a glorious view, isn't it?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!!!

We wish you all peace, joy and love this holiday season.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

365 days of Venice- on a back canal

Here's one of those scenes you come on quite accidentally while roaming the streets of Venice. Out of no where, you see this absolutely gorgeous sight. No people, just sunlight on the canal, and a beautiful gondola. You can't help but stop to look and savor the moment.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

365 days of Venice - Daily transportation

Venice has no driveable roads, so the only way to get around is by water or walking. There are only a few methods of transportation available. Private water taxis are expensive, but they are convenient. Most every day travel is done via the Vaporetto, or water bus.

You must have a ticket validated before you get on board the vaporetto. If you do not have a ticket before boarding, and have not asked the attendant on the boat to purchase a ticket, the fine is fairly steep for riding without a ticket. Purchase your ticket at the station before getting on. You can get a ticket for one ride good during a 24 hr period, or you can purchase an unlimited ticket good for 3, 5 or 7 days. Venetian residents may by a monthly ticket, good for unlimited rides in that month.

Each Vaporetto line is numbered and the routes are published. The #1 , probably the most popular line, runs up and down the Grand Canal. If you are getting on a vaporetto, check at the station to be sure you know which direction you need to travel in, and take notice of the route information on each dock. This will show you the direction the boat will be traveling in, the stops it makes along the way, and the times you can expect the boat at each station stop.

One of my must do's in Venice is a ride up and down the Grand Canal on the #1, sitting as close to the front of the bow as possible. I love this ride during the day and also at night.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

365 days of Venice - Gondola's!!

Gondola Facts:

Each one of the six metal sections of the metal front piece (called the "ferro" seen in this photo) represents one of the siesteres of Venice.

A gondola is 35 feet long, 5 feet wide and weighs 600 kg.

The degree of curvature of the boat is based on the weight of the gondolier.

It takes 2 months to build a gondola.

All gondolas must be painted black.

Gondolas have 6 coats of paint on them.

A gondola costs between 30,000 -65,000 Euros, depending on the additional options selected , for example cup holders.

The oarlock, called the forcula, is often considered a work of art, as each one is carved or sculpted specifically for the gondolier.

Each gondola is built using 8 different kinds of wood.

Gondolas in olden days also had a removable cabin or "felse" used to protect passengers from bad weather.

Every 40 days a gondola must get a new coat of varnish to protect it from marine growth in the lagoon.

A gondola typically lasts 15 years. It can be refurbished only once.

There are about 400 gondolas operated by the Venice Gondola Association.

When a licensed gondolier passes away, his license is passed down to his family.

Each year only 3-4 new gondolier licenses are issued. The entrance exam to become a gondolier is very rigorous and requires extensive training prior to the exam.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

365 days of Venice - off the beaten path

Don't need words here, just enjoy the view.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Living the dream --- back to the Italian consulate

We have yet another visit to the Italian consulate scheduled for tomorrow morning. Wish us luck. This trip should be alittle bit different, and I'm hoping for a more positive outcome. What's different? A) we aren't going all the way to Philadelphia. After making a call to the local consulate office here in Baltimore last week, I was informed that we can drop off paperwork here instead. What a relief! B) We are applying for our Visas. All of the last trips have been related to dual citizenship paperwork. The consulate has now recommended that I take the citizenship application and documentation to Italy and handle that process over there. They tell me it will take much less time, probably only a few weeks. In light of that, we will need to have Visas, at least Mike will.

We are very hopeful that tomorrow will be a much less painful time at the Italian Consulate. Please say a few prayers for us.

365 days of Venice -- St. Marks Basilica

This place takes my breath away. It did the first time I saw it, it does every time I see it, without fail. That it inspires such a reaction from me astounds me. What gets to me most is the mosaic work on both the inside and outside. From far away, you see magnificent pieces of art, and when you are up close, you see millions of quarter inch square tiles pieced together into this tapestry of unparallelled beauty. There was such talent, artistry, and dedication put into the making of these mosaics. How did anyone dream these up, I have no idea. It's just plain awesome. Awesome.

On a typical day tourists line up to gain entrance to the Basilica. My recommendation is get up early to beat the lines. Being inside the church without the huge crowds is worth the effort. St. Mark's is definitely on the Venice must-see list. After touring the inside, go upstairs so you can walk out onto the loggia for a breathtaking view of the Piazza, the Doges Palace, the Campanile and the lagoon.

I was proposed to right here in St. Mark's square at midnight a few years ago, so you can see why this spot is special to me!

Monday, December 17, 2007

365 days of Venice-- finding a treasure

Santa Maria dei Miracoli is an absolute treasure in Venice. Located on the east side of Cannaregio, far off the tourist path in Campo Santa Maria Nuova is this church, often referred to a "jewel of the Renaissance". Not only is this church stunningly beautiful inside and out, but it is tucked in a little campo that is a terrific place to just sit and relax with a cup of coffee or glass of wine.

Definitely put this treasure on your list of places to find.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

365 days of Venice - The Rialto Market

On my list of top 10 things to see in Venice is the Rialto market. Get up early in the morning and walk to the market to see the most incredible display of produce and fish you will ever see. This is one of the best markets you'll find in Italy.

The first time I went to the Rialto Market we were in Venice for 12 days, staying in a hotel. We couldnt buy anything other than some fruit to eat that day, but I couldnt help but wish to shop there for food I could cook for myself. How could you not want to cook when you are surrounded by the abundance of unbelieveable produce you see here??

The next year I got my wish. I stayed for 3 weeks in an apartment in Castello and was able to walk to the Rialto most mornings to shop. I'd try to learn the Italian names for the things I wanted to buy, then I could ask for what I needed and try to have a conversation wtih the produce vendors. One morning when I needed some sage, I stumbled over the name. The woman in the stall came around to the outside and gave me a little Italian lesson. She took the time to point to each herb and teach me the name, then gave me the sage and basil that I needed for free, with a smile and a wave of her hand. This is one of my best memories of our visits to Venice.

One thing you must remember, not only at the Rialto market but in all markets in Italy--- don't touch the produce!!! You must ask the vendor for what you want, and they will select the best items for you.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

365 days of Venice- the origin of Barber Poles

Here's my pick of the day-- and I don't even know what these are called, but they remind me of barber poles. Now it will bug me and I will have to go do some research. Are they water poles? Does anyone know the answer??

These are a very common Venice sight. Some are more elaborate than others, each palazzo seems to have chosen their own personalized color scheme. As you ride up and down the canals you will see all sorts of lovely color combinations. Some poles are more ornate than others having some gold decorations at the top. And then there are the poles that have no brightly colored stripes, no carved top piece. Only plain wood pilings. Oddly enough, those to me are just as beautiful.

These poles are another of Venice's symbols. And just like the other sights I have posted here, there are so many varieties you can keep busy looking all day long and never get tired of the view.

So as you can see, my list of Venice favorite sights is growing: windows, the poles, gondoliers, directional signs. Wonder what tomorrow's will be ??

Friday, December 14, 2007

365 days of Venice - The City of Romance

I remember the day I took this photo. I was on the #1 vaporetto headed down the Grand Canal going back to the hotel. I looked up and was lucky enough to catch this scene. To me it was just a perfect image.

Couples come from all over the world to be married in Venice- and I know why. The city of romance is only one of Venice's many nicknames, but it is certainly appropriate. There is an air of romance here, you can feel it in your bones. There is no way to pinpoint what it is exactly, but it's there.

Maybe it's knowing that Casanova made his home here. Maybe it's the music that always seems to be in the air. Vivaldi is always playing from somewhere in the background. Maybe it's always seeing couples snuggled together in a gondola. Whatever it is, it's inevitable that you feel it. You cannot avoid it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

365 days of Venice --- Finding your way

Here's today's photo selection......

Getting lost in Venice is highly recommended. You never know what wonderous sight is around the corner, and you would never have discovered it if you hadn't gotten a bit lost. And how does one get lost? Just keep walking. Don't pay attention to your map too closely. Walk in the opposite direction that the crowds are going. Dare to be adventurous! One can never get too lost in Venice. Someone had the ingenious idea to post signs to help us find our way back. Like the one in this picture pointing the way to the nearest Vaporetto stop. Funny they knew we'd need the assistance. And in this particular spot, you are way off the beaten path and totally in need of that push in the right direction. I walked under this archway, ran into the wall and without that sign, wouldn't have known which way to go.

Whenever you can't figure out which way to go, just seek out the nearest building and look up to the top of the first floor, on the corner. There you will see one, or possibly more signs, pointing you in the direction of a major landmark like St. Marks or Rialto or Accademia. This will either help orient you on your map again, or just allow you to keep walking in the general direction you choose, eventually you will arrive where you need to be. It's really quite simple, and so helpful.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

365 days of Venice -- Venetian blinds!!!!

I have a long list of things I love about Venice. Windows are definitely near the top of that list. I simply cannot get enough of the windows in Venice. Honestly, I could post 365 pics of windows from our photo collection and still have more left.

Windows come in all sizes and shapes. Most of the time they are shuttered closed. When I see that I wonder who might be behind them. What kind of life goes on behind the shutters. The ones in this pic are particularly beautiful to me. I love the shape of them. But, these are not the kind you would find in a typical Venetian's house. These are on a palazzo on the Grand Canal.

Does anyone remember Venetian blinds? Look carefully---these are on the OUTSIDE of the window!!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

365 days of Venice --- Day 1

As I was going through pictures tonight, I realized we have thousands of pics of Venice and I should be sharing them. Showing a different one each day would be fun. And even more fun for me to select the perfect one to post every day. Looking at them allows me to relive the moment also, and I can't think of a better way for me to spend 5 minutes or so every day. So here goes........
If I were to pick a title for this one, I'd call it "Gondola Guys"

If you have never been to Venice before, let me just say that this is a very common sight. One I never tire of. Just as I will never tire of hearing the gondoliers calling out "Gondola, Gondole".
( That's "Gondola, Goldolas" in English ) The gondoliers in this picture are right in front of St. Marks and the Doges Palace. The gondoliers hang out at gondola stations waiting on customers. Trust me, there is no shortage of tourists wanting their gondola experience.

A gondola ride costs approximately 80-120 Euros for up to 6 people in the gondola. The price varies by a) length of the ride b) time of day and c) location of the gondola. The closer to St. Marks or the Rialto, the higher the price. Nighttime is more than daytime, and a ride of between 35-40 min is on the lower end, 60 minutes being on the higher end of the scale.

I am often asked if a gondola ride can be skipped. Heaven forbid, NO! Don't miss this! Skimp on food one day if you must, but don't miss a gondola ride. You see Venice from an entirely different perspective. You are transported to another place and time. It's quiet, it's serene, it's magical, its romantic, it's Venice!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Living the dream- Sending Sam and Leo ( our dogs) to Italy

The move to Venice is about a month away, and I have been diligently ticking off items on the Extrication plan- well, let's face it, it's a giant To-Do List. One of the most pressing items left on the list is to work out how we will get our dogs Sam and Leopold shipped over. Everyone asks us if we will leave them here. NO WAY! These are our boys, no matter what herculean effort is necessary, they are making this move with us. But- I want the move to be as easy on them as possible. Sam is going on 12 yrs old-- he's the old man of the family. I need them to be handled with care and I need them to arrive safely.

Like almost every other item I've had to tackle, there has been a lot of information to plow through about how to transport animals, and subsequently a lot of decisions to make. Almost overwhelming. I've gotten through what appears to be the information gathering stage. I have one more phone call to Lufthansa to check out their policies. After that, I think we can make the decisions necessary.

First of all, we needed to learn the requirements for bringing the dogs into the country. The necessary documents have to be presented to the Italian consulate before we can take them. The dogs need to be micro chipped by our vet, and also the vet must complete a certification indicating the dogs are in good health and all inoculations are up to date.

Decisions about how to fly them over include a) fly them as excess baggage on the same flight we are on, b)fly them as unaccompanied cargo on a different flight, or c) obtain a transport service who will move the dogs from home to destination for us, and also handle the necessary paper work.

Obviously our preference would be to have them on the same flight with us. There's a huge level of comfort for us knowing that they will be with us the whole way. There's also a huge amount of nervousness about how they will do down in the cargo hold. We are learning that there are pet friendly airlines who will take care of things like walking them during flight layovers and making sure they are fed. Then there are other airlines who just make sure they are loaded onto the plane and that's it. Also, we are flying in January, and many airlines will not fly the dogs if the temperature outside is below 45 degrees. I can totally understand that. And that also creates a dilemma--- what if, on the day we have tickets for the temp drops below that? We can fly but the dogs have to be left behind. In the immortal words of Pietro Paprizzio (from my favorite Casanova movie)--- "Oh, Calamity!!"

When we have this one figured out ( soon !!), I'll post the results. And for sure I will post a picture of Sam and Leopold arriving in Venice. That will be a happy day for all of us!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We're thankful for.......

We're getting ready to pack up our bags for a short little 2 day trip to Delaware to have Thanksgiving dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, who have just moved there from Peaks Island, Maine. Funny, they have left a little island where they have no cars and have only boat transportation back and forth to Portland, and we are going to Venice with very similar transportation. Isn't that an odd coincidence???

This year I am thankful for all of our new found friends who have come into our lives during the course of this incredible journey of ours, all of our family and old friends who have been so supportive, and to all of you who have landed on our web page and have sent emails of encouragement. Mike and I feel incredibly blessed. So, to each and every one of you, wherever you are, just know that we are thankful for you all.

Now, let's all enjoy some turkey!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Living the dream --- The Extrication Plan

I use Microsoft Excel for alot of things, but I must admit my all time favorite spreadsheet has come to be the one which contains what we call "Our Extrication Plan". This is the list of all the things we have to do- prioritized- to get our house sold for this move to Venice.

In order to get the house sold we have some cosmetic tasks like finally installing the quarter round molding in the sun room and kitchen ( we just finished in the living room and dining room) and painting trim, up to some not so cosmetic items such as getting a new furnace installed. Those fix up the house items are a piece of the extrication plan.

Somewhere in between those comes getting rid of a houseful of miscellanous possessions. When we moved into the house here neither Mike nor I had very much. We'd both come out of our divorces with very little to speak of. As we renovated the house, we acquired stuff. Oh boy is there stuff!!! I have quite a few sets of funky wine and champagne glasses now, and rooms full of books, and decorative pillows, and stuff with monkeys on/in them ( don't ask), even a real Shriner's fez. That's just the short list. Getting rid of possessions is a big portion of the extrication plan.

We must get rid of all this stuff. We won't be in a large single family with 2 car garage anymore, we'll be in a furnished apartment. We tried one yard sale already. It took us several evenings to collect up stuff to put out for sale and mark it all, we spent a saturday actually having the sale. What we were able to get out there was just the tip of the ice berg. The thought of more yard sales is not very appealing.

Alot of stuff is going to trash, alot more stuff is going to good will. At the end when we've "extricated" ourself from all but the essentials and larger pieces of furniture, we're leaning towards an estate or moving sale. Fire sale maybe!

Not a day goes by that we aren't putting something in a box for good will, or calling someone to ask if they would like to find a home for some thing or other. It's all in the name of "Extrication".

And -- besides getting ourselves over to Venice, there's an extra benefit to this---someday my kids won't have to plow through all this stuff to get rid of it. I'm doing it for them now.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Living the dream- apartment hunting in Venice

One of the big items on our list of issues to handle was finding a place to live in Venice. The last time we were there we spent a few days with realtors looking at available apartments. The first one was so small.. and nothing in the kitchen at all!!! We had read about having to provide your own kitchen appliances but it didn't fully sink in until we saw an example of this first hand. This was going to be quite a bit different from any of our experiences in America!

We had discussed a 3 month rental with Marco, the man we rent an apartment when we visit annually. This would give us a jumping off place when we move. We love the area of Castello so it would feel familar to us, making the inital transition smoother. As we got closer to actually moving, it occurred to us that perhaps we could find someplace for a full year that would take the dogs if we looked in advance from here.

I started using the internet to contact some realtors in Venice. Every one of them told me they had no properties that would accept pets. I don't know what possessed me, but one day I emailed a gentleman (Gianni) who had an apartment rental in Castello, wondering if he would possibly consider a longer term lease ( at least a year) and if he would allow our 2 dogs. Gianni emailed me back explaining he only rented by the week, but asked for more specifics about what we needed and he would ask around on our behalf.

It's been my experience during this whole process that the moment I verbalize- actually ask for what it is I need, amazing things happen. Inside of a week I had received emails from several friends of Gianni, all with apartments for rent long term, all who would happily take on our dogs. A few were really small, only one bedroom. We determined we had to have 2 bedrooms, and a decent size kitchen- we needed to be less crowed. Even though we planned to get rid of almost all our worldly possessions here, we still would need to not be on top of each other 24 hours a day.

After back and forth emails with a few of Gianni's friends, one came through with the ideal place. What a find... 3 bedrooms with a decent kitchen AND a private large garden on a canal!!! It isn't in the Castello area that we were hoping for, but it had more space than we had ever anticipated. The rent was also a bit more than we had budgeted for.

We emailed back and forth several times, she sent pictures of every angle imaginable. The apartment is not a palazzo, but we never planned on that. We sent our friend Marco to check it out in person, just to be sure. He thought it looked fine, not the area we want and not a glorious kitchen, cause he knows we both love to cook, but all was acceptable.

Contracts translated from Italian into English have finally reached us, and we are finalizing the deal as we speak!!! We are excited beyond belief....just can't wait. We look at the pictures on Google Earth at least once a day, checking our our new neighborhood. One more step in the process has been accomplished-- this one is a big one.

I don't know if words can even describe how incredible this journey is, or to ever express how grateful we are to each person we've met along the way who has contributed in some way with this fantastic adventure. This truly is "living the dream".

Catching up on blogs and the status of our move to Italy

The last few months have been an unbelievable blur. I keep saying I need to be blogging every day, but I am almost overwhelmed with all the things happening in preparation for sliding out of our lives here in Baltimore and starting a new one in Italy. However, I do not want to forget any of this EVER, so I am going to blog. I'm going to catch up and keep current.

As for the status of the move:

We've had lots of work in the house to do before we can put it on the market. Part of our original plan was to sell the house, and to get that ball rolling in July, which we did. We didn't realize that things would get delayed here and there. If it's not one thing it's another.

First delay- refinancing our mortgage. We decided that the house needed a few major items in order to facilitate the best sale possible. Making those repairs was best done by taking some equity out. What we thought would be an easy process took way too long. We shopped around, that took a month. Once we decided on a mortgage company, the 3 weeks they told us it would take became 6 weeks.

Second delay- the contractor we planned to use wasn't available when we wanted him. So July became October. We did a yard sale, took stuff to the dump, painted, and worked our way through all the miscellaneous items on our to-do list. Today we still have 3 more things on the list-- but we are moving forward and that feels good. Unfortunately, now the housing market is really slow, and its not a great time of the year to be selling either. That isn't deterring us, we're going to keep working the plan, no matter what. The house won't be sold by the time we leave for Venice, but that's just the way things have worked out.

Dual Italian Citizenship- Italian Consulate trip #2

With all my documents in hand and the newly translated divorce papers, it was time to make the return trip to the Consulate in Philadelphia. My girls, Shannon from Charlottesville, Virginia and Megan from Madison, Wisconsin had come for a long weekend to celebrate their grandmother's 80th birthday, so we made the trip to Philadelphia on Monday morning. We got up early that morning, all of us really excited about finally getting these papers processed. The drive to Philly was unusally god-awful. There was some construction on the bridge near the Philadelphia Airport and we just sat and sat and sat. Finally we were moving again, and found the Consulate without difficulty.

Inside the Consulate office, we were struck with yet another blow. I had meticulously collected the missing divorce papers, and this time, the woman in charge informed me that she 1) would not accept the authenticated copies of my mothers birth and marriage certificates- she wanted to see the originals, and 2) now every document needed to be translated into Italian, not just the divorce documents. I tried everything I could to talk them out of this, but.. no one was budging. I somehow managed to get them to understand that getting the two girls back for yet another trip to the Consulate was going to be difficult, and they allowed us to fill out some paperwork which would allow the kids to not be present next time around. A small relief in yet another set back.

Status of the citizenship papers as of today.... I have the documents translated. Now I have to go to NJ, pick up my mom and her documents, drive to Philadelphia and try this all again. Hopefully having the original documents, and my native born mother in tow, we will get past the last hurdle. However, Mike and I will be moving to Venice in January, no way the citizenship will be completed, so we will have to get Visas in the mean time. We have to gather up all the required documents needed for the Visas, and also the paperwork required for our dogs to be allowed into Italy. We'll do all 3 of these on the next trip to the Consulate. I can't wait.

I truly believe that all of this is being done to me as some sort of test to see how badly I really want to be in Italy. I really want it bad. I REALLY want it bad!!!!!

Dual Italian Citizenship - Part IV

The light of day felt a little bit better the morning after discovering no divorce certificate in that envelope from UPS. I warned all the co-workers in my immediate area that things could get ugly when I made phone calls to the Virginia Vital records people. I spoke first with the woman who handles all those VS-4 forms, who assured me that if that form came past her desk she would have processed it. The director of Vital records, who was next on my list, even remembered having talked t me 6 months prior. She suggested I go back to the clerk of the court in Fairfax County and start all over.

Calls to the clerk of the court didn't get much better. By the end of the day, all parties had a plan of action: the clerk would overnight me a new VS-4 form. I would then overnight it back to her filled out. She would do her magic and overnight it to the Director of Vital Records in Richmond, who would personally see to it that my divorce certificate was processed and overnighted to me. I was promised I would have the correct document before the week was out. Wow... I could not believe I had all parties on-line and ready to do their part for me. The only hitch was I was going to be out of town and would not be back for 4 days. We decided to stick with the plan and I would process this paperwork as soon as I returned. But-- this would now be too late to have the document for the planned trip to the Italian consulate.

I researched the fine print of the citizenship requirements that morning and determined that an alternate documentation could be used.... a letter from my attorney stating that the divorce was not able to be appealed, translated into Italian, would satisfy the consulate rules. I set hot on the trails of my divorce lawyer. I had not spoken with her in about 8 years, but I was able to track down her phone number. She no longer practices law.. seems she is a fiddle player in a Celtic band. Strike One.

Maybe my ex-husbands lawyer would want to earn a couple hundred bucks that day. I was able to find him and leave a voice message. To my surprise, he returned the call but declined to help me. Fortunately, my husband Michael came to my rescue. Mike, also an attorney, contacted an old law school friend who practices law in Virginia. Inside of an hour, he had faxed a letter to us which would do the trick. I faxed that to the Italian translator and I relaxed about the whole incident. I would have all the documents necessary for the next trip back to the Consulate in Philadelphia.

Once again the gods have smiled on me. It just took me awhile to push away the grey clouds in order to see those smiles :)

OH.. before I forget.. there is another interesting twist to this story. When I returned from the long weekend out of town, I found a fed-ex envelope waiting for me.... beleive it or not, the Virginia Vital records had miraculously located my original VS-4 form and had send me the divorce certificate! Miracles do happen!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dual Italian Citizenship - Part III

While I was waiting for this elusive Divorce certificate to be completed, I was also adding my oldest daughter's marriage certificate to the pile of documents we needed. This one was simple, or so I thought. My daughter Shannon had sent me a certified copy of her marriage certificate, all I needed to do was send it off for the Apostille. I got that sent off properly, only to get a reply back explaining that in order to get the Apostille, we needed the "correct" certified copy of her marriage certificate. The one we sent only had one seal, we needed a triple seal. Who knew???? To solve this I would need to request a brand new original certified document from .. who else.. Virginia Vital records, then have the Apostille added to it. I can do this. We still have time before we have to get to the Philadelphia Italian Consulate.

The next thing I get in the mail from the Virginia Vital records department is a letter informing me that the copy of my drivers license which I had sent with the Divorce certificate request was "too dark", and I'd need to resend the whole request, including a lighter copy of the drivers license. By now time is ticking away, as we have arranged to be at the Italian consulate in 3 weeks. I should mention that now timing of getting all 3 of us together ( myself, and 2 daughters) has gotten a bit more complicated. Megan, the youngest daughter, has moved to Wisconsin.

A phone call to the Virginia Vital records leaves me a bit encouraged- they tell me I can order the document online and have it expedited. Wonderful. I did this, even though it cost alot more.. 58 dollars versus 24. At this point I hardly care. I just want the Divorce Certificate and Apostille in my hot little hand. Using this expedited service, they are in communication with me via email letting me know the status of my request. I see in my email that they have sent the documents to me by UPS,they should arrive in 2 days. Everything is falling into place, and I still have time to get these divorce documents translated into Italian before the day we have to be in Philadelphia. Sounds almost too good to be true.

If only anything were that simple. The UPS package comes, however our local driver has decided he won't leave any thing without a signature, due to some problems in our neighborhood. Since we work all day, no one is home to sign. UPS tells me that I can go to the local office after 8:30 pm that night to retrieve my package. I'd never been to the UPS station- it's on Zero Road. Oh, maybe that was a warning???? The whole UPS experience has to be a blog entry of its own.. it's definitely blog worthy. Bottom line: I have the package in my hand. This is the big moment! It's the elusive Divorce certificate from Virginia. I rip open the package only to find a letter from the Virginia Vital records telling me there is no divorce certificate on file. I'm standing in the parking lot at UPS wishing there were some way to express my anger directly to the Virginia Vital records department at that very moment. That will just have to wait until morning!!!

Dual Italian Citizenship- Part II

Finding out I met the requirements for dual Italian citizenship was so exciting! I can't even describe how elated I was. This also meant that living and doing business in Venice would be much easier for us. Now all I had to do was complete the documentation process,and get the citizenship processed.

I read as much as I could on the topic, and proceeded to go about collecting the appropriate documents I would need. I had to request certified copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates, divorce certificates, death certificates, and once those were returned to me from the Vital records dept of the appropriate states each document was issued from, I also had to request the Apostille, a special seal from the Secretary of the State of the issuing document.

It took about 6 months to collect the bunch, but the most problematic of the documents were the ones for my mother. She had the originals, but was not comfortable letting them out of her hands. Brick wall #1 - convincing Mom that I would not lose her documents. She was also convinced that the Italian Consulate would take her documents and not return them. I got her to agree to let me have the documents for 1 week only. During that time I took them to the Italian consulate office in Baltimore where they authenticated them. That means they reviewed my mother's originals, made a copy, then stamped and signed that the original was seen by them .

With all the documents in hand, I gathered up my two girls ( who also qualify for dual citizenship by blood though me), since everyone applying must appear in person together. It's a much easier process to get every one's documents processed as a group.. and cheaper. We drove early in the morning to the Italian Consulate in Philadelphia to deliver the packet of papers. I couldn't have been more excited.. this was a big deal, and I'd worked religiously for several months to collect all the appropriate paperwork. Once in the Consulate, we were told that there was one more divorce certificate I needed, and until I had this one document, I would have to wait to submit my citizenship request. Brick wall #2.

Dejected, I returned to Baltimore. I had no idea what document they required. I quickly discovered that the Virginia Vital Records department did not have this document for my divorce. They referred me to the Circuit Court in Fairfax County, Virginia where I got divorced 8 years earlier. It took many phone calls back and forth before it was clear that no divorce certificate was ever created for me. It turns out that a VS-4 form which is normally filed by the divorce attorney, was never filed. That makes sense.. by the time we got to the end of the divorce process we had both relinquished our lawyers and wrapped things up ourselves. No one had ever told us there was another form to file.

The clerk of the court sent me the VS-4 form, and I got it send back to them. I called every day to make sure they had it. I had them call me when they had processed it and sent it on to Virginia Vital records. Once it was sent on, I contacted Virginia Vital records to ensure that it was moving properly through the channels. Brick wall # 3. They told me they had never had a situation where the VS-4 form was received 8 yrs after the divorce, they didn't know how to handle that. I gave them several months to figure it out, then requested a certified copy of my divorce certificate. I figured everything would be simple from this point on--- I was back track collecting the documentation and made plans to return to the Italian consulate. I felt like another milestone in my move to Venice plan was in reach!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Living the dream - dual citizenship

Yup- dual Citizenship. I could not believe I qualified for dual Italian citizenship when I checked into it, but would you believe it--- I do!! . It's just the oddest of coincidences. One of the items on my "plan" was to research how we could live in Italy long term legally. Naturally, I started reading up on how Visas work. Somewhere along that path, I came across an article posted by an expatriate ( I'd been doing tons of reading expatriate experiences and tips) which suggested finding out if dual citizenship was even a possibility, if you had native Italian ancestors.

My mother happens to be native born, originally from La Spezia, Italy. She came to the US right about the end of WWII, having married my father over there. My dad was an American soldier stationed in Naples. So Mom came over on the boat. The regulations for dual Italian citizenship are different depending on which ancestor is the native one- grandfather, grandmother, father or mother. If its your mother, as in my case, you had to have been born after January 1, 1947 and also before your mother became an American citizen, if she did that. My older sister was born before that cut off date of 1947, my 2 younger siblings were born after she became a US citizen, and I am right in that little window !

I've mentioned before that I am now a believer in things happening for a reason. Just like miraculously finding travel agent training that worked out so conveniently, here is another instance of something falling in my lap. Literally.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Living the dream--- what's up with this Life Coach business???

Not a day goes by that someone doesn't ask me about this "moving to Venice" business. Yes, it is truly incredible. Every person I talk to has pretty much the same reaction....awestruck that we are actually doing this! I get hit with all kinds of questions but mostly people want to hear the whole darn story. What makes us want to move,? How are we going to do it? How can we give up our lives here?? When I start telling our story and get to mentioning my use of a life coach, eyes start to get even wider. Then I have to get into a sidebar on what a life coach is and how I found one, and how it worked for me.

Because I feel so strongly about the positive experiences I've had using a life coach, because I get asked so often, and because it's such an important element of our whole adventure, it warrants a place here in my blog.

When I was pretty clear on the fact that I wanted to move to Venice, I knew I needed help. I had done alot of reading ( self-help kinds of topics) so I knew what a life coach was. I also had the sense that was what I should look into. What I wanted was a mentor.. a cheerleader even, someone who would help me get over the hurdles when I was feeling like it was too much for me.

When people ask how I found my life coach, I tell them I turned to the internet for research. I found several life coaches on the web in my area, and started calling them to have an inital conversation. One of the first three I talked to was Bill Pullen, of Pullen Associates in Washington, DC.

During my initial phone conversation with Bill, I could sense that this person seemed to really "get" where I was coming from. When we met in our first face to face appointment, I quickly confirmed that my initial instincts were correct. Bill did have a firm grasp of what I wanted and needed. I could tell that I'd make a wise choice having him provide guidance and support during this venture. There was no need to look elsewhere, I knew I had found the right coach. I can't put my finger on it, but I think when you know it's the right connection, you go with it.

Bill helped me work through what I call "the plan". It's more like a roadmap that has helped me every step of the way- from the original idea to the final steps of getting ourselves moved over there. Whenever I could sense an obstacle, I would fall back on my plan and the absolute confidence I had in myself now. I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that I would have faltered if I had not worked with Bill.

I must say that for my particular purposes, I only had sessions with Bill for about 4-5 months. During that time we had 3 monthly meetings, generally over the phone. We'd discuss my progress on particular tasks that I had set out for myself and then plan what was next to accomplish. Even after I stopped having meeting time with Bill, I have never stopped focusing on the end goal, using my plan to guide me.

Fortunately for me, my husband Mike has been completely on board and as committed to this adventure as I am. I never had to sell him on making this move. Also fortunately for me I have had Bill Pullen in the background as sounding board for my ideas right from the beginning.

So- what have I got to say about life coaches? I could be the poster child for all Life Coaches of the world. It was worth every penny and then some. Using a life coach has been a life changing experience for me. I cannot recommend this enough to anyone who feels they need change of some sort. Whether its career or personal in nature, if you need change--- I encourage you to do something wonderful for yourself by enlisting a life coach.

NOTE: This is not a commercial for Bill Pullen by any means. Bill has consented to the use of his name in my blog.

Living the dream--- is there a travel agent in the house?

I've been in the Information Technology industry a long long time. Almost longer than I care to think about, but I never imagined at this point in my life I'd be starting over at something brand new. Making the decision that our life in Venice would be supported by running tours was the easy part. Figuring out how in the world we would actually DO that was another story!

We didn't know one thing about the travel business. One thing I did know however, was that in order for us to be credible at this venture, we needed more knowledge than we had. My life coach and I had numerous discussion on this topic. After some research, I decided I had no other recourse but to go to school to obtain the skills and knowledge I believed would be required. I found one school with locations in Boston and California offering a 2 week program that was of particular interest to me-- but they did not offer any kind of certification. I had the notion that having national certification of some kind was going to be important to have. Back to the drawing board researching schools, this time I came across The Travel Institute. This group is the one that awards national certification for travel professionals. Just what I needed! They offer both online and regular classroom type programs for entry level students. Also just what I was looking for.

I made the decision that I would benefit most from having the ability to discuss issues with the instructor and other students in a live forum, so I opted for the classroom program. Now all I had to do was find a location that would be workable for me. The gods were smiling down on me, and I still don't fully understand why. But I'm grateful . Extremely grateful. The closest location offering certification programs was just six miles up the road from where I live in Baltimore. I made a quick phone call to The Bennett School of Travel to obtain information only to find out that the semester had already begun. My work schedule wasn't going to cooperate with the class schedules for the first few weeks, however the school's director was more than generous about finding a way for me to work this all in, including some make up sessions for me. Ten weeks later I had successfully completed the Basic certification course offered by The Travel Institute. I was now in possession of the necessary credentials to give my future tour business in Venice the industry recognition required to compete in the market place. Crossing this hurdle felt SOOOO good!!!

I want to say at this point that I really believe things happen for a reason in our lives. My running across Joanne , the director at Bennett was one of those events that confirms this belief for me. And this is just one of several "meant to happen" events I've experienced along this journey. Every time I think about these now, looking back on them, I am more convinced than ever that our moving to Italy is inevitable. It was just meant to happen, thats all.

Joanne encouraged me to get the next level of certification, the CTA designation. Only about 30 percent of all travel agents have this designation. It's about another 10 weeks of school consisting of in depth learning on topics such as travel marketing, customer service, niche marketing, and communication skills for example. Back to class I went, every week for 10 weeks. I naively thought this would be easy, compared to what I go through in the Information Technology field on a day to day basis. Ha ha ha.... there was an enormous amount of material to plow through and learn in order to prepare for the certification exam. I can't even tell you how elated I was when I received the email from The Travel Institute informing me that I had passed.

I had worked with my life coach to create the road map I'd use to get to us moved to Italy. Completing the training classes for travel agent certification was a major milestone in our plan. There were many more milestones ahead of me, but having one under my belt was so rewarding.

We had the plan, and every day we were working the plan and staying on course! "Working the plan " became my mantra over the next year.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Living the dream- how will we finance this dream of ours??

One of the big question marks I struggled with as I was working out " the plan" was how in the world we could actually afford to live over there. Had I been good with my financial decisions in my younger years, and if I had a plan for my life back then, maybe I would have had that nest egg tucked away that would finance this adventure. You can already guess by now that there is no nest egg. Nope. not even a pigeon egg. My divorce 9 years ago wiped me out, and I am just now getting back on my feet from the after effects of that whole fiasco. I could fill up a whole blog just on my divorce tips--- but this is much happier, so I won't go there. Michael hadn't fared much better in his divorce, and on top of that he put himself through law school at about the time we met 9 yrs ago, so he has massive school loans to deal with. As he says jokingly, he'll be paying for law school way after he has died.

Ok- so we have no savings to use, and its highly unlikely we could ever stay in our careers while living in Italy. Not only is it highly unlikely, we didn't even want to consider staying in our present careers. We'd both been in the corporate work world our entire adult lives, and frankly we'd both accomplished all we felt we were ever going to. We had no more lofty career goals, we were just existing. And existing with very little joy in our days. This idea of a move to Italy was fueling a new passion in both of us. It was the perfect time for us to " retire" if you will, from our present existences here in the United States. We soul-searched on this topic for a few months. Were we absolutely sure we were ready to call an end to our respective careers? ?? I wanted no regrets, no looking back, if that was the decision we were to make.

We were both in agreement on this issue. We did not wish to attempt to pursue our current careers after a move to Italy. So----. next question .. how would we make a living there? Going through our finances a) didn't take long and b) made it obvious we certainly had to work. There would be no "retirement" for us at this point in life. At first I thought it would take a lot of gut wrenching self-work to figure out the answer to this question. Surprisingly, the answer came to us easily. I wish I had written down the moment it occurred. It just appeared as a very clear vision--- we knew Venice like the back of our hands, we love every inch of it. Here comes the answer-- we'd give tours of Venice. We'd show people the Venice we have come to love so passionately. This felt absolutely right to both of us.

Running some numbers ( I used to be an accountant in another life), we quickly determined there was no way running a small tour company would match our current incomes. Running some more numbers, we found many ways we could reduce our monthly expenses so that this reduction in income would still allow us a comfortable life. Not a grand life, but a comfortable one. We both were ok with this. I'm looking at my notes here and realize that I've made this "running of the numbers" sound pretty simple. Actually it took ALOT of going over expenses and negotiating over what things we would be able to cut back on to make the balance sheet look workable. But you would be surprised what two people can come up with when they both want something so badly.

So one more big question mark had been resolved. We knew how we would finance our lives in Venice. And that just opened the next can of worms. Neither of us knew one thing about the travel industry. Not one thing. OK. Add that one to the items on my list of things that needed more work in order to get this plan off the ground. How we are learning about the travel business deserves a whole blog entry of its own.... maybe even a few.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Living the dream--- how this journey began....

Living the dream---- for my husband Michael and I this means beginning the adventure of a life time by moving to Venice, Italy. This blog will contain the story of our progress on that journey to find our new life in a new exciting place.

I hope you will bear with me. I want to turn back time a little bit so I can capture the entire journey, right from the very start, even though some time has now passed. I regret not starting this blog back then. But, as the saying goes, no time like the present. So, with no further ado, here goes .....

Being with my father for the last few days of his life in January 2005 made a profound impact on my own. One thing became so clear to me-- I could not squander the rest of my life doing things that did not give me immense joy any longer. Who knows how much longer there is left? Every day is such a gift, I need to be treating it exactly like that. No more going through the days, ticking off time, with no purpose. I had to find what brings me joy, and make that my focus. That was a turning point. I still didn't know what that would mean, but I clearly knew it meant something of profound importance. For all practical purposes, the journey starts right there.

The next step in this journey we ( my husband Michael and I) took was to spend 3 weeks in a rented apartment in Venice, Italy. We'd been to Venice twice before in the previous 2 years. The first time, Venice was the jumping off point of a 21 day "grand tour" of Italy. Wanting to get to know Venice alittle better, we returned a second time the following year for 12 days, staying in a quaint little inn right behind St. Marks Place. For this next trip, we wanted to get still closer to Venice. This called for renting an apartment so we could go to the markets each day and cook for ourselves. We chose a 2 bedroom apartment in Castello ( one of the 6 sestiere's of Venice ) not far from St. Marks. We filled 3 weeks with walks to the Rialto market, cooking with the fresh ingredients we found in the markets each day, and exploring canals and campos. We already knew that we enjoyed every bit of Venice. What we didn't realize just yet was that Venice had stolen our hearts.

Shortly after returning back home to Baltimore after that trip, I remember turning to Michael one day and asking him if he thought he could possibly live in Venice, because that was what I knew I wanted to do. This wasn't just a wild-assed thing I dreamt up. This was real. I had no idea how I was going to do this, but I knew I had to try - and not just a feeble effort. One of my weaknesses in life is that when I hit a brick wall, I tend to turn around . This time, I knew there would be a brick wall, maybe several---and I didn't want to let my fears cause me to turn around. Michael was as smitten with Venice as I was... and gave me the green light to pursue whatever I wanted.

I made a bold move -- I hired a life coach. I wanted , no -- I needed someone to guide me up and over all the brick walls I would encounter along the way as I proceeded on this journey. My new life coach helped me devise a plan- my road map for getting to Venice. There were lots of question marks I needed to answer, lots of holes in the drafts of the plan I worked on, but before long I had a plan that felt right for us.

So that's where all this began. Next time I'll continue with the steps we've accomplished so far and where we are in the plan to date.