Tomorrow, we have been here four weeks. In a way, it seems hard to believe. Six people and three pets, especially a giant Newfoundland, were never meant to spend weeks at a time, homeless, in two hotel rooms in Italy. I have taken to saying, "it's not bad, just different!" over and over, but honestly, things here are not even close to what we expected. Honestly though, how could anyone even begin to describe what life is like here.
Apparently, life in Italy (or at least here in Vicenza) is not like living at any other military base in Europe. I'm sure some are better and some are much worse. We made the mistake of comparing what everything would be like to what it would be like(what it was like for our friends) in Germany and Italy is not Germany, for better and for worse.
Very, very few Italians speak even a few words of English. Even the young people we encounter. This was a shock because we had heard that everyone speaks some English in Europe. Not in Italy. Steve and I feel that since we are living in Italy, we should be expected to learn the language and customs here. The Army has lots of programs to help us but we arrived just before Christmas and most classes start after the new year. Desperate times often call for desperate measures and the international language of hand signals has come in handy and gotten us out of a bind more than once.
The greatest difference we've noticed is that Italy seems to be stuck back in the 1950's, with the exceptional of fashion. There is almost no new construction here, we've heard because you have to essentially "pay as you go" when building here. This is not a bad thing because it means most of the houses and buildings are beautiful. Technology exists here, but coverage is spotty, at best. Most of the cars, roads, and buildings are very small and old but well maintained. Everyone rides a bicycle here. Which brings us to our next post....GAS.
In case you haven't heard, gasoline and natural gas are very, very costly here. Very. Here in Vicenza, gas is About €1.60 per liter. It comes out to over $10 per gallon. We were reading a handout that Army gave us that said that gasoline in Europe was the highest in Italy. No kidding! Natural gas is also outrageously priced here. It is so high that almost none of the Italians use their dryers. There are clothes lines everywhere. We had our landlord install a bigger one for us as well. Most Italians keep their thermostats around 55-60 during the winter. Not sure how that's going to work out for us. We've met several American families who have put their clothes dryers in the Master bedroom so that when they do use it, it can help heat the house! Poor Jeanne and my father---they may freeze here when they come for a visit.
Now it may seem like we are miserable here and are ready to pack it all up and head home. That isn't really the case. Italy isn't bad, it's just different from America and what we are used to. The Average American family size in this region is 2.7, so our family seems huge to the Italians. People stare where ever we go, but they are fascinated with us, especially Delilah, who they cannot get enough of. They talk to us kindly and constantly (even when we smile, give the blank stare that we've become experts at, and butcher their beautiful language with our wicked attempts at conversations). The Italians are kind and giving people--clearly it is in their nature. The are very kind wherever we go, especially at Regina's (where we've gotten the best pasta we've even had in our lives!)
Our house is in a very small town named Montgaldella. It is on a river and is just across the river from the "bigger town" of Montegalda. Montegalda has a whopping total of 1200 families. To say that Montegalda is the BIGGER town should go a long way in describing just how very small our village actually is. This, too, is not a bad thing, just different. To the right of our house is a veiw of the snow-covered Alps. To the left is a veiw of an Italian castle. Seriously, Italy is not ugly. In the month we've been here, I've seen the most beautiful scenery of my lifetime. Somehow, this has made all the craziness worth it. We are finally starting to settle down and learn our way around, but find ourselves walking everywhere. This, too, isn't a bad thing! I'm including some photos of our house and of our town! Notice the castle and then the view of the Alps from our house :)