All efforts made in the last 4 years have been leading up to this moment. Javier and I stepped onto the plane in weighted disbelief. Some how we managed to condense our lives into 5 large suitcases. As we settled in our seats a surreal feeling washed over us. We were on an airplane destined for a new chapter in our lives.
We landed in Bologna, Italy on January 18, 2017 at 9:30pm to find that one of our bags had been lost. However annoying, you must expect something to go wrong when traveling, so we shook that off quickly. After a few more unexpected hurdles, like no wifi, payphones or way of contacting our airbnb host, we were headed towards our temporary residence in a rental car packed with our whole lives.
Thankfully our host was incredibly welcoming, and extended support in our settling in Bologna. This included a recommendation for a pizza delivery service nearby. Although it was late where we physically stood, our stomachs were still in California, so we ordered 2 pizzas (a sausage and a vegetarian).
We waited and waited for the pizza, but almost an hour passed and it still had not arrived. When we called back, the man on the phone spoke some English, but he didn’t understand what happened. His delivery guy had already delivered our pizza. As it turns out it was delivered to someone else in the building. Someone decided they were hungry and intercepted our pizza delivery! Who does that? Thankfully our replacement pizzas came quickly and we happily ate before a long heavy sleep.
The next morning I woke up incredibly sick. To make things worse the temperatures outside ranged between 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit (or -5 to -1 Celsius), the heater didn’t work in our apartment and the hot water lasted about 30 seconds in the shower. All I wanted to do was stay in bed, but there was too much to accomplish to get ourselves situated.
Within 90 days we needed to get our cell phones set up, find a place to live, purchase a car, register in an Italian Comune, get a bank account set up and begin the process for Javier’s VISA-known here as a permesso di soggiorno. We booked 2 weeks at our airbnb with the hopes that within that time period we would be able to move to our own home.
With the weight of our deadlines, I knew I couldn’t stay in bed. We thoroughly layered up (remember we lived in LA with virtually no winters) and hit the streets to accomplish as much as we could.
With the help of some friendly customer service reps and google translate, we managed to get cell phones set up. We then visited several real estate offices for rentals, but found that zero out of 5 spoke good English, or had any apartments available. Feeling slightly discouraged we finished our tasks for the day, and finally made it to our temporary and incredibly cold home.
I felt like I had been hit by a freight train, so my wonderful husband cooked me the most amazing chicken soup. This was no ordinary chicken soup, he captured the fresh taste of tomatoes, zucchini, and garlic with the savory taste of roasted chicken in a bowl of warm deliciousness. I needed that soup. As we settled in our ice cave for the eve, we vowed that the next day we would go buy ourselves a small space heater and of course continue with the tasks at hand.
Physically going down to real estate offices was leading us nowhere fast, so we decided to continue apartment hunting online. We began to contact as many as we possible via email and google translate.
The next several days, we chipped away at our to do list as best we could. We found that 9 ½ out of 10 real estate agents didn’t speak English, and some were just plain rude. We even had some local friends try calling a few listings for us, but they too were treated uncouthly. To make matters worse, none of them had available apartments.
At this point we only had one solid lead on a place, but the real estate agent barely spoke any English and had not yet received the keys to show it to us. To make matters worse, many of the home/apartment owners asked for a bank guarantee from an Italian bank.
Thus the next priority became obtaining a bank account but unfortunately we were turned away from the first 2 banks we visited. Those particular banks required an Italian ID to set up an account. We quickly learned that you cannot get an Italian ID without being registered in an Italian Comune, and you can’t register in an Italian Comune without having a registered rental contract in that area. This was just a starting taste of the renowned Italian bureaucracy at its finest.
The only answer for us was to keep pushing forward, or in some cases just ask a different person, because everyone has a different answer for the same question. We made an appointment with a 3rd bank in hopes to speak to someone who could help us. I held my breath when I presented my documents to the agent, but to my disbelief he gave me a bank account….without an Italian ID. This was a major win!
Our car hunt had also been successful. We found a great deal, left a deposit and began a bank transfer to purchase it. We had hoped within a week we would be able to use our car to continue our search for homes. Life rarely unfolds as you plan it.
Our first 12 days in Italy passed quickly and left us feeling like we were riding a roller coaster. Every time we felt like we were making progress, another bureaucratic hoop would arise, and we would have to figure out how to jump through it. With no real leads on places to live, and still no car we began to feel quite discouraged with our apartment hunt and with Bologna.
It was difficult to get around the large city on the bus, and our host could only have us in her apartment for one more week. So either we found a permanent home or we would have to move an additional 2 times. It was this realization that made us re-think our entire plan. Maybe Bologna wasn’t where we were meant to be.
With this fresh idea we got back on the internet and decided to try for Florence. Having visited Florence, we knew that more people spoke English and our hopes began to rise again. We sent out emails to about 20 different places, and could not believe how many responded back to us…in English! In 2 days time we made more appointments to see apartments in Florence than we had in 14 days in Bologna.