Finding an Italian Apartment
We knew we’d need an apartment lined up for us upon arrival in Italy.
After thinking about Italy for the past year, I was eager to settle down into an Italian apartment for awhile. Beyond the benefits of having a semi-permanent place to park our travel-weary bones for awhile, it’s important that we establish residency while applying for dual citizenship.
I guess it sort of means we’re going from digital nomads to expats. We’ll still explore the world, but at a slower pace and with a home-base in Italy.
Renting Sight Unseen
Some people land somewhere and then look for a place. But others like things lined up beforehand. I fall into the latter category and especially so because of our dual citizenship process. The sooner we had our name on a lease with utilities set up, the better.
I learned from reading about other people moving to Italy that it’s not uncommon to rent something sight-unseen, crazy as that might seem. Well, we were about to do that ourselves.
With help from ICA (the group guiding us through the citizenship process), we were offered the option for a 3-bedroom apartment. This was exciting because it meant more space and we could invite guests to stay. I always just imagined we’d end up in a 2-bedroom, but with a 3-bedroom option, I was cautiously giddy. Remember, it was sight unseen.
It was close to the town center (really important!), and it was only 700 euro a month plus utilities and internet. I wasn’t sure what to expect to pay, but I knew northern Italy could be more expensive than southern Italy. So far we’d been paying close to southern Italy prices (in Portugal and Croatia), and those weren’t three bedrooms. However, they were through Airbnb, which always costs more.
Our Italian Apartment
Via email, we received pictures of the kitchen and bathroom. It had a washing machine, and it was recently renovated. We didn’t see pictures of the bedrooms, but we were told there were beds, nightstands, and wardrobes. We were also told that a couch would be there by the time we moved in. But text-based assurances and two photos just couldn’t tell the whole story.
But, 3 bedrooms?!
I was excited. Like I said, that meant guests. I confidently started to invite people to come visit us in Italy!
This Italian apartment had promise. My gut said to throw caution to the wind – fuck it! – let’s do it. It would give us a place to land immediately upon arrival and should make things easier. We signed the 1-year lease and trusted that everything would work just fine.
Besides, I was eager to get this off my to-do list. I loved the idea of landing somewhere and being able to jump right into making our home.
How Did the Apartment Turn Out?
It’s a great location as we’re very close to the city center. That’s one of the most important things, as we have no car. This means cafés, groceries, markets, shops, the post office, the gym, and more are all within a 10-minutes walk.
And Then, My 3-Bedroom Dream Came Crashing Down.
What I thought would be three bedrooms turned out to be… two bedrooms. The third bedroom had the couch – no bed. I was confused.
Wasn’t this place going to have three bedrooms with three beds, plus a couch presumably in a living room or sitting area near the kitchen?
Maybe something was lost in translation?
Maybe things are different in Italy. (Turns out… they are. As are many things.)
I figured three bedrooms meant three beds, one in each bedroom.
Well, not necessarily.
And That Couch?
Let’s just say that I think it’s been through a few families and it’s been heavily loved. :)
More importantly than how the couch looks though… a couch in the third bedroom is significant for one reason.
Remember All Those Guests I Invited?
I had a mini-panic about my now-two-bedroom apartment. All those people I invited to stay with us in Italy because we had a 3-bedroom apartment? Shit. I started praying no one bought tickets yet.
Welcome to Our Italian Apartment
The whole apartment layout is a bit odd to my American sensibilities. It’s in the shape of an “L” with two hallways intersecting to form the L. There is no true living space or family room, unless you consider that third bedroom the living room, which I learned is what Italians do. I’m here to experience other cultures and ways of living, and this situation is no different. ;)
However, I’ve come to appreciate my weird L-shaped apartment, because I saw the silver lining. Kamea’s room is all the way on one end of the “L” and my morning time (alone) in the kitchen is on the far opposite end. Blissful silence makes coffee taste even better.
My Italian Kitchen
The kitchen is a decent size, if you push the dining table against the wall, which works for our 3-person family. The actual work-space is fairly non-existent, which makes me curious. How do Italians roll out pasta and make huge meals in these tiny kitchens? I know they do it… I’ve seen movies. And now I know they don’t all have huge kitchens. What Italian sorcery is this?
But, hey, if the Worldtowning family can live for years in a small RV with 2 kids, I’m not going to complain about the size of my relatively palatial Italian kitchen. (I kinda doubt they’re hand-rolling pasta.) My mom told me to just pretend I’m camping.
The kitchen has a nice contemporary look to it, if you can get past the Renaissance-era oil splashed on the back-splash of the stove. (Two weeks later, I still can’t get it off in spite of repeated scrubbing.)
But, hey, I have a gas stove! With four burners that work! Yay!
Our Italian kitchen is also bright, white, and airy. The apartment needed a good scrubbing upon arrival, but after about eighteen cleanings, it’s starting to sparkle something fierce!
But Then, the Weird Shower.
The bathroom is pretty spacious compared to most we’ve seen in Europe. I like the special makeup lights, and the mirror is a good size. Plenty of shelves. It also comes complete with a bidet, and the bathroom is where the washing machine is. I like having the washing machine in the bathroom because the whole top of the machine becomes usable counter space.
But, this shower is the likes of which I’ve never seen.
My husband calls it the “time machine shower.” He feels like this when he steps out of it:
Our glacier-blue, cylindrical time machine shower has – I kid you not – magnetic doors that split apart to open. The inside walls are mirrors, which could be fun if I don’t shower after eating a whole pizza. Thankfully, they fog up quickly so they’re pretty useless.
What’s This Electronic Tablet Doing in My Shower?
There’s a waterproof electronic tablet in there, mounted into the wall of the shower (plus speakers in the ceiling of the shower, albeit rusty ones). Yeah, this is all inside the shower. The tablet powers on with the light switch by the door of the bathroom.
I haven’t completely worked it out, but so far, there’s a light, a fan, and a radio you can turn on from inside the shower with the tablet, and a weird thing that says “flux capacitor” – not sure what that does. This all seems groovy and ultra modern at first.
Maybe. Until you realize that once the tablet is turned on, you can’t manage to turn anything off or change the settings.
So that first shower, when I thought it might be neat to listen to some Italian radio while showering?
I couldn’t get the volume turned down from it’s initial blasting level (Italians like their music loud), yet I was only in the beginning of my shower, hair filled with shampoo. I was trapped in there with Italian music screaming throughout my TSA-body-scanning shower.
I couldn’t turn it off until I was done with the shower, because, remember, the kill switch is by the door of the bathroom – outside the shower. We had a good laugh about this.
I Made Some Changes.
“Long-term lease” means it’s worth putting in the effort to make a weird L-shaped apartment a cozy home. The couch came in three pieces. I took two of them and moved them to the kitchen, where there was a tiny bit of unused space. I took one of the nightstands from Kamea’s room and wedged it between the two couch pieces. That’s where I lounge, meditate, and chill. It’s a cute sitting area now, in a cramped Manhattan doctor’s office waiting area sort of way.
I bought nice kitchen towels, sheets, bath towels, pillows, some pots and pans, oven mitts, a kettle, and I spot-cleaned the walls in the kitchen. Hope is in the air!
Greg’s and my bedroom is a decent size. We have enough closet space for our things – admittedly we don’t have much. I bought a lovely salt lamp for ambiance that I found at the local erboristeria (the herb shop that is less than a minute’s walk – they’re common in Italy).
And the windows! We have great windows in most of the rooms. This means beautiful daylight all day. Plus, the windows have those awesome Volturi bulletproof rolling shutters so popular in Europe that make you feel like you could keep werewolves out. Total blackout when desired, and they can be open/closed without opening the window.
But What About All of the People I Invited to Come Visit?
Problem solved! (I think.)
We invested in an air mattress for the third bedroom. Kamea can sleep on it and guests can stay in her room. We actually had a family of four stay last week (the new American friends we made in Croatia). We piled the three girls into the third “bedroom” on the air mattress. It was like camping! :)
Greg’s Office – A Work in Progress
That third bedroom is now Greg’s office. :)
It turns out not having a bed in there is a good thing! He needs a place to work that is separate from people, noises, and distraction. If there had been a bed in there, I’m not sure we’d have had room to make him an office. So, the whole misunderstanding ended up working in our favor.
He ordered a desk from Amazon and the room is shaping up nicely. The room is an awkward shape and doesn’t have windows. It will take some finesse to make it more comfortable, but slowly and surely, it’s coming together.
“Piano, piano” the Italians say. It means to take things slowly… the apartment is getting more cozy with a piano piano attitude and effort.
We could buy more things to make it even better, but when do we stop? We don’t know how long we’ll be in this apartment. Next year, we could move somewhere else in Italy. Our best guess is that we’ll be in Rovigo until Spring 2020 or longer.
Therefore, it’s a balance – wanting to buy things for comfort and enjoyment, like that salt lamp I bought for better ambiance, and then keeping in mind we might only have these things temporarily. (Having no car complicates moving lots of stuff.)
To buy or not to buy? To be stoic or not?
Enter: My New, Pink Mug.
I bought a non-essential item the other day. A pink mug.
Correction: It is essential. I saw it and I wanted it. It’s my favorite shade of pink, it fits my hands perfectly, and it was cheap. I drink a lot of tea and coffee, so the vessel I use to deliver said beverages should be awesome.
The Mug Symbolizes Something for Me.
Nesting in my Italian apartment. Creating a longer-term space. Getting a bit cozy.
This is my home for now… con la mia bella tazza rosa (with my beautiful pink mug).
I’m grateful for this apartment.
Apart from having a roof over our heads — in freakin’ ITALY! — just a few steps from the most amazing pizza and great cafes filled with friendly Italians, the apartment comes with many virtues like good heating, a nice balcony I can fill with flowers, and we’re surrounded by local families.
L-shaped or not, with pink mug in-hand, this weird little place is my dream come true.