We have been here for a week and are having a wonderful time. We’re getting used to the pace and rhythm of the town. This post is a general discussion about how things are here. It is different from the US but totally equivalent in every way. Here are some of our observations……
SHOPPING AND FOOD
Stores mostly open at 8 am and stay open till 1 pm when everyone closes and goes home for lunch. They reopen between 3 or 4 PM and are then open till 7 or 8 pm. Most places are open for a few hours on Sunday, after church of course.
Umbertide has two weekly markets, Wednesday that is very large and fills the piazza and Saturday which is much smaller. Basically groceries and other things come to our doorstep twice a week. The Saturday market is known as the Kilometer Zero market because all the vendors are local and must be within a 1 Km radius of Umbertide. Everything is local and most of the produce is organic.
There are a couple of grocery stores in town for harder to find items but most folks shop the markets and their neighborhood Alimentary, or grocery store, because they want to support the smaller guy.
Prices for produce are reasonable. I paid about $1 for 2 lbs. of apples and got two heads of lettuce (with dirt from the field still on them) for $1 each.
Here’s a subtopic – Meat and Cheese. We are surrounded by more saturated fat than you can shake a stick at. I don’t know how they eat like this and stay thin or alive, but they are doing something right. Maybe because everyone walks everwhere, and it’s very hilly, they work it off. There are a lot of older Italians walking to get their bread, cheese and meat everyday. We should be so lucky.
Driving has been a bit challenging. The roads are good and so are the drivers generally, it’s that the roads are signed only with city names so when you are on the expressway and the sign says Cesena/Ravenna and the sign for the other direction says Foligno/Roma, you HAVE TO KNOW YOUR GEOGRAPHY! There is no north, south, east or west, no exit numbers, nothing. Just city pairs. We finally have a clue where things are relative to one another but it has been a bit of a challenge not to mention that they do drive a bit fast here. After driving our big truck though, our Smart car is a piece of cake. Most of the cars are very small, there just isn’t room for anything very large as city streets are narrow. Parking is also a challenge in many towns. There is usually no parking near your house so you park in a public lot as close as possible. You usually can pull up in front, drop off packages, then go park the car and walk back home. We are parked about a 5 minute walk from the house, which is pretty typical.
Even with over 4 months of using Duolingo to teach ourselves Italian, we are woefully unprepared. We can sort of communicate but it is a challenge at the market, the pharmacy and even getting a gelato. We would be in serious trouble if something major happened like a health problem. There are few Italians that have more than a handful of English words. I was lucky enough to have a women behind me in the store the other day who spoke enough English so I could use my credit card with a chip. This has been the single hardest thing and getting proficient in Italian is the ONLY way to get integrated into the community.
The expat community is very close and folks have gone out of their way to welcome us completely. Everyone has been extremely generous with their information and time and we can’t thank them enough. Right now we are in a small hill town called Montone, about 15 minutes from where we are staying
The Italians have also been very friendly and generous in their understanding of our poor language skills. Grazie di tutti!
There is a sense of community here as people get out every evening for the passegiata. This is exercise and a social ritual rolled into one event. It starts around 6 pm or so when the whole family comes out for a slow stroll around town. People greet each other, say hi, catch up on gossip, or just walk around. Then they go home and have a light dinner. It’s fun and good to see and be seen. Although it’s too early for the passegiata today I am going to head out for a walk through town, photos to follow.
Jim met up with another expat today to go for a bike ride. Jim, Tom, and Calvert (Tom’s significant other. The roads are decent, not great, but workable. The BEST part of the ride was the drivers. They gave a lot of room when passing. A LOT. Which made the riding enjoyable and not TOO much of a worry regarding vehicles. Jim is meeting another expat (we think from the UK) who is a big time rider. Who knows… maybe he has an extra bike.