From Pandemic to Italy in Five Easy Steps

People did a lot of crazy things during the pandemic. When faced with so much introspection, there’s no telling what you might come up with to keep yourself sane. How many people cleaned out closets, basements, attics? What about all the cooking that went on? We looked inside ourselves to nudge awake long-forgotten talents or desires and gave them new life. Or we discovered completely new things that surprised us. It was a time to take a long, hard examination of our lives, our passions, and our chosen paths. The loss of so many lives and the relentless drum beat of this disease made us see the world through a different lens.

Sometime during this hopefully once in a lifetime experience, Steve hatched the idea of us moving to Italy. For good. My innate resistance to all things different pulled me to dismiss this as crazy pandemic talk. But he didn’t stop talking about it. He took his time and was patient with my dismissals, continuing to plant little seeds here and there, throw out scenarios that were more incremental, and just generally not giving up on trying to convince me that the time was right for us to make this move that we have dreamed of for more years than we can count. I was the one who one day said, “Well, if we’re going to do this, let’s just sell everything we own and go all in”, or something equally cataclysmic. This was Step Number One – the decision.

So, we applied for a Visa and then promised ourselves not to think about it until we found out if we got it. Of course, that was like vowing not to scratch a mosquito bite. You just can’t help it. We had to go through the Italian Consulate office in Miami for the Visa. Usually, you have to go there in person and leave all the necessary documents with them. These being very unusual times, they did not require us to come in person. We gathered all our documents, including our passports, and mailed them off to Miami. I can’t tell you what a helpless feeling it was to put our passports into a big envelope and hand it over to the post office. Of course, we insured it and got every kind of tracking they offered, but still. You’re mailing your passport to someone you don’t know in another state who works for a foreign government. And with that, we were committed and had completed Step Number Two – applying for the Visa.

The Visa process usually takes about 90 days, but we got a package in the mail after 38 days containing our passports with beautiful Italian Visa page sown into it. No welcome to Italy, no lapel pin of the Italian flag, no recipe for Nonna’s ragu. Just the passports with the Visas. We were in. Holy shit. Now what? By opening that envelope we completed Step Number Three – getting the Visa. We thought this step would take a lot longer than it did, so this really took us by surprise. That was about four weeks ago and in that time we have terminated our lease, sold one car and some of our worldly goods, got one way tickets to Rome, and I quit my job. My last day is Friday, July 23 and we leave for Rome on Monday, July 26. Yes, that’s right, folks, grass does not grow under our feet.

We are in Step Number Four now – dissolving life as we know it. Timing is critical in this step. You have to have a place to sit and sleep in your home so you don’t want to sell your stuff too soon. But you also don’t want to have to deal with all this at the last minute, so you don’t want sell your stuff too late. We have big calendar pages with deadlines and time frames to keep us on track and organized. We are living among boxes and bubble wrap and all the pictures are off the walls and every memento is packed up. Our house is becoming less homey by the day. Moving is bad enough, but jettisoning almost 30 years worth of accumulated stuff throws a new complication into the mix. In my more lucid moments, I feel a rush of energy by letting go of all this. It’s a rebirth, a new beginning, and all the other cliches developed to make you feel like you’re brave. Those moments are rare and wonderful. I’m hoping as we move through Step Number Four that they will become more frequent.

So, here I am, pricing everything I’ve ever bought to make our lives more comfortable, more beautiful, more meaningful. We’re taking very little with us. Our house there is furnished, so we’re only taking a few boxes of things we can’t part with or can’t live without – like winter coats. Everything else is being sold or stored. Do you have any idea how hard this is? I’m selling my dining room table that was made from the heart pine that was reclaimed from the depot in my hometown and my aunt had made into a farm table. I’ve had it for almost 40 years. This causes me to have a tightening in my chest that I would think was the beginning of a heart attack if I didn’t know it was only my heart breaking just a little bit. I will have this same feeling many times until July 26 when I step on the plane and enter Step Number Five – the journey. I will have tears, fears, and joys. And I will plow through this on my way to a new life in Italy. The seed that was planted in our hearts and souls about 25 years ago has finally produced a gorgeous bloom. We’re moving to Italy. Holy shit.

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judith bowman July 13, 2021
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Dear Cathy and Steve, We have talked about this forever, it seems. It was a seed thought back in the days we met at your “Bella Italia”. (That was your store’s name wasn’t it)? We even tried it out in 2018 when we bought an apt in Umbria. And decided to move there in 2019. Reading your addition to this blog brings all of the moving process tumbling back to me, so much that I could have written it for you. Please just don’t break your arm within five minutes of your arrival at the airport in Italy. It really does mess things up. I should say “ watch out for curbs when you arrive in Italy after an all night, no sleep flight. I hope “they” let us into the country in September and we can see you in Anghiari and Cortona. I am sure Cathi and Chuck will be sending heavenly thoughts to you both and wishing they would be there, too. Buona fortuna amici. Ciao e a presto. Judy and Jim

Tim Ralston July 1, 2021
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I think this is about the coolest thing ever, and am really so impressed that you guys are really, actually doing it! You both are really brave and creative, and I wish you the very best in your new homeland. I am sure you will have an Italian accent in no time!

Julie June 20, 2021
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Bravo for pursuing your dream! This growth, rebirth and discovery will serve you well and stimulate your brain cells! 😀 You are both amazing people to be able to pull this off. We will see you there in September, bringing anything you forget! Salute!

Myra Dickinson June 20, 2021
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Beautifully written as you know how to do so well. You and Steve are an inspiration to us all!! As I’ve always heard you say – create your own reality. This is too important to be left to chance. Y’all are going to be happy campers forever!