Adopting a Pet in Italy

If you’re thinking about adopting a pet in Italy, come over here and let me give you a hug. Adopting my two fluff nuggets is one of the best things I’ve done while living in Florence, and if I can help anyone out who wants to save a little four-pawed freak, I’m all over it.  Having an animal as an expat can truly bring you closer to the community–I’ve made friends with all the dogs at the park now and can call them by name (and no I still don’t know their owners names and I don’t even care.)

Here is everything you need to know about adopting a pet in Italy.

Where do I look for available pets for adoption?

This is a great question, and is best served by your friendly neighborhood Google. I adopted Zola from an advertisement in Firenze Vivastreet, which I found by googling “cani in addozione firenze”. There are literally hundreds of websites with all kinds of dogs (or cats or birds or turtles or whatever you’re into) just waiting to be adopted. Here are a few:

With Olive, I adopted her after befriending my local ENPA on Facebook, where I promptly fell in love with her puppy photos posted on their page.  ENPA is short for “Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali” and they have them in every major Italian city.

For more information on ENPA Firenze and animals up for adoption, click here.

What is the adoption process like?

The adoption process in Italy is very thorough, just like dealing with any other bureacratic office there are applications to be filled out, questions to be answered and nooks/crannies to be examined. Here’s what you can expect:

  • A phone interview–obviously you will have to call or text message in order to express interest in adopting a particular animal, and whoever answers you will most likely ask you a bunch of questions (in Italian) about why you want to adopt.
  • A modulo or adoption form to be filled out-if you pass the first interview and don’t seem like a total psycho, the person who listed the animal for adoption will send you via email a “modulo“, which is basically a questionnare asking you basic things like how often you’re home, if you have experience with animals, etc etc. You will need to complete the form and send it back to the person who gave it to you.
  • Another phone call–this time, if you’ve passed the test of actually filling out the modulo, the adoption agency (or person) will call you to set up a home visit. This is basically an inspection of the areas in which the animal will be living, and usually lasts about 10-15 minutes.
  • Home visit–A volunteer will usually conduct the home visit and ask a few questions. Honestly, I was terrified for my first visit so I scrubbed the house like a maniac but they don’t really care if it’s clean, all they want to know is that the animal will be safe inside your four walls.
  • Possible second interview–depending on your visit, you may be asked to attend a second interview. When the volunteer came to interview me about Zola, she asked me who would be having the most contact with the dog besides me. Obviously that would be my boyfriend, so they had to set up a second interview to talk to him.
  • Yet another phone call–At this point, you should be getting used to talking to these people a lot. If they decide that you are a fit pet parent, they will phone you to see when you can come pick up your furry friend. This is when you get to start jumping up and down for joy and panicking, your new fluffball is coming home!!

Where should I go to stock up on pet supplies?

If you haven’t read my article on the 5 Best Pet Shops in Florence, I’d highly recommend it.  My personal favorites are listed here, as well as numerous other suggestions from people who live here and buy food and toys on a regular basis. My personal favorites are the shop in Sant’Ambrogio (although it can be a bit pricey, it’s very conveniently located in the center).

Also, there is a pretty good market going on with Amazon.it.  If you have a Prime membership, you can get almost anything you could possible imagine and it reliably ships to Florence (gasp, shocker I know!).

Got questions about adopting pets in Italy? Drop me a line in the comments below and I’d be happy to help answer your questions!

 

Trash & Tourism: The other side of “Bella Firenze.”

The first thing I smell when I step outside is piss.  Pungent and sharp like vinegar, it soaks the sidewalk next to my front door and my dogs stop to sniff at it when we leave the house in the morning. This too is bella Firenze, trapped between the delivery vans and last night’s pasta on the pavement, trembling in the high heels and the miniskirt she wore the night before and trying desperately to get home.

Every now and then, when I’m chatting with the neighbors or someone I’ve just met, inevitably I hear the phrase “bella Firenze” pop up somewhere in the conversation.  Often it is followed up by a litany of complaints about what exactly is wrong with this city, her cup spilling over with tourists and trash in equal portions.  Eager to get an Italian perspective on what can be done to save Florence from herself, I ask shopkeepers and businessmen alike what their opinions are on the overabundance of people that flood the city streets.

“Ma guarda, come si fa a vivere in una citta dove le gente urlano per strada e si sporcano tutto? E’ impossibile, e’ un casino. Pero ci portano i soldi che abbiamo bisogno di vivere e lavorare, quindi e’ una bella domanda.”

Look, how can you live in a city where people shout on the street and dirty everything? It’s impossible, it’s a mess.  However they bring the money that we need to live and to work, therefore it’s a really good question.

In a city like Florence, you’ll often hear English spoken just as often (if not more) than Italian.  Tourist menus litter the piazzas, enticing the out-of-towners with brightly colored tablecloths and crisp white-shirted waiters eager to flash you a bit of that Italian charm for an extra euro or two tip at the end.

So what do we do when it’s just too much to bear? We stay out too late and complain to our coworkers the next day. We close shop doors for an entire month in August and escape to the beach to lick our tired salty wounds after a season of 18 hour days.  We bury ourselves in the work while it’s there, because nobody knows better than the Italians what it means to go without.

And sometimes if you’re lucky, bella Firenze will pop her head out from underneath the dusty cobblestones and let you peek underneath her skirt for a second.  If you’ve ever come home from a late night out or gotten up early in Florence and walked the empty streets before the city awakens, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

florence2
Ponte alle Grazie at 6:30am.

 

 

A Curious Day in Montalcino

Every so often, when you’re having a really bad day and you want to tear your eyeballs out and throw them like ping pong balls at the hoardes of Asian tourists clogging up your neighborhood streets, the universe throws you a little sparkly nugget of joy and you get invited to join a wine tour in the countryside of Montalcino, tasting Brunello a.k.a the best friggin wine in the world.

Guys, if you haven’t met Coral, creator of Curious Appetite, do yourselves a favor and head over to her website now. Trust me when I tell you that if you love food, or even just like it a little bit, you really really want to be friends with her.

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Coral the Great in all her polka dotted glory.

Not only does she run a blog with useful tips for eating in Florence with restaurant recommendations, but she also does these gourmet food tours which is kind of like having your best friend take you around the city and show you all the kick-ass places to eat your face off.

My day with Coral went a little something like this:

6:30 am: Wake up at the buttcrack of dawn and seriously consider turning off my alarm clock. Am lured out of bed by the thought of wine for breakfast.

8:00 am:  Trek over to Piazza Tasso to meet Coral and Tommaso, boss man from We Like Tuscany. Find out that We Like Tuscany runs all kinds of tours, from biking to Fiats to Vespas.

8:15 am: Hop into our private minivan for the day and begin the 2 hour journey into the countryside of Montalcino.  Have to pull over on the way for obligitory holy shit! photos of the scenery.

montalcino
A gorgeous day in the Tuscan countryside.

10:30 am: First winery visit to Casato Prime Donne. Am blown away by the fact that the entire place is run exclusively by women, the first all-women winery in Italy. Ask Donatella, founder of the place, if she is looking to adopt any Californians some time soon.

donatella and co
Donatella even makes her own brand of wine, specially marked with red hearts because she can.

12:30 pm: After a few glasses of tasty Brunello and a pit stop to pee, we arrive at the second location, Azienda Agricola Santa Giulia, and are inspected by security before we are allowed to enter:

dog santa giulia
I had to empty my pockets before I was allowed in.

1:00 pm: Sit down to a home made lunch of pici pasta with a wild boar sauce. Discreetly try to lick my plate clean without anyone else noticing.

2:30 pm:  After a delicious meal, we decide to stop for a coffee in the quaint city center of Montalcino.

2:35 pm:  Run back to the car in the midst of a freak hail storm.

3:00 pm:  Visit our final winery, Le Fornace.  Am thoroughly impressed as Fabio, the main man on the farm, explains just how much dedication and effort goes into producing this wine, all done on just 4.5 hectares of land.

6:00 pm: .Return to Florence with a belly full of Brunello and a great plan to open my own farm with dogs and chickens and wine production, all of which will promptly be forgotten after the wine buzz wears off.

If you’re interested in doing a tour with Curious Appetite, you can contact Coral via her website www.curiousappetitetravel.com.  

 

Italians don’t get drunk: Busting the myth.

One great thing about living in Italy is getting to observe Italians in their natural habitat.  Many stereotypes and myths are spread about Italians, my favorite one is the one that says Italians are a bunch of overall-wearing plumbers that run around stomping on sneaky mushrooms and saving princesses from evil dragons.

good-guys

Another great rumor about Italians is that they don’t get drunk. Well lucky for you I am here to tell you that I have done extensive research on this subject, all for the sake of you readers out there in Internet-landia.  I have had to spend many a late night drinking wine in all the bars of Florence (all in the name of research, mind you) to try and get to the bottom of this mystery, all to satisfy your curiosity.

Finding proof of drunk Italians is not as easy as one might expect.  I know you must be thinking “But how can that be true? Italy is home of wine and grappa!  They drink it with every meal!” and you are right. You can even get your coffee with a little splash of Sambuca if you’ve  had a particularly tiring morning. However, it is important not to underestimate the sneakiness factor of an Italian, especially after a few glasses of vino.

danny
Never underestimate the sneakiness of an Italian with their own brand of liquor.

So far my initial search has produced some excellent results. I can report that I have in fact found plenty of boozed up Italians roaming around the piazzas of Florence, sometimes even wearing crowns of leaves if they are particularly good at getting drunk. I have been told that these crowns are symbolic of knowledge and wisdom, probably of all things wine-related.

laureato
A very wise Italian man with his crown of leaves.

Unfortunately I have yet to take my own pictures as evidence of my findings, however I remain dedicated to my task and will update you all with more proof once I  have it.

 

A Foreigner’s Guide to Surviving Winter in Italy

Like a fart that lingers long after the perpetrator has left the elevator….WE’RE STILL HERE AND WE’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE.  Your favorite troupe of wandering bloggers formally called C.O.S.I–Crazy Observations by Stranieri in Italy— has adopted a “Winter Theme” to dissect this month. Now before you start having flashbacks of the hideous paper snowflakes decorating your high school Prom night, stop right there. If you’re planning on visiting Italy or are already living here, you might want to heed the wise words of Game of Thrones hottie Jon Snow–WINTER IS COMING.

Lucky for you, I’ve prepared this handy step-by-step guide for foreigners to surviving winters in Italy.

Step 1: Get some Wine.

This is obviously the easiest and most effective strategy for staying warm in Italy during the winter. There’s a reason that the wine harvest happens in November, people. Stock up now–If you are worried about storage (a valid concern here, considering the shoebox size of many Italian abodes), may I suggest storing it in handy places such as the insides of shoes?

I never throw shoes away, even the ugliest ones have their uses…

Step 2: Adopt a four-legged friend to cuddle during the cold winter months.

This is a really good strategy for beating both the freezing cold and seasonal depression all rolled up in one. I recommend adopting two animals and teaching them to fall asleep on your feet, thereby eliminating the need for socks or additional space heaters.

Adopt your furry space heater today!

Step 3: Eat spicy foods.

It is a well known fact that eating spicy foods will not only help you stay warm but also Gisele Bündchen does it and maybe that is the supermodel’s secret to looking so supermodel-y. Also there is the deliciousness factor to consider, so it is a definite recommendation.

If you don’t have anything spicy in the house, a doughnut will do in a pinch.

Step 4: Make the sexy times.

The average human body has a temperature of 98.6°F (37°C) but scientific fact says that this level of heat will change dramatically once you have an Italian stallion in your bedchambers.

Step 5: Go south for the winter.

Birds are nature’s most intelligent creatures–as soon as the outdoor weather turns chilly, they pack their suitcases and sandals and jet off to Malta or Sicily or Morocco for some much deserved rest and relaxation. I like to imagine them on a beach somewhere sipping Mai Tais but then I get annoyed because they don’t have to fly RyanAir to get there.

 

And there you have it–the perfect guide for any foreigner in Italy to help you survive the cold winter months. For more classical interpretations of Winter in Italy, visit the number 1 rated (by me) page on Facebook, C.O.S.I. or check out the links below to the team’s various articles tackling this month’s Winter theme:

Rick’s Rome-How to Enjoy Winter in Italy
Girl in Florence-What to Expect When You Visit Florence in Winter
Surviving in Italy–Italy in the Winter: Baby It’s Cold Outside
Englishman in Italy–Baugna Cauda and Wine
Married to Italy
Unwilling Expat–Without Winter There Wouldn’t Be a Summer
Sex, Lies and Nutella-Surviving the Italian Winter

 

 

 

 

 

First-Aid Courses in Italy: If you’re going to drop dead, don’t do it here.

A few months ago at work, my boss brought up an opportunity to participate in a primo soccorso or first-aid course here in Florence.  I immediately jumped at the opportunity–apparently I am the only American for miles that has never been CPR certified and actually wants to learn how to mouth breathe on total strangers when they collapse in the middle of the piazza ( I blame my mother and Shonda Rhimes for getting me hooked on Grey’s Anatomy–have you SEEN how smokin’ hot everyone is on that show??).  So after filling out my application form and getting the green light to skip out on work after lunch, I trotted off happily to a nearby language school to attend my first basic life-saving skills course.

Over the next three days, my afternoons melted into a blur of Italian medical vocabulary and complete chaos.  For those of you who have never seen the inside of an Italian classroom, let me give you a little sneak peak at what to expect, also known as Utter Bollocks.*

*This is no way reflects on the teacher of my primo soccorso course, who was unfailingly professional and polite in the face of complete idiocy.

Let’s begin by examining the course itself, shall we? A simple enough concept in which several people come together in the hopes of learning some basic life-saving skills should the need ever arise, taught by a qualified professional such as a doctor or nurse.

Now we had the professoressa, a trained medico who had experience in the field of life-saving as well as in teaching this course.  This was clearly not her first rodeo, since the first thing out of her mouth was the following:

“So the course that you will be completing is registered with the state, and you will receive a certificate upon completing the 12 hours required. I won’t be letting you leave early, either, because you really have to do 12 hours in order to become certified, so don’t even ask.”

Immediately several middle-aged women in the front row of the classroom started protesting in what I’m sure they assumed to be their “indoor voices” a.k.a louder than a garbage incinerator. “But I thought that if we went through it quickly..” “Well my friend took this course and she said they got out early…” “I should probably call home to let them know I won’t be there until late..”

Undeterred, our professoressa continued on with her explanation of the course objectives, telling us that we would all be expected to pass a written test of about 30 questions as well as practicing CPR on a mannequin on the final day.  In the front row, predictably, the hands went up.

“Mi scusi…”

And so went my initiation into the Italian classroom, a place where I rapidly learned the foolishness of my desire to actually learn anything at all.  Instead, I took pictures of the Powerpoint presentation to study later in my spare time and sat back to enjoy the spectacle that is twenty middle-aged Italian women forced to sit in a classroom together for hours on end.  The questions ranged from mildly amusing to completely ridiculous, mostly centered on the one scintillating topic–Whose fault was it if someone died? Below is a favorite exchange of mine:

Woman in class: “Ok, so if I finish this course and I get the certificate, what happens if somebody starts dying in front of me and, you know, I just can’t help them?”

Professoressa: “What do you mean, you can’t do it? I’ve just taught you how to administer basic life saving techniques.”

Woman: “Well yeah, but I am a very emotional person and if I see someone collapse in front of me, I just don’t think I could do it. So if I just can’t do it, then what?”

Professoressa: “Can you use a telephone?”

Woman: “Yes, of course!”

Professoressa: “Then you can call 118 (the emergency number in Italy), which is what I’ve basically been teaching you for the past 12 hours.”

My favorite part of the primo soccorso course was our third and final day, in which everyone was required to practice CPR on the dummy unless they were quick enough with the excuse like one woman who claimed her carpal tunnel syndrome refused to allow her to participate. Luckily for her, the professoressa was so sick of us by that point that she just waved her hand in the air and got on with the rest of the class without making the woman get up and go through the act of pretend breathing into rubber Randy’s mouthpiece.  Watching everyone pound away on Randy’s chest while the others simultaneously shouted instructions at them, called them an idiot for doing it wrong and/or cheered them on was better than any medical drama on late night TV.

In short, I’d strongly advise everyone to get a thorough medical exam and maybe brush up on their physical fitness before visiting our bel paese.  You never know when you might need a competent set of fingers to push the buttons on a telephone.

Back in the USA: Some Observations on Being A Freak in Your Place of Birth

Helloooo from America, land of the free and home of the lightning fast internet speeds that have pretty much turned me into a potato chip eating, Netflix-binging shadow of my former self.  It’s been almost 8 years since I’ve spent a summer back in the motherland, and while my vacation has been a blissful combination of visiting with family and friends and enjoying some creature comforts like obscenely large jars of peanut butter and to-go boxes of food, I have noticed that in my absence a few things have changed.

Behold the ever-changing and constantly growing list of things that are now super weird to me:

  1. American toilet paper.  It’s like wiping your ass with kittens! How do they get it so soft and where can I buy some of this magical mystery fabric in Florence?
  2. The outrageously large size of the stores. They’re growing wider every day, much like my waistline.
  3. Potato chip flavors. Southern biscuits and gravy? I can almost hear my arteries clogging, but in the name of sacrifice and this blog I tried them. And by try I mean ate a whole bag and then hated myself for about 30 minutes afterwards. DAMN YOU, LAYS!!
  4. Space on the roads. Have we always had this much room in between lanes? The first time I got behind the wheel I had to fight the urge to swerve like a Mario Kart driver between lanes while shouting WEEEEEEE!!!!
  5. Strangers being nice and chatty with no ulterior motive like getting you to give them a discount or stealing your spot in line while you’re distracted.

Is it possible that I’ve turned into an Italian without even realizing it?  A few days ago I was walking around the city with my sister, looking for a place to buy a coffee and exchange some one dollar bills for coins to feed our parking meter when we passed a very unassuming shop window filled with stainless steel countertops and an empty deli window. I was about to follow her next door to an actual coffee shop when I spotted an espresso machine out of the corner of my eye, lurking behind a couple of bearded gentlemen who were chatting behind the counter.  “Hang on a minute, let’s just get a coffee in here,” I said as my sister looked at me a little strangely. I asked the guy behind the counter for a coffee and almost cried with joy when I realized THEY WERE ITALIANS!! AND THEY HAD ESPRESSO!! Turns out these two dudes were actually from Rimini and Lucca, respectively, and had literally just opened the shop a few hours ago for a prova (trial).  They were super sweet and gave me a free coffee which made me so happy I had to restrain myself from jumping across the counter and kissing their awesome Italian beardy faces.  Instead, I will thank them by shamelessly telling everyone who visits San Francisco to go to The Italian Homemade Company on Union Street.

It’s strange how out of place I’ve felt since coming back to America.  I never really considered Florence my home until people started asking me where I was visiting from and I realized that although I may have been born in California, I have spent the better part of my twenties in Italy, struggling to adapt to the habits and customs of a foreign country while simultaneously trying to navigate my post-college adulthood.  For better or worse, Italy has been with me during these defining years and has turned me into a weird half-breed of human that doesn’t quite belong in either place.  I will never be Italian, just like I’ll never identify with being just American anymore– it’s too late for that.  Anyone who has ever made a home outside of their birthplace can relate to this strange place in which I now find myself–dancing along the line that connects continents and cultures, learning to be content with existing in the space between.  Because like any good foreigner will tell you, at the end of the day it’s not really about where you come from, but where you are now that really matters.  Bonus points awarded if where you are now has extra-soft toilet paper…#AMERICA!