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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

A Life Lesson in Con-Artistry

There’s a reason they call it an art–and if you’re looking for the masters, just come to Italy.

This month, my favorite band of miscreant bloggers (or as you probably know them, the members of C.O.S.I) have tackled an immensely complicated subject–the concept of furbizia or as I like to call it, being a con-artist.  As you may know, being furbo is quite the complement in Italy–indeed, the more furbo you are, the more likely you are to be praised by your peers and regarded in high esteem.  So what is being furbo? Aside from the general definitions of cleverness or craftiness, it basically implies a willingness to do or say whatever you want in order to get what you desire.  If you’re still unsure of the meaning, just google Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s #1 furbo, and you’ll start to get the picture.

It’s hard for me to fully explain my feelings on the matter, mostly because I rarely recognize when I am being conned until it’s too late.  Growing up in a white suburban middle-class neighborhood, the only experience I ever had with furbi was in the form of these bad boys:

They are more cunning than they look…

You would think that after 7 years in Italy, finally being able to recognize when I am being conned would make me the most bitter anti-furbo person on the planet, but the truth is that I understand why this is such a popular behavior.  Living in a country where being honest has more disadvantages than advantages, it’s pretty easy to fall into the predictable patterns of con-artistry, especially if you are being encouraged by your Italian counterparts who praise you for your intellect and skill while weaseling your way through life.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been scolded by Italian friends for paying the full amount for a mediocre meal, or not cutting the line at the first glimpse of an opening.  And I would be lying if I said that I had never employed my own version of furbizia from time to time–I am only human, after all, and a woman so obviously I know how to get what I want.  Luckily, I find a perverse satisfaction in doing things in the most difficult way possible so there is no danger in me becoming Mrs. Furba anytime soon, but I can definitely see the attraction in behaving so shamelessly.

In short, Italy has taught  me some important life lessons when it comes to trickery and guile. However, my parting words for anyone thinking to pull a fast one on me would be this:  Karma’s a bitch. You’ve been warned.

Check out other musings on furbizia from C.O.S.I here:

Girl In Florence- Why Being Furbo in Italy Is Anything But Cool
Rick’s Rome- What Does It Mean To Be Furbo?
Surviving in Italy- Furbizia: The Italian Art of Being Sly
Englishman in Italy- Furbizia
Unwilling Expat- The Complexity of Italy’s Cheating Heart
Sex, Lies & Nutella- Tourists Beware: Fighting Furbizia in Italy
Married to Italy- Furbizia–A Blessing or a Burden? 

When Living Abroad Sucks, Eat Nutella Pizza

Dear Internet Diary,

How are you? I know it’s been too long since we’ve last spoken–so much has happened in the past month or so that it’s hard to pick a good place to start, but we both know that finesse is not my strongest quality so I don’t think you’ll mind too much if I jump right in.

After a long few weeks of searching for apartments from the internet-less cave of F’s parent’s house, we finally managed to find a place of our own and move in. Of course my stomach decided to choose Moving Day as the perfect time to stage a WWF fight inside my body, so I spent most of the day lying on the bathroom floor while Zola hid between the boxes in our new living room to get away from the Exorcist sounds I was making.  Perhaps not the most ideal way to spend our first night in our new apartment, but I did discover that my bathroom is in fact awesome and totally prepared to handle my future hangovers.

It’s been a painfully long transition into spring here. My winter coats and sweaters are still hanging in my closet, and each morning as I get dressed I glance longingly at the plastic storage container where my trusty pair of Rainbow flip-flops lie, sighing as I pull on my worn black boots and puffy jacket to go to work.  Even though I know that in a few months I’ll be complaining about the heat and the infestation of mosquitoes that terrorize the city each summer, it all seems so far away and impossible that my patience has completely vanished.  I find myself angrily throwing scarves and tights into the far corners of my bedroom, as though it is their fault that the sun refuses to stick around for good.

To be honest, the lack of sunshine isn’t the only thing weighing on my mind. Although I’ve been in Italy for about 7 years now, this year has been particularly difficult and I find myself questioning every new decision that I make. Nearly all of my closest friends have left Florence this year and moved back home, in a bold statement of dissatisfaction that has left me scrambling to find that familiar sense of faith and compassion for my beautiful city that was once so easy to call to mind. The lack of economic opportunity and constant uphill battle to be understood have taken their toll on me as well, and with each passing day I find myself wistfully remembering all my lazy summer afternoons on the beaches of California, and wondering how to move forward from here.

If you have any advice or a kind word for your anonymous friend, I’d love to hear from you. For now, I’ll be drowning my melancholy with the biggest Nutella pizza I can find.

Cari Saluti,

Your preoccupied friend in Florence

 

 

Searching for the “Real” Italy

When my good friend Georgette from Girl in Florence approached me about collaborating on a group discussion on the topic of authenticity and Italy, I was a bit skeptical.  Talking about the “realness” of this jumbled country is not an easy task, and to be honest I didn’t know whether or not I would even be able to organize my own constantly fluctuating opinions into something even remotely worth reading.  However, the great thing about writing on a computer is that you, my dear reader, will never know how many times I erased the stupid things I was putting down on the screen and only have to suffer through the next few paragraphs until you get bored of me and can start scrolling on Buzzfeed for more interesting crap like babies who look like drunk people.  Now stop stalling and pay attention to what I’m saying because it’s important if you ever want to understand why an authentic Italy doesn’t exist.

So here we are, searching for an authentic Italy. The real Italy. The one that we’ve recently started reading about in travel magazines, or hearing about from our friends who invite us over for a home-cooked Italian dinner taken straight from their recipe book bought in Rome.  We sigh enviously when we see those stunning photographs of the Amalfi coastline from our neighbors’ summer vacation, imagining ourselves stretched out on those sun-drenched beaches and languidly floating in the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean.  We swoon over ruby glasses of wine brought back from Tuscan farms, exclaiming over the marvelous quality and taste of the balsamic vinegars and golden oils given to us as gifts from returning visitors, wondering how in the world such a place could even exist.  And with a sudden start, we realize that all this time, the Italy we thought we knew is another creature entirely.  We wonder if perhaps we don’t know as much about this distant land as we once thought. And suddenly, before we even have time to process it, the seed is planted—desire, that curious little spark that unfurls its tendrils and quietly seeps into your heart.

And slowly, after months of dissatisfaction at our ordinary lives, the longing becomes so unbearable that we must act.  We must visit this mythical country for ourselves.We scan the internet for flight deals, talking to everyone we meet about the best time of year to visit, what we should see and do while we’re there, taking recommendations for restaurants and daydreaming about rooms that are stacked floor to ceiling with strands of golden pasta hanging out to dry.  We pack our suitcases weeks in advance, armed with guidebooks and lists from trusted friends who have been there before, counting down the days to departure.

When the big day arrives, we manage to get all the way through connecting airports until we are being waved through customs in Italy by a bored-looking older gentleman who doesn’t even stamp our passports, only flicking through them with a cursory glance before glancing over our heads to the next person in line behind us.  We cram our bodies into tiny Fiats, allowing ourselves to be driven into a winding maze of shrinking alleyways at breathtaking speeds, craning our necks as we glimpse the dizzying heights of ancient buildings whizzing past us.  And as we venture out into the streets for the first time, a sinking feeling starts to wash over us as we realize that perhaps we may have been mistaken entirely.

Because surely this cramped, chaotic mess can’t be the same idyllic place from the photographs. The place in the photographs didn’t have shouting street vendors on every corner, hounding you as you walk down the littered streets.  And it must be impossible to grow such delicious food with the lingering cloud of cigarette smoke and bus pollution permeating the air. Why, we can’t even walk down the staircase without stepping over discarded ashes and empty beer bottles, let alone sleep with all that noise outside our window at all hours of the night! Impossible, we say.  It’s not the same place.  We can’t even get the internet to work in our tiny rented flat—how on earth can these people survive?! Surely there is some mistake.

So we rent a car, thinking to move to the countryside, or out to the edges of the sea. And we sigh with relief. Yes, this is better, much better, we think to ourselves as we hastily pack the last of our souvenirs into our bursting suitcases and thank the taxi driver who carries them all the way back down the stairs again (but not tipping him for all his hard work, no, because our guide book says all the real Italians never tip for these kinds of things).  And as we pull away from the cities in our rented Fiats, our hands grip the steering wheel tightly as we try to manuever our way out of town, cussing loudly at the insane drivers around us who honk and swerve around us as we desperately try to follow our GPS directions. But wait—wasn’t that the sign for our exit back there? How do you know? The same sign is pointing in 3 different directions, and we’ve definitely gone through this roundabout at least 2 other times. Are we lost? Oh god, what have we gotten ourselves into?

As our frustration and blood pressure level rises with each passing kilometer, we complain amongst ourselves.  How can these people get anything done, we ask? Everything is so much more difficult than it ought to be.  There are no clear directions anywhere, everything is so confusing and complicated, and every time you ask someone for directions you get a different answer! We throw our hands up in the air in defeat. Fine, we concede.  We just have to get through the next few days and then we will finally be home where everything makes sense.  We stop at a roadside restaurant, staring dejectedly at our plates of cold sandwiches and Coca-Colas in defeat. This is definitely not the authentic Italian experience we were looking for, we think sadly as we climb back into our overstuffed rental car, staring moodily out the window as we drive through miles of industrialized towns.

And then suddenly, without warning, we turn the corner and are driving along the most beautiful stretch of road we have ever seen in our lives.  We gasp with excitement, pulling over on the side of the road and hitting our hazard lights, not caring about the honks from exasperated drivers behind us as we snap picture after picture of the glittering blue sea stretched out for miles ahead, hugging the cliffs where brightly colored apartments are stacked precariously along the edge, forming an impossible Tetris combination of ancient architecture and land. A peaceful feeling washes over us, soothing the jagged bits of anger and resentment that’s been lingering in our hearts over the past few days as we watch the sun sink down into a blanket of sapphire water, lighting up the sky with a comforting golden glow. And we smile as we realize that perhaps we are experiencing a moment of pure authenticity that has nothing to do with Italy, but with our own satisfaction instead.

This post has been a collaboration with #italyroundtable and your favorite blogging misfit group #COSItaly. Read on for more!

Jessica – Where is this “authentic Italy” everyone’s looking for?
Gloria – The odd woman out’s view on “authentic Italy”
Rebecca – Italy Roundtable: Finocchi Rifatti al Pomodoro
Alexandra – Art and Travel: the authenticity of seeing art in person
Melanie – Everything Is Authentic
Kate – On being authenticated
Michelle – Living Authentically: How Italy Forced the Issue
Georgette of Girl in Florence-
Pete of Englishman in Italy – “How Authentic an Italian are you?”
Rick of Rick’s Rome: “The Authentic Italian Culture Debate”
Andrea of Sex, Lies and Nutella: “How to be an authentic Italian (in 9 simple steps)”
Married to Italy – The fear of the fake: What “authenticity” means to a foreigner in a strange land
Surviving in Italy – What does it mean to be Authentically Italian?
Unwilling Expat – Leading an authentic life in Sicily