Last February, I officially became an Italian resident! Moving, learning a new language, planning a wedding, and assimilating to a new culture has been a huge adventure. Here are some of the biggest milestones of my journey!
Immigration in Italy
Paperwork, office visits, interviews with judges, and more paperwork. Beyond a few buckets of stress, one of the things that stood out to me from my immigration process was the amount of people from all over the world that are bi-lingual (or more!) My Italian is passable, but I was immensely impressed by other potential immigrants who were perfectly fluent in Italian. One stop on my journey was filing some papers at a Questura, basically a police station, and in the waiting room a mother spoke to her child in Italian, then switched to a language I didn’t recognize on the phone. Another group of people conversing in an Asian dialect switched easily to Italian when someone popped their head into the room and asked a question. Learning Italian myself has given me a new understand of how difficult it can be to learn a new language, and to hear people switch fluidly between languages that have very little similarity, and to be completely comfortable in both, is just amazing to me!
Planning a Wedding
First, I want to send a huge thank you to Danilo, who took all of our amazing wedding photos! If you’re ever in need of pictures in Rome, look for him.
Just a few weeks ago on June 29th, 2018, Alessio and I celebrated our marriage! As a girl who never had a dream wedding growing up, it’s been quite the experience; especially because we planned it ourselves! Now I can’t talk about a comparison as I’ve never planned a wedding in the States, but I can share some things that were quite intriguing to me during our process!
The Wedding Favors
In Italy, it’s traditional to create “bomboniere” which are essentially little gift bags with an odd number of “confetti” (Jordan almonds), a personal choice gift, and a small paper tag with the names of the couple and the date. There’s also a “confettata” which is a table with all sorts of Jordan almonds where guests can make themselves to-go containers, usually monogrammed paper cones, with their flavor choices.
As you can imagine, eating is one of the important parts of an Italian wedding. When we started talking about the menu with our venue I expected to pick two or three options that people would choose from. Instead, we ended up picking two pastas that everyone could have, followed by a main course! It’s safe to say that everyone was completely stuffed.
Let me just say, if you ever get the chance to go to an Italian wedding, pack your party shoes! Plan on eating enough to pop, dancing it all away, and then watching fireworks as the couple cuts the cake!
We’ve settled down in Tuscolana, the most populated neighborhood in Rome! It’s extremely local and I have yet to run into another American (or even native English speaker), the entire almost-year we’ve been here. Most shops and restaurants are small family run places and seeing the same people every time you pass by is customary. This local feel makes shopping a very different experience. There are a few department store-like shops around, but the majority of places are small boutiques. This means everything from buying a very nice dress to buying towels can be a situation where the shop owner is personally involved and will bring items to a counter or rack for you to try. Namely the days of personal browsing are over!
While I do miss my anonymous browsing in stores, the service and speed of the Italian shops more than makes up for it. In February, I found the perfect dress two days before our civil ceremony, with the catch that it was floor length when I was hoping for knee length. Amazingly, while I was trying it on, the seamstress who works with the shop just happened to walk in, and we quickly discussed how it could be altered. It was purchased, and she took it home with her to start sewing. By noon the next day, I had my perfect knee length dress at a fair price!
Eating in Italy has been a dream. The food is always fresh, even grocery stores mainly stock seasonal produce; and we have yet to discover a bad restaurant in our neighborhood. Two things that have been a change for me are the general structure of a meal at a restaurant, and learning to use new ingredients that are available here.
The Restaurant Scene
Generally, it’s accepted to order drinks and an appetizer (suppli are a Roman treat!), then a primo (usually a plate of pasta), followed by a secondo, or main dish, of meat or fish. At a pizza restaurant, the only change is that the primo and secondo are replaced by a whole pizza. While this sounds amazing, it can be overwhelming for the stomach and doesn’t quite make a well-balanced diet if eaten constantly! I eventually learned that veggie sides are rarely included in the dishes, but can be ordered separately from the “contorni” section of the menu. I also learned that it’s perfectly acceptable to skip a pasta and just order a secondo! Trust me, it’s usually just as delicious as the pasta and the variety keeps you from being pasta’ed out!
Cooking at home became very important to me partially because the need for variety, and partially because I just enjoy cooking. Learning new Italian recipes and working with unique ingredients has been a great treat, one of my favorites is a pasta with a smoked salmon and zucchini sauce! However, when trying to make non-Italian recipes, things can be tricky. Baking is particularly difficult as lots of Italian baking doesn’t call for baking powder or baking soda, meaning it’s not found in grocery stores. In an effort to make chocolate chip cookies, I resorted to ordering baking soda on Amazon and ended up with a 1 kilogram box! But, for each hard-to-find ingredient, there seemed to be a new thing to try. Cooking cream, “panna da cucina”, was a new ingredient that ended up being a favorite. It’s a stabilized cream that can be added directly to sauces without making roux first. Perfect for sauces that don’t call for any butter!
It’s been quite the adventure, and I’d do it all over again.
Ciao da Roma!