Frustrated family in Padova, Italy

Frustrated family in Padova, Italy ()

Editor’s Note: In this opinion piece, military kid writer Olivia McDaniel shares her thoughts on the difficulties of being stationed in Italy.

A lot of people think that when you are living in Italy it’s like a year-round vacation, and for the most part it is. Italy is a beautiful country with a very rich culture and history with many amazing attractions. But living there is much different than visiting.

Let’s start with dinner time, Italians eat late. If you want to go out to eat, most restaurants don’t open until 7:00 pm; the earliest they will open is 6:30 but that’s only for pizza pick up if you pre-ordered it. Restaurants in Italy also make you pay a cover charge for seating. You basically have to pay to eat at the restaurant and then you also have to pay for your food. Whenever you plan on eating out, always reserve a table. Even if there are open tables, they most likely won’t let you in if you don’t have a reservation.

Italian metros are known for their pickpockets, and you could think that by holding onto your bag no one will get into it, but pickpockets come in groups. One will distract and the other will steal. Then they will jump off the train at the first available exit and run away, they are very quick.

In Italy it’s difficult to drive almost anywhere freely because of toll roads called “autostradas.” It’s basically a gate that you have to pay to go through, so if you want to drive on the road you have to pay. How they work is, you take a ticket when you enter and then use that ticket to exit. You have to pay for the distance that you drove. The autostradas are everywhere. Another thing about driving on Italian roads or streets is that they are mainly old roads, so they are very tight and Italians drive very aggressively and they also don’t seem to follow the rules of the road. Driving your car is hard if you are driving an American car that’s pretty wide. And parking can be very difficult.

If you plan on retiring in Italy, there will be a lot of patience required. In Italy when you plan on staying for more than three, months you have to register a residency permit. The overall permit is expensive and difficult to obtain. Then you would also need healthcare paperwork and other administrative tasks. Overall, the cost of living in Italy is very high.

Now, the language barrier. Almost anywhere you go in Italy they won’t speak very good English unless you are in a tourist area or around the bases. And you could learn some Italian, but they still don’t understand you if you have an American accent when you speak. Another thing is that there are a lot of words that are the same but mean different things, and along with them you would have to pronounce them slightly differently.

If you decide that you want to come to Italy for vacation, here are some things you should know.

  • When walking around in cities or driving on streets be careful using your phone as a navigation system because many maps have not been updated. They could be false, so often they would lead you in the wrong direction.

  • Traffic circles are the worst in Italy. If there’s an accident it’s most likely caused in a traffic circle, so try to avoid them.

  • You can carry around your debit card with you, but I would recommend always having cash because a lot of restaurants and shops in Italy only take cash.

  • A bad thing about walking on the street is that there are aggressive panhandlers and people trying to sell you junk.

  • Lastly, crime is higher in Italy than most other places in Europe. *

Don’t let me stop you from visiting Italy. The food is great, the country is beautiful, there are a ton of things to see and do, but just remember living there is different than visiting as a tourist.

* Sources: European Pickpocketing Index, Global Organized Crime Index

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