Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Apartment Hunting = Not fun

So... as I briefly mentioned in my first post from Italy... I started my home search Thursday when I arrived.

We saw many house over the two days of continuous walking from one end of Bologna to the other, and although I learned my way around the city and learned some lessons of life, I wouldn't say I really enjoyed the experience of house hunting at all.

To put the situation into perspective, the University of Bologna is the oldest University in Europe and it's home to nearly 100,000 students. Classes start October 1st and there are hundreds of Erasmus students and Italian students roaming the city all at the same time in hopes of finding an apartment that matches their desired criteria.

I having my own particular criteria ended up having very limited options. I wanted an apartment that was modern, but in a palazzo, within the old city walls of Bologna centro and within 15 minutes walking to the political science faculty on Strada Maggiore.

Weeks and weeks of searching on the Internet at home paid off a little. I had made my google maps of all the available apartments I thought were adequate for me and I started calling through the list. Immediately I crossed off probably half of them because they were already rented or because I realized they were too far away.

Two days of searching left me liking two places that ended up falling through, and left me with two place that I would resort to if I absolutely had to. These two were 15 minutes walking to my faculty and would have 6 or 7 individuals living in both.

So my quick sojourn to Via Muto was enough to relax me and get after the apartment hunt again.  I re looked at the two places with 6/7 beds, and looked at a number of more individual rooms, and a 2 bedroom apartment.  Again came the internal conflict, among three options, two of which I preferred, but was having a hard time deciding which to pick.  Luckily, Around 10pm I received an SMS from the landlord of one of the two choices, who said that they had picked another girl who the roommates already knew, so that left me one choice. Via Solferino, which I had found through a man named Federico, who was known for finding apartments for the Johns Hopkins SAIS students in Bologna.

With some hesitation I called him to seal the deal.  I went to his office that evening where I met with the landlord and thought that everything would go swimmingly.  Boy was I wrong.  The landlord needed confirmation that I had enough money in the bank to pay for the entire years rent, he also asked for a ridiculous amount of money for deposit, something like 4 months in advance plus a month deposit, and he had to have proof that I was attending the University of Bologna, and he just couldn't understand how I hadn't physically enrolled in a program yet. WOOF.  Two hours and a 15 minute Skype phone to America, I left Federico's office, where the hilarious bunch of smoking Italians tried to finalize this transaction for me.  Back to Hotel Pedrini I went, with intent to figure out how to to an online bank transfer, to send the proof of my attendance to school, and to read through the contract with my parents.  LONG DAY OF WORK.

My New Home!
Friday at 4:00, we met to finalize the agreement.  After taking money out from the bank in amounts that it would allow me, I finally showed up to the office with a ridiculous amount of Euro on my person.  My parents told me to get receipts of all the money transactions, and as soon as I requested them after signing the contract, I was told I would need to pay a 20% fee if I wanted to have a receipt of the transaction.  Apparently everything that was going down was "off the books" so if I wanted proof of it, it would have to go to the government, meaning I would have to pay nearly 200 euro more for just a receipt.  So we said screw it, I got the keys to the place, Federico met me there and we continued to do an invoice of everything in the apartment with the landlord.  Lucky for me, this wasn't the end of the long haul I had been enduring.  We enter the apartment to find it has no hot water and the oven does not work.... oo dio mio...

In the end, the technician came, I went to Florence for the weekend and the water was back when I returned.  The next step in my tiring, stressful and tearful Bologna endeavor would be to find a roommate to occupy the second bedroom... dun dun dun

Please excuse my delay in Blog posts! It's been a hectic 20 days!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

La Partenza

After spending my first week in Italy in a panic, shedding a few tears with the stress of finding a place to live, I still found myself getting weird looks from people walking down the street because sometimes I just can't help but walking around with a foolish grin on my face cause hey! I live in BOLOGNA now!!

Anyways I'll try and keep my posts short cause I know my mother gets annoyed with the amount of detail I put in sometimes, so here we go!

Departure from Boston was quick, but not without plenty of worries! Yesterday we noticed the same flight was delayed three hours due to the weather which would have theoretically made me miss my connection at JFK to arrive in Roma at 10:00am. Crazy as we are, we quickly researched all the possibilities in case of bad weather (which was forecasted) and I finished packing my things in case we ha to leave in the morning by car. Driving the 4 hours to JFK to ensure I would make the connection. Another possibility was to get the flight switched to an 8pm flight to heathrow and then get a connection directly to Bologna.

So with options in cases of severe weather conditions I enjoyed me last night home. Eating some homemade brownies baked by Mom and watching tv with the usual; Brenna, Katherine and Priscilla.

The next day I was able to sleep in, make some cappuccinos and eggs to share with Brenna and Katherine, finish pulling my luggage together, and I was quickly off to the airport without any problems at all.  With a slight scare after I heard a flight be cancelled from New York, my flight remained on time and I arrive at JFK without problems and had to walk 200 feet to get to the gate where my flight to Italy would depart from. At the gate I met a student from Siena who had the misfortune of missing her flight to Rome the day before, and after hearing her scarring story I was thrilled that the weather was not holding us back again.

Arriving in Rome was easy.  My turf.  Unfortunately I didn't know I could use my EU passport to walk through the HUGE customs line which was a mistake cause when I waited in the long line with my american passport, the officer just waved me through, didn't even look at my passport, and I didn't react quick enough to DEMAND he stamp my passport... so that was interesting.

Toni was already waiting for me right outside the terminal.  I loaded my stuff into the car, and we were off to Bologna at our steady 100km pace.  Nonna had packed us a cooler of goodies, so we ate some fruit and crackers to hold us off before we had to stop at our first Autogrill.  Lunch composed of a nicoise salad and some risotto in a pesto sauce...

Continuing on to Bologna, we had an interesting time driving into the city to find the Hotel.  After a few wrong turns and some scarily tiny roads, we made our way to the end of Strada Maggiore where Hotel Pedrini was waiting for us.  We were able to park right behind the hotel and we promptly brought our things in, examined the room and its fresco-ed ceiling, then began walking to the 3 apartment appointments I had set up in the car.  These three houses were a good foundation for the first day, and we quickly put into perspective where all the areas of the city were in relation to where my classes would be.

One of the many Porticos of Bologna
Thursday went by, and Friday arrived quickly, proving I had a few options of houses to explore.  What was hard was deciding exactly what I wanted in the home in terms of location, number of roommates and type of roommates.  After giving an answer to one place, they quickly told me it had been rented by someone else after I had seen it... this happened with a number of places I had already picked out prior to landing, so Toni and I resorted to looking at fliers posted and we quickly realized places were going FAST!

Debating whether we should stay in Bologna till we found a place, we still had two decent options. Two apartments, one with 6 other Italian girls and one with 5 Spanish boys. Both landlords were nice and they had single rooms available. My only hesitations were the location (20 minutes walking from school!) and living with that many people. So with that I told Toni we had to go back to Muto because all I really wanted to do was see my Nonno and Nonna an spend a day or two with them. I'd be fine coming back on my own to search again.

So as Bernard and Toni from down the road said when I told them I drove from Florence to Muto... I've got ballss to do that! We arrived much quicker than if Toni was arriving and I was warmly embraced by the Muto crew. Nonno, Nonna and Maria were all waiting and ready to feed us once we got inside. We spent time talking then before 9 I was directed to go to bed by Nonna. Ha! I actually didn't mind, I was beat.

Sunday morning I had no chance to sleep in. Toni woke me to meet with the architect who was hired to fix Nonna's childhood home upon the hill behind our house at Muto. I was put to work early as we climbed the hill marking the path through the woods where we could bring a water line trying to figure out where it could go without passing through Nonnas cousins land or anyone else's.

Goodness gracious. Long morning. We spent a few hours up at Zeppone making the right lay out for the house to maximize the space we had to use: a few random rooms here and there, cause that's how the house had been split between her and her cousin. By noon we had resolved things and we trekked back down the wooded mountain to find lunch being prepared.

As usual, lunch was delicious. It consisted of fettuccine with a mushroom and pancetta sauce, beans, salad and sausage to keep me full and sleepy for hours. Lucky for me right when I tried to nap, Toni woke me up and insisted we climb the hill again to find and mark the correct path. This was not the relaxing two days at Muto I had expected.
Nonna cooking the abacchio

That evening I went to a comedian in Broccoatella with Ilario and his friends. I didn't manage to understand much but it was still fun. At the end of the evening we went to the new McDonalds in Sora and they had their pick of sandwiches and milkshakes off the euro menu. I stayed strong and resisted the Micky Ds. Brava!

Monday we Toni and I went to do our business in Sora. Trying to figure out our bank accounts. Getting Internet organized and doing whatever other errands we required before our departure. We ate well both at lunch and dinner and we cleaned and prepared to close the house as I remained frantic about having no place to live but Hotel Pedrini upon my return to Bologna.

Nonno and Nonna had visitors late Monday night as they were trying to pack up. Maria stayed and helped us get organized trying to soak up as much time as she could with the two before they left.

Tuesday we woke up promptly at 5:00. Had our cappuccinos and stuffed all 8 bags into the tiny FIAT Punto. Nonno showed me how to turn off the lights, water, gas etc and Maria came down to see us off and chain the driveway upon our departure. It was a sad moment leaving Maria waving with tears in her eyes and we were off to Fiumicino, myself as the driver.

At the airport I couldn't help but cry as Nonna and Nonno hugged me, years filling their eyes and they were wheeled off through security by the Alitalia helpers. I went to find Toni after she dropped off the rental car and then she walked me to catch the train to Termini where I'd be off on my own. Once again the water works came, I was secretly hoping they would all stay a few more weeks, but three months was enough for them and they were states bound.

Me infront of the cipressi
I, on the other hand was on my way to Bologna... Alone... But not completely, luckily with the lunch box cooler that Nonna had prepared for me with a frittata sandwich, peaches, a block of cheese and packages of sausages. I was at least sure I wouldn't be going hungry anytime soon!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Things I'll miss!

Home - casa
So...  I looked back at my older posts and noticed that the first post I wrote from America following my return home from my estate romana was titled "le cose che mi mancono", "the things I miss".  This post contained a list of places, people, and things, that I found myself longing for as I returned back to the American way of life and experiences reverse culture shock.

Today, I sit here wondering, and don't have to wonder long about the things I will miss of America when I leave for Bologna.  As my friends and family know, I'm a serious lover of Italy and I really can only talk about returning, and I know that leaves a lot of them nervous, wondering, and nearly convinced I'll never return back to the states.  With the way I hear myself talk about my passion for Italy, I can see where they would think this...  I've known for a long time that I've wanted to return to Italy and that I won't feel complete until I can finally speak Italian without fault and can convince 75% of people I'm a native Italian.  But as I grow older and wiser, I know that realistically I'll return to America and that despite how I talk about home, and how much I make it seem like I'll never return and Italy is the best place on earth, I know there are things that Italy will never have that my home does...

Things I will miss from home...

1.  Family
The infamous dumplings!
2.  Friends
3.  Union College
pancakes :)
4.  Turning colors of the leaves
5.  washing machines and dryers
6.  efficiency
7.  my bed
8.  the Boston skyline
9.  ice cream with cookie dough or other chunks of deliciousness 
10.  My Baahhhston sports teams
11. unlimited access to ICE CUBES, crushed, cubed, in blocks, ICE however you like!
12. Free water
13. Wi-fi available almost anywhere you go
14. cold drinks
15. walking on even pavement
16. breakfast (aka pancakes w/ chocolate chips and bananas, or eggs and homefries)
17. zizi Linda's chicken & dumplings
18. Classes in ENGLISH! Ahh!!!!

Bahston - Boston, you'll be missed!

...and there are so many more that are ingrained in me that I'm sure I won't realize I'm lucky to have them everyday until they aren't there anymore.

So here goes nothing.  I'm finishing up packing, and I'm ready to start this new adventure with so many obstacles in the country that I've been longing to return to.  Keep checking my blog because my first obstacle (apartment search) is sure to be an interesting one that will make a good post!  I'll keep you all posted with my adventures!!

Pre packed -- my life layed out for the next few months/year
a presto tutti quanti! I'll miss all of you back home!