The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good

The pace of life is a lot slower for us right now. The coronavirus restrictions force us to limit our activities outside of the house. We have been able to use this time to slowly settle into Lucca and our apartment. I feel more rested, peaceful, and content than I can ever remember. Because we are in a completely new environment, it has not been difficult to create new patterns and habits that align with the restrictions.

Other good stuff:

  • Our local church has been meeting online. It’s a very small church and their services are very interactive. So, no Facebook Live streaming for this crowd! We use Zoom. The first 15 minutes are spent saying “Buongiorno” or “Ciao!” to each other. Then the service starts. Various people participate in the service itself. Very cool to see the real sense of community of this church. Jim and I sit with Google Translate open and try to follow the gist of the service. And read the sermon notes afterwards. 😊
  • Jim has discovered two wonderful places to buy wine. Jim visits Ricardo at Vineria Dolce Vita, a great place to buy local and everyday Tuscan wines, and many local food specialties. And Jim visits Pasquale at his restaurant (which is closed) to buy older Italian wines. Both of these businesses have lost most of their income stream so Jim is “helping” by purchasing their wine. 😊
  • Jim and I have been enjoying cooking and eating the wonderful fresh and local food. Artichokes are in season now. Tonight I’m making an Artichoke, Sausage & Goat Cheese Egg Pie. I have all of the ingredients needed except the “soft goat cheese”. I have one more store to check; if not, I’ll use a different kind of cheese. And I bought lots of fresh artichokes for it.  😊
  • We love our apartment. There is a lot of light and plenty of space. There are more than 100 steps to reach it, but there is also an elevator. I’ve been going up the steps at least once per day. No TV yet, but we spend the evenings doing puzzles and playing cribbage or Scopa. A TV is supposed to be delivered on Monday! 😊

The Bad

Our bank! I wrote in my November blog post about how difficult and different it was to open our bank account. Well… that was only the beginning! Upon arrival in Lucca, we got out our debit cards, memorized our PINs and were very pleased that they worked without a problem. Our apartment had furniture but not much else, so we had a lot of shopping to do! The first few days in shops in Lucca, then set up our Amazon account.

After a few days, I decided I better check the status of our account online. I couldn’t get into it and soon locked up my account. The only way to unlock it was to visit the bank. I did so and they unblocked it. I tried a few more times then locked it again. Back to the bank branch… I was taken to the man who set up our account. He wouldn’t let me in his office and told me not to come to the branch again (while the coronavirus restrictions were still in place). I should just send him an email if I had any problems. He unlocked my account again and gave me a phone number to call to get the correct PIN; apparently, I was using the wrong PIN. I called the number four times. Getting through the phone menu is tough when you can’t understand the messages. When I did talk to a person, first my identity had to be validated. I got through that once. I explained my problem with a mix of Italian/English, she tried to fix the problem then suggested I call back the next day. What???

Then the next surprise – our cards stopped working and our Amazon account got closed down. Why??? Turns out that we have a 4000 € per month for certain kind of transactions. We guessed that we hit the limit, but couldn’t confirm because I still couldn’t access the account online. I sent an email to my “friend” at the branch explaining my failures at calling the bank and asking about the limit. Friday someone from the bank called who spoke pretty good English. Turns out that their security app was messed up for my account. She got me online. Our limit was increased to 5000 € per month but we are still trying to figure out which kinds of transactions that it applies to.

And our Amazon account is still closed down. Yep, we tried adding a US credit card. Yep, we tried setting up another account. Yep, we tried to use the chat capability. Nope, none of these worked.

During the times of frustration with the bank, I looked around for a different bank. I didn’t find one that would be better, so we are sticking with this bank (for now).

Next, I could tell you the saga of getting the required trash card or how it took three weeks and four visits by the internet technician to establish our connection, but I won’t…

The Ugly

Italy is a beautiful country. Lucca is a beautiful city. Really… what could be ugly here? But… if you look out one of our windows of our wonderful altana, you see a building that can only be characterized as “ugly”. The front of it is on Via Fillungo, the main walking street of Lucca. The front is beautiful, but the roof and side are ugly. I’ve included a picture just so that I was able to use this title for this blog posting.  However, we really don’t spend much time look at that building because if you look up you see two amazing towers with mountains in the background. Ahhhhh…

Stay home and stay healthy! #andràtuttobene

25 thoughts on “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

  1. Dear JoAn and Jim, the good, the bad and the ugly really describes the beginning of this adventure. I’m sure you’ll be fluent in Italian by the time your banks issues are resolved. I’m sure those wines are amazing and wish we were there to help support the locals. Your church experience sounds great. Enjoy all the rest.

    • I expect that it will take me years to become fluent, or close to it. I’m hoping to get the bank situation straighten before that!

  2. Good to hear from you again. I was wondering over the past week how you were doing, and went searching Facebook to see if I’d missed any posts. Glad to hear you are both well and getting settled, and hope you’ll be out really exploring before too much longer. I like the interactive church idea. I appreciate the online church ours is trying to do, but would love the interaction with the people I’m missing right now. I’ve been supporting our local wine store and dropping care packages off to my kids. Getting in lots of walks and bike rides and trying to stay positive. Once a day up those stairs sounds like a good workout, JoAn. (But thank goodness for the elevator, right!?) Ciao!

    • Thanks Joy. I’m still trying to figure out how frequently to post on my blog. I know that it is time when I’ve thought through what I want to say, then I get it down on “paper”.

  3. Ciao,
    Sorry we missed your arrival in Lucca. We arrived on 26 Feb and were to be there until 21 April, but when we got the U.S. State Department’s message to return or be prepared to stay indefinitely, it was agreed we should fly back, which we did 2 weeks ago. So now instead of staying at home in our rented Lucca apartment, we are staying at home in California.

    Regarding your search for soft goat cheese, I have always found it (including earlier this year) at the Conad in Piazza Carmine near the Mercato. Not sure how their supplies are holding up but it is usually found in the small refrigerated case of assorted cheeses at knee height just in front of the deli counter. It is sold with 2 small rounds on a stryo flat covered with plastic wrap. Sometimes one of the rounds has herbs or spice on it (neither too strong) and one is usually plain. It is delicious and should work well for your recipe. Also in that case and delicious with vino rosso is sliced dolce gorgonzola, some pieces are layered with mascarpone. If you like blue cheese, try it.

    Glad you have discovered Ricardo and Pasquale, both great sources for wines. Two other stores in case Jim wants to expand his buying opportunities further are Enoteca Vanni in P. San Salvatore (next to the Ortofrutto). Although the shop is fairly small at ground level, at the back of the store there is a staircase which leads down to a voluminous underground cellar where the selection of older vintages will not disappoint. We have also found some lovely bottles at Ugo’s Vini & Liquori on via Sant’Andrea.

    Glad you are settling in during these unsettling times. You seem to have a wonderful attitude and just think of all the new discoveries that await you when some sense of normalcy returns!

    Stay safe & healthy!
    Andra tutto bene! 🌈

    • Jim went to the Conad’s this morning to look for the soft goat cheese, based on your helpful directions. If he finds it, we’ll be eating Pear and Goat Cheese Crostini as an appetizer for tonight’s dinner. Next he’s going to his favorite butcher to get a good steak to go with one of the older bottles of wine. Life in Lucca isn’t so bad, even with all of the restrictions!

      Jim says that he knows the two other wine stores that you mentioned. He must have discovered them on earlier trips here. And we’ve heard that there is a good wine shop outside the walls, but we haven’t found the specifics on it yet.

      Good to hear that you made it safely back to California. We got the same message from the State Department and decided that we were ready to stay indefinitely. And they keep sending the message a few times a week… But I think that Italy is now in better shape than the US!

  4. Such a horrible experience with the Bank and finances. It’s a good thing that you all have been persistent on getting to the bottom of it. It looks like you are enjoying some time indoors and pursuing some fun things. I’ve been practicing my flute, taking lessons through video, and recording my part for the Orchestra so our director can compile with the others. Stay safe and best wishes from Fort Worth.

    –Pam Moraga

  5. Wow! It’s all the details of daily living in a foreign country that ultimately make for such a fascinating “adventure”! Frustrating? Absolutely yes! But also satisfying as you overcome each obstacle and adapt to a new culture. Oh the stories you will have to tell! The ugly is such a great metaphor for Hebrews 12:2 “[looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus…” (AMP). So glad you’re settling in and getting connected with your church and the local shops. The relationship that is established over time with local shopkeepers is a treasure. Praying you get things worked out sooner rather than later. Enjoy the wine, the games, the beautiful scenery, and the new TV that’s soon to arrive. Best wishes, Renette

  6. Another fun update! I love goat cheese and that recipe looks delicious! Hopefully soon you’ll be able to completely settle in and able to complete those final tasks. In the meantime, enjoy your new apartment and kick back with that yummy wine! Looking forward to the next post. 🙂

    • Thanks Sheldon. Ah, one of my readers gave us to some advice on where to find the goat cheese. Jim is on a mission to find it, so that I can make another of our favorite dishes, Pear and Goat Cheese Crostini. You probably had some at my home in Virginia.

  7. Fascinating to read your reports! I’m glad for all of the good happening and am sad about the bad. You must be very frustrated at the money situation. Praying that Amazon thing will be worked out soon. I’m especially grateful for you already having a church family!

    • Thanks Karen. I was very frustrated with the bank. I think I waited to post about it until it was resolved, so that I would have a better attitude about it. And now Jim has opened an Amazon account, they verified the funds, and we can order again. 🙂

  8. Thanks for all the updates,i love hearing about life in Lucca. I always thought it would be great to live in Europe,but it seems like too much work and headache. Someday we would love to visit you

    • Thanks Paula. A lot of people live here for part of the year. You can stay up to 90 days without a visa and everything then becomes so much easier. We considered doing that, but decided to take the big leap so that we could feel that this was our permanent home – not just an extended vacation. Ask me in a year as to whether we made the right decision! LOL!

  9. Thank you for your posting. It is so good to have a real life posting amid the horrible news that envelops and bombard us on a daily basis. You are a breath of fresh and international air when we have become so enclosed within our walls, towns, countries and we long for the connections of a wider world. So last night we drank a Château Pipeau 2010 St. Emilion that we think you dropped off with us for our wine and cheese evening. It was wonderful and we enjoyed this moment of luxury in these spartan days when we hunker down and forego some of the normal luxuries we buy while wandering the store. Thank you – it is wonderful to hear from you and please keep us up to date. I think we are all on “slower speed” through this life and learning to appreciate all that each day can bring. Stay safe!

    • Thanks Jill. So glad that you enjoyed the wine and thought of us! Despite some of the negatives of social media and online connections, I do think that it helps me feel more connected with people in the States. And even people in Lucca. I have a new friend in Lucca that I met on Facebook. I gave her one of the puzzles that we finished and we chat about puzzles and life. I look forward to meeting her face-to-face at some point!

  10. So glad you are settling in as best as you can right now given the current situation. Oh artichokes are my favorite! I’m sure that pie was heavenly! Grilling them is my go to with artichokes and just dip them in lemon butter sauce… hmmm. Thank you for the post, so happy to hear you are both healthy and safe.

  11. You guys are only 1:30 from Balogna! I’m sure we will be visiting sometime in the next year or two so we will make a point to come see you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s