Closer and Closer!

We had a great trip to Italy from October 31st to November 16th. We spent a few days in Florence, mostly relaxing and just enjoying this beautiful city. We did one walking tour which was called “Renaissance Intro Tour”; great tour, but I’d characterized it as the advanced course, not an introduction! We’ve visited Florence several times now, so this was great to pull together the bits and pieces of info that we have learned.

The view of Florence at breakfast at the top of our hotel
Ponte Vecchio at night with beautiful reflection on the Arno river

We headed to Lucca on November 5th, the day after Lucca Comic and Games ended. Try picturing hundreds of thousands of visitors dressed in fantastic costumes wandering through a medieval town… I’m looking forward to seeing it next year and taking lots of fun pictures.

We spent the majority of our time preparing for our move to Lucca. We saw 7 apartments, accompanied by realtors, lawyers, owners, and their colleagues. Jim sensed before the trip that I had my heart set on an apartment called “Il Pappagallo” and I simply spent the time comparing each apartment to it. So, we now have a lease for this wonderful apartment starting on February 1st! Click on the link to read a description (in English) and check out the pictures. Yes, there will be room for visitors!

Besides the apartment, we got our Codice Fiscale (similar to the USA’s Social Security Number), opened a bank account, and got health insurance. We could not have accomplished this without the help of our lawyers and realtor. Even with that help, other ex-pats were surprised that we got it all done in about a week.

To get a sense of the bureaucracy in Italy, here’s a description of what it took to open a bank account. Our lawyers recommended a bank and we took their recommendation. On Monday, we were accompanied by a lawyer and an accountant and met face-to-face with a bank officer. The majority of the time was spent with the lawyer and the bank officer speaking in Italian. He then collected some information from us that he hand-wrote on a piece of paper. He seemed concerned that we didn’t have our Social Security cards with us. ☹ We were told to return the next day. The next day, we met our other lawyer, the same accountant and a different bank officer. Lots of talk in Italian as we just sat there. Then he started printing…  about ½ inch of paper, small font, double sided. Then we started signing…  We could have bought a house in America with this amount of paperwork! He gave us our ATM/debit cards and showed us how to use their online banking. He seemed surprised when we said that we wanted to deposit some cash – because they close at 1:20pm for a few hours and it was already 1pm. They got us into the teller line just in time. So, we have an Italian savings account and an ATM/debit card.

We now have tasks to do in America to prepare for the visa: renew our passport, get FBI background checks, and gather a bunch of paperwork. We’ll take documentation from all of this to the Italian Consulate in Miami…  just as soon as we get our appointment. Unfortunately, the next available appointment is February 3rd and it will take weeks to get the visa through the approval process. I will be checking their website daily for earlier appointments – and hoping and praying that we get one in December or January!

Description of Lucca

I’ve tried to describe Lucca to many people but have struggled to capture the essence of it. So here’s a description of Lucca that I found at that does a good job:

“The walled city isn’t large. It takes twenty minutes to walk across it at a leisurely but steady pace. Don’t expect to maintain a steady pace, however, because although Lucca isn’t large, it is dense. It has been continuously inhabited for more than two thousand years; it was never abandoned and it was never destroyed. During most of its history Lucca thrived. It survived the Dark Ages intact and by the Early Middle Ages it was the capital of Tuscany. In the High Middle Ages it was the silk capital of Europe; its merchants and bankers preceded those of Florence and Siena. During the Renaissance Florence conquered the rest of Tuscany, but Lucca never fell. It did inevitably succumb to Napoleon but he prized the small republic sufficiently to bestow it upon his sister, Elisa, to rule as princess.

All of these periods survive today, in layers. When Lucca rebuilt it always built on what came before. No city better preserves its original Roman street layout. The medieval buildings were erected on Roman foundations and the Renaissance mansions assembled medieval houses and towers into grand edifices. Peel the plaster off a Renaissance building and you will usually find medieval brick underneath.”

During your visit, “try not to be overly ambitious. A visit to Lucca is often inserted into a hectic tour of must do’s and must see’s in more famous places, and Lucca is the perfect place to stop and catch your breath. Wander aimlessly a while, have a cappuccino, wander some more.”

We didn’t do a lot of sightseeing and I didn’t take any pictures at the bank 😉 but here are some random pictures that I took during this trip.

Lucca street at sunset
We wandered outside Lucca’s walls to find this pasta shop with the best variety of pasta in town. We chose Tortelli di Castagne, with a filling of chestnuts. Yum!

I’m now in Northern Florida, hanging out with Derek until our visa comes through. I hope to spend the time enjoying the pristine parks (“The Real Florida”), time with my son, a bit of a refresh on his house, and printing tons of information for our visa application.

I hope that you have a great Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for, including having you follow along with me on this adventure!