Unconscious Incompetent - Italy Calling.

June 25, 2019

Many people wonder what it is like to move to Italy. Some such as myself have done it through becoming recognized as a dual citizen through our Italian Blood Line. Others simply move to Italy. Why do they do that? Is it really SIMPLY? No, it is not.

Today we are featuring our friend Chris of Shabby Sheep Designs in the first of a four part series featuring how he and his wife got here, how expectations and plans often fall by the wayside and how it is all worth it besides the challenges.

Pour yourself a Prosecco, smile and read on. I did.

I had never really thought of living in Italy. My experience of Italy pretty much comprised an occasional pizza plus drinking fizzy, Lambrusco as a youth at parties because it was cheap.

 I am semi professional now.

I thought pasta wasn't 'real' food. I will admit to thinking Sofia Loren was 'hot' and that the 1982 World Cup winning Italian national soccer team, were pretty good. I'm English and so refer to soccer as football - we invented it and so I feel vindicated.

Abbiamo vinto!

Likewise if you're one of Marilyn's American followers you'll notice that I write words using the letter 's' not 'z' and include the letter 'u' where no American ever would. Please recognise this is not something I am doing in bad humour.

Thinking about it there are some pretty noticeable differences between Brits and Yanks - yet as my new found friendship with Marilyn Ricci has proved, people from either side of the Atlantic can and do have a special relationship. Marilyn of course has an Italian connection - her nonno emigrated from Italy. I have no such DNA that pulled me to live in 'il bel paese'.

Yet I live here on the Tuscany/Liguria border with my patient, loving, talented and gorgeous wife, Eva and variously over 14 years with dogs, cats and chickens - now just one dog, Lazaro (an abandoned hunting dog.)

Ciao tutti.

So what happened? I can narrow it down to five things:

  1. Eva organised a holiday to Tuscany and Liguria in the early 1990's.
  2. Eva won a ski holiday to Italy.
  3. My head exploded with stress in my big, bad corporate job.
  4. The Twin Towers - 9/11.
  5. My Renault Espace People Carrier died on me.

The way everyone's emigration journey starts right?

Up until that first trip to Italy which Eva organised (spot the 's'?) travelling around Firenze, Sienna, Lucca, Viareggio and up to Portovenere we had always holidayed in France, Spain or Greece, great countries in their own way and very different from Britain - we loved that. Eva and I loved to track down quirky towns and villages off the beaten track where we would eat strange local dishes and make new connections.

I think I had food poisoning afterwards!

My parents had retired to Spain when I was 20 and Eva's folks were WWII refugees to Britain from Latvia - maybe that gave us a sense that anything/anywhere was possible in terms of where you lived. We often dreamed about one day moving to France.

We've always considered ourselves to be fortunate, but not necessarily lucky. Then the letter arrived in the post (back in the days before email and the internet!!) informing Eva that she'd won a competition she'd entered some weeks previously. She'd won a 2 week ski holiday - flights and accommodation - to Cervinia in the Val d'Aosta.

An accident waiting to happen.

We very compliantly ate, drank and skied ourselves crazy and for the first time witnessed groups of Italians (friends and families) at 'play'. "Hmmm" I remember we thought..."are we witnessing life as it should be lived?"

Then, in a wham, bang, yet slow, painful and beyond my control sort of way I 'divorced' from my corporate employer. I was no longer able to play the politics whilst doing a good job - I had become a square peg in a round hole. So I limped off into the 'sunset' or more correctly, 'dawn' as it turned out. Over the ensuing months I slept for huge periods of time, partly medicine induced, but partly nature taking over and I wandered the local parks searching for purpose. I'd lost my way and was trying to re-discover who I was. One afternoon whilst emerging from a nap on the sofa (an art form which I learned from Eva and which we both are now black belts in)

even after we moved to Italy, I continued to practice!

I watched live TV as two passenger planes were flown into the Twin Towers. I watched incredulously and I remember saying out loud "things are never going to be the same again."

Predictably things never were the same again. We all have our own views as to how we had got to this point and how well the world reacted, but at my own personal level 9/11 marked the day when a light bulb flashed for me and I just thought f**k it - we need to get on and live our lives. Let's start by taking some easy decisions...

All roads lead to Fizz.

I remember my psychiatrist urged me "not to take any big decisions." ... naturally therefore within weeks we'd sold our house, re-located to the country, downsized so we could survive financially and set up our own Art Gallery and Commercial Art Supply business. Not to do anything at that moment seemed like the 'wrong decision.'

Self employed, no bosses - the only way.

And the last of the 5 reasons we moved to Italy is born from one of the worst human traits - Procrastination. I knew the cam-belt on my Renault needed changing. But the voice in my head kept saying "oh you can squeak another few hundred miles out of it", things like "what is a cam-belt anyway?"

I preferred the Prosecco flowchart!

The noise a car engine makes when it seizes completely, driving at 50mph is not pleasant. A couple of weeks later, waiting in the reception area of the Renault dealership to pick up our re-conditioned car, biding my time with a plastic cup of mud like coffee from the vending machine I started remembering the taste of an espresso from our Italian trips. I looked down. There, in front of me on the greasy wooden table was an Overseas Property Magazine - I flicked it open and crash, bang, 'porca miseria' saw the advert from a real estate agent in Lunigiana, Northern Tuscany.

nice t.shirt!

Eva and I popped a bottle of something that night and agreed that we had indeed seen the light. Sod dreaming of moving to France or Spain. Sod dreaming. Let's buy a small holiday home in Italy. Remember those words 'small holiday home.'

This was our 'Unconscious Incompetent’ phase - (We Were Unaware of The Things We Needed To Know).

It is rumoured (spot the 'u'), that at some stage (if Marilyn doesn't change her mind after reading this) I shall be continuing our story of how we made it to live in Italy...

Thanks for reading


Co-Founder/Owner/Iron Man

Shabby Sheep Design


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