When I left Italy in 2010, I had been living here for about 5 years straight. I came back briefly in 2012, but it didn’t work because the economy was tanking and my employers stopped paying me when they got hit with a fine for tax evasion. It was ultimately for the best, as I was living an unsustainable life back then and too stupid to even realize it.
Still, the dream to come back was strong. Part of it was in actual fact to be a 20 something again. But part of it was based on some pretty solid facts about why the quality of life here is genuinely better than in some other places. There is a solid reason so many foreigners elect to move to Italy and never leave, despite how frustrated this country makes them. Living here has a whole lot of appeal. And yet, despite that, I am wondering if I am making the right choice.
I am now trying to reevaluate some of these opinions.
Mind you, I had previously lived in Rome, which isn’t where I am living now. I am currently in Vicenza. For two cities that both date back to Roman times, they are pretty dissimilar. History will do that. And I think that affects how I am living. Rome had a pretty bad public transport infrastructure, and while Vicenza also seems lacking, the city is small enough it isn’t really needed. That’s less of a virtue than one might think. I liked public transportation. There is a chance that I merely came to like it, having spent enough stoned nights on a 3am bus watching the architectural eons pass, neighborhood at a time. But I liked the ‘these-days-are-just-packed’ sense that the transportation gave me. I would start my morning at home, jump to the center for work, metro back home, eat, metro to a different part of the center to meet up with friends, then back home again. It made life feel fuller.
Mind you, I am now in a situation where I don’t know anyone.
I had Rome figured out. For better or worse, I had carved spaces out for myself in that city (I am not naive. I know those spaces I had carved out for myself are all gone now. A decade will do that.). But that knowledge let me live a certain way that was, at the time, exactly how I wanted to live. Living near an open air farmer’s market that operated six days a week afforded me a much better diet, because I could schedule my day around a quick trip to the market. I went to the grocery store about once a month, if that. I ate extremely well, and damn near vegetarian to boot. This market wasn’t a one off, either. Rome was littered with them. Vicenza has one bi-weekly market that is a fucking nightmare thronged with people. I’ve been ignoring it for some time, but I am now going there more frequently. Still, I am starting to realize that I have to plan my food a little more rigorously. Part of the problem is I am ‘out of practice’ to how I used to do things when in Rome. The other part is that the infrastructure is lacking.
I would hesitate to call Vicenza a food desert, but there seem to be few options. What I find most jarring from the Rome of decade past is the lack of snacking food. I was really fucking poor back then (really, REALLY fucking poor) but eating on a budget was never a problem. Pizza by the slice places were about everywhere, and you could get a few hundred grams of pizza (if that description makes no sense, bear in mind that ‘slices’ don’t really apply. You pay by the gram) for very little, and this would tide my poor ass over. I was at my thinnest back then for a reason. I wasn’t eating much and I was keeping active. Here and now in Vicenza, all that seems gone. Its mostly restaurants, and while I now have adult money, they are still expensive. Back when, I occasionally splurged in a restaurant and always found it affordable. I also had a strong network of friends who did a lot of house parties, where food was frequently involved.
All the above seems to beg the question “can I get the old life back?”, to which the answer is no. A better question is “Can I get a facsimile of it, and well I like it as much now as I did then?” I don’t know the answer to either of those, and it concerns me. But I think there is a more important consideration as well.
Consider as well brain drain. It is a pretty well documented phenomenon that a certain amount of educated young Italians pick up and leave for better economic opportunities as soon as they finish with their schooling. Doing the opposite seems to suggest that there is an absence of brain in me. I have repeatedly stated that I do not consider myself smart (merely over-educated), and the same two useless degrees that failed to employ me in the US will likely not employ me in greener European pastures.
So what is a dude to do?
I am writing this in August of 2021. For the past few months, I have been telling myself that I will have to make a choice come the end of the coronavirus. I am now considering the possibility that there will be no end to the coronavirus. This may just go on forever. I need to work out my next step despite all that is going on. I am fortunate enough to keep going on a pretty good job, considering the circumstances. It could end any minute now.
Honestly, I am looking for a time machine in more ways than one. I see that pretty clearly. 2013 marked the beginning of a period of my life that was mostly me bouncing around from one ‘suck’ to another. It hasn’t been fun. I feel like I lost my 30s. I watched people in my peer group living really good lives throughout this past decade while I went from home to my job and back. I didn’t socialize much in the mean time. I did travel a lot, granted. But it was lonely. I feel like I want to make up for it now, and I am not sure how to go about doing it.
So what is a dude to do?