Monday, December 24, 2007

Info on Ben's and Martha's 2007 Christmas Letter

Here is our 2007 Christmas Letter from Italy:

Season Greetings to Everyone (Buon Feste Tutte),

For some of you, if you had not heard from us in a while, it is because Missy and Ben have moved to a rennovated farm house built in 1650 on approximately 50 acres (23 hectares) just outside of Monte San Savino in the province of Arezzo in the region of Tuscany, Italy.

December is the start of our third full month in Italy and we are enjoying our time here. There were a lot of “firsts” this year for us. It was our first cruise, transatlantic on the Queen Mary II from NYC to Southampton, England with our 15 year old dog, Siena Lucca. We have seen and felt our first season change in Italy. It was our first Thanksgiving together outside America, first time in Italy during the months of November and December with many more “firsts” to come. We are looking forward to celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve Italian style.

It is hard to believe that this time last year Ben was planning to start a new job in January but instead we will end 2007, living in Italy. Talk about doing a 360, it made our heads spin. In February, Missy received notice that she had become an Italian citizen. In just 7 months: we sold our house, packed to move and to store our belonging’s, shipped 41 boxes to Italy including a Weber grill and several boxes of Asian ingredients, sailed on the Queen Mary II with 21 bags, took a ferry to France and met Ben’s daughter, Maria, with a leased mini-van, drove through France and Italy to our rental house on a farm on top of one of the largest hills in the area outside of and above a small town in Tuscany.

Within a few days, we ran into Italian bureaucracy that we have read and heard so much about. But that did not spoil our fun or stop us from going to festivals: duck, with Maria and polenta with another Expat couple, Barb and Art, (whom we had met on one of our previous trips to Italy) and Missy’s cousin and husband from Delaware, Jeanne and Fred. Friends, Nina and Ellen, whom Missy worked with at Clyde’s, a restaurant in Northern Virginia, were our first guests to stay in our guesthouse. Oh, and we had to buy a car.

By the way (BTW), hunting season started the day after we arrived on 15 September and it is still hunting season in Italy! As recently as this past Sunday, 23 December, we could hear gunshots, barking dogs and the shouts and sounds of hunters nearby in our rental house. Yes, they were that close. Fortunately, we were prepared and had read about the start of hunting season. When we were visiting my sister, Bea, and her family in Kansas City, Kansas this past July, we bought a blaze orange vest for Siena Luca and blaze orange clothing for Missy and myself at Cabela’s, a huge outdoor and hunting store not far from my sister’s house to wear when we go outside to walk the dog.

In the months that followed, we have gone; to 2 different truffle festivals, San Miniato and San Giovanni d’Asso, a chocolate festival in Arezzo, a pumpkin festival with another Expat couple, David, Indah and their son, Alex, in Foiano della Chiana, a tasting of typical Tuscan foods at a exposition of Agriturismos (working farms that can derive part of their income from renting rooms or houses to paying guests) in Arezzo, and traveled down roads that we have not been down before in Tuscany. We had Thanksgiving dinner, turkey with most of the traditional trimmings with another expat couple, Tania and Keith whom we have known for almost 3 years. We have attended several weekly outdoor markets in and around the province of Arezzo.

We have discovered new restaurants and taken friends and family to some of our favorites from past visits. However, life is not all festivals, outdoor markets and eating, our paper chase continues.

Even though, Missy has an Italian passport. We both have to have recognized residency in our local comune (town) and identity cards (carta d’ identica). To get identity cards, we needed to submit copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates and, sometimes we think, every piece of paper we ever touched. Most of these documents had previously been translated into Italian, notarized and have been certified by the various Secretary of State offices where we have previously lived or were born in: Kentucky, the District of Columbia, North Carolina and Virginia. We have made (9) separate trips to the Anagrafe office in Monte San Savino where we had to submit our documents separately. We are very grateful to our neighbor Alessio and his mother, Rita, in assisting us with this process and requirement to live legally in this comune.

We each had to get Italian tax numbers, known as Codice Fiscale. Ben (the non-citizen) had to submit additional paperwork to register with the questura (police) and will received a document called a Carta di Soggorno (Cdis). Being married to an Italian citizen, he gets the Cdis not the more common Permiso di Soggorno (Pdis). He is lucky that this whole process changed within the past year and the paperwork is submitted via the Italian Post Office rather than standing in line at the questura office in Arezzo.

Ben had an appointment at the questura office in mid-December regarding his request for a Carta di Soggorno. In addition to all the paperwork he had initially submitted back in October at the Italian Post Office, he was asked for more documents and another set of photographs. He provided copies of our marriage certificate both in English and one translated into Italian, proof of financial worth (copy of bank statement and a letter from the Social Security Administration showing monthly benefit) and (4) passport size photos. Ben had to return because some machine had broken down (or so we were told) and the following day, he had to be digitally photographed and have his finger and palm prints taken. He was told by 2 different individuals that he was to return to the questura in 1 month or in 2 months to pickup his Carta di Soggorno. Needless to say, one never gets a straight forward answer in Italy.

December was a very good month for us. Besides Ben getting his first appointment with the questura, he received his carta d’ identica from the comune we live in. After which we applied for and received our health cards from the regional health authority to receive medical care and prescriptions. We now have a doctor and made our first visit to his office to get prescriptions for our various medications that we had in the States. What was amazing was that we did not have to pay for the office visit or for any of the medications. Also, you should be aware that there was no office staff supporting this doctor. When we knocked on his office door, he was in his office (just 1 room, 10’ X 16’) by himself behind a desk with a desktop computer and monitor, an examination table, a bookcase, his diploma on the wall and a few other items. Outside his office was a waiting room that he shared with another doctor. When you entered the waiting room, you asked the people sitting there who was the last person to enter and what doctor they were waiting for. It was a lot different than the doctor’s offices that Missy and I had been to in the States.

Ben’s other daughter, Annalisa, and her friend Owen, will be arriving at the end of the month for a short visit and will celebrate bring in the New Years with us. They will be bring with them a care package (read suitcase) with various items that we can’t find here or would like to have in Italy. It will also contain some surprise Christmas presents for Missy that she doesn’t know about.

Making it to Italy would not of been possible without the assistance, support and help of friends and family. Ben wants to recognize and express his and our thanks to: BK & Jim (Missy’s best friends from NC), Jane our next door neighbor & her family (VA), Bonnie & Pete (Missy’s cousin & her husband in NJ), Carmela & Antonio (our friends in Meta, Italy), Nina & Ellen (Missy’s former co-workers from Clyde’s), Bea (Ben’s sister in KS), Maria & Annalisa (Ben’s daughters) and Pat (Ben’s ex-wife). There are more individuals to list and thank for their assistance and support but these specific individuals helped get us out of Virginia or into Italy or provided items that we needed here in Italy. Also, we are very fortunate and blessed to have wonderful neighbors on either side of us: Ida and Luciano with 2 children, Alessio and Serena with a new born girl and his mother, Rita.

So far, so good! We plan on keeping busy in the months to come by renting out our guest house. Let us know if you will be in the area and plan to stay with us and/or share a glass a wine.

One last comment, one our biggest frustrations in this part of Italy is the lack of low cost and easy internet access. We live too far out of town for ADSL or cable. The dialup connection is very slow, expensive and unreliable. There are NO internet cafes in Monte San Savino. We go to a hotel lobby in Gargonza for Wi-Fi access from our respective laptops at a cost of 2 Euro/hour. With the current exchange rate, that comes out to just under $3.00/hour. The other choice is our town’s municipal tourist office. There it is free but at this time of the year, only available 3 nights a week for 2 hours but there are only 3 computers, available on a first come basis and there’s no privacy. So please be aware that if you drop us a email MSG, it may take several days to respond back to you.

Happy Holidays to you and the best of New Year’s (Buon Feste e Felice Nuovo Anno!).

Ben and Missy

Snail mail address:

Podere Covivole
Gargonza 81
52048 Monte San Savino (AR)


When you get a chance read Ben’s blog: Moving2italy2.blogspot - The #1 source of links About, For or On Italy for those individuals moving, traveling or already living in Italy.


Here are a few photographs and of our journey to Italy.

Photograph #1: Sign on our house in Vienna, VA, February 2007

Photograph #2: Missy with her friends from NC who made several trips up from Oxford to help us pack, load U-Haul trucks and just did anything else to help us move, July, 2007.

Photograph #3: Just a few of the 21 bags we took on the Queen Mary II, the ferry to France and in the leased mini-van, September 2007.

Photograph #4: Missy's cousin, Bonnie and her husband Pete who helped get us, Siena Lucca and all the luggage to Queen Mary II in Brooklyn, NY, September 2007.

Photograph #5: Ben and Missy on the Queen Mary II passing the Statue of Liberty. A very emotional and memorable moment for my wife.

Photograph #6: Missy onboard the Queen Mary II with a sub from Voltaco's, Ocean City, NJ

Photograph #7: Missy and Siena Lucca taking a stroll on the Queen Mary II.

Photograph #8: Ben, Missy and Siena Lucca at the French/Italian border by Menton, France.

Photograph #9: Our rental house, Podere Covivole, outside of Monte San Savino (AR)

Photograph #10: The 1 bedroom/1 bath stand-alone guest house at Podere Covivole

Photograph #11: Just one of the many sunsets we have enjoyed since September, 2007 with a glass of wine or scotch in hand.

That's it for Monday, 24 December 2007: lunedì, 24 dicembre 2007.

Ciao, Ben

Moving2Italy2 – #1 source of links About, For or On Italy for those individuals moving, traveling or already living in Italy.

Today’s quote is a Italian proverb, author unknown.

"Il languaggio dell'amore e negli occhi."
"The language of love is in the eyes."

Please note: The time listed below for this posting is Central European Time (CET)/ GMT+1.

1 comment:

Miss Expatria said...

Voltaco's? ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? I almost fell off my chair when I read that. HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

I am an American expat - from Ocean City - living in Montpellier, France after having spent three years in Rome, and we're looking to move back to Italy this year. I actually found your website while doing research for a client, and I've added you to my weekly reading list.

Anyway, VOLTACO'S. OH MY GOD. You have GOT to send them that picture, they will love it!!!