Embracing the Unconventional - A New Life in Italy

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Embracing the Unconventional

March 3, 2022

Guest Blogger: Lisa P.

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This week I will share with you some unconventional and creative ways to improve your Italian regardless of proficiency level. 😀 We will also explore what to do if you are nervous about interacting with Italians and how to overcome shyness 😵‍💫. So, bring your appetite! 🥐🍾🥳 And join me with a large dish of your favorite confectionary, and, let’s go!

1. Improving your Italian language skills

Do you have nightmares about not being able to communicate in Italian? 🤯 Then I have a suggestion or two about how to “dive into the rabbit hole” of language learning. This is not a once-off process. You will dig many rabbit holes 🐇 and in them, you will collect the treasure, 🧰 the pearly 💎 nuances of the language and in the process of these excavations🕵️ your Italian will improve. 🤗 Some of these rabbit 🐇 holes you’ll visit a few times, and in so doing you’ll have a nice little rabbit 🐇 warren comprised of words, sayings, and expressions that will serve you well. 🧰

And you’ll meet others 👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 who abide in your local warren that will befriend you as you explain to them how excited you are over Soffione! More on that below but for now, all you have to do is start taking on projects and doing things in Italy that you’ve not a clue about 🤷🏻‍♀️ in your country of origin. 🔨

What could possibly go wrong!

You may wonder…what sort of daft advice is this? 😳 Indeed, my formula of cluelessness coupled with determination (I will do this, I CAN do this, come hell or high-water) has worked for me, so let’s take a closer look at a few of my “mini home improvements” ⚙️ or projects that have emboldened my command of the Italian language. They must be “mini” because I’m newly arrived here and I don’t have any tools! 🛠

The first was the showerhead in the shower.

Utter rubbish! 🔧.

The water 🚿 would spray all over everything except me 😤. After several attempts at adjusting it and failing, I decided that there had to be a way to change it. Turns out the shower head just unscrews and you put a new one in its place. They even sell these in the supermarkets, which is a clue right there that this is a common practice in Italy. But here is where the language acquisition kicks in: you have to learn how to say showerhead 🚿 in Italian.

The showerhead rabbit hole will “flood” ☔️🚿 you with all the words related to plumbing and hoses and things. Spoiler alert! The word for showerhead in Italian is Soffione like, Soffioni 🚿 doccia portatili con doccetta ad alta pressione, supporto per soffione a cascata e pioggia e flessibile (150cm) per kit cabina doccia.

I was unacquainted with the word, Soffione. But now I love it, Soffione… and it cascades through my head and I just want to sing, 🎶 QUANTE BELLE SOFFIONE MIA! 🎶 As I meander through the streets but I don’t want to scare people. 🤭 So for now, I’ll just be singing in the shower. A shower 🚿 that works!

Indeed, for further improvements in the same area I’ve assembled a toilet roll 🧻 holder, step stool, procured bathroom 🚽 carpets & bath towels 🛁 and put together a doohickey that holds your shower 🚿 soaps 🧼 so that they don’t attack your feet 👣 and explode 🤯 💥 leaking the soapy goodness all over the place because you can’t balance them on the walls or fixtures in the shower proper. Trust me on this one, ouch! Lessons learned.


📌 Pro- tip: google and Amazon.it are useful, because you can look up things that are in need of repair and learn the Italian for those things. What is more, put your phone in Italian. For example, I put my iPhone in Italian and while driving 🚙 I get turn by turn directions in Italian 🗺

2. Conversing with Italians: now that you are the Soffione 🚿 expert of your medieval village 🏰 it is time to get out there and talk to people! 😃


If you are apprehensive or not confident about speaking Italian, 😬 even if you speak it really well 🤗but are a bit timido 😶 then just leave the house hungry; 😋 which is easy to do in Italy, because the lifestyle is so active that you’ll always be hungry 🍝. Set off for centro storico (city center) and walk into a bar full of fresh pastries 🥐. But make sure that you are plenty peckish. If you’re hungry I can almost guarantee your success in communicating with your new neighbors 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 Walls will come down and you, too, will have moments like this one ☺️: so I’d been out walking for several kilometers and became quite famished so I stopped into a bar, ordered a cappuccino ☕️ and took a seat.

Usually, I stand like everyone else but I was peckish and a bit fatigued. Suddenly a lady 👸 breezed in and asked the barman to make her a nice brioche 🥐, yes; that one, the one with the pistachio crème. They chattered away but I got lost in part of the conversation, because I was watching this lady DEVOUR the pistachio crème filled pastry 🥐 and I was suddenly moved to stand up, walk over to her, and steal the pastry right from her crème filled hands!

Well, not quite 😁. No thievery occurred 😈. Such behavior would go over like a lead balloon with the carabinieri 👮 or poliza municipale and I really don’t want to create a disturbance here as I’m waiting on my citizenship. However, I did ask her what it was she was feasting on and if she recommended it. She smiled 😌 and stated that it was soooo delicious 😋 and yes she recommends it, so I asked the barman if I could have the same brioche 🥐 that she was enjoying. He was happy 🤵‍♂️ to hand over the decadent goods and I, too, embarked on my own pistachio crème filled pastry pig-out.

And here is where the magic ⭐️ happened.

I told them how wonderful the pastry 🥮 was. And the lady was like SI davvero, VERO? / it is good yes, is it not! 😋And we gestured and talked and the barman was happy and we were all filled with giddiness, effervescing in the radiance of our newly found pistachio crème filled buzz. 🤗Feeling revived and “puffy pistachio crème pastry drunk” I made my way back to my apartment, but with a smile on my face that was hard to hide even under the mascherina.🥳😷😋


In sum: you don’t have to constantly waffle down pastries 🥮 🎂🥐 visiting every bar in town on an empty stomach; you can change your pace and eat pizza 🍕 instead! But truly the chances for conversations with your Italian neighbors 👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 and shop owners are endless.

And you don’t have to start building a time machine ⚙️🔩 or plan an entire remodeling of your home 🪒🪣🏠 but doing day to day tasks 🔧 and taking on projects will truly increase your command of the Italian language.

For example, I put a dishwasher in my rental, negotiating the deal from purchase to home delivery all in Italian and some of it on the phone📞 as well as the courier. However, the latter was met with curiosity from the real estate agent who could not fathom why anyone who lives alone needs a dishwasher🤷🏻‍♂️! After a lot of googling in Italian the difference between washing dishes by hand, or using a dishwasher, it was as I suspected; that the dishwasher 🧼 is just more sanitary. Science!


📌 Pro tip: don’t tell your Italian neighbors that a dishwasher is more sanitary than hand washing the dishes AND with a smile on your face 😃 like you just discovered a cure for the plague 😷. They will look at you as if you’re a few sandwiches 🥪 short of a sack lunch

In sum: Figuring out 🤔 how to do things will help you with your Italian language and you’ll gain more knowledge of how a system ⚙️that is seemingly and purposely designed to implode 💥 on itself, gets anything done.

And here is a quick note 📝 about dishwashers in Italy, for those who are not aware. They are a different sort of “beast” to conquer and require a special kind of dishwasher salt 🧂 that must be poured into the dishwasher before its first use, and topped up thereafter.


Well. with all this discussion of soap 🧼 and appliances, I believe it’s time for me to finish loading the dishwasher before basking in the spray of a working showerhead ☺️🚿. I have much more to share and I do hope 🙏 that some of my experiences here have benefited you! So, until next week! Keep calm and, Soffione on!
🥐🚿☺️ 🇮🇹 🚙
– Lisa P.

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  1. Geri says:

    Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  2. Jodi says:

    Lisa, gtrazie mille! I enjoy your writing style and your stories! Auguri!!!

  3. Deb says:

    Absolutely LOVE your column. I have been looking forward to it all week… Thank you for sharing your tips and experiences. Now, when we are in a new place in Siena, we will know how to buy a new showered and to put salt in the dishwasher..
    I bet I know where the tastiest pistachio creme brioche is sold… I could picture you there.. I can’t wait for our opportunity to be there… GRAZIE. You are doing a great job. BRAVA!

  4. Tara Dolan Wright says:

    As usual, a delightful journey through a day i the life…thank you for sharing!!!

  5. Kimberly O. says:

    Love your posts!

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