Happy to have this guest post by Stephany on Vicenza, Italy. Please visit my Duty station guest post page for posts on other locations or more information about how you can write a guest post about where you have been stationed.
From the minute I stepped off the plane in Venice, Italy, I knew life would be a bittersweet combination of challenges and fun adventures. While I enjoy the beauty of Italy’s scenic mountains and greenery, I’ve learned that like any rose bush, Italy has its thorns too.
I had been to Venice a year ago with my husband and was surrounded by Italians who spoke English and were happy to serve American patrons. I naively thought the rest of Italy would welcome us with open arms until I moved here. A new army installation was opening shortly after I arrived (Caserma Del Din) and was violently protested by Italians who cut into the fence and forced their way in. Some Italians don’t want our troops here because they believe it will bring war onto their home front.
I also came to Italy with the preconceived notion that it would be cheap to travel all of Europe. My husband and I went to Rome and spent a little over $400 round-trip just for train fare. We spent close to a thousand total on food, lodging and travel. Needless to say, we haven’t ventured far since Rome. In addition, the cost of living is higher because the US dollar is equivalent to 0.70€.
The obvious solution would be to get a job so we have extra spending money for trips, however, this has proven to be difficult. The US has an agreement with Italy called the SOFA agreement which basically states US citizens can’t work in the Italian economy and 70% of jobs on post must go to Italian citizens.
However, there is a silver-lining to this proverbial thorn bush I call home. For starters, I live in northern Italy which is surrounded by beautiful mountains and it rains a bit which makes all the foliage green. Whenever it rains, the skies are clear the next day and every crevice and snowcap can be seen on the mountains. This is a treat for a Texas girl like myself who is from a drought-ridden city where the grass is brown and the ground is flat.
While I mentioned earlier that traveling can be expensive, there are plenty of places close by to see. Verona, Venice, Asiago (yes, this is where the cheese asiago comes from), and Pisa (you know, the leaning tower) are all within an hour or two away. I went to Verona to see the house of Juliet and even wrote her a letter! I’ve been to Venice a handful of times and I’m going to Milan in a few days! There is so much to see; wineries are everywhere, olive oil factories let you harvest olives and give a tour, and so much more. Surprisingly, there are wives here who are unhappy and it’s because they never get out and explore this beautiful country.
Along with traveling, I’ve enjoyed the food (maybe a little too much!) Italians are all about enjoying their meals and it’s taught me a few things. Unlike fast-paced Americans, Italians believe in enjoying meals and it’s not something to be rushed – it’s a marathon not a race. Dinner is served in courses and enjoyed in a large group of family and friends over several hours of delicious food and conversation. After dinner, it’s customary to drink coffee or even liquor as a digestive. I hope to adopt this belief of enjoying food slowly instead of shoveling it in my mouth long after we move.
My advice to any families PCSing to Vicenza, Italy is to 1) get involved in the military community (FRG, soldiers’ theater, community club, volunteer, etc) and/or make friends. It can get lonely here if you don’t get out of the house and I believe this is why lots of wives are unhappy here. 2) Come with an open mind. It’s a different culture here and it’s a different way of life, driving in Italy is very different (in place of traffic lights, there are traffic circles aka roundabouts), some restrooms are simply a hole in the ground (called a squatty potty because you have to squat to pee). 3) Lower enlisted are only allowed one POV, so make friends with other families so your husband can carpool and you can have a car when you need one. It’s tough having only one car out here but taxes are high if you have two cars and it’s not feasible unless you or your husband are higher enlisted and can afford it.
Stephany is currently living with her husband Travis in Vicenza, Italy. She has a passion for writing and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas, hook ‘em horns! When she’s not writing, she’s out walking her dog or spending time at home with her husband. She loves doing arts and crafts, making salt scrubs, bath fizzies, care packages, and sewing pillows.