Posts Tagged ‘expat in Italy’


coffee sf

There’s an audible gasp when the price of my morning coffee is announced ($5.00) and the bill arrives for two martinis ($35, nuts included). Doing the grocery shopping causes small aneurysms – a 12oz container of strawberries and blueberries comes in at $7.99. I’m experiencing sticker shock on steroids.

Downtown office buildings have hi-tech elevators that run based on algorithms. Tap a computerized keypad and it scientifically figures out which car you should take to get to your floor most efficiently.


At commuter train platforms people form queues behind black squares that indicate where doors will line up. Folks wait for others to get off before boarding. I guess these people have never met a Signora at the Saturday morning market.

I’ve been seen standing dumbfounded in front of new-fangled ATMs, bus ticket machines and parking meters. I ask way too many questions and require loads of explanation. Suddenly I’m a stranger in my native country.

After nearly four years living in Italy, I’ve adapted to its culture and grown accustomed to its ketchup (less sugar), pastries (less sugar) and mayonnaise (less salt).

The other day a barista asked me if I wanted my cappuccino “wet or dry?”

Ten days and counting…Orvieto or bust.


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Toni Perm boxFrom the time I was old enough to speak, I was a reluctant crusader against the relentless ignorance over the gender-bending name my parents assigned me at birth.  1960s Madison Avenue provided only one example to refer to when enlightening people on how to accurately write the girl-version diminutive of Anthony.  “It’s spelled with an “i” instead of a “y”, you know, like Toni, The Home Permanent.” I grew weary of the discourse and confusion about my androgynous moniker and envied girls appropriately named Mary, Cindy, or Barbara.

As I reached adulthood, the naming world evolved and it appeared the heat was finally off women with “men’s names”.  Thanks to Oprah’s Book Club, Nobel Prize winning author Toni Morrison became a household name and songbird Toni Braxton was a sexy girl-named-Toni babe. Things were looking up in the given name department…until I moved to Italy. 

“Mi Chiamo Toni.”  Oh, hell, here we go again.

by Toni DeBella

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This is an actual email I received this morning from a friend:

IMG_1344Soooo….how is everything?

Lots of rain here.

My roof is leaking.

Just got in from my second trip to JFK in a week.

I spent a week in Bangkok last month.

Tell me all about your new life.

xo. D

6 December, 2012

Dear D,

We had a flood here four weeks ago. Bad.

I sit in my office a lot in front of my computer.

I drink too many cappuccinos.

I ran into my ex the other day. Awkward.

Haven’t eaten any pasta yet.

Only ate one gelato.

Eva is a great Italian teacher.

Had to substitute her for the Italian news online.

I changed my cellular provider without help.

It took two attempts.

It rained yesterday.

Supermarket is closed on Wednesdays.

I ate cereal for dinner.

The Mayor says I belong in a category called “Orvietini”

I like it.

xo. T

by Toni DeBella


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