Five Ways Living in Italy Rurnt Me

Five Ways Living in Italy Rurnt Me

If you’re from the American South, you don’t need me to explain the word rurnt. But for the rest of ya’ll not subjected to the subtly intricacies of meaning and the pure molasses mouthed mutilation of the pronunciation of perfectly innocent words, let me explain. First you need to say it correctly—ruuuurnt. It should sound sort of nasally, with a subtle squealing pig quality. You should stretch the word out and enjoy it. Ruuuuuuuurnt! Say it with emphasis! Add a scrunch of the nose and a slight shake of the head for optimal effect. Next you must understand the difference between ruined and rurnt so as to not embarrass yourself with misuse—sort of like prostate and prostrate.  Anyways, the word ruined is used when something is messed up due to a negative event.  Rurnt is used when something is messed up because things are just so good, so perfect, so generous that the recipient becomes spoilt and pure impossible to be around.  They can no longer accept anything less without feeling cheated, disrespected and utterly denied of what they deserve. 

This is what living in Italy for the past year did to me.

The Top Five Ways Living in Italy Rurnt Me

  • Healthcare
Dan getting an EEG in Rome

My husband, Dan is a long-term survivor of glioblastoma, the deadliest form of brain cancer.  However due to radiation, surgery, and chemo his health and mobility continue to decline.  Before Dan got sick, we dreamt of living in Italy for at least one year.  Last year, we decided to sell as much of our stuff as possible, rent out our house in Florida and move to Italy because we just didn’t know how much time Dan had left.  We didn’t know a soul in Italy.  We had no health insurance in Italy.  We didn’t have a huge savings account. But it was our dream and it was worth the risk. We knew the cost of living was cheaper in Italy, but we didn’t know what it might mean to Dan’s healthcare. We had to have a serious discussion about whether he was prepared to die in Italy since we didn’t know what to expect. As it turned out, this was one unnecessary worry. Our neuro-oncologist in the states hooked us up with one of the leading glioblastoma doctors in the world who practices in Rome.  We paid privately for our visits since we didn’t have insurance. Every single service was a FRACTION of what we paid in the states WITH insurance!  Dan needed two MRIs while we were there.  They were 309 Euros ($340) each.  In the U.S. with insurance Dan’s first MRI every year cost us over $2000 out of pocket. During one visit, the doc felt he needed to see Dan’s brainwaves.  He simply walked us down the hall and had the tech do an EEG.  In the U.S. this would have been a whole separate visit in a separate facility several weeks later.  In Italy, it was done within an hour and did not cost us anything extra.  Doctor’s visit and EEG: 12O Euros ($132).  This was consistently our experience with the Italian healthcare system.  Top notch care; affordable for all.  In fact, if we had been citizens ALL of Dan’s care would have been completely free (yes, I know taxes are high) because he is chronically ill.  As our doctor said, “Why should you be destroyed financially because your husband is sick?  That is not your husband’s fault.” Oh, and did I mention that the doc routinely emails you within a few hours if you have a question?  Ya, we’re rurnt. Also, in light of the pandemic, when I saw what was happening in Italy even with their excellent health care, my first thought was, I hope everyone is okay.  My second was, Wow. We’re screwed.

  • Friends
Betsy and Alex

One night, after having lived in our small hill town just north of Rome for a week or so, a woman popped her head over the stone wall of our garden and introduced herself.  She offered to walk me to a yoga class the next morning and from that point on I had a loving group of friends.  Meeting almost every day for either un caffe or aperitivo was normal. If you heard someone speaking English in the main square it was not odd to simply start a conversation. Usually you would be invited to join them and before you could protest, your caffe would be paid for and WhatsApp info exchanged.  My Italian friends were shocked when I told them of the strange new American habit of expecting even your best friends to text before giving you a call.  Dear people, these are the things that keep us sane.  They make us happy. Here in the U.S. I have friends that mean the world to me.  I never see them.  We are spread too far out.  We are too busy. I don’t’ know how to recreate this in the U.S. and believe me I have thought long and hard about it…I sure do miss it.

  • Siesta then Aperitivo
Aperitivo before a delicious dinner

In our small town and most small to medium size towns that we visited, siesta was a serious thing.  You better buy your bread and veggies for pranza in the morning cause come 12:30 p.m. most things closed up like Fort Knox and no matter how much you beg and plead for them to just crack the door open enough to hand you a tiny chunk of pecora or a loaf of fresh lievito—it ain’t happening.  You are expected to go home or to a restaurant to have a loooooong leisurely lunch including wine and desert followed by a nap.  Then around 7 p.m. it is time for aperitivo!  A typical aperitivo occurred before dinner and consisted of an inexpensive cocktail (usually an Aperol spritz) and some sort of little snacks.  Sometimes the snacks were just chips, peanuts and olives but other times, especially if the drink was pricier, you would be given a whole smorgasbord of delightful little goodies.  Often, we were so full we never actually made it to dinner.  This is also the dieting method that I prefer. It’s true that the sugar content of the Prosecco used to make spritz will rot your teeth, but it’s a small price to pay.

  • Safety
Celebrating our Saint

Guns used for the sole purpose of killing people are very hard to get. It took us a couple of months to not jump every time we heard the assault weapon like pop! pop! pop! of the NEVERENDING fireworks shot for EVERY celebration ALL times of the day and night. Soon enough though, I forgot about my previous life where every single day I thought about how I’d get my students out of an active shooter scenario and relaxed into my new life where the freedom to live in safety was prioritized.

  • The Damn Car
The bus is always five minutes late–unless you are.

We didn’t have one. For a WHOLE year.  Was it always convenient? No.  Was I able to get a bottle of Tanqueray and limes any moment of the day or night? No.  But the trade-off was worth it (usually) and not having that expense is part of what gave us the ability financially to live in Italy for a year. No car payment. No insurance. No gas.  Every once in a while, our local Eurocar would have a stupendous sale and we’d rent a Panda for the week and tool around but other than that we took the mostly reliable Cotral buses, just like other Europeans. This also gave us the freedom to read, watch the amazing scenery or just observe the cultural differences that naturally occur when lots of people are shoved into a confined space. I could write a book on just this alone.

These are just my top five reason’s that Italy rurnt me, today-on a Monday at 3 p.m. If you ask me in fifteen minutes, I ‘ll have a different five (other than healthcare) to ramble on and on about.  Italy is not perfect (Salvini, wedged sneakers).  Not everything about our experience was peachy but I will say that I felt more human in Italy. I never once Googled English Speaking Therapist in Rome or fantasized about shaving my head and becoming a Buddhist nun (Plum Village is my first choice) and for me, that’s saying a lot! Ciao, friends!