Caroline Chirichella, along with her husband and daughter, swapped New York city for a slower paced life in Martina Franca in Puglia.
1. When did the idea of moving to Italy first arrive for you?
The idea of moving to Italy first came to me a young girl who craved living in the birthplace of Opera and being close to my Italian roots. I wanted to see where my family came from and be a part of the magic and beauty of Italy I had only known from films.
2. When did the idea turn into the actual decision to move
I made my first step towards moving to Italy back in 2014. I was working as private chef in my hometown of NYC and was tired of chaotic life, working late until the early morning hours, not having the time to have a social life due to crazy schedules. I wanted to experience life at a slower and calmer pace. I wanted to live someplace that was the opposite of New York City. So, I came to Italy and purchased a home in a beautiful town in the south of Italy called Guardia Sanframondi. It was perfect and exactly what I needed. It was because of that life changing decision that I met my now husband and have our beautiful daughter. We now live in my husband's birthplace of Puglia, that way we can be closer to family. Moving to Italy was the best decision I ever made, and I have n0 regrets.
3. How long did it take to then move here once the decision was made?
It took around a year of on and off traveling. I made my decision to purchase my home in December of 2014 just two days before I was supposed to head back to NYC. I had to get everything all set for my purchase and tie up some loose ends back home. I came back to Italy in the summer of 2015 and officially closed on my property making me a first-time homeowner. I then traveled back and forth from Italy to NYC for another six months before finally making the big move full-time.
4. Can you paint a picture of how you felt about finally living here in Italy?
Most of the time I felt like pinching myself. Part of me couldn't believe I had really been this crazy, moving to a place at 25 years old where I didn't speak the language or know anyone! I felt like I was living in a movie. It also felt completely natural, like this is where I was supposed to be all along.
5. What do you do here in Italy, do you work/have your own business?
I am a full-time writer with a focus on parenting and mental health. I work for myself from the comfort of my home, all while getting to live "la dolce vita."
6. What were you top two greatest challenges when you first moved here? How did you get over them?
My greatest challenge was learning the language. When I first arrived, I knew a little Italian due to my years of singing opera, but that clearly wasn't going to be enough to get by. I was nervous I was going to be here for years before fully getting a grasp of the language. After around two years, I can confidently say I picked up the language very well. I pushed myself to make myself uncomfortable. I went to cafes and parks and spoke with people. I looked for any opportunity to get a conversation going. While I know my Italian is far from perfect, I'm always understood and never have an issue communicating.
My other challenge was accepting that most everything closes in the afternoon!! Coming for a New Yorker, that's unheard of!! It took me some time to accept (and remember) this. I would often head out in the afternoon to do some shopping only to be reminded that pretty much everything is shut. Of course, I now look at this from a different point of view since it gives everyone time to take a break, breathe, eat, and maybe even catch a little nap. Looking at it from a mental health angle, it really proves that Italians are on to something.
7. What is something that has surprised you the most about what you love about living in Italy?
I guess I am never going to get over the fact that I actually live here and at the drop of a hat, can go anywhere in Italy and take in the sites. I love Florence and have spent a great deal of time there. Now, anytime I want to go see The David or head up to Rome for the week to gaze at the marvel of the colosseum, I can! I will never get over that.
8. Is there anything that you would do differently here, if you had your time over?
Honestly? No. I wouldn't change a thing because every step I took led me to exactly where I am now and want to be.
9. What is the strangest thing about Italian culture that you thought you would never get used to but now couldn't live without?
Okay, so this is not strange, but one of the biggest traditions my family and I have picked up is Sunday meals together. This is classic Italian. Growing up, my mother's family continued that tradition back in NYC. Now, every Sunday, my parents join my husband, daughter, and I for dinner. I love spending Sunday in the kitchen, preparing a home-cooked meal to sit down and enjoy with my family. I can't imagine Sundays without Sunday dinner.
10. Give us a run-through of your favourite Italian day.
My favorite Italian day starts with heading into our stunning town of Martina Franca, Puglia, to sit in one of the beautiful piazzas for a fresh cornetto and cappuccino and just taking it all in. Not rushing to be anywhere, but really soaking it in. Breathing in the fresh air, basking in the sunlight, watching the people go by. Just enjoying being in the moment. Often, after a start to the day like this, my husband and I, along with our three-year-old daughter, will decide to be spontaneous and go for a drive to one of the nearby beautiful towns in Puglia--and go site seeing. I love that while I live in Italy, I still get excited about taking in new sites. Italy is a beautiful place to live, and I am truly blessed to call it my home.