"Transplanted Canadians...there, now back!!" mapakettle's Profile

Howdy folks...We're back in Canada now, stay tuned

Who are we??

Ma Kettle and I are Canadians, who love our country, but got tired of living a regimented life style. We sold everything we owned, lock, stock, and barrel, and moved to Italy in the early fall of 2003. We are both retired, in our (late) mid- fifties, non-smokers, and, although now homeless, possess relatively good health. This is the first time in over forty years that I haven't owned a car, and have since discovered that feet were designed to do more than work a clutch and a gas pedal.

Why Italy, you ask..?

We chose Italy because Ma Kettle was originally born in southern Italy, Carolei to be exact, located in the region of Calabria, and has had a strong desire to return for many years, and me, well, I have always envied the Italians zest for life, and wished an opportunity to experience it for myself. We now reside in Padova, only about 30 minutes from Venice, and find the people to be very friendly, and extremely polite. After two years, I speak very little Italian, and generally find if I approach people with a smile, a shrug, and make at least a feeble attempt to speak their language, I am warmly received. Italians are very forgiving people.

We have chosen to live 'within' the average annual salary of a typical Italian family, and this has allowed us to understand and share the frustrations, as well as the joy, of this beautiful country. To be honest, the brutal exchange rates on our Canadian dollar (although pretty) forces us to live no other way. Having no vehicle to maintain helps tremendously in keeping to our budget.

There are many differences in our culture, but once all is said and done, within, we are all the same.

I LOVE IT HERE. Thank you Italy.

Train travel, our preferred choice...

When travelling within Italy, we prefer to travel by rail, Second Class on Eurostar trains, if we're going to be going any distance. First Class would be a treat, but the larger seats aren't enough to entice me to spend the extra money.

Any of the Trenitalia trains are suitable for other travel of shorter distances. Just a hint, if you board a train that is standing room only (happens a lot), make your way to First Class, and stand there. No additional cost, no crowds because tourists don't know they are allowed, and often the conductor will allow you to occupy seats that are 'reserved' but won't be used for another few stops. Worth a try. (note...we have experienced wonderful conductors this past year)

We normally look for the equivalent of a Three Star hotel when away from home base. Their common areas allow us an opportunity to visit with other guests, and share in their experiences, and learn more about travel in general. We have discovered some unique hotels this way, and now enjoy the lessor or non-rated ones for their character and odd-ball charm. Surprise can be a wonderful stimulant.

Breakfast is often included in the price, but don't expect much in the way of selection in the morning. Rolls, juice (powdered), coffee (instant if American style), cereal, sliced ham, cheese, possibly canned fruit, and often yogurts. The hotels place a value of between 5 - 10 euro per person for these offerings, so, if you want convenience...go for it. Suggest you confirm that breakfast is included as part of your room price, just to be sure.

If any VT readers are willing to share their favourite hotels within Italy with us, we would be most grateful.

We are great believers that the MORE you spend, the LESS you see of everyday life in a foreign country. You have to blend with the culture in order to appreciate it.

Our favourite activities...

We enjoy all the normal tourist attractions, but especially love walking the various neighbourhoods searching for eateries offering good basic food. (and local wine) Be especially watchful of the extras you add to your dinner. Water is extra, often bread is charged for, and the coffee and dessert at the meals end will jump your total price dramatically. We have noticed, especially in Florence, the usual 'coperto' (cover charge) is now accompanied by a 15% - 18% service charge. Tipping is optional, use your judgement. I wonder how much of this cover charge actually is placed in the waiters hand? Is there a formula that is used?

Our favourite method of exploring Padova is by hopping on a city bus, (any bus) and 'just going' where the bus goes. When we see something of interest, we get off, and wander. Cheap method of touring, and you really can't get lost.

If adventure isn't your game, pick up a bus schedule and route map from the APS counter at the train station. Get a book of tickets at the same time (book of 12 cost 10 euro)

We enjoying wandering about the centro, visiting the open air markets. This is especially fun for Christmas shopping, finding the odd ball present for the difficult person on your Xmas list.

Remember to buy a bag of freshly roasted chestnuts, but get twice as many as you think you'll eat, because you will want more. Ask for an extra napkin, as the soot from the hot shells is rather messy. Suggest you wait til the fellow roasts a new pan, best hot.

Our five year plan....

Our intentions are to travel throughout Europe and the UK, and I am especially interested in Scotland. Many people who have read our site have made suggestions that we visit their community, so we have added an additional map to our wall and have noted each and every location. Thank you so much.

We have a five year plan while living abroad, ...travel...travel...travel...travel, and travel. We are not interested in baubles, or collectibles, however our three boys received masks from Venice for Christmas and will again next year, and probably the year after, and so on, and so on...

We feel like newlyweds...

Our kids thought we were crazy to leave everything we worked so hard for, and leave our wonderful home in Canada. We explained that life was too short, we'd seen too little, and had to realize our dream. They are now envious. Having shucked all our possessions have made us feel so alive, almost like newlyweds. (we've been married over 40 years). If you've ever thought of running away from home, well, our suggestion is, JUST DO IT !!!

Our plans changed...

Our original intent was to spend five glorious years travelling about Europe, but...we returned to Canada in June 2006. Three years abroad was wonderful, but we felt it was time to call it quits.

Plans change, and priorities must be adjusted to accomodate real life. We found that living apart from the 'familiar' was just too difficult to adjust to. We missed the occasional can of Campbells soup for lunch, the glass of eggnog at Christmas time, my bowls of Shredded Wheat, our brunches with bacon and eggs, and we missed the sounds of English being spoken in the background. I missed the opportunity to kabitz with our waitress, and the relative safety of crossing the road mid-block. I missed not being able to work, finding out that the need to have a purpose in getting up each day was very important to me.

Above all, we missed our children. They may be all grown up with individual lives of their own, but they never stopped being our kids. Life without family was simply too difficult for Ma Kettle and me to adjust to. That all important hug from our children was sadly lacking in our environment, so we knew we had to call an end to our self imposed exile.

Don't get me wrong, the previous three years were the best years of our lives. We grew so much, learned so many life lessons, and we can never misplace our memories. We thank God every day for allowing us the opportunity to add the experience to our resume.

A slight detour...

Once our decision to leave Italy was made, we had moments of panic, realizing that our dreams had not be fulfilled. We hadn't seen Scotland, we didn't make it to Spain or Portugal, France had been avoided through deft manipulation by yours truly, and England simply had not been in the cards.

Hunkering down in deep negotiation, Ma made a decision to see as much as we could upon our exit, a plan which included a stop over in Paris. As you might have gathered, I was not thrilled with the prospect, but agreed if we could arrange to fly home from England, taking the Chunnel to London (a desire I had). Why? Who knows.

As it turned out, Paris was a city I long to return to visit. Ma was as happy as a clam as you can see from the photo, and my grin was easily as wide as hers was.

  • Intro Updated Feb 20, 2011
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mapakettle

“creases merely show where your smiles begin”

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Ma Pa
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