Spring Hikes

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The weather has gotten warmer, and we’ve been able to go hiking. I’ve done three hikes in the last couple months. The first was a wine walk organized by a few of the PhD students from CIMeC. This was a hike including four wineries along the way, one of them in an old castle. It was a nice ~7km walk down the hill, with great wine and food (parmiggiano reggiano, salami, and other small bites) along the way, although it turns out that a steep downhill hike through narrow forested paths and twisty city alleyways is a bit challenging when you’re with a group of fairly drunk people. Still, the views were lovely and it was a great way to spend an afternoon. My favorite white wine from the walk was the Gewürtztraminer from Cantina d’Isera, and my favorite red was the Lagrein from Castel Noarna.

The next hike went up to Cima della Marzòla. We did this one with a friend we made in the last year at Saarland who was visiting, and the hike was much longer than we expected. It totaled in around 18-20km, with approximately 1000 meters elevation difference, first up through forest and fields of wildflowers, and then down around the side of the mountain. It took around 6 hours to complete it, I think. Needless to say, my calves and thighs were hurting on the way up, and my knees on the way down, but we survived, and the views were well worth it. The whole way up was covered in these beautiful trees, whose yellow flowers hung down like willow branches. And just as we were at the peak, a rainbow shone over a smaller hilltop below. How lucky! Most of all, I enjoyed spending time with friends. I miss that wonderful community we had at Saarland, as well as the relatively decent education/organization there as well, for that matter (which is not something I expected to say at the end of last year).

The last hike went up Monte Stivo. This one was the longest. We left from the base somewhere near Passo Bordala around 10:00 in the morning, and returned, I think, around 19:30. I’m not sure how many kilometers we walked, but it was a hell of a lot. The way up was winding through some forest at first, but after the first peak, it became rather steep. Amazingly, at one of our stops, we saw a group of 30 horse riders taking a break before continuing their climb to the top. I wouldn’t have expected horses to be able to make it up there, but I guess they are more nimble than I thought.  The path up to the first overlook wound its way through wooded underbrush, and grassy cliff sides, dotted with lovely yellow, white, and violet flowers, where bees and butterflies buzzed and fluttered around us– and it only got better from there.

As we climbed over the last rocks along the steep path, we saw a wide grassy hilltop covered in beautiful wildflowers. The top was breathtaking. I think this was my favorite hike out of all the ones we’ve done here in Trentino (or maybe ever).  In each direction we turned, we saw a landscape of valleys and mountain tops, many of them lower than Stivo, though some in the distance were much higher and snow-capped. The sun was hot, but the breeze was cool, and it brought with it wispy clouds that occasionally obscured the view of Lago di Garda in the West, far, far below us.

We had climbed around 900m in elevation to get up Monte Stivo, and so we had to go the same distance down, this time around the back of the mountain. As we walked along the ridge of the mountain, over a path flanked by wildflowers, we encountered a small farm with cows, sheep, goats, turkeys, and a dog guarding the little house. The farm was literally just on the side of this giant mountain, barely even fenced off.  As we made our way through the farm (that’s the way the path went), a curious baby goat bounded up to us, getting so close that we could pet it, and feed it a bit of grass. What kind of a life must it be to lead a farmstead in such a remote, and beautiful place? I bet it’s really cold in the winter, when the snows cover Monte Stivo, along with all the mountains and valleys surrounding it. We continued our descent back into the forest.

The way back, was much longer than the way there, since it didn’t cut straight down the mountain, but looped all the way around back. Much of it took us through the somewhat wild underbrush. We had to hike through deep mud, clay, and leaves, and some parts of it were actually fairly tick-infested as well. One of our party members ended up finding 9 ticks on her that day! Somehow, the others of us didn’t get any biting into us at all, just a few that we managed to brush off before they took hold.

The whole thing was pretty crazy, but I can’t deny that it was breathtaking (both metaphorically, and literally)

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Weeks 79 through 83

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Apart from the terrifying accident that happened last week, we did manage a bit of a vacation. This weekend was Easter weekend, which is a huge holiday in much of Europe, Italy included. Because of the accident, we weren’t sure if we’d be able to make it to Trieste, as we had planned. Fortunately, the whiplash wasn’t so bad and I have few other injuries so we managed to go after all. We wandered around the center of Trieste itself on Saturday evening, enjoying the churches, Grand Canal, and pier. On Sunday, we took bus line 6 to Miramare, a lovely castle on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic sea (where I fell in love with a lizard, and stood taking pictures of him for like forever). Finally on Sunday, we took bus line 42 to Grotta gigante, a huge cave full of stalagmites, with a massive cavern over 100m high. In total we had one full day and two half days in Trieste, and I feel like this is enough to see the main sights, though in our case we missed a couple things due to my recovery.

Costs:
  • €235 – rent
  • €55 – internet
  • €30 – phone
  • €30 – garbage
  • €163 – groceries
  • €172 – trip to Trieste
  • €130 – aerial silks
  • Total: €825

The Accident

I vaguely remember going down the sidewalk on the street to aerial. I guess I was trying to catch up to my friend ahead, and didn’t see the car as I went through an intersection. Thankfully, I always wear a helmet (Europeans don’t always do this and I think it’s insane), and thankfully, my friend heard the accident. She called the ambulance. They put my neck in a brace and I have a funny picture of that, but I don’t remember any of it. From my perspective, I woke up around 1am with my husband next to me and my friend at the foot of the bed. They told me I had been in an accident. It turns out, I had been awake the whole time asking the same questions over and over, unable to keep the answers in my head. Some pieces of memories have returned, but in the end, I still  remember very little. My head and neck hurt (my husband said I had whiplash) and I had some bad bruises where I must have fallen.

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Hospital lunch.

I slept badly– they kept waking me up to do various tests throughout the night and morning: blood pressure, cardiogram, and maybe more. The paperwork says they did a CAT scan when I came in, which showed negative for brain injuries. In the morning, they offered me a tiny breakfast of biscuits with jam and tea, and at lunch I got a small helping of plain oriechietti pasta with olive oil and parmesan, and a baked apple (safe foods I suppose). My husband kept me company the whole time, only leaving to get a few supplies, and my Italian friends came while he was out, so I never had to be alone. It was really nice knowing that there were people looking out for me.

I was afraid of the cost of all of this, but at the start of the year, I paid around 300 euro for a bunch of bureaucracy, including health insurance. Since I now have the usual national Italian health insurance, the healthcare was entirely free.

On the other hand, car repairs aren’t free. I met with the woman from the accident yesterday evening, and had a rather long conversation in mostly Italian with her and her husband. They didn’t quite believe that I didn’t remember what happened. I understand why that might sound fishy, but it’s true in this case.

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The dent my head made in the car.

Anyways, the lady seemed mostly like a reasonable person trying to get paid for car fixes. Her husband, on the other hand, was kind of a dick. He wasn’t there during the accident, and he spoke very poor English compared to the lady, and yet he felt the need control the conversation from the outset and to ‘splain to me everything that happened there, in particular underscoring the importance of the giant dent my head made in the car (nevermind about my head, by the way). He further proceeded to ‘splain to me how American insurance works and that it would pay for the accident– even after I said multiple times that I do not have American insurance, and that even if I did, it wouldn’t work the way he thought. Perhaps he was under the mistaken impression that I was a frightened American college student willing to write a blank check to make the situation go away? That is not the case. He obviously thought he deserved to be in control of this situation, which he had literally nothing to do with. It took me some 10 repetitions of “I need documentation of the incident before I can do anything,” to shut him down. I was only polite, but I was willing to repeat the same thing a million times if that’s what it took. He eventually gave up and started smoking like a chimney instead.

After that, I was finally able to talk to the actual adult in the room (the lady from the accident), and we figured out what we have to do next, starting with her calling the police to get information about the documents I need. It also helped that one of my friends who was at the accident showed up at just the end of the conversation by complete luck (it’s a small town). My friend and the lady talked in Italian and came to much the same conclusions that had already been decided upon. Although no new information had been exchanged, the lady and her condescending husband seemed to finally accept that they were probably going to get what they wanted and we parted ways.

It’s possible I was in the wrong (though once again, I don’t actually remember anything at all), in which case, I might have to pay, but I’m waiting for all the police statements now. Hopefully some impartial passersby saw what actually happened. I do have some personal liability insurance through LCT (Dr. Walter travel insurance), and my hope is that this gets reimbursed, if I do have to pay. The dent my head made in the car was huge, and the repairs will likely be expensive.

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The memory of the beautiful visage of the lizard from Trieste keeps me going.

Update (12.04.2018):

Today was stressful in many ways. I want to describe my day just a little, so as to set the scene for what is to come. Firstly, I realized yesterday that my bike wheel had been bent in the accident, and I had to pick it up from repairs today (annoying errand number one). Also, I got the most terrible rope burn on the back of my knee from learning a new aerial drop, and didn’t get much sleep last night from the pain, which also makes walking difficult. I did have some American disinfectant cream (Neosporin) lying around, but this morning I had to go to a pharmacy to pick up other wound dressings (annoying, and painful, errand number two). Finally, my glasses also broke the day before yesterday, and my backup pair actually give me some headaches, as do contacts when working in front of the computer. So I’m struggling against that, while also trying to find time to go to an optometrist (another thing I have to learn to do in Italian now). So with all of these small annoyances going on in my life, I needed to brace myself to face the Italian bureaucratic system, yet again. Today, I would be dealing with the carabinieri (military trained police, as opposed to polizia di stato, who are the civilian state police– I’m not entirely sure where their duties overlap or diverge).

Friday of last week, I went to the carabinieri to try to get a statement of what happened during the accident. I had to wait an hour (which made me miss the last train before the 2hr morning break in trains) to receive a piece of paper stating that there was an accident and who was involved. This was not a statement of what actually happened though. I was told to return today at 18:00 for that.

So today I went to pick up the statement of what happened. I arrived at 18:00, as I was told, but of course, I expected things to not be ready. Indeed, I ended up waiting around an hour in the office of who I assume might be an important head guy, because he had the nicer jacket with the most number of stripes. There were 3 people dealing with me. This head guy, another lower ranking guy, and an English-speaking one. That was nice of them to provide the English speaking one, because he was able to more quickly make me understand what they wanted from me, namely, a copy of my insurance.

The head guy was pretty outgoing, and talked to me at length about his home, Licata, Sicilia– the warm weather, the lovely beaches, the food. He asked me a bit about myself, and talked a bit about his take on Italian culture vs. German culture (since the North used to be a primarily Germanic region, people tend to have strong opinions about this). However, his home seemed to be the only thing he was really interested in talking about. With nothing much else to do while waiting, I did my best to engage him in my mediocre Italian; I guess it made a good practice session. In the end I ventured to ask “Lei piace vivere qui? (Do you like living here?)” He considered this question for a moment and answered with some lamentation “Ti abitui (You get used to it).” Clearly, he had not really gotten used to it.

Finally, almost an hour later, the other guys came back with the statement I had been waiting for. They told me that in order to receive it, I needed to go to the tabacchi to buy five marche da bollo for 0.26 euro each. By the way, these are some sort of revenue stamp that makes documents official, though I have no idea what the cost and amount you need are based off of, and I also couldn’t tell you why the tabacchi are the ones to sell them (just as the tabacchi are the ones to sell bus passes). I went to the tabacchi, but the guy there told me that their Internet was down, meaning they couldn’t create the stamps for me. He told me I would have to go to another tabacchi about 5 minutes away to do it. I walked there slowly, dealing with the stinging pain from the abrasion on my leg, but they told me they can’t give me marche da bollo for a lesser value than 1 euro. They realized, before I mentioned it, that it was the carabinieri who sent me on this mission, and expressed their frustration that the carabinieri don’t know by now that no one sells marche da bollo for less than 1 euro. I really didn’t want to argue over a few bucks at this point (and my Italian isn’t good enough to do so anyway), so I just asked them to give me five 1 euro ones.

I returned to the carabinieri, with hope in my heart that this horrible process would soon come to an end, only to find that everyone who had helped me earlier seemed to have vanished. The head person who was on duty now didn’t know anything about me, and was much less friendly than the Sicilian. He told me the office was closed. Apparently, the office closes at 19:00 and no one who had been working with me before had thought to mention this neither to me, nor to the people who would relieve them at their posts. I tried explaining the situation, but I speak Italian slowly, and I kept getting interrupted (frustratingly, this happens a lot to me in general, since Italians tend to have a short pause indicating turn-taking in conversations). I must have seemed really desperate, because finally, he told me to wait while he yelled to the back office. Luckily, one of the guys who had helped me earlier was still there after all, and he was able to finally get me sorted out, though not before I requested he correct my residency information on the paperwork, for which he needed to contact Anagrafe (the municipal bureaucratic office).

One and a half hours later, I could finally go home. I had missed stopping by the optometrist’s office since they were closed by now, and I couldn’t bear to walk anymore, so I failed to complete some other smaller errands I wanted to do today.

Update (11.06.2018):

So I’ve been meaning to update for a while about this. I submitted a claim to the LCT Dr. Walter liability insurance about the crash, and I have to say, the process wasn’t too bad. The LCT coordinator found their contact information for me, and surprisingly, I was able to do everything in English and by email (yes, the latter is also surprising, given my previous experience here in Europe). They are a German insurance company, so they speak German best, but nevertheless, they found someone who spoke good English when I called them, and the forms I needed to fill out were in English.

The forms were all quite logical. The police report was the hardest to get (as mentioned above), but that’s because of Italy craziness. In total, I needed to attach to the email:

  • Completed damage report
  • Photos of the damage
  • Calculation for a possible repair
  • Purchase receipt/invoice of the damaged object
  • Police report

Once I did this, they emailed me back a confirmation with the amount that they would pay directly into the other lady’s bank account. At first, this amount didn’t include the VAT, but when I alerted them to that fact, they said they would pay that as well. To be honest, I still have some confusion as to whether they actually paid the lady or not… I only had a quote for the purchase receipt from the lady, and I think she actually needed to have the work done before getting the money. She contact me, asking for their contact info, and I passed it along. It’s been a while now, so I assume she either got it sorted out, or I won’t hear from her again until a very long time from now. In any case, given the insurer’s correspondence with me, I feel pretty confident that they will take care of things now, once they have the proper documentation from the lady. I am honestly shocked as to how apparently easy this was.

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Hiking through vineyards. A glass of wine sounds good right about now.

 

Carnevale

Last weekend, we visited Carnevale in Venice. I have to say, there was remarkably less public drunkenness than last time, in Cologne, but there were a lot more people. It was like a giant Renaissance Faire style costume party. The costumes ranged from a cheap 5 euro mask, to elaborate home made cosplay level get ups. I couldn’t help but buy a hand painted paper maché mask for myself, while my husband stuck with a cheaper plastic one with the giant plague-doctor style nose.

Venice is such an amazing city– it’s just like in the stories! Tiny streets spider out from the center, alongside narrow canals filled with gondolas and motorboats. Little arched bridges make a criss-crossing latticework over the canals, while constricting alleyways cut between the tall buildings, sometimes passing through low tunnels or under arched building supports. It’s claustrophobic right up until you reach Piazza San Marco, a wide plaza marked by a huge tower, an intricate basilica and a 24-hour Roman numeral clock, and which opens up to the Piazzetta di San Marco, which holds the palace. The Piazzetta in turn opens up to the main thoroughfare of Venice, the Grand Canal, where ferry boats snake their way around the entire city center, bussing people to the main hubs like the Piazza and the train station. There are no automobile roads.

If you had told me all of this, even if you had shown me pictures, I still don’t think I could have properly imagined this intricate city. Visiting during Carnevale was an amazing experience, in particular, as the whole city turns into one joyful party, but I look forward to returning during a calmer time as well, when there’s more time to see the sights.

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Officialization 10: Health Insurance

Antifa street art in Bologna.

Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III
  9. Officialization 9: Residenzia
  10. Officialization 10: Health Insurance <– You are here

Health Insurance

I paid for the Italian national health insurance for 2018 when I was first applying for my stay permit. Now that I received my stay permit, it was time to actually sign up for the insurance.

This is done at yet another government office, separate from the others, called the Agenzia Sanitaria. I received a copy of the form called Azendia Provinciale per i Servizi Sanitari, which I had to fill out from the Welcome Office at school, but they neglected to tell me the Italian name or full address of the office. Without the Italian name, I had some trouble googling the location, but I finally found it at Via S. Giovanni Bosco 6 in Rovereto.

Upon arrival, I found the Anagrafe Sanitaria in the Segreteria’s office on the left hand side. It’s good that I came right as they opened because the line grew very quickly behind me. Once I got to the window, the lady asked me for my documents:

  • passport
  • permesso di soggiorno (stay permit)
  • proof of payment of health insurance (long top of a paper from the post office)
  • codice fiscale
  • iscrizione (proof of university enrollment)
  • the name of a local general practitioner doctor that will become your main doctor (if you don’t know one, I think they provide you with some options, but it’s better to find someone who speaks English ahead of time)

I had to scramble for some of the items, but since I have taken to carrying all of my documents to every government office every time, I ended up having everything with me. As for the name of the doctor, I got that from a friend who had been to one that apparently speaks English. I have never been there before, so I hope that when I have to go for my thyroxine medication, it all goes smoothly.

However, as the lady started to look up my information from the codice fiscale, something went wrong with her system. She started talking to her colleague, who pulled in another colleague, and another, and soon, everyone was all in a flurry, trying to help this lady figure out her system. I didn’t fully understand what was going on, but apparently the problem had to do with the fact that I was born in the Soviet Union (before its collapse), but my passport and documents all say I was born in Russia. Somehow, this impeded the creation of some sort of internal code or something like that. A frustrating 15 minutes later, they had finally figured out how to reconcile the difference. They gave me a certificate confirming my enrollment and a paper with the doctor’s hours, and I was done. However, because of this slowdown, I missed my last train to work before the 2 hour break in trains.

I would like to point out that it has been 5 months out of the 12 that I intend to stay here, and I am only now finishing some of this process for myself, and I still have follow ups to do with my husband. By the way, my permesso di soggiorno was actually expedited so 5 months should actually be considered faster than normal.

Officialization 9: Residenzia

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Neptune in Bologna.

Officialization TOC

  1. Officialization 1: WTF comes next in Italy?
  2. Officialization 2: Apartment
  3. Officialization 3: Internet
  4. Officialization 4: Stay Permit, part I
  5. Officialization 5: Picking Courses
  6. Officialization 6: Stay Permit, part II
  7. Officialization 7: TV Tax
  8. Officialization 8: Stay Permit, part III
  9. Officialization 9: Residenzia <— You are here
  10. Officialization 10: Health Insurance

Residenzia

I finally picked up my permesso di soggiorno (stay permit) in the middle of December, and this time it was correct. My husband also received his paper that says his permit is on the way. Along with my permit, I was given a paper that said that I had to go to anagrafe (municipal office) to register as a resident within 60 days. For this, I needed my:

  • passport
  • permesso di soggiorno (stay permit)
  • lease with official contract registration
  • marriage license

Since I am married, I was supposed to show them my official marriage certificate. Unfortunately, when we got married, the courthouse in Portland gave us only an official stamped copy of our marriage certificate. We have an official translation of this document but it’s not good enough. Apparently, the certificate has to have an apostille stamp on it, certifying its officialness. We never had one of these. Without this, once it’s my husband’s turn to register, he will only be considered as a cohabitator of some sort. In the meantime, the lady put my marriage status as unknown, so that once we get ahold of this apostille stamped document, we can make the change. Now we are waiting for that to come in the mail from the US.

In any case, after going to the office and doing all of this, I got a postcard in the mail from the polizia locale (local police office). They requested that I contact them in regards to the resident registration– they send a police office to make sure you actually live there. It took me 3 tries to talk to someone who I could more or less understand. In the end, an appointment was made at my apartment at 8:30am. They showed up at 8:00am, took a look at our passports and stay permits, wrote down some information from my lease, and left. They were both actually really nice, though we didn’t talk much, since we had trouble understanding each other.

So yea, apparently when you register, a police officer has to come to make sure you aren’t taking advantage of the system.

Weeks 66 and 67

IMG_20171211_092159The last couple weeks have been short but packed. We had a lovely dusting of snow, so the view outside my window became a winter wonderland, just in time for the holidays. Although I am not a big fan of the cold, I have to admit, the snow is so lovely and festive.

Also on the topic of festivities, since our window is in the very center of town, every single Saturday and Sunday since the second half of November, there have been full bands marching in the evenings down the red carpet just outside our window. I cannot emphasize how over-the-top the Christmas festivities are here, as I mentioned in my last post already: almost two months of Christmas markets, marching bands, hot spiced wine, lights, shows… I mean, it’s a small town… how can it support all of this?!IMG_20171217_172725

Speaking of shows, this last week, the department had a sort of informal variety/talent show for Christmas as well. For the first time ever, I performed on aerial silks! My awesome silks teachers set up the apparatus in the theatre, and helped me come up with a routine, although I only had time to practice it a few times before the performance. I made some mistakes during the performance, and I think you can really tell that I am a beginner, but considering I’ve only been at it for around 2.5 or 3 months now, I’m still really happy with how it went. The best part too, is that my husband, who is a musician, played one of the songs we wrote together for my performance!IMG_20171210_113242_1_2

Apart from the fun, there was also plenty of work to do the last couple of weeks. It’s probably the first time since I got here that I’ve felt actually busy. Mainly, I ended up doing four presentations, which took a lot of preparation. I don’t feel very comfortable as a public speaker, so I tend to practice these things at least 3-4 times each, and redo my slides countless times, before I feel ready. It took forever.

Tomorrow, my husband and I are leaving to go back to the US for the holidays. I’m really looking forward to visiting my family and friends, some of whom I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen in a couple of years now. I wish there were more interesting and local things to bring home as gifts, but with our globalized world, the stuff you can get here is mostly the same as at home (except for cured meat, which you can’t import into the US at all, unfortunately). I guess I’ll just have to bring home sweets.

I have to admit, I’m actually a little nervous to go back. Last time when I came home after such a long stint away was after college and a study abroad period in Russia. I remember how strange it felt being back home– like everything was the same as it had ever been, and yet completely different. After such a long time away, I remember realizing that I had changed a lot in that period after all. Now, too, I expect I’ve changed a lot. I guess I’m nervous-excited. But it’s hard to worry too much. After all, the holidays are all about family, friends, and food! It’s gonna be great.

Happy holidays from Rovereto to everyone out there, at home, in Europe, and all around the globe!

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