Thursday 10 May 2018

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Week One - Verona, Italy

First Impressions

Highway driving vs city driving is different guys. Even if we're following the leader. On the highway, no one uses their indicators. In the cities, they still don't unless necessary and it's much more casual. At times it seems a little free-for-all.

The Italian driving culture is the polar opposite to the Kiwi/Aussie culture (minus our friendly drivers at the toll booths that made us feel like we were home).

If someone changes lanes, slows down; doesn't use their indicators; turns suddenly; pulls out of their driveway without looking; does a sudden U turn; blocks an intersection; cyclists slow down/hold everyone up... ehh, it's Italy. They adjust accordingly with minimal frustrations. There are some frustrations but they're probably aimed at foreigners, like us!

Drivers happily share the road with cyclists (that don't wear helmets, ever) and don't give them any unfriendly suggestions and gestures that we're used to.  While our host was driving us around showing us somewhere to park, we were getting frustrated at a driver parked in the middle of the road while she was like... it's Italy!

All the while, we were thinking... this would never happen in NZ. Patience with cyclists? Never. Pulling out of a driveway without looking and then without someone swearing at you? Inconceivable. No one using their indicator? Probably whinge to media.

Scooters, bikes and Smart Cars are your friend and it's very much spot-the-SUV.

The buildings in the city centre of Verona are beautifully old. We love them... and love being tourists taking pictures of them.

The further you travel away from the main city of Verona, the more industrial you get. Bigger supermarkets and malls are on the outskirts of the city. The major roads around the city are not cobble roads but the narrower ones inside the city and around the older housing are.

Italian People

Outside the TIM
mobile shop
The first thing we did when we left Milan airport was find a specific mobile company shop to purchase a SIM card and a plan to cover us for the entire 9 months we'll be in Europe.

With broken English from them and even more broken Italian from us, it was all sorted and they were amazing!

Since then, we have had a few more interactions with Italian people and most of them have been wonderful, patient and friendly. Only one was grumpy at us and Nathan thinks he didn't like us being foreigners. When Nathan went back to him and said everything he needed in Italian, it was a different story (ok guys, it was the local pizza joint and we have already been there more than once).

We've ordered gelato twice now (fatties) and each time, we're more confident with our orders. Nathan will always begin by saying "scuse mio Italiano" but it seems they are happy we're making an effort.

While in one gelato shop, we ordered in our broken Italian and the server happily replied back with Italian. While we were eating it, we observed a couple come in and order in English - not even trying to attempt Italian. The same server, replied back in English - even giving them their price in English. Which means she knew how to speak English the entire time! But when we made the effort to speak Italian, she didn't save us by saying she speaks English - instead she helped us gain that little more confidence in our Italian and we appreciate that!

We are looking forward to more interactions with the beautiful Italian people as our experiences so far have been this great!


We found our first accommodation via AirBnb. Our first host, Francesca, also has very limited English but she was lovely and explained everything we needed. It was funny when she was explaining she has more sheets for us but she kept calling them sheeps. Her home is part of a large house that is split between residents so we have what looks like a quarter of the house. It's an older house with beautifully high ceilings and has little things here and there that have been updated over the years adding to its authenticity. The windows are operated by an older shutter system (that Hadrian loves to play with) and all the old doors have glass panes in them - including the bathroom - that have old skeleton keys to lock them (that Hadrian also loves to play with).

La nostra casa

It has one large room which has our large bed, a sofa bed, a wardrobe and the TV in it. A separate small kitchen with everything we need including an ancient and shallow stone sink.

Can't soak any dishes in that... 
The bathroom has everything in it, including the washing machine, a clothes line utilising the height of the ceiling and what we think is a portable bidet (Google kind of helps?). But we're not sure guys... what if it isn't? We don't want to risk using it so... we don't. It could just be a portable tap to... wash the floors with and here we are, using it for the unthinkables.

Why is a stool there if it IS a bidet?
Many questions...
To keep costs down, AirBnb was the best option for us. We sacrificed some luxuries to get much more in return... and we don't regret it. Our place is the perfect size for us, about 10 minute walk into the city centre, less than 5 minutes to the nearest supermarket and pharmacy and of course... pizza. We don't hear traffic much but we can hear the church bells when they ring and the morning birds. And their birds are like, normal birds... not like the crazy Australian ones!

Our Rental Car

We rented our car to get ourselves to Verona from Milan because it was cheaper than public transport for the 3 of us. However, we got here and realised we didn't need the blimin' car at all. We could walk everywhere we needed. We had rented the car for only a few days to adjust and if we needed groceries or wanted to explore around Verona and intended to rent another car at the end of our stay in Verona to transition to Venice.

The car basically stayed parked on a cobble street the entire time eating money that could go towards pizza.. and the like. We didn't need it except when we half forced ourselves to use it so it was.. well, being used.

So we decided to cancel the car we had planned to get at the end of our Verona stay and train to Venice instead. Partly to save us some money (which it did.. yes!) and partly because we were spending the entire time navigating the new roads and neither Nathan or I were able to properly enjoy the scenery of this beautiful country. How can I take crappy phone photos if I have to navigate? Impossibile (said in Italian).

On returning our rental car, we went through Verona peak traffic and just when we're becoming a part of the Italian traffic culture and getting used to the driving/roads, we return the car.

Petrol Station

Which leads onto filling up our rental car with petrol before returning it. Another airport that doesn't have a petrol station at the airport. This one wasn't too far from the airport though, which was good. The attendant didn't speak any English; they had a pay at the pump but couldn't use credit cards; we filled up ourselves; we paid inside; we left. Different to Abu Dhabi. More similar to what we're used to.

Petrol, again, is about NZ$2.40 upwards.

Supermarkets and Food

Guys, I have a love/hate relationship with supermarkets. I hate shopping but love food. But in every foreign country we will go to, I am going to go through every aisle looking at every single thing that is different and the same as what I'm used to. Do they have Schick razors? Sorry guys, they don't.. but they do have Gillette. Do they have Marmite in case the one I brought runs out? No, they don't. But they have Garnier and massive tubs of Nutella. I didn't see Best Foods... nor Watties Tomato Sauce (dreamin' mate). They have more options for pasta, cheese and hams. I also validated my choice to bring my perfect moisturiser because I have not seen it anywhere here! One point to me!

No instant noodles, only Italian pasta
Besides the water and a few other things, the prices of every day things are similar or higher than what we'd pay in NZ. Their cheese options are huge but the costs are also huge. Their meat is very expensive. No cheap mince for a cheap mince and spaghetti meal. Actually, no cans of spaghetti - it's probably sacrilege.

Of course, being relatively poor people and wanting to save money for gelato, we tried finding cheap fillers but couldn't find Mi Goreng noodles... or something equivalent. Perhaps it's also sacrilege to sell such monstrosities in a pasta strong country. I will be seeking them though, whenever I go into supermarkets! Maybe I need to find my Asian-Italian connections (and by mine, I mean Nathan's).

Supermarkets have a system with their fruit and veges that we learned the hard way.

Firstly, they offer you plastic disposable gloves to use to pick up the produce (picture the gloves you'd get in a hair dye box).

Secondly, they don't have a scale at the check out. You must weigh the produce, once you've picked them with your gloves, on the scales by the fruit and vege area, use the code that is advertised with the produce you picked and put it in the scale then put the printed label the scales print on your bag of produce. Then you take it to the check out. Learned the hard way. RIP cucumber we left at the check out. But thankfully the check out person used what little English he knew to explain that to us... all with a smile!

They also seem to have a paid trolley system similar to Aldi but they tend to have both a paid trolley system and also large roll-able baskets which were sufficient enough.

As I said before, we've had two pizzas already and two gelatos. But we haven't gone to a restaurant yet. We don't want to go poor in the first week in Verona then not even be able to eat cheap noodles to counter-balance it for the rest of the month. So we are saving restaurant eating for special occasions (I'll be getting my stretchy pants ready for a big pasta dish).

Their gelato is just as delicious as I'm sure everyone imagines it to be! I'm not a huge ice cream/gelato eater (too many bad memories loading cold ice cream boxes into a Mooloo truck - thanks Dad) but these gelatos have never disappointed. There are ridiculous options in flavours but most we didn't know (or were too chicken to ask for in case it had coffee or alcohol in them) so we were safe in our choosing - uno gusto di cioccolato latte per favore! (one flavour of milk chocolate please).

The pizzas we have tried so far have been huge (see pic above^^) and no pineapple or meatlovers in sight. The base is like naan bread but crispier and the flavours are simple. We are working on building Hadrian's pizza palette so we have started small with basic flavours and are working our way up to a mostly olive pizza... wish us luck (and by us, I mean me and Hadrian because if you know me, you know my relationship with olives is more like a distant acquaintance only contactable through FB kinda thing)!

Their butter is white... well, off-white. Has a tinge of yellow but basically white.

I love it. Nathan prefers NZ butter - as does (surprise, surprise) Hadrian.

I'm not a huge butter eater because it can be too strong (I know, what kind of plastic Maori am I?!) but the standard Italian butter seems to have less flavour than NZ butter. Nathan reckons it needs more salt. But I want Italian butter available in NZ now.

Andddddd for all you people who don't eat the two end crust slices of each loaf or eat crusts, at all (I know you exist *cough* Nathan *cough*), they sell bread loaves with just the slices in between, no end slices and crusts already cut off!

Il pane senza crosta:
bread without crust!
They don't have many bread options though. No cheap $1 loaves of bread and very little options. I guess it proves us kiwis are big bread lovers!

But they have a lot of options for sweet things. Cakes, biscuits, croissants, everything. Three times the options for them than bread. Not complaining though!

Their strawberries are still in season right now (spring) and can be large is size but unfortunately not the same in taste. They are nice and sweet but not as sweet as NZ strawberries and they also rot faster. A lot faster. They're basically like avocados... a small window to eat them then they're bad.

We haven't had much cheese since we've been here since the costs can be quite high and because there's so many damn options that we take soooo long just choosing a cheese. But the ones we have tried have been delicious! If Hadrian eats a lot, then it's good cheese! We don't know what kind of cheese it is though but every trip to the supermarket we try a different one.

The longer we're here, the more we hope to expand our Italian food palette!


Being as it is the end of their spring season, it was as if we were in NZ. It was cool in the morning, hot during the midday sun and cooler at night again. It would be sunny during the day then suddenly it was pouring and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Felt like home.

They had sunrises at normal times (curse you Queensland) and sunset was around 7pm. The highs would reach 27-28 while the lows were about 14.


We have not once felt unsafe while being here so far. When we were being shown where to park our car, they have a wide open space for people to park their car for free for as long as they want. When we asked our host if our car would get stolen, she said: "No, it's Verona! It's safe!"

We took her word for it. When we parked on a side street for a few days, it wasn't stolen or damaged so she seems to be right!

Internet and TV

We can't say the internet we currently have is a true representation of all internet in Italy but it is fast enough for us and faster than the one we had in Australia but NZ internet is still pretty up there!

They have ridiculous amounts of TV channels. We tried to find the end but gave up after 200 channels. We don't know if these channels are just repeated channels throughout, but you could spend a decent amount of time just channel surfing.

There are a lot of, obviously, Italian shows - news, shopping and everything else - but they also have British and American shows. I watched half of Midsomer Murders in Italian and only stopped because I had already seen it before and knew who the killer was. Same with Poirot (I'm secretly an old lady).

We found a way to set the language of the TV to English so that any show that has been Italian voiced-over, can also be heard in English. I know, kinda cheating but sometimes I want to know what happens in Chicago Fire!

Rubbish/Garbage System

I like their rubbish system - well the one in Verona anyway. They have rubbish stations where you just take your rubbish and put them in the designated bins. Plastic, paper, glass, general rubbish each have a separate bin and they are scattered along all the roads.

They are collected frequently and you put your rubbish in the nearest set of bins when it's convenient to you. No kerbside pick up, everyone recycles, no designated rubbish day. Loved it!


  1. Thanks Jack. What's also cool is that you get to see some of Italy for yourself soon!