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Reflections on 5 Years of Living in Italy

Five years ago today we landed in Aviano, Italy to begin what was supposed to be a three year adventure living in bella Italia. Five years later we’re still here, and ironically as you read this, I’m on a plane headed to the US for a quick (but action packed) trip. I dreamed of living in Italy for years and that was only intensified by my own Roman Holiday as I flitted around Italy with my friend Jess in 2006 and then quickly returned for a trip to Rome and Paris with my mom in 2007. I jumped for joy when Tim told me he’d gotten assigned to Aviano Air Base and my dream of living in Italy was about to be fulfilled. I cried when we landed at Aviano and I stepped off the plane to some of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen and the pungent stench of cow manure. Living in Italy has turned out to be everything I’ve ever imagined and nothing like I expected all at once. So I thought it was only fitting today to dish a little on what it’s like for us living in Italy, blogging, and what’s next.

Tim and I in Rome

Tim and I in Rome

On Living in Italy

Clearly we have the travel bug, otherwise this website wouldn’t exist. And though we traveled before moving to Europe, my visited countries list was a paltry 12. Tim’s was even less. We added seven countries in our first six months living in Italy and we love how incredibly easy it is to jet off to another country on a weekend. It’s the jet set life I’d always dreamed of having and here we are five years and 50 countries later. The travel and opportunities that have presented themselves as a result are definitely one of the top perks of living in Italy, though we definitely don’t intend to stay in Italy forever.

We like living in Italy, but we don’t love it. Mainly we don’t love it because of the weather. Under the Tuscan Sun this is not. To be honest, I don’t keep tabs on the weather in Tuscany, or any other part of Italy unless we’re traveling there, and I do believe it is better in other parts of Italy. But our weather in the Friuli Venezia Giulia sucks, with a capital S. We receive a whopping 58 inches of rainfall annually. That’s about 5 inches per month. In other words, it rains all the damn time.

We moved to Italy after spending 11 years living in the desert, first in Las Vegas and then Phoenix where both have around 330 days of sunshine and only 7 inches total annual rainfall. It’s been five years and I honestly still haven’t adjusted to so much rain. And don’t even get me started on the humidity. Come July and August, I want nothing more than to escape the unbearable heat and humidity.

The rain might put a damper on our mood, but the mosquitoes will surely before too long drive us insane. When it’s not raining, we still can’t enjoy being outdoors at our house because we’re literally being eaten alive. These aren’t your average mosquitoes, folks. Italy is infested with the Asian Tiger Mosquito, which is an extremely aggressive mosquito that is active both day and night. They bite all the time and they’re not only bothersome to people, but also dogs, cats, and other animals. I’ve literally not been anywhere with mosquitoes as bad as they are in Italy. Our dog, Emma, doesn’t want to stay outside long because of them. At least 10 fly in every time we open the door to let her out and they drive Tim nuts to the point that neither of us sleep very well because they buzz by his ears in his sleep. Bonus for us, the European Environment Agency (EEA) says that Italy is the most infested European country.

There are some other inconveniences too, like dealing with internet that I swear is slower than my dial-up AOL circa 1998. Or that my Fisher-Price sized washing machine sounds like a jet engine taking off and takes hours to wash a miniature sized load of laundry. And remember all that rain? I need it to be sunny in order to hang my laundry out to dry. I’m generally at the mercy of the weather especially when I want to wash sheets, towels, and blankets. My oven is no larger than an Easy Bake Oven, so forget baking more than six cookies at a time.

But it’s not all bad. We take all the rain, mosquitoes, and minor inconveniences in stride because there are things we love and are definitely going to miss when we eventually do move. One of the things we’ll really miss and is a favorite thing about living in Italy is the fresh, local produce, meat, and markets where you get it all. Italy is undoubtedly a foodie heaven. I suppose it depends on where you live in the US. Admittedly growing up in Pennsylvania, I remember picking bushels of strawberries, having fresh apples in the fall, and my mom purchased all of our meat from the local butcher who had his own cows and pigs right there on the farm. In my own adult life though, fruit and veggies came from Albertsons, where everything was imported. Meat was packaged and I honestly couldn’t tell you where it came from.

I guess all that rain is good for something, because our markets are filled with seasonal local produce that is fresh and far less expensive than buying produce in the US. I get sticker shock when I’m back in the US and buy produce and (gag) the honey in the bear. My honey is so local that the beekeeper lives down the street and it costs just 5 for 500 grams. I pay a visit to the local butcher and buy meat for the week for usually around 20 for five nights of dinners. It’s definitely cheaper to eat healthy in Italy.

Let’s not forget about wine! If I get sticker shock over fruits and veggies, buying wine in the US damn near gives me a heart attack. We have access to some of the best wine at ridiculously cheap prices. And when I’m having one of those days where the other stuff just frustrates me to no end, I have a glass of wine with dinner. Wine makes everything better

Volvo Factory Tour

Hanging out with Green Global Travel on the Volvo Factory Tour

On Travel Blogging and Work

You may be wondering how it is that two Americans came to live in Italy. It’s the second question people ask us when they meet us (the first is which is our favorite country). If you’ve paid a visit to our About Us page, then you know that Tim is in the US Air Force and we are in Italy because he is currently assigned to Aviano Air Base. I was working at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix when we found out we were moving and discussed telecommuting with my boss. We worked out a trial arrangement since my position in social media and communications was easy enough to do from anywhere I had a reliable internet connection.

Grand Canyon University has been a fantastic place for me to hone my social media and communication management skills over the last seven years and all the support and creative freedom I’ve had there has certainly had a direct impact on this website, speaking engagements, and that we’ve become digital influencers in the social space. I won’t be leaving Grand Canyon University anytime soon, in case you were wondering. With location independence and seven weeks of vacation each year, I can run this travel blog practically full time while currently maintaining my career in communications.

As for this travel blog, if you’d told us that we’d have more than half a million readers and would be doing things like working with Volvo and Visit Sweden to promote the Volvo Overseas Delivery Program or any of our other projects on a now long list, we’ve had told you that you were crazy. We never talk about the behind-the-scenes, so indulge us for a moment. This blog also turns five years old this month and we do get messages from people asking us how we did it. It’s been a long road of traveling on our own, putting together business plans, gobbling up everything on professional blogging that we could find online, attending conferences, and writing, writing, and writing some more to get here. It is extremely hard work, but we love it and the hard work has started to pay off.

Jdomb’s Travels was named as one of the top travel blogs to watch in 2013 by the Huffington Post and has been featured on CNN, Telegraph, BuzzFeed, USA Today, and Travel + Leisure. As a social media expert, I’m now speaking at top conferences in both the travel and higher education industries including ITB Berlin, UBTech, Society of American Travel Writers, and TBEX.

So What’s Next?

Tim still has a few years before he can retire from the military. In the meantime, we’re using that time to continue to build our blog and use it as a vehicle for other endeavors. I plan to start offering social media consulting services to businesses looking to boost their social presence. We’re also doing awesome things like licensing some of our photography for use in advertising campaigns. And we’ve got some other exciting things in the works that we can’t talk about just yet. We love working and traveling together, and ultimately the goal is to continue to grow this business so that we can both do it full time and continue to live in a comfortable home base in a city we both love. We hope that you’ll continue along on this awesome ride with us and will be inspired by us to live a life of adventure of your own!

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter who is based in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communications strategist and is an award-winning travel writer. She is also a travel correspondent on Traveling on the American Forces Radio Network. Jdomb's Travels was named one of the top travel blogs to watch by the Huffington Post and has been featured by top publications such as CNN, Buzzfeed , and The Telegraph. Her iPhoneograpy has also been featured on publications such as USA Today and Travel + Leisure. Google+

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6 comments

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  1. Frank

    Congratulations on all the success Jen! You certainly work hard on your blog and you deserve all of it. I sense a new home in the not so distant future? Good to know the good and the bad, didn’t know some of the negative aspects (mosquitos would also drive me crazy). I agree with you that one of the great things about Italy is the wine and when we get back from Europe we’re always outraged by how darn expensive it is to drink here. Damn. But we’re off to Prague for 3 months so looking forward to working on that beer belly…
    Keep up the good work,
    Frank (bbqboy)

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    Our time in Italy is starting to wind down. We have about 2 years left in Italy and no doubt it will go by very quickly. Enjoy Prague! It will be much cooler (than sweltering Italy is right now) and quite lovely at this time of the year.

    [Reply]

  2. Suki F

    Sounds like you have been having a great time! I don’t live there but the time I have visited it has been amazing.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    Glad to hear you’ve enjoyed your visits to Italy, Suki! It is a lovely country to visit.

    [Reply]

  3. Shikha (whywasteannualleave)

    What an incredible journey for you all, literal and metaphorical! Sounds like you have put an enormous amount of effort into your blog and a huge congratulations to you on such well-deserved reward and success from it! I love reading it and even though mine is a little and newish blog, I’m always inspired to keep working at mine when I read yours!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    Thanks so much, Shikha! Comments like yours are what encourage us to keep plugging along. :-)

    [Reply]

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