October 2, 2012

Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

In September of 1984, I bought a one-way ticket to Europe. The plan was to spend a month in France and a month in Italy. I had been to France many times already, was trained in French pastries and working at a 5 star hotel as a pastry chef and waitressing to save up cash!  I had never been to Italy in any of my trips to Europe, except once hoping off a train in Venice to buy a jacket, some boots and to say hi to my mom's cousin Rae that had been living there for about 30 years.

Kathy, Judy and Louis 1984

My roommate Kathy had been lived in Paris for a year and then in Rome for a year. Her famous words to me were "You will love Italy and Italy will love you." Kathy, Louis and another friend Elzbeth travelled with me through France and into Italy. Louis came down to Florence with me and then went home and my solo adventure began.

I never expected to stay, but when I arrived in Florence it was love at first sight. A year later I met Andrea, now my husband, so had an even better reason to stay.

I arrived here with nothing--- a one-way ticket and $2,000. Back then prices were cheap and with that amount, I stayed in hotels and took a month of night school in Italy to learn some basic Italian. When I ran out of money and finished language school I got a job, making beds in the hotel I was staying in and helping out in their kitchen. Next I got a job waitressing as noone would hire me as a chef,kitchens being quite small and I knew nothing of Tuscan cuisine. After about 6 months I met people and then found a job as a pastry chef in a private club. After 4 years of learning how to cook from chefs, friends and at the Central Market. I began Divina Cucina.

Living in Italy is not like "Under the Tuscan Sun" or most other books written by people on vacation. It is mostly a love/hate relationship. Love for the country, the food, wine and people and HATE for the red tape and bureaucracy one has to deal with daily.

We won't get into the nightmare of restoring my tiny little one bedroom house I bought, that they stopped the work for 8 YEARS.

I love the job i have created, although for the Italian government it really doesn't exist yet as a job qualification. As long as I pay my taxes, it all rolls along smoothly.

Thanks so much for following my stories and recipes. I love sharing it all.

When I travel back to California I still say I am going home, although there is no more home at home, since my mom died. But after living here for almost half my life and planning on staying until i die, this is home.

Casa Dolce Casa

For better or worse!!!!


  1. Anonymous7:43 PM

    CONGRATULATIONS on your Carta di Soggiorno! I still feel so blessed to meet you even for a short time and to be able to "follow" you after all these years. To many many more years of love, health, good friends, and good food...wherever you may be...AUGURI!!! Love, Noemi (from Seattle)

  2. Congrats on your carta! You've certainly earned it - they should give you a special plaque as well : )

  3. I so enjoyed reading this heartfelt post, and thank you for sharing your story. Oh my, I did not know about your restoration nightmare. Heavens, I guess the stories have heard about red tape and bloated bureaucracy are true!

  4. Adri-- when you have time - can explain the red tape horrors!!! never ending....

  5. Chuck Santon2:46 AM

    Great to hear the details about your seduction by Italy. (smile) Congrats on the Carta! Tanti auguri from Seattle!

  6. I had the same hairdo in 1984! Love you blog.

  7. Both places are home :-)

  8. loved this post, Judy, and the photo of you and your friends! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Ah, the back story! So good to hear that the red-tape didn't stop you from following your dream. I was born in Italy, and when I visit, even for a week, little things come back to haunt me. I guess I haven't developed la pazienza.

  10. Great post and I love the photo. Nice to know what brought you to Italy.

  11. i really like reading your blog=)

  12. Louis came down to Florence with me and then went home and my solo adventure began.