Nizza is Nice-a
Before moving to France as a permanent resident, I spent every birthday in Paris. We’d saved up all year to make the special trip and hence October became the season of choice to be in the City of Light. The habit of going away to Paris to celebrate becoming a year older (in order to transfer the pain of aging to pure pleasure) turned into a welcome tradition. So, since living in Paris, it made sense to choose new destinations to visit to celebrate the passing of each year. The destination that has since become the habit of choice is…Italy.
Maybe because it’s close to France and easy to get to; maybe because the food is on a par with French cuisine (and many, including me, would argue it surpasses it); maybe because the weather is milder; maybe because it’s absolutely beautiful while profoundly historic; and maybe because the Italians are…let’s just say…Italian.
Last year I was in Rome, in two of the recent past years I’ve been in Venice and this year I went to Perugia. One of my oldest friends who spends two months a year living in Italy and has for about 25 years or more, wrote: “Hope you are having a great day although how could you not — you’re in Italy?”
She got that right. It could be one of the reasons I enjoy my time in Nice so much, thanks to its Italian heritage and remnants of it. In fact, soon after arriving back in Nice yesterday from Perugia, I headed out for dinner to where…? You guessed it. An Italian restaurant: Il Vicoletto, one of my favorites.
My cousin living in Perugia and I had a lot of fun talking about expat life and comparing her experiences in Italy to mine here in France. There is much that is similar and as much that is different. From what I gathered, becoming a happy expat in Italy can be even tougher than in France because the rules and regulations are a whole lot less straight forward. The Italian form of anarchy can be even more maddening than the French cross-the-T/dot-the-I bureaucracy. We compared notes.
For example, the rules and procedures in France regarding immigration apply everywhere, all over France — the same no matter where you are. However, how the clerk with whom you’re dealing applies the rules can vary greatly from one “Préfecture” to another. In Italy, the rules and procedures are different per region and even per town, and then per clerk. So, you can never be quite sure of what to expect. Stories like the ones I heard are why I’d never want to venture into the world of real estate in Italy — it seems like a lot of risk to own property there. At least in France, the system is so rigid and administrative that while it can be horrifically frustrating, it’s at least fairly risk free.
Shopping in Italy is a blast, and another one of the reasons I love going on my birthday so I can treat myself to Italian-made goodies. Not only is the clothing beautiful, incredibly stylish while very reasonably priced, but the sales people seem to love what they do and do it well. Having an Italian woman happily help you spend your money is a luxury we are denied of in France. Both my cousin and I walked out of the stores with way more than we had planned for as a result. I find that generally, the French can be so reserved and hung-up about money that they don’t let the real fun happen between the customer and the salesperson. This is perhaps one reason I’m such an easy mark in the stores in Nice where the sales personnel have a similarly relaxed attitude.
Let’s face it, Nice WAS part of the House of Savoy, which became the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, which became part of Italy until just 158 years ago when the Treaty of Turin was signed between the Sardinian king (Victor Emmanuel II) and Napoleon III. That’s not so long ago, when you think about it. Originally named “Nike” — Greek for “victory” — the Italians mid-century called it “Nizza,” then the French Frenchified its name to “Nice.” And while there’s no doubt it’s a French city under French law, the Italian influence pervades the air and all it touches. The architecture is largely Italian influence, as is the cuisine and lifestyle. It was also an Italian statesman, Benoît Bunico, who pushed through legislation to give Jews equal rights to all citizens in the Middle Ages.
While I spend more and more time here, there is still oodles to discover and fortunately, I have all the time in the world to do it…as long as I keep celebrating birthdays.
A la prochaine…
Editor of Parler Nice
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. I’d like to thank everyone on the wonderful birthday wishes sent by email, Linkedin and Facebook. It was very heartwarming and greatly appreciated. I wish I could do the same for each and every one of you because as you know, you have birthdays, too, all well worth celebrating! No matter how old I get, I will always think of what my father-in-law used to say: “Getting older is better than the alternative.”
P.P.S. Friends of Parler Paris are welcome as guests to Le Matisse, my Niçois home. If you are interested in discovering Nice and staying Chez Le Matisse, please email me at [email protected].
P.P.P.S. I am seeking a venue where we can host a “Parler Nice Après Midi”…just like the one we’ve hosted in Paris since 2003!