Eduardo and Carolyn Fichera returned to Italy, where their relationship blossomed, to raise their two children. Though at first adapting to Italian culture proved difficult, they’ now have found a comfortable life in Urbino.
URBINO, Italy — In 2006 Carolyn Fichera wondered if her move to Italy wasn’t a big mistake. Her infant son was crying, her neighbors in Nicosia offered her only criticism for her American ways – and she missed some basics of life in the states. Like a clothes dryer, and a babysitter. Living in Sicily, it turned out, was a lot more challenging than just visiting there.
“It’s one thing to talk about [moving to Italy], it’s another thing to live it,” she realized.
Today she looks back on that time during her first year here and can only smile.
It helped that she and her husband moved to this university town and it helped she has had more time to adjust to the new culture. But just as importantly the reasons that compelled their move in the first place have proven solid: A better life for their young and growing family.
“[Urbino] is a better environment for our family,” Carolyn said. “I’m more comfortable here and I think it’s because of the university, [which] attracts more foreigners, whereas in Sicily I felt like I was the only foreigner there. It’s not true, but I felt that way.
“I think it’s better here, it’s a little more open minded, a little more connection to other towns, to other cultures and to other ideas.”
For many Americans, the dream of moving to the Italian hill country is about putting a permanent claim on the romance found during vacations. For Carolyn Fichera and her husband Eduardo, it was about making a huge investment on the chance of securing a better quality of life for their children.
In 2006 Eduardo gave up a secure future in the form of a tenure-track position at Marquette University in the Milwaukee for a high school teaching position in Sicily, hoping the move would be a better life for raising a family.
The couple grew up half a world away from each other. Carolyn was born and raised in Philadelphia, while Eduardo spent his childhood with his father in Palermo, Italy. Upon graduating from the University of Urbino, Eduardo went to the U.S. to earn his PhD, where he remained to teach Italian courses at various American universities. In her time at Penn State, Carolyn traveled to Urbino for two summers for a language and a modern dance program. After her first trip, she took any opportunity she could to return.
In 1997, Eduardo and Carolyn found themselves in summer programs in Urbino, where they met through mutual friends. Three years later they were a married couple in Providence, Rhode Island, with an infant daughter, Veronica.
But between the planning of play dates, cramming of daily activities and paranoia about safety, the Ficheras began looking for ways to give their daughter the childhoods they had enjoyed – something simpler, cultured and more laid back. Eventually the idea of moving to Italy became their reality.
“My mother was angry, my father said ‘Go for it.’” Carolyn said. “My mother said ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ – I only had Veronica then – ‘Veronica’s not going to know her family, and blah, blah, blah.’ My friends were sad that I was going to go away and other people were like ‘Oh, Italy, wonderful! I love Italy!’ I got the whole spectrum of reactions.”
The move to Italy provided the Ficheras with the simpler life they desired, but the transition to a small Italian town wasn’t easy for the family, especially Carolyn.
“It was more romanticized than practical, but now I’m content” Carolyn said. “It’s one thing to talk about [moving to Italy], it’s another thing to live it.”
The town’s small size and the people’s traditional mentality proved difficult for Carolyn to adjust to, especially when she gave birth to her son Saverio in 2007. Raising her two infant children without any friends or family took its toll on Carolyn.
“I really reached a low point there because at the same time everybody was telling me I’m not doing it right, [Saverio] just didn’t sleep at night and I was by myself, I had no help with the babies … and it was just too much for me,” Carolyn said.
Their move to Italy had surrounded them with the lifestyle they desired, but the size and inhabitants of Nicosia, Sicily wasn’t what they wanted. As soon as they were able, the Ficheras decided to move once again. This time the search for the best life for their two children brought them back to where they met years ago – Urbino. They quickly decided the culture of the Renaissance college town offered the lifestyle they wanted for their children.
“It’s a very relaxed pace of life that allows … for some thinking about yourself, about your family, it’s allows you time to relax,” said Eduardo, professor of English and film studies at the University of Urbino. “You don’t feel like you’re … constantly pushed to achieve something. There’s not that idea that you have to run through life to get to whatever objective you have set for [yourself].”
None of this means they will never leave Urbino. Eduardo and Carolyn are adamant about raising their children in the best environment possible and they’re open to moving wherever that priority takes them. Each time they visit the states, their kids seem to grow more attached to that country. They admit their family’s future might take place back in the U.S.
But for now, Urbino is their best place to live.