I have always complained to whoever would listen that Stuttgart is small and boring, the food sucks as does the weather (the feakish last winter was an exception though). Italy has great Art and culture, the food is great (though pasta is not fishball noodles and after a week I got damn sian of it) and the sun is certainly often shining there - but man, is this part of the country disorganised, public transportation almost non-existent and the landscape incoherent (e.g. tile factories, a few cultivated fields, towns here and there along the roads, more tile factories...).
I suspect that being a tourist or a resident changes everything. It is charming to be approached by friendly Italians, get honked at or overtaken by the car behind you, enjoy crumbling buildings that really need a new coat of paint, never get to buy bread because the bakeries are closed between 1 and 4pm, and spend 10 years waiting for a bus (if there is one) - when you are a tourist (wah, so rustic!); when you know that you are going to live there, all of the above can be a little unnerving.
We spent one full day visiting a private school in Bologna and a few houses between Maranello (where Hubby works) and the city. The school charges 1350 Euros per child per month and you get the impression that it would cost even more at the end of the day. When you were introduced to a teacher (mostly American or English), they would tell you what they teach and also mention that they also do private lessons (huh?). The school can tailor-make your child's entire syllabus, and the Principals (a pair of sisters) really want to make him happy. When you have a daydreamer like Eldest Son, you like to hear that. There is hope after all.
And if you want to rub shoulders with rich kids and their rich parents, this is the school to be in. But between you and me, I don't think that it's very healthy or desirable.
More importantly, Bologna is a mess. Circulating in the city would be a nightmare especially in the morning rush. And the school is situated on a hill where parking is almost inexistent. Hubby took a look at the narrow streets and said, "I give your Lancia Phedra one month here." (Incidentally, they have changed the rules again and I'll be able to have my Phedra with the glass roof, leather seats and Xenon headlamps after all - but still no automatic gears, they don't make them any more)
And even if we were to spilt the travelling between us (i.e. live between Maranello and Bologna), it would still take us at least an hour each each way to get to school/work. It wouldn't work out in the long run. We are tired before we even start.
Now, the houses. I really wonder how the Italians manage financially. The houses we visited all cost as much as our house in Stuttgart - minus a few rooms, the kitchen, closet space, the garden, the swimming pool, the terraces, the forest and the calm. They all have like 3 bedrooms (and we are 5), a tiny wall for a future kitchen, a small garden (with full view of the neighbours) and best of all, Italian relatives of some sort. There is always some brother, uncle or nonna (grandmother) living in the house next door. (Shudders)
We may just be cruel and try to transfer Eldest Son to the English school system. At 11, it'll not be easy, poor boy. But if they will take him, the International School of Modena-Montale is just 15 minutes away from Maranello by car. And it's a newly-built school, with Swedish rigour (formerly created for the employees of Tetra Pak). And if they wouldn't teach him some French there, then I (oui, moi) will have to take over teaching him the language (beggars can't be choosers, ok). Plus help him with his English. Then, maybe that's too much after all.
Enough of our hiccups. What's Maranello like?
Actually, except for Ferrari, there is nothing much there. But quite a mess as usual. The town, not Ferrari.
Then there is the Ferrari Store. And again you have to be a fan because the goodies do not come in cheap. 25 Euros for a cap, 50 for a Polo shirt, 690 for a leather bomber jacket. Ferrari staff enjoy 20% discount storewide, but the remaining 80% is still quite a lot, don't you think so? Makes Hugo Boss look almost cheap.
I drove to 2 supermarkets one afternoon. Got pretty sick of eating out and dreamt of cooking seafood (Hubby lives in a service apartment in Ferrari's Maranello Village 4*). I wonder where they buy their fresh fish 'coz I couldn't find any at all. Anyway, I made a Prawn and Pancetta Risotto one evening and a Spaghetti Bolognesa one afternoon - and all these with just 2 pots and a wooden spoon. Italian cooking is really quite simple. I often wonder what joy they find in eating pasta or grilled seafood in the restaurant when they can jolly well make the same thing at home. In Singapore, seafood joints are special because it's too much work trying to make your own chilli or pepper crabs or drown live prawns. And you prefer to eat your noodles outside because you wouldn't be able to cook enough broth at home to make your noodles tasty enough. Our hawker favourites need lots of people eating them in order to be really good. OK, so I digress.
There are however gelaterias everywhere and they are mostly all pretty good. My favourite flavour is Pink Grapefruit. Eldest Son always order Coffee, Nutella and Stracciatella. Baby Girl Strawberry. Baby Boy wants whatever everybody else is holding in his/her hand.
Just beyond the park with the Ferrari Monument however, is this chic residential area with lots of big houses with big gardens and the road leads to green rolling hills and other villages. Ross Brown used to live in this big castle-like house overlooking the park and it's up for rent now, by the way. 5400 Euros per month.
I was unfortunately bored there. All we ever did was wait for Hubby to come home and that guy didn't usually turn up till past 9pm. And he would spend the remaining hours either on the phone or on his computer or reading press releases on the toilet bowl. Work work work. It was horrible eating dinner at 10pm and then going to bed just after. I suffered from serious indigestion after 2 nights. Most Germans earn decent salaries and finish work at 6. How come no matter where we are Hubby always has to do long hours?
I should have driven to the beach, but I didn't want to risk traffic jams and besides I do not think that I'd survive looking after 3 kids alone at the beach. And I sat around thinking of eating curry. Actually talking about curry, do you know that at the Ferrari canteen(s) they always serve a curry dish? Ever since they started having Indian technicians working with them. I have not tried the curry pork (or was it chicken) they were serving at Maranello Village 4*, it looked kind of weak and I do like my curries strong. The stronger the better.
We return to Maranello for the Spring break. I am honestly not really looking forward to it. Stuttgart now doesn't seem all that bad after all.