Buongiorno and welcome to my column "Patti Chiari", everyone, wherever you are. I’m Pat and I’ve been writing Italy Magazine’s “latest news” articles for six weeks now, so it’s time I introduced myself properly and told you a little about my life here in Modica, Sicily. I’m a 59-year-old language teacher and linguist – and yes, Italian is one of my languages – from Cardiff, Wales, UK and I upped sticks and moved to Italy with my 6,000 books and my dog, Simi in 2005.

Why did I do it and why Modica? I’ve been an Italophile since my first visit to this wonderful country when I was nineteen. Ever since then, my ambition had been to live in Italy but I’m sure many of you will know exactly what I mean when I say that a little something called “life” got in the way. Then one day I woke up and saw a 55-year-old woman in the mirror and for a moment I didn’t know who she was. That’s when I realised it was “now or never” and I put my house on the market that very day. I think it’s important to explain here that I was not, at that time, nor am I now, financially secure so I did not arrive here with enough money to buy a property outright or to ensure myself a leisurely life. But if you have a lifelong dream of reaching a shining sea, at some point you have to plunge into the water and swim. And the hardest step is dipping that first toe in, because changing a dream into a reality is scary, however old you are and however confident you may be.

Well, I expect I’ll be recounting some of the other steps along the bumpy way over the weeks to come, so for now suffice it to say that I did it, survived and am happier than I have ever been. But coming to live in another country is never easy, even if, like me, you are fluent in its language and have had close ties with its culture for as long as you can remember. I thought that I had prepared myself well and the one thing I was not expecting to suffer from was culture shock. I was actually quite angry with myself when I realised that this was why my emotions were on a roller coaster ride, for I had the classic symptoms: ecstatic with my new life one day and exceedingly down the next; and, surprisingly, finding that little things irritated me whilst enormous changes did not. I remember huffing and puffing to myself over the size of a box of tissues, for instance, and it took me ages to get used to buying aspirin from the chemist’s instead of a supermarket. Yet I literally took the daily trek from office to office to obtain the documentation I needed in my stride, probably because reading Tim Parks had enabled me to brace myself ! You do, I assure you, come out of the tunnel of culture shock, and you emerge the richer for it and can laugh at yourself.

Why Modica? At nineteen I fell in love with the north of Italy, at twenty-nine with Florence and at forty-two I fell in love all over again with the south.
“Sicily”, writes Luigi Barzini in The Italians, “is the schoolroom model of Italy for beginners, with every Italian quality and defect magnified, exasperated and brightly coloured.”

Over the past four and a half years I have found that to be so true, and, if many days exasperate, every day continues to fascinate. If you take a look at some of the images below of Modica, I think you’ll begin to understand why I love it!

If any of you have any questions for me, I’ll be happy to answer them, either in this Friday column or in the Community.