The Fixer

I realized that when I wrote about Thanksgiving and Alessandra that I did not fully explain Tania and Keith’s relationship to her or our relationship to her.  And after today I realized that I have never written about ‘fixers’.  Here is a close up of Alessandra, that isn’t in sharp focus but that might illustrate my point.

alessandra head

Before we moved here, Ben and I spent many vacations checking out cities and areas in preparation for when we were able to move here.  I can specifically remember having a conversation with him in 2006 about the importance of having a ‘fixer’.  This conversation either happened right after we left Tania and Keith and Alessandra or a few days after that.  To me it was obvious that Alessandra was/is Tania and Keith’s ‘fixer’.  The native, that they, as non-natives (Tania has Italian citizenship the way that I do but her Mama at least taught her some Italian) turn to for help to navigate the Italian bureaucracy, legal system and many other difficult systems or situations that arise when you move from one country to another.  The analogy I can make is, if you were climbing Kilimanjaro wouldn’t you get a native guide?  Trust me moving to a country were the language is not your first language and where you have not lived before is the same thing.  Except it doesn’t happen in a 10 day period but closer to a 10 month period.  No, you might not need help every day but when you need it, you need it!

So, who was our ‘fixer’?  Well, it turns out we have had many.  First there is our friend Carmela.  If she had not bugged the bureaucrats in Meta (my Grandfather’s home town) my paperwork to become an Italian citizen might still be sitting on someone’s desk.  We will always be in her debt.  Then there are the Lovely Rita and her son Alessio who have helped us thru many bureaucratic dilemmas here in MSS.

And then there is Alessandra’s husband, Marino.  Marino took us to a car dealership.  Before that we had been to several on our own.  But none of them would sell us a car.  We lacked an important piece of paperwork, the ‘residenza’ or proof that we lived in Italy.  Even though I have an Italian passport, at that time, I could not show my proof of residence.  I could have bought a house but I could not buy a car.  But Marino, who is known in his community, took us to a dealership.  And because he is well known, that was enough.  The sales manager figured, “she has an Italian passport, Marino knows her, she’ll bring us a copy of the ‘residenza’ when she gets it.  I’m selling her a car!”  And let me tell you, I’ve bought 2 cars from that man and if I need to, will go back to him again.  But we only got that far because of Marino.

When Ben had the unfortunate accident, it was our neighbor, the doctor, who drove me to the hospital and walked in to the emergency room and helped me understand what was going on.  And it was Alessandra who helped us with the police in Cortona.  And it was the young man at the car dealership who had translated for us when we bought the car that was wrecked, who helped us again when I went in to try to figure out where the wrecked car was.  He walked up and said “Oh, are you and Ben okay?  I heard about the accident.  I was going to call you.  What can I do to help you?”  And in his hand was a slip of paper with my name and phone number.  Okay now, name one car dealership in America in a town of more than 8,000 people where you are not a native of the area where you would receive that courtesy?  Yeah, keep thinking!

So see, that is what a fixer is.  Sometimes you go to them seeking help and sometimes they just help before you even know it.  But for minimum stress and maximum joy about relocating you need at least one if not (in our case) many fixers.  And I guess that is why it is okay that Alessandra’s picture is not in sharp focus.  You don’t need your fixer every day.  After the first few weeks you might not need them again for months.  They might just be fixing things for you and you won’t know about it until later.  So they aren’t always in a sharp focus in your life as a ‘new citizen/resident’ but they are there, like guardian angels just looking out for you.

Would I move again to another country where the language was not my first language without a ‘fixer’?  No, I don’t think so.  I’m adventurous but not that adventurous!  And what happened today?  Well while we were in Arezzo at the Essulunga shopping there was the nice young man from the car dealership.  And he is still as nice as ever.  So if any of you ever need a car in this area and you don’t go to Boninsegni Auto in Cortona or Arezzo you are total fools!  And I am adding the category “American things in Italy” simply because of him.  To me he personfies American ‘down home’ courtesty.



  1. sherrie and franco

    ciao!what a great comparison/analogy.. I think having a “fixer” in a foreign county when you relocate in absolutely imperative.. you guys are very blessed to have Alessandria, Tania, Keith and the others you mentioned..I was thinking yesterday when we finally are able to move to italy who is going to be our “fixer”? Will you guys be living in Italy still?? i hope so!!

    missing you guys!

  2. Altho we call her our guardian angel instead of our fixer, our friend Wendy has helped us more times than we can count, with big things and small things…with translation of a local term to navigating the bureaucracy. We completely agree with you, and tell everyone who’s thinking of moving to Italy that they need to find their guardian angel too!

  3. Joe Beene

    I need a fixer and I still live in Virginia. Maybe it is because I was born and grew up in Tennessee. We need fixers when we leave home.

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