Challenging not only because you're living in a foreign country, but sometimes Italy just seems to make things difficult just for the sheer hell of it. I won't even get started on the beaurocracy and how, when I went to sort out my residency as required by law, what they wanted from me wasn't much short of a pound of flesh; but there's silly little everyday things that can wear you down. Italy doesn't have the same history of immigration as the UK and some other countries in Europe, historically Italians left this country in search of a better life, not the other way round; and it definitely shows.
For a start it's the people who challenge your presence in Italy. Often at lunchtime, just down the street from my office, there's a pensioner walking his dog. And he always stares at me. A proper full-on stare threatening stare until he physically can't move his neck any more for his eyes to carry on staring at me as I go down the street. I've seen him doing the same to another foreign lady, so it's not just me, but he doesn't bat an eyelid when Italian women go past him.
It's the people at the post office who lean forward and squint their eyes when you start talking to them. It's the random men who want to talk to you purely because you're blonde. It's the people of all ages who look at you on the metro. It's the people who don't believe you can speak a word of Italian even though you have a degree in it. There's a whole list of ridiculous petty little things. On a bad day even little things like this can make you question what you're doing in a country that will never treat you like a normal person, never mind accept you.
You've got to have a lot of love for this country if you want to live here. And I do, if I didn't I wouldn't still be here after three-and-a-bit years. It does wear you down at times though. But every time it does I just have to stop and think for a minute, it doesn't take me long to realise how lucky I am to be living in this country. It isn't perfect, but where is?