Did you know that there’s an estimated 50,000 Americans who’ve temporarily or permanently relocated to Italy?
Whether it’s for work, warmer temperatures, or simply a new start, Americans are buying one-way tickets to Italy.
And we don’t blame them!
The country’s food, weather, people, and culture make it a very desirable place to live. Don’t be fooled, however, by the laissez faire lifestyle.
Moving to Italy—or any foreign country for that matter—is no walk in the park. Moving to Italy requires getting used to an unfamiliar language as well as different social and cultural rules.
Local holidays will be different and things you consider staples—such as food, television, and magazines—might not be readily available.
Lucky for you, we’ve interviewed several experienced expats to compile a list of the best kept secrets to surviving and flourishing in Italy.
“Don’t waste time on missing people. By which I mean don’t let missing people back home take precedence over making a new life in Italy. There’s no point coming all the way to Italy and then spending every spare minute on Skype with your friends and family back home,” says Kate Bailward of Driving Like a Maniac.
“Get out there and enjoy what Italy has to offer. You’ll be happy, and your friends and family will be happy that you’re happy – win-win!”
While it’s tempting to bring every last possession you have with you to Italy, it’s extremely unrealistic. Whatever you think you need, cut it in half. You don’t really need 5 pairs of jeans or sneakers that all look the same.
You’ll soon discover that living small is actually quite liberating and cost-effective. Plus, you’ll be able to fit everything you own in your tiny apartment or flat in Italy. Rule of thumb, only take with you what you use on a weekly basis.
“If at all possible, avoid ever driving a car in Italy. It’s not that the drivers are all murderous psychopaths–which of course they are—but the problem is that eventually you become one of them,” says Rick Zullo of Rick’s Rome.
“I drove a car in Rome during my first six months in town and then wisely opted to preserve what was left of my sanity over the marginal ‘convenience’ of owning a vehicle. On the plus side, my defensive driving skills improved significantly.”
“The first thing I tell new arrivals in Rome is say yes. Say yes to every invitation or social opportunity for at least 6 months even if you think it is something you have no interest in. You never know who you will meet or what connection you will make that can help ease your transition,” says Gillian Longworth McGuire of Gillian’s Lists.
Before you arrive, take the time to learn some Italian, even if it’s just a few simply phrases and words. Learning Italian will come in handy when you’re searching for a job, getting to know your new neighborhood, and meeting other locals.
“You can get by without it, but once you can hold a conversation that consists of more than just the answers to ‘what’s your name?’, ‘why are you here?’ and ‘do you like Italy?’ you’ll find that your world opens up exponentially,” says Bailward.
Make sure that you’ve filled out all of the necessary forms. If you’re looking to live, study, or work in Italy, you’ll most likely apply for a residency visa, a student visa, or a work visa. Different documentation is required for each, so be sure to check with your local consulate or the Italian Embassy’s website before you make an appointment.
There’s nothing worse than moving to Italy only to find out that you’re missing an important document that’s required to live there. And the last thing you want is to be tied up in international red tape or waiting in a never ending line at the U.S. embassy.
Moving to Italy with a closed mind is a recipe for disaster. To truly enjoy your stay, it’s important that you let go of any preconceived notions and accept Italy as your new home.
“Suspend all judgments, criticisms, and comparisons to your home country. Keep an open mind while you discover and learn about Italy. Consider the move as an adventure to enjoy,” says Melinda Gallo of melindagallo.com.
Prepare yourself for hidden costs and extra unexpected expenses. For example, you may be charged an import tax on your belongings or you could be hit with a hefty medical bill. If possible, give yourself a solid financial buffer for when these types of expenses come up.
How much money you bring will depend on your budget and needs. Experts suggest, however, bringing at least six-month’s worth of expenses.
Things happen. Your apartment might get robbed or you may get in an accident. Before moving to Italy, it’s important to have a plan for when these things happen. Learn how to get to the closest hospital and police station. It’s also a good idea to register with the embassy or consulate.
Registering with the embassy provides you with assistance in the event of an emergency and allows you to complete various administrative formalities, such as taxes and registering to vote, more easily.
“Italy is full of surprises. Turn down a small quiet street and you might discover the best trattoria in town. Your train is 90 minutes late? Tough luck, there’s nothing you can do about it. Travel to one town over and voila! A completely different menu,” says Sarah Dowling of Italy Project 365.
“The ticket machine on the bus isn’t working? You’ll have to get off and wait for the next one. Walk into town on a Saturday afternoon and you’re sure to come across a festival, a street performance, a live concert in the piazza. It’s a wonderfully confusing place to live.”
Moving to Italy should be one of the most adventurous and enjoyable times of your life. Make sure that it goes off without a hitch by following the tips above.
Are you an expat living in Italy? If so, share your best tips in the comment section below.