Under the Tuscan Sun. Eat, Pray, Love. If these books are anthems that sing of your dreams to move to Italy, join the club.
And yet, while many women (myself included) do successfully create a new life in the land of pasta and prosecco, many others return to their homeland after just a few months or years, unable to rectify the dream with the reality of living in Italy.
Before you sell everything you own and buy a one-way ticket, here are a few reasons you might want to reconsider this plan.
1. You’re Running Away from Something
I get it. Politics/the economy/[insert something else here] suck where you live. You’re dreaming of escaping the rat race for a better life in Italy.
But I’ll tell you a secret: things aren’t perfect in Italy either. In the south, there’s an extremely high unemployment rate (15% versus a national average of 8.2%). Politics are wonky here too, depending on your leanings. Oh, and then there’s the mafia.
When you run away from what you consider a less-than-ideal life, you aren’t setting yourself up for success in your new home. And as you know, problems follow you.
2. You Expect the Movie Version of Italy
Yes, Diane Lane made us all want to buy a crumbling Italian villa and fix it up, but the reality is far from what the movie showed. Italy is known for having a bureaucratic labyrinth, which means to get anything accomplished, from renewing your permesso di soggiorno to getting permits to renovate a house is going to be like going through one of Dante’s circles of hell.
Sure, you will have evenings sitting at a sidewalk cafe, drinking Aperol Spritzes with your friends, but you’ll also have a lot of lonely months before you meet those friends. And once the haze of vacation vibes dies away, you’ll just be living life. Yes, in Italy, but with all the stresses and obstacles that life generally brings.
3. You Don’t Speak Fluent Italian
I will caveat this one by saying if you plan to move to a large city like Rome, you’ll probably be fine. But in Calabria, where I live, I wouldn’t recommend you move here without having intensely studied Italian. I’ve studied Italian for 12 years and it took at least six months before I didn’t reply every time someone spoke to me with non ho capito (I don’t understand).
Language is a big deal here. And in smaller towns, few to no people will speak English, at least not well enough to help you set up wifi or buy a stamp.
4. You Plan to “Retire” Early
Unfortunately, there are a few immigration lawyers in Italy who are encouraging Americans to apply for the Elective Residency visa, which is commonly given to retired individuals who receive a pension and do not work. You, in fact, cannot work if you have this visa. Yet people are being told that no one will actually verify if they work in Italy, and this simply isn’t true.
You also may have to provide evidence that you have been retired for a specific period of time (I have heard six months) and be able to show that you have received pension or Social Security payments during this time.
If you’re not of retirement age and are being told to apply for this visa, please talk to another immigration specialist for a second opinion.
5. You’re Planning to Do It Alone
I advise people to first work with an immigration specialist because navigating the visa process is challenging even if you’re fluent in Italian. I also recommend hiring an expat coach prior to moving. I had no idea expat coaches were a thing when I moved to Italy, but I definitely could have used a guiding hand to help me navigate the complicated emotions I experienced both before the move and upon arrival.
Moving to Italy can be a fantastic, life-changing experience, but only if you go into it with your eyes wide open and don’t expect the impossible. Life will be challenging, and you may even suffer from depression once you’ve moved and realized you’ve completely disconnected yourself from everything familiar and comforting.
But with a support team, including your nearest and dearest, as well as an expat coach who has been through this experience, you’ll navigate the tricky parts and one day realize that you made the best decision of your life when you decided to move to Italy