I moved to Southern Tuscany because my husband is from here and since we were married, I thought it was probably a good idea for us to live in the same country 🙂
But a lot of people love, love, love the idea of a sea change to a quiet Italian town. In fact, I get heaps of emails from besotted, wannabe adopted locals, who have read this website or been over to my blog and begged me to share some advice on whether this is a great place to live alone, as a couple or with the family.
To be honest, it is! As long as you don’t have expectations of big city life and as long as you’re prepared to learn the language and acknowledge that sometimes it’s hard to adapt to a new country. There will be times when you won’t be understood culturally or linguistically and sometimes you’ll feel stupid, frustrated, isolated and homesick, but if you’re prepared to soldier on and assimilate, your new life in small town Italy can be amazing.
On that note, I thought I would share a few basic tips & advice for those of you considering or dreaming of that sea change. Don’t worry, I’ll get more specific in the weeks ahead as I tackle things like finding a job and making friends.
I mentioned it in the introduction, but I can’t stress it enough. In cities like Milan and Rome, you can get away with not speaking the language, but in a small town, you can’t, especially if you don’t have any friends/relatives/husband to help you with the day to day activities. You don’t have to speak fluent Italian. You just need the basics, so consider taking a course before you leave your home country. The sooner you start, the better!
get all your ducks in a row
Make sure you check and recheck all the visa and other official requirements you need to move to Italy, even if it’s only for a short while. It’s easy to get confused. So the best thing to do is make an appointment at your local Italian embassy and ask them what the basic requirements are. Even if you’re a member of Schengen country, it’s always good to be informed before you arrive in Italy and everyone is screaming at you in Italian.
For example, you’ll need to register with the local health authority, you’ll need a permesso di soggiorno, you’ll need to either buy or rent a house, you might need an Italian driver’s license or a visa to work and your kids might need to go to the local school. These are all questions that are best asked at the embassy.
make some connections
It’s also a good idea to reach out to expat groups that are already in the area you’re planning to move to. For example, in the Maremma and country Tuscany, we have a small Facebook group of expats who have already gone through it all. There’s another Italy-wide Facebook group called Italian Reflections that is a great source of advice.
Not only are these groups great for getting some perspective, but if you find someone living near your chosen destination, they might able to recommend lawyers, real estate agents, builders and everything else you need to make yourself at home.
be prepared to feel a little stupid
Even if you’ve ticked all the boxes, there will be some lost in translation moments. Tasks that seemed so simple in your home country, like going to the post office or buying meat at the deli counter, become a whole lot more complicated in another language.
Sometimes people won’t understand you and sometimes you won’t be able to get your point across, but try not to get frustrated. The feeling doesn’t go away immediately – I’m still dealing with it – but I can assure you that every day, the challenges get less and the joys take their place.
You haven’t moved all the way to a small town to stay cooped up in your house! The number one reason why you should move to country Italy is the community. Country locals are affable and welcoming and they have so many fantastic traditions and celebrations that are just waiting for you to experience. Sure you don’t have the support network of expats that you would have in the city, but you do have one of locals if you make an effort and get out there.
For more tips on making friends, check out one of my earlier posts!