First of all, mi dispiace (I’m sorry) for the depressing headline, as you know this is a blog, a blog with my personal opinions mingled with life experience after 10 years in Italy. Which is a heck of a lot less than a lot of other people I know here. One thing I really should say before continuing this post is that I am super pro anyone moving to another country, even if for a short time. Anything that gets you out of a cookie-cutter comfort zone is a GOOD thing and that’s something to celebrate.
Though this isn’t about that, it’s about expectations.
I’m talking about the ones that come with moving to an idyllic Renaissance city that people love so so much, that’s you Florence. You come across as so perfect, a city centered around gelato stop and instagram-worthy snapshots from Ponte Santa Trinita, an ever-growing cosmopolitan dream wrapped in up in a Renaissance dream . This “supermodel” city of tiny proportions, Florence regularly tops “best cities” lists on publications like CondeNast Traveler. When it comes to tourism, we’re looking at up to 6.8 million for overnight stays (source: La Nazione, 2015) and who knows how many come just for the day, from cruise ships, don’t register their presence. Residents are anyone’s guess (also because it’s hard to track people who often don’t obtain residency for tax purposes). Expectations are often so incredibly high for a city like this that it’s normal they aren’t matched when confronted with the realities of daily life.
In my own personal experience as a blogger who writes about Florence, I get countless messages, emails, tweets, from people who are looking to move here and want some advice. It’s normal to want to reach out and I welcome it, really. I wish I would have had a mentor in that respect when I first came here, but it was a different era. One, where if you wanted to make it happen, you had to put your head down, do a multitude of random jobs and live in moldy apartments, remote work online didn’t exist yet.
The people that write me generally don’t have Italian citizenship or a viable way to live here legally. Though even the ones that do, struggle to find regular work or match their fantasy of a place with the realities of day to day life.
I get it, we as bloggers do a good job of painting a pretty picture of the city, on instagram and everywhere else too. Consider me guilty as charged.
My response is pretty typically the same depending on the message. I advise people to enroll in an Italian language school, stay for six months or a year and see if this is really the place you see yourself long term. The way I remember it, if you are on a student visa, you legally can work 20 hours a week though part-time here is often very difficult to obtain as compared to my experience in the states.
Why moving here isn’t always the best idea…
As I’ve explained in other posts talking about work, competition is high here. While a lot of people wave fancy curriculums and may even have an ivy league education, the hard reality is that its still not really impressive when you have people who have lots of experience AND speak five languages (fluently – not just a few “words” that you learned on Duolingo.) Though both my husband and I have decent jobs, the second we don’t and can no longer support ourselves and our dog, we would leave too. That’s part of life, hard choices that I hope I don’t ever have to make.
If you consider yourself a stickler for being on time, plan every minute of your day and are often disappointed when your plans don’t work out, Florence might not be the city for you. If you are a creature of comforts, things like dryers, microwaves and air-conditioning and working WiFi on the daily are necessities and not optional, Florence might not be the city for you. If you consider yourself a career-oriented person who needs a set salary and regular growth, Florence might not be the place for you. If adaptability isn’t really part of your vocabulary and you hate carbs, Florence might not be the place for you.
In regards to blogging as a “job.” I have to explain to people that think starting a blog is a key to their success that it takes years of consistent writing, learning a few tricks in photography, getting involved in the blogging community, having a great social media presence and even then, you probably won’t live off the blog. Most of us have other jobs and the blog is mainly a passion.
Also people underestimate how important emotional support is when moving abroad. If you are part of any sort of community back home, it likely took you years, maybe a lifetime to accumulate that. Here, especially when you’re new and don’t have any friends, it can be very lonely. Especially during Christmas time when Italians traditionally just stay with family members. What makes me love living here so much is the community Nico and I have, our friends, colleagues, but once again this took years. I’ve said many a tearful goodbye to close friends and as we think about starting a family in the future, I really wish I had either of our parents nearby. They don’t call this place “the nonni economy” for nothing.
To not be entirely a negative nancy, here is a list of general pros and cons regarding moving to Florence
- You live in Florence, duh
- Affordable organic fruit and vegetable in season
- Surrounded by incredible cultural heritage
- Small city size which makes getting around quite easy, good public transportation
- Impressive expat community, everything from drawing clubs to mom networks. People are very supportive
- Free health care, weekly I pay taxes so you could argue that point but if you happen to be visiting Italy and break your arm, you don’t land in bankruptcy court if you can’t pay. It’s a human right yall!
- Fabulous food and relatively cheap, and wine is always ok
- Perfect base for day-trips also weekends in Europe, two airports to choose from
- Based in Tuscany means you have everything at your doorstep (Chianti, Val d-Orcia, Maremma, hot springs).
- Generous people, despite many who complain about Italians online, I have met so many extremely generous and warm-hearted folk here in the past 10 years.
- For those who like to urban hike, you have options!
- You can meet some really incredible people here, Florence tends to attract a varied population
- Really incredible artisan traditions here, and the contemporary scene is growing
- Cheap coffee!
- People take pride in what they wear in public, aka you won’t see someone wearing pajamas at a supermarket
- Very safe
- Great day-to-day lifestyle, people walk/bike everywhere
- Aperitivo is a religion here, embrace it
- PDA is ok here (this could be a con but since I’m a passionate gal, it’s a pro
- Dog-friendly, Ginger is more loved than I am and we can almost take her anywhere
- Rent can be high and pickings can be dismal as more apartments are turned into Airbnb investments.
- The average salary wavers around 1,000-1,200 a month (after taxes, this “official number” is taken from my experience with friends and work in Florence btw). You probably don’t have the qualifications off the jump for higher paid work.
- Saving up for a house is almost impossible without family help
- Lack of civic sense and shaky politics
- Despite the fact that lots of people think that everyone has three hour lunch breaks and work is secondary to happiness, people generally work long hours and less employees mean that you have to do more and adapt quickly.
- Weather isn’t always warm and sunny, we can have long hard winters and plenty of rain
- Small sidewalks and not very adapted to things like strollers.
- Bureaucracy is annoying, red-tape is a daily reality when it comes to everything from signing up to a local university or renewing your visa. You must save everything in a plastic sleeve too (kidding but not really).
- As a freelancer, getting paid can be a challenge.
- Italian TV is…. just don’t.
- Lack of great parks that are free, sure the rose garden is pretty but as far as really nice parks, we’re still lacking. Cascine is just ok.
- Gyms are expensive, in the center it’s typically 65€ a month and not always that impressive
- Rules regarding driving are often similar to those of the 1999 film The Fight Club
- Bills are expensive (compared to salaries) and air-conditioning is not to be expected, same with dryers
- Your boiler WILL break at least once. Yay cold showers… better than golden… (nm)
- Making friends can be harder than it looks, locals are a hard nut to crack (not impossible) and people come and go quite frequently in Florence
- English is widely spoken which means you might not feel forced to speak Italian
- Lack of jobs, many people work on short term contracts (if they are lucky) or have a partita iva (freelance) which is costly.
Though in defense of life in Italy, I do write a lot about this topic, or at least try too. Here in fact are some of my most read, and personal favorite articles tackling the complicated topic of living in Italy
- 10 Mistakes Expats Make
- Living in Italy: What is it really like?
- Thinking of moving to Italy, read this first
- What not to expect when moving to Italy
- 8 Reasons I’m grateful to Italy
To better dive into this topic of why moving here might not be the best idea, I want to break down the types of people I meet who move to Florence and you can decide for yourself if this is you. Please comment on this post and share your own moving to Firenze story, it’s an interesting topic and I really enjoy when you guys start a conversation on the blog.
The Eternal Optimist
I consider myself a skeptical optimist, I have hope in the world, hope in the fact that everything will always work out, in love, in friendship but I also have a pretty thick bullshit meter from years of living abroad, and dealing with things I never thought I would. Like not getting paid for work I’ve done. A lot of the emails I get regarding Florence are from people who’s biggest dream is to call this city their home. They have no idea how to make it happen, how to find paying work, how to even find a house or learn Italian, but they know “it can all work out.”
Sure, it could work out, but you could be crying into your lentils four months later when you realize your bills are way more expensive than you anticipated (this is why some of us wear sweaters in our house to cut down on heating costs) and all you can afford are lentils. Which are great, super healthy even, but after the fourth night scanning pinterest to make them more palatable with curry powder or simmering sausage, all you want is a damn pizza. Life gets real when it comes to money and the biggest factor that I’ve seen with people moving home is a lack of that annoying colorful currency that pays for stuff. As I mentioned before, there are only so many jobs to be had, and people who have lived here all of their life have trouble finding anything that pays over 1,000 euros a month.
You’re an optimist, I get it, who am I to take the sequins off your cape of happiness? What I’m trying to say is that plans need to be put into action, number one making sure you can live here legally. If you haven’t yet seen the world as it is in 2017, people don’t take skirting the system lightly anymore. Secondly, and this is a close second, you need a financial cushion that can withstand for the entire time you’re here, not just ” few months while you look for a job.” Third learn Italian, don’t make excuses about how you are left-brain and not right-brained. I’m practically dyslexic when it comes to languages and somehow I speak Italian, it’s a real miracle. If you want to be really honest, Florence might be the birthplace of the Italian language (thanks Dante!) but you might be better off going to another place like Bologna, Ferrara, even Milan to be less surrounded by foreigners, and dive into local culture and especially, the language.
The “I’ve Got An Italian Boyfriend”
Another popular example of those who moved to Florence are girls who have met local boyfriends during their year of study abroad and are looking to come back and live, but don’t know how. Probably most of my friends, three years ago or so fell into this category though ironically the longer I am here, the less I see of that. Many times they end up going to live in America or another city because of work-related factors and family. Essentially, life happens.
There’s nothing wrong with meeting your Andrea, Riccardo, Lapo, Daniele but know that just because you are in a relationship, that ain’t a visa, especially not a work visa. I too was in this category with my ex-boyfriend who was sweet but utterly useless when it came down to any sort of true emotional support for what was the most difficult time in my life. It wasn’t really his fault, it’s just my expectations were way too damn high of him and that wasn’t really fair either. Getting said visa, keeping said visa, renewing said visa, getting any sort of decent work. It was a shit-show for a couple of years and that needs to be talked about too if we are any kind of honest bloggers writing about our lives in Italy. Of course, I am married to a Frenchman now, my former best friend who was smart enough to come to Florence only because he had a job.
My thing about this topic in regards to moving to Italy is just be careful not to get “stuck.” You don’t want to get married or have kids with someone that isn’t really right for you. It happens to people all of the time, anywhere in the world, but if you have kids and your relationship doesn’t work out here, it is possible that you might not be able to leave with your kids back where you’re from. If you don’t believe me, just join Facebook groups like “Italian Reflections” or Life in Italy: When “la vita bella” isn’t so bella… You may end up with a over-zealous mother-in-law who gifts you the most unflattering pajamas at every Christmas. I still have those pajamas and I wear them happily when Nico is in France for work, they are actually really comfy.
I have some friends here who are happily married, or in a wonderful relationship with an Italian guy (or girl!) but they are very honest and open about the hurdles of their relationship. It’s common to have conversations with people even after five years of “should we stay in Florence” or move abroad.
The Regular Visitor
This option which I think is even smarter than moving your whole life to Italy is taking a regular sabbatical here. I’ve met people through the blog (I’m talking about you Susan and Monica) who make Florence a yearly trip. They might come for a few months, or just a few weeks but over the years they have created true and lasting friendships and even bourgeoning business ventures. They love Florence, make the most out of their visits but realize life full time here might not be right for them.
Because I love my readers, let’s celebrate two great gals who represent “the regular visitor.” Monica for example makes bespoke jewelry out of sea glass (exquisite) and worked with the ladies at Officine Nora, a Jewelry co-working space in the Oltrarno. She has now started to do workshops bringing people here who are interested in making jewelry in Italy and I’m so awed by her forward thinking. Or meet my friend Susan, who has her life and work in Portland, Oregon (I’m dying to visit) and comes to Florence quite frequently. We’ve even met for coffee and to be honest, I was way more entranced by her stories of coming here over the years and the people she’s met than talking about why I’m here in Florence.
With the ever-growing digital area providing tech jobs (and not only), people can work remotely online and hopefully spend more months out of the year living in the place they want. I know people who do this, I actually do this, just make sure you have a really good commercialista (accountant).
Hey guys, this post is part of our Italy Blogging Roundtable topic for January: MOVE(D). Please take some time to visit my fellow bloggers at the table:
- Jessica: Italy Explained – Moving Lets the Light In
- Michelle: Bleeding Espresso – 10 Dos and Don’ts of Moving to Calabria
- Alexandra: Arttrav – The Cost of Living in Italy: My Annual Budget
- Melanie: Italofile – Before Considering a Move to Italy, Consult this Quality of Life Index
- Laura: Ciao Amalfi – Get Your Move On in Positano with a Yoga Retreat!
- Rebecca: Brigolante – A Perfect Day, A Perfect Hike: Spoleto’s Monteluco
Ah Georgette, another great frank bare-it-all article. Thankyou for this, and for all your blogging and instagramming. Grazie.
You are very welcome Simon, I appreciate the support and you taking the time to comment 🙂
You’re exaggerating a little bit about Italian salaries. Surely they are lower than those in the silicon valley, but the average is 12.49 euros per hour, which translates in about 2100 euros per month: http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=earn_ses_pub2s&lang=en
That ends up being about 1300-1400 after income tax and social contributions are paid for. Surely it’s not enough if one wants to live in a luxury Renaissance building in the very center of Florence, as some people from the US dream about, but it’s more than enough to live in “average” cities like Pisa, Siena, Livorno, or Arezzo.
One very simple thing that some Dolce Vita dreamers don’t realize is that La Dolce Vita does exist, but you have to be able to afford it. If one wants to live in front of the Duomo in Florence, or the Trinità dei Monti steps in Rome, or the Canal Grande in Venice, or in those gorgeous mansions in Lake Como, or in the Tuscan countryside… Well, newsflash: that person must be…rich! Not necessarily as much as George Clooney, but still very well-off.
And that’s probably what the Italian government is doing by exempting foreigners from taxes on foreign-earned income. They want to attract… well… rich people: http://www.italy24.ilsole24ore.com/art/government-policies/2016-10-13/incentivi-paperoni-132322.php?uuid=ADtSegbB
In general, the “American dream” and the “Italian dream” have two pretty different themes: make money is the theme of the former, live better and healthier is that of the latter. After all, there must be some reason if Italy, with its economic stagnation, still has the third-highest life expectancy on the planet, four years longer than the US (!): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_life_expectancy#List_by_the_United_Nations.2C_for_2010.E2.80.932015
There must be something healthy in living in a country with such a gorgeous architecture, a massive amount of art works, 51 UNESCO world heritage sites (highest number on the planet), an unbelievable diversity in beautiful natural landscapes (rocky coasts, sand coasts, ski resorts, lakeside resorts, countryside), and all in quite a small territory. And the food of course.
Life sometimes forces you to take choices.
You are have a point there and thanks for being it up. I am well aware of the official numbers of Italian salaries (which I’ve seen anything from 1,500-2,300) a month though the figures widely differentiate according to age. To be honest I base the 1,000-1,200 with people in my age group 30’s to 40’s, that I personally know, of course this is also the number AFTER taxes which is important. I know this sounds scary but I don’t know that many people making over 2,000 euros a month. I agree with you about other cities being less expensive. Actually part of the reason i wrote this post was after visiting Le Marche and Umbria and looking up prices there, it was a heck of a lot less than Florence which is why I would hope that people might vary their options outside of this city. Of course on the other side of the coin, this also means that you might have less job prospects and have to adapt to places like Siena which can be hard to crack culturally.
As two grown adults who make “good” salaries, we are struggling to afford to buy a house and start a family. It might have been easier if I was either in France or the USA where my husband’s engineering job would be much more appreciated but we love it here and we are willing to make sacrifices to make it work in the place we love.
You are very right about the American vs. the Italian dream. Most people who write me say they want the Italian dream. they want the healthier lifestyle and easy living. However, when it comes to the Italian salaries and what they are use to having, this is another story. What’s “normal” for me, might not be for a lot of other people. I’m very happy with our life here but to be honest, I had a lot of hard hard years before now and it’s only fair to share that side too or else everyone is going to see my instagram and think we are rich, entitled foreigners in Florence. They won’t always see the blood, sweat and paperwork in the 10 years before now.
The average may well be a decent enough salary, but that doesn’t take into account the fact that a foreigner moving to start a new life in Florence is very unlikely to get anywhere near the average salary. Not speaking the language they will have to take menial jobs such as waitressing or shop work, none of which pay well. The average salary takes into account professionals such as doctors and lawyers, and it is highly unlikely (though it does happen) that someone will move to Florence and take up such a professional position to even be in with a chance of earning a decent wage. I was a student in Florence for 3 years, and it is a wonderful place to live indeed, but many of the friends I made there who had moved for all the advantages you mention, found they were experiencing none of them because they were so caught up in earning enough money to pay for their dire accommodation to actually stay there. Not living the dream.
That’s a very good point Anna, you are very right to point out that in the beginning you are starting at the bottom, like anywhere else, that includes salary. I have professional friends who have wanted to move here but are struggling to find out info on how to get their degree recognized here, it’s a hard process and not for the faint of heart. I have the same kind of friends you mentioned, living month to month and really struggling. Some made it, some didn’t.
For any freelancers looking for somewhere to work outside of their pokey apartment I can recommend the top floor of the library behind the Duomo. Open until midnight, free wifi without a library card, the only problem is you have to be silent so can’t take calls in there. Half of our website got built there last year! Alternatively look at some o the four or five star hotel bars, great wifi and plenty of people doing work on laptops there. More suggestions would be welcome though
Thanks for adding that tip, are you talking about Oblate by chance? I also have a post about where to access free Wifi if you want to take a look in the city and I would love to add more libraries…
My experience of moving to Florence was a very privileged one – I went to study at a university with a full grant, and plenty of bureaucratic assistance from them to apply for all the documents I needed and to find a nice place to live. They even gave us free language classes until we could easily converse in Italian. I am very aware that moving there without such advantages would have been a very different prospect, and one which I would likely have found very intimidating. As it was, just applying in the right office for the right documentation without being sent to a different office on the other side of town, only to find you had the wrong form from the other place and had to go back there, was frustrating enough.
I loved the pace of life in Florence, the culture, and the surrounding countryside. Hiking the Anello di Rinascimento around Florence every weekend was wonderful, and my dog (who I adopted while living there) loved it too, and I would completely agree about Florence being dog-friendly. I am not so sure it is foreigner friendly! Even though I speak pretty good Italian, it is no doubt clear I’m not a native (that and having chalky white skin and black hair!) and I found many people I would come into contact with on a day to day basis were really quite abrupt and unfriendly. Indeed, nobody on my street would speak to me, thinking me just a tourist, until I got my dog. One lady then said to me ‘Oh, so I guess you are here a while then?’, and suddenly the man in the Ortolano was friendly, the lady on the street, my neighbours – it took some display of permanence before they would let me in though. This was not true of all Italians of course, I made many great friends through the local Couchsurfing group, and through various activities. It was mostly the older generations that were fairly rude to begin with.
I still miss living there frequently, but at the same time, many things used to drive me nuts on a day to day basis. As you say Georgette, if you run to a tight time-frame, Florence probably isn’t for you! Just take a trip to the Post Office and you will discover what we mean. In fact, the final straw for me was the unbelievable paperwork and bureaucracy and unfortunately corruption we encountered when my car was involved in an accident, the other driver who was at fault being the son of someone important in the city. Our car was destroyed, but thanks to the police being very concerned to protect the councillor, we were unable to claim on insurance and had to pay to get it scrapped and only narrowly avoided a hefty fine on the intervention of our university. Shocking considering the teenager who hit us was clearly very drunk. 🙁 I had been feeling that I wanted to move back to the UK for a while, but this event soured my experience and prompted a move home.
I still visit Florence regularly and am filled with love for the place every time I do, but despite it’s beauty, it has its problems, just like anywhere. I think many people dreaming of living there don’t consider these and are perhaps disillusioned when they find out Florence is just as real as any other town and not in fact, a fantasy.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, wow, I really appreciate it and I know my readers will too. Btw couch surfing has proven to be a great way to meet people, a lot of my friends here got involved with the group! I am horrified to hear about your accident, that is absolutely horrific and not ok, that would shake anyone’s fate in a place if I’m honest. I’ve had a really hard time with red-tape here with my first attempts to get a visa, it was so horrible I think if I told the whole story on the blog I would scare everyone from trying to do the same. Though I also have friends that have skated through the visa process or have gotten citizenship through jure sanguinis. I hope that you have been able to make your life in the UK a great one and enjoy Florence and what it is when you get to visit. It’s a beautiful place, really is my home, and as I’ve tried to reiterate, a place I love, with all that comes with it.
One of your best… I have been here 15 years and am still ask myself… why, because it’s just not easy… anything. But I am and plan on wading through the bad and relishing the great.
Women have an even harder time with the ‘I have an Italian Boyfriend’ thing. You could write an article on the wonderful, smart motivated American women who came for a semester, found an Italian guy, had a baby, discovered that he really wanted a laundress/cook like his mom and are now locked into living here single with child… and having tough time.
Keep up the good work!
They want a mamma or Bank America !
I aspire to be in the “Regular Visitor” category. So nice to meet you in Florence. And I was really surprised at how (relatively) small a city Florence is. Feel like I almost walked everywhere, though that may have been due to where I was staying. Anyway, very walkable city.
A regular visitor is really usually the happiest one of them all. Florence’s small size means that I really have no excuse to complain about the bus anymore, it’s just way easier to walk. It was great to meet you too and hope to meet you again in the future! Thanks for stopping by
Hi Georgette! This is such a great post, maybe it doesn’t completely relate to me, because I moved to Milan, to be with my Italian boyfriend and I’m a EU citizen, so in this regard things have been easier for me. I have been here for a year and everyone who comes here has to be prepared for some big cultural differencies (apart from everything else, the post office, ‘i mezzi’, the bureaucracy, sexism and worst of all, the ‘menefreghismo’ all’italiana). And I’m European, so it should be pretty close to my way of thinking. But I don’t think anything prepares you for Italy and its people. By some standards it is so very traditional, that it makes my head explode. I am also eternally grateful to my boyfriend, because he has been through thick and thin with me through it all. And I’m far from being done! 🙂 Sometimes I can’t believe he is even Italian! Sometimes Italians are just so sheltered, they keep to themselves and then when they travel they say: ‘Wow, so and so just came up and started talking to me!’, like it’s such a big deal. There are some things that just drive me bonkers, and I want to leave straight away. But, I can take a stroll through this beautiful nebbiun in Milan and feel instantly better 😉
It’s also hard to build frienships here, because in a way Italian girls are really protective of their friends. I have met some lovely people, but it’s a slow process. I have no problems with Italian language, because I swore to myself I was going to speak it perfectly, because I didn’t want to be judged as a ‘straniera’ everywhere I went. In the end, this is what you always are and remain. You just have to accept it and move on. If I told you how many times older people from my boyfriend’s family told me the old saying: ‘Moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi’, you would roll your eyes in despair.
It is interesting though, how when you are in a group of people, you gravitate toward foreigners so you can bitch about Italians together. I know.
If you want to come here, come for 6 months first and then decide, as Georgette says. (I left my very well paying job and in one month came here cold turkey). Arm yourself with the nerves of steel and when the going gets tough, pound it in your head and repeat the reason why you are here. Because there’s gonna be a lot of times when you say to yourself: ‘To hell with it!’
But then other days, Italy will reward you with the most lovely, charming and romantic air, it will swoop you off your feet and you will be floating. And Italians, how ’bout learning some English or other foreign languages for crying out loud? You know, to broaden your horizons? And yes, I know your dialect is so very special, we have them too back home, ma ora basta, mi sanguinano le orecchie.
I appologize for this inarticulate stream of thought comment Georgette, but I was in a MOOD tonight.
I laughed out loud when you wrote “Moglie e buoi dei paesi tuoi” Nina, my ex boyfriend’s family used to tell me that all of the time. Of course it was a joke but in my heart I really felt like they meant it and led to a lot of insecurity. Ironically when I broke up with my ex he now is married to yet another foreigner, I guess mama’s words didn’t really carry too much weight.
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Milan, I have really great friends who live there and like the big city vibe and more contemporary lifestyle. I always have this feeling that you see a lot of where Italy as a country is modernizing in Milan. I need to visit more.
You know my hope was that people would read this post, agree or disagree with me but most of all share THEIR stories as that’s far more helpful then some random girl in Texas spouting out her opinions on Thursday morning. Like I mentioned in the post, I wish I could have read more of that before I came here to live. I probably would have come to Italy anyway, but I would saved more money, and myself a headache of constantly being stressed about everything for at least a good 4-5 years. Ps. Thanks for the long comment! I love it
Hey Georgette, I agree with you regarding the propensity of us readers to share our own stories, but it doesn’t take from the fact that your article is in my opinion very real and important for all the dreamers out there, who want to make some changes in their lives. I’ve been reading you for around four years and I always came here also for seeing what your views and opinions were on certain matters that regard Italy. And I think you’re doing a great job in mixing fun post with more serious ones. And if the character of this blog is also a merit of your Texan roots, I have to say I’m a fan 🙂
Do you always introduce yourself to Italians by saying: “I’m an EU citizen, I’m european”…? I’ll tell you a little secret: that’s SURELY the reason why people look “sheltered” or “protective of their friends” when they meet you.
This is probably the most Eurosceptic country in the continent right now, you surely make a better impression if you mention your actual nationality.
May I ask how you perfected your Italian?
Hi Marisa, I already knew Italian, because I had it at my liceo, and I was always into foreign languages. I always loved Italian. But when I met my boyfriend, we communicated in English. Then just after it got serious between us, he said that he will teach me Italian. Since then we had only spoken Italian, I read only Italian books and Italian newspapers, listened to Italian radio and written for instance in my journal in Italian, watched Italian TV (yikes!). It certainly helped that I had my boyfriend always there to practice with, and that he was always there when I had questions and in general, that he kept my Italian in check. Then it just went from there, step by step. For me it was also important to be familiar with the language in its most beautiful form, so reading poetry and books by italian writers known for being erudite, or being acquainted by L’Accademia della Crusca and what they stand for is of a special/added value to me. Or if I hear or read a sentence that I really like, I write it down and try to use it in a day-to-day situation. Prior to coming here I also did an advanced individual course for three months and passed the CELI C2 exam from University of Perugia.
Hi Marcello, non ti smentisci mai 😉 L’avvocato delle cause perse. Of course you were rubbed the wrong way by my words. And I’m as eurosceptic as they come. But mind you, I was refering to Europe as a continent, not as a political formation. If I said EU, it was just to save space. And I don’t really care about impressing anyone, surely you know that it is possible to live blissfully ever after even when you disagree with people, vero? I’m guessing you want to complain about the country of my origin, just because I said two or three things that bother me about yours? Senti. Tanti cari saluti.
Great post– I think we have all been guilty of being starry eyed dreamers and then reality sets in. Moving abroad anywhere is difficult, made even more difficult if you’re skirting laws working regarding work visas and what not. I see a lot of this where I live in Thailand.
But come on- wine and carbs? You’re making it difficult for me to pack up and give Florence a go for myself!
Thanks Nathan! Always a pleasure to have you stop by :). I was going to ask you about how it is in Thailand since there are so many expats. I don’t really understand how people put their fantasy dreams over following local law, it just seems really selfish to me and taking advantage of the country that’s hosting them. Like everyone else in the world, you need to do the right thing.
haha you’re welcome anytime. the carbs and cheap wine are waiting!
The simple answer to “Should I move to Florence?” is:
Of course, if you have a whole bunch of financial resources. Really. It’s true. Why should one move to Florence just to have a job? Nope. Save your money. Then move.
That’s the thing, of course it’s possible. ANYTHING is possible but you should have a financial cushion before getting here as jobs are very hard to come by. I just want people to get that or arrange remote work, get a legal way to stay here figured out as a priority, not as an afterthought.
I wish I could have read your wonderful article before selling everything I owned and moving to Florence thinking I was well-informed about living there. I was 62, euro was high, I rented and paid too much, could not get dual citizenship even though my dad and mom came from Italy (records were destroyed in the war) struggled with visas, joined expat groups but found most to be hard to find good friends, joined book club and for the most part kept busy and loved traveling around Italy. It would have been much better to try it for six months as you suggest. Now after three years I am broke and starting over again I the states. Plus, had a stalker which made daily life a living hell with no real help from police. I would go back in a minute but not to live long term. Very few are lucky to be able to stay, more likely if you have two incomes or unlimited funds. Thank you for your wise words of someone who I totally can believe.
Ciao Geri! Apartment rental can cost a lot here, I know friends who have good deals but usually it’s because they knew someone personally. I am sorry to hear that your experience was less than ideal, you should pat yourself on the back for at least trying. I am sure there were good moments with the bad but sharing your story is very useful to those who are thinking of making the move. I wish you the best of luck in your future and your life. Thanks for commenting
Very balanced and on the money!
I receive at least 3 private messages or emails every week on someone wanting to know about the house for 1€ scheme and no, they don’t speak the language, have no way to stay here legally , and a budget of 7000 dollars . What do I think?
Sometimes they don’t like my reply.
You need money to come here, at least enough for a year, two better.
Your experience will vary widely depending on where you decide to stay , your language skills, age, sex, and attractiveness ( sorry, but true) but most of all your ability to support yourself . The 100-1200 you quote is very accurate and I cannot fathom how anyone can live on that if they choose the bigger tourist center cities! That is not much even for here in Sicily , and our rents and cost of living are far cheaper than Firenze, Milano, or Roma ! The only way to do well (where I am anyway) is to work for yourself . For this you need to know the language , have a good idea, build connections,and most important- startup cash.
I encourage everyone to try , but give it a taste first. I recommend renting a place in the center of a smaller village where you are not isolated in the countryside but there are few or no English speakers . This will do wonders for learning the language plus you won’t be so anonymous like in a big city. Do that then try one of the big cities . You will figure out fast where you fit best .
Ciao Linda, I can only imagine your reply when people send you emails like that. I get them too and it’s like what you say, you need to be firm but fair. It’s kind of like saying “if you really want this, heck yeah believe it, own it, make it happen” but just be smart. Make sure you’re not struggling for money, make sure you have friends to talk too, make sure you’re not crying in your apartment alone after three months wondering how to possibly make it work. Most of the people that I know who live here long term have ended up in Italy randomly, ok maybe they studied here but they had no intention of staying and just fell in love with the country, were willing to do what it takes to fit in (integrate, get a visa, learn the language, build a community, work odd jobs) and now they are very happy. So many are inspirations and I love to celebrate that too.
Terrific post! And all the comments have been great to read too. We moved to London in 2009 and it lasted for 3 years. I struggled to find work for 2 years and while my partner was able to support us both I still had a little personal guilt trip when it came to spending money earned by someone else, even my partner of then 15 years. I eventually cracked the job market and was happier there. You mentioned making friends in Florence can be challenging, while not impossible. Same goes for London. My friends were my partner’s friends, which were other expats working at his company. When I finally became employed I made a few friends there and am still friends albeit through social media, with some of those contacts there. The problem I saw with making friends and socializing in London was that not many people can live ‘in’ London so they spend time at a pub after work, socialize over a pint or 3 then hop on the tube / bus and head home.
So 2 things that I felt was super important to realize and try to do that quickly is that even work friends can still offer some level of support so getting any kind of job helps with the social aspect. The other thing was to be flexible, stay open to anything that seems remotely interesting. If you have blinders you’ll be miserable. I didn’t figure that out for the first year and my world consisted of our 2 dogs we brought over with us and later in the day when my partner returned home from work.
Embrace the change you seek.
Tony what a pleasure to read what it can be like in another city. You know I was actually supposed to go to London and somehow ended up in Florence, it’s kind of become a running joke. I would have thought it be easier to make it happen in London because of the economy and lack of language barrier but it seems like it would be tough there. Thankfully you managed to make it happen. A lot of my friends have told me similar things to you regarding living in the suburbs and a long commute. That could be challenging when you’re trying to make lasting connections. One thing I realized when it came to making friends in Florence is 1. just because we speak the same language doesn’t necessarily mean we should be besties. 2. Have a reasonable set of expectations when it comes to your friends. I used to get so disappointed when I felt I was trying harder than people I considered to be friends but the issue wasn’t them, it was me. I had impossible expectations that very few people were able to match. Once I adjusted my attitude about it, life has been a lot happier. I also tell people to throw yourself into all of the fun, free events that exist in your city (here there always seems to be something) and put yourself out there. I too had a tough first year coming back to Florence as a non student, almost scared to walk to the bus stop alone in the suburb I lived just outside of Florence. If I could go back in time… mamma mia!
Thank you for being that honest (although, as I read in the comments that the salaries are not 100% accurate) and talking about things like not having to expect the average salary according to your age and not being a local.
It is inspiring and really informative to read your opinion on this important topics. I think if I would have been in the situation to decide to move to Florence without having read articles like that, I would have been lost and really sad that it is that difficult.
Thank god I am still studying and have the time to learn Italian in a proper way more than 10 years before I see myself possibly thinking about moving to Florence and finding a job there.
Thankfully there are people like you not being afraid to be honest and maybe destroying dreams with that.
Keep the good work up!
Hi, I agree with pretty much everything you have said. One thing, about Italy in general, is that it is very family oriented — family as in “Mom/Dad/Kids/Dog” sort of combination, which means that when you arrive here with that configuration (more or less) it is easier to “fit in” socially than if you are single, and worse, single with child in tow. I was raised in Italy, then moved abroad for 25 years before returning, obviously older, single and with said kid in tow.. The challenges of making friends in this configuration are MUCH harder, even after the 6 years that I have been here. This is true for Florentines, and also true in the expat community. It is not a language issue : the average Florentine is wary of foreigners (as someone told me, they are not willing to invest time and energy in people who are going to leave after a few months) and it takes a LONG time to “crack the Florentine code”, families tend to hang out with other families, and/or the singles well… “single” is a whole other category than “single with child”…. All that said, I love living here, but there are days when I think about moving to a place where our exception is their norm, and where Christmases are actually warm and friendly and … christmassy!
Thanks for your thoughtful comment! You are right in the family-oriented aspect, when I lived with my ex’s family it was all family, all the time and the parents only socialized with other family members as you mentioned. Luckily in Florence there are so many fabulous people, I’ve made some of my best friends here and after 10 years have a solid group of supportive people from all over the world, Italy, USA, Scotland.. I don’t focus anymore on where they are from but rather what we bring to one another’s loves. Christmas is a funny sort..every family is different but mine previously just included eating far too much for anyone’s comfort, which is pretty similar to what we do in France too.
Thanks Georgette, I also don’t focus on where people are from, but have noticed “patterns”, and that as even another expat told me this morning, couples want to hangout with couples, singles with singles, and duo-parent families with the same… and this is the “general rule” across the board, regardless of country of origin. In Italy it is more noticeable because the culture is so family oriented, something I see as both an asset and a failing, depending on the circumstance. My point was simply that (as Bruce pointed out previously referring to a friend of his), the single-parent category fall outside of the mainstream boxes which makes the transition all the harder. I discovered this living it 🙂
Just want to say your blog is a breath of fresh air. Although you write about Italy (and I’m experiencing life in France), there’s so much to relate to. I’m sick of people constantly painting this perfect impression of life abroad and it’s just not accurate. Thanks for being real — I try to do the same thing on my blog. Keep up the awesome work!
Hello Diane, thank you so much for your kind words. I think it is really important that we don’t glorify our lives too much. I know it’s easier to talk about the positive but if you are a lifestyle blogger you owe to people who adore popular spots to be quite honest. I love your blog too, I just checked it out and that interview series with your husband is golden!
very good, I like it so much, congratulations, very helpful
I’m not looking to move to Fiorenze permanently (at least not yet), but am considering a sabbatical of about 5-7 months. I’m a high school teacher, starting my 18 th year this fall. My husband works from home in the US , we are in Boston, so can work anywhere wi th good wi-Fi. Your blog and this post may not be the right place to look, but do you have any suggestions for long-term short term housing.? For around 6 months. I will be working from home too if we go August-September 2000. We are middle aged but flexible. We can’t be the only people who would like to spend a semester there.
?This is the best and most honest advice I’ve ever read about moving to Italy. When I moved to Turin 13 years ago, I heard some things that sadly oversimplified everything.
Thank you Maura. I think those of us who have “done it” need to be honest about the negatives and positives. Frankly I see way too much online (and usually there is a monetary motive behind it) glorifying moving to Italy to solve/cure/make anyone’s dreams come true. It’s very hard to move abroad with no blood/work/family ties and it pays to spend a little time here in advance before making such a decision.
Ciao! I’m most likely moving to Florence in September of 2021 with my cat. I’ll be attending school for a year, and then coming home to New York, unless I want to stay in Italy lol. I need to start doing research and learning about the living cost there so that I can save up. I’m looking for pet friendly apartments at inexpensive prices, but in a safe area. Can you help me?
Love your blog, thank you!
We are one of those lucky families who work in digital and can now look to working anywhere, with Florence being a possible dream location. My husband’s work is in cyber security consultation is with a Global company who have European offices, covering all of Italy. I am studying my Masters in Law and the mandated legal practice course, with a view to ultimately adapting this against Italian requirements with a better command of the language.
I see there is a good international school for my 8 year old, so she should settle in fine. 🙂
Can you recommend an affordable contact for language support with bureaucracy – as I am only a beginner with Italian? How difficult is attaining residency within a few months of being there? (90 days).
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