Il Dolce Far Niente! A favorite slogan of dreamy-eyed foreigners as they contemplate a long, slow vacation—or an expat experience—in that mythical land known as Italia. Yes, for those of us coming from the rat race of the U.S., the frozen tundra of Canada, or the proper stodginess of the U.K., the “sweetness of doing nothing” in sunny Italy certainly has its romantic appeal.
Stop right there. Before you give away all your possessions and buy a one-way ticket for a permanent Roman Holiday or a lifetime of Tuscan Sun, let’s examine this “sweetness” a little closer. For now, I’m happy to grant you the “doing nothing” portion of this popular phrase, but as we’ll soon see, there’s another way to read it, which has more basis in reality.
As is often the case, a story will illustrate this point better than a list of facts and information. I submit for your consideration “A Day in the Life in Rome.” [Read More…]
Once upon a time, just traveling cross-country was a labor-intensive task and a logistical challenge, to say the least. It required months of planning, tons of equipment, and several strong horses, mules, oxen, or camels. The traveler him/herself needed to be in excellent physical condition, and arriving alive at the destination was not a foregone conclusion. One could expect to encounter illnesses, violent weather, and hostile natives on any given journey.
Then about a half-century ago, commercial aviation ushered in the Golden Age of Travel, where folks “dressed to the nines” and sipped champagne at 35,000 feet on their way from New York to Buenos Aires. Travel itself was exciting and glamorous, and the destination was almost unimportant, as long as it was far, far away.
Travel agents were like magicians, conjuring up epic voyages from a cozy office space lined with posters from exotic locations. Tell them your dreams and they could make them come true. Luxury travel was the new “it” item of conspicuous consumption in the 50s and 60s. A passport stamp from Milan was more prestigious than the designer handbag brought back from the “quadrilatero della moda.” [Read More…]
What are the essential tools for surviving the expat experience in Italy? Well, learning to speak Italian is a good place to start. Some defensive driving skills wouldn’t hurt either. How about a lesson in everyday fashion?
All great ideas, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that a healthy sense of humor is your best defense against the forces allied against you as you attempt to adapt and assimilate to life in Rome. As if.
Here’s the deal: as delightful as it is to live in Rome, there are implausible cultural quirks that exist nowhere else in the world. Sure, every place has its unique features, but the ones in Italy seem to spit in the very face of all logic and reason, causing newly arrived expats to question their own sanity. I think the Italians actually enjoy this on some level, as if each citizen is harboring national security secrets that can only be obtained by birthright. I’m sure it’s great fun to watch us stranieri struggle through our lives in this land of wonder and chaos. [Read More…]
The biggest obstacle for many North Americans who would like to live in Italy is the prospect of finding (or rather, NOT finding) a job. When the expat bug first bites them, most assume that they’ll just show up, find a job in their chosen field, and then resume their career without any major detours. HA!
Actually, there are two hurdles to overcome: legal permission to work in Italy, and then finding gainful employment. “Gainful” being the key word there—many businesses are more than happy to “hire” you if you’re willing to work for free. Indeed, it can often seem like Italians don’t value other people’s time and expertise, acting almost offended when you tell them that you expect to get paid for writing, translation, or other services. More on that later.
My friend and fellow expat in Rome, Liz Knight, has plenty of experience with all of these challenges. She’s a lawyer by training, but her passion is for Italy and travel. Ever since her first family vacation to Italy as a teenager, she’s had an “on again, off again” relationship with the country, including several semesters abroad during college, and two expat experiences. Currently, she’s been living in Rome (again) since 2012. And she’s still hustling to piece together a steady paycheck—like the majority of the expats in Italy. She shares some acute insights about this during our podcast conversation. [Read More…]