In the summer of 2010 I was on a three-month jaunt around the Italian peninsula. It started in Venice where I spent seven weeks studying Venetian history and literature with a group of students from Florida Atlantic University. I passed through Florence for a couple days, then traveled further south to the tiny region of Molise to find the small mountain village where my great-grandparents were born.
Rome wasn’t even supposed to be on the itinerary. But I had a few days to kill before a week-long trip to Sicily, and the Rome airport was the most convenient connection to Catania. I booked a cheap hotel near Piazza Barberini for two nights.
I had already been to Rome several times, and I wasn’t really looking to do any more “tourist” things. So I went online and looked for social events. I found the site for Expats Living in Rome, and it so happened that they were having an aperitivo on the Isola Tiberina that night. And the pictures on their website looked like they were always having a lot of fun.
I showed up, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Expats Living in Rome
This group was a huge part of my assimilation process. Moving to another country sounds exciting while in the planning stages, but it can be overwhelming once you actually arrive. Meeting fellow expats who were in various phases of the same experience really helped me feel at ease. Not to mention the chance to network; this is your best resource in Italy for finding housing or job opportunities.
But as I often tell other would-be expats, this can also be a double-edged sword. The thing that you DON’T want to do is to isolate yourself inside the expat bubble. If you’re making a move that’s (more or less) permanent, then you need to integrate into the local society, as well. This means meeting Romans, not just other English-speaking expats.
That’s another of the benefits of this group. Depending on the time of year, the ratio of expats to Italians generally hovers around 60-40. I should also clarify that many of the Italians in the group are NOT native Romans, but rather transplants from other regions in Italy. (So if you know anything about campanilismo, in a way these folks are “expats,” too!) In any case, this creates a unique dynamic, and an ideal opportunity for language exchange.
Patrizia Di Gregorio
At the heart of this group is a fireball of energy named Patrizia Di Gregorio. Patrizia is the founder of Expats Living in Rome. Since 2001, she has been involved with Expats living all over Italy, organizing, events and volunteering her time. She is an Italian-American from upstate New York. She has two children who have been a great inspiration in the work she does.
Patrizia has a rare gift of being able to bring people together. Contact her if you have any questions about moving to Rome, jobs, rooms, etc. She is an “expert expat,” and will guide you in the right direction. Oh, and join the Expats in Rome Facebook Page to stay up to date on all their social events and language exchange opportunities.
Today on my podcast I talk to Patrizia about the history of her group in Rome, and some of the challenges faced by newly arrived expats in the Eternal City. The conversation was recorded live in her living room on the afternoon of October 8th with a bottle of amaro at my elbow. (You can detect the conversation diminishing as it progresses.) We had a lot of fun, and we also broadcasted our chat live via Periscope.
Later that evening, I brought my microphone to her social event at Antica Biblioteca Valle in the Piazza Navona area where I conducted some mini-interviews with various expats in the group. I’ll be publishing these snippets here on my blog/podcast in a day or two. Listening to these conversations, you’ll get a very good idea of how wonderfully diverse this group is—which is sort of a microcosm for the city of Rome itself.
I would like to thank my good friend Patrizia for not only being a guest on my podcast, but also for making my expat transition as smooth (and fun!) as possible when arrived in Rome five years ago. If you’re considering such a move yourself, you’d be wise to look her up when you first arrive.
In fact, if you’re in town this Tuesday (or any Tuesday), come to the weekly expat aperitivo. This week it’s at REC23 in Testacccio, Piazza del Emporio 2.
Click the link to check out other episodes and see my list of the best podcasts about Italy.