Benvenuto! If living in Italy is your dream, I’d love to be a resource.
I created Italywise.com to share my journey of living in Italy as an American Expat. For me, moving to Italy required great preparation and diligence, as did navigating the many legalities of becoming an Italian resident. I depended heavily on the advice and experience of others who had already made the journey, so I know the value of resources that can help you build a plan to execute your dream of living in Italy!
My story has multiple parts, and so I have organized this blog accordingly. Some people mistakenly assume, by leaving life in the U.S., I effectively entered retirement. I have an allergic reaction to that word, because I am hungry to learn and do. And, living in Italy affords me the opportunity embrace and develop ALL of my interests. Being an artist and writer is hard-coded into my DNA, so I can’t tell my full-story without sharing my creative journeys as well.
I hope you’ll find ItalyWise intuitive and easy (don’t hesitate to contact me with feedback).
I’ve endeavored to provide valuable information and tips on not only moving to Italy, but thoughts on navigating the requirements and legalities of becoming a resident here. You’ll find tips for buying a house (fairly easy) and buying a car (not so easy), tips for navigating the permesso di soggiorno and residency process, and a host of other necessities of daily life in Italy.
I write about the Italian culture, and hopefully I can alert you to potential mis-steps when assuming the “American Way” applies everywhere.
While the practicalities of being an Italian resident still occupy a good part of my time, I’m not concentrating on exploring Italy and writing about and photography the gems of my discoveries. Hopefully I’ll share some perspectives that will lead you off the well-worn path.
I would be remiss if I told the story of my “new” life in Italy, without sharing the emotional and psychological journey that accompanies starting a new life. I’m learning more about myself, and how life flows.
While I worked for many years as a creative director, I’ve always nurtured my identity as a fine artist, photographer and writer. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing my visual expression as a complement to my written accounts of living in Italy.
Every country you visit has a different overall “driving personality”. Italy has the reputation, amongst many Americans, as being an, intimidating, “every man for himself” type of driving environment. However, driving in Italy isn’t, in my opinion, something of which you should be afraid. The disclaimer here is driving in cities like Rome and Naples, where even many Italians are intimidated. I do believe it is important to be a defensive and patient driver in Italy, until you have learned the rules of the road – both the ones printed in the driver’s manual, and the “adopted”, unofficial rules of behavior.
Be prepared. Your brain may end up in a scramble trying to deal with the paradoxes of Italian driving. You may also become frustrated, especially if you insist on bringing an American mindset to the roads and drivers of Italy. Leave all that behind, have a sense of humor, have patience, and breathe…..
Be sure to get your Italian driver’s license during your first year of residency.
Before you read this, please remember the phrase “Don’t shoot the messenger.” Ok?
If you are American and planning on moving to Italy and becoming a resident, you’ll need an Italian driver’s license. If you’re from the EU, you’re home-free, as your license will be good here – though the polizia will tell you you need to have it converted, which is a fairly easy and straightforward process. Not so for Americans. No agreement exists between Italy and the U.S. and in Italy you are starting at square one, which means you are treated the same as an Italian high school student getting his/her first license.
The good news is that during your first year of residency, you can continue to drive using your U.S. driver’s license, as long as it is paired with an International Driver’s license, so be sure to take care of that before arriving in Italy. This buys you a year to plan to drive legally while going through all the steps related to getting your Italian driver’s license. That is a very good thing since you won’t feel as though you have a metaphorical shotgun pointed at your head.
Your first year of having an Italian driver’s license imposes some restrictions on the car you drive.
These two topics, getting your Italian driver’s license and your car, may seem to be marginally connected. WRONG. I dodged a bullet on this one, thanks to coincidence. Let me explain….
Prior to moving to Italy I confess I was lax in my “due diligence” in understanding and connecting the dots regarding getting an Italian driver’s license and buying a car in Italy. In no way did I expect that my Italian driver’s license would affect the my choice of car. Basically I had “lucked out” by going for a Fiat Punto, after establishing residency and while still driving with my U.S. driver’s license. You see, once I had my Italian driver’s license, I discovered the following: For the first year, a new driver (to Italy) isn’t allowed (legally) to drive a car that is deemed to be too powerful for someone who is such a novice. Yes, I can hear you saying “But, I’ve been driving for so many years in the States.” Too bad. With your new Italian driver’s license you are put in the same class as an 18-year old on the roads of Italy for the first time.
Attending driving school surrounded by charts and other information. Italian is spoken with great velocity.
Italian driving school, or “scuola guida”, is a required part of getting your Italian driver’s license if you are an American becoming a resident in Italy. There simply is no way around it – well, at least not that I am aware. Be sure to research finding the right school and instructors (theoretical and practical). Don’t take this part lightly, and be sure to get recommendations from people who actually have attended a particular school. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with these folks.
The Italian driver’s manual and workbook (with sample tests) are large and comprehensive.
Your faithful companions on your to journey getting your license are the Italian driver’s manual, and the accompanying workbook. Yes, make them your friends, even though you will probably be incredibly overwhelmed when they are placed in your hands by your driving instructor. When I first attended driving school and received my copies (on loan from the school for the duration of the course), I perused the manual, gulped, and tried to breathe. Never before in my time in the States had I seen a driving manual so thick and so comprehensive. “Surely I can’t be expected to know all of this!” I exclaimed to myself, as if to repel a dark force coming over me. Well, I WAS expected to know all of “this” if I wanted to get an Italian driver’s license.
I heard little of the first class I was attending, because I was busy trying to figure out what I had to learn and how I was going to do it. I am one of those creative types who have a balance of left and right brain skills – which means I pride myself on creatively approaching a challenge, while simultaneously needing a linear plan for reaching the finish line. Class was not the place to figure this out. I needed to be safely at home with quietude.
Quiz Patente 2015 is free, FUN and available for your tablet or other mobile devices.
Studying for the Italian driver’s exam will take a lot of time…that is, if you want to feel confident of passing your first time. Remember, many Italians don’t pass the exam the first time so it’s not simply a matter of clearing the language hurdle. A mountain of signs, road rules, technical workings of the engine and brakes, etc. all require that you learn and retain the particularities of driving legalities in Italy. And, each and every exam administered on the computer is a unique combination of randomly generated questions (a set number from each general category) – translation: no two exams are the same. And, so many variations of how the same information can be asked lead to more than 3,000 possible exam questions.
Just one example of many possible questions and the format of the written exam frompatentati.it.
Once you have studiously absorbed the Italian driver’s manual, and familiarized yourself with a wide array of possible questions, you’ll be ready for the written Italian driving exam. The exam is made up of 40 true/false questions, all randomly generated by the computer, and drawing from defined categories. For instance, you will always get a couple of questions pertaining to right of way at an intersection (with overhead diagrams). You’ll also get questions about primo soccorso, first aid. In other words, you need to have studied all of the sections in the manual. You are allowed up to four mistakes – any more, you fail and you will have to take the test again, after waiting at least a month. If you fail the test more than two to three times (I don’t remember the exact details) you may find yourself back at square one for paying fees and going through all the other steps in the process.
When I went for my test, my instructor drove me to the testing place in Perugia, and my partner came along to cheerlead and provide moral support. My instructor quizzed me during the drive, and gave me some important last minute pointers – especially concerning certain terminology used in questions designed to trip you up. Believe me, while studying the pool of over 3,000 possible questions, I had imagined a malicious group of testing “engineers” gleefully rubbing their hands together as they designed a boatload of trick questions.
Silly, naive me….I thought getting past the written driver’s exam would be my biggest hurdle. And, it probably was, from the sheer effort and time needed to succeed. However, the most taxing emotional and psychological hurdles were the required practical driving lessons for an Italian license. I feel compelled to reiterate my advice (in another post) to be serious about getting references from people who have already attended a driving school you are considering. Here’s why:
I’m going to call my practical driving instructor “Benito”, so as to protect his identity – especially since I would never have agreed to take lessons with him had I glimpsed what sitting in a driving-school car with him on six separate occasions would entail.
Once you are the proud owner of an Italian driver’s license, you may be asking yourself “Do I keep my U.S. driver’s license?” I must stress, and add a disclaimer, these are only my opinions and thoughts, and you are responsible for following the laws specific to your own situation.
Once you become a resident of Italy, and after your first year, you are required by law to be driving under the authority of an Italian driver’s license. Then, you will have a decision to make regarding your state driver’s license from the U.S. If you are maintaining a residence (especially if you own property) back in the U.S., along with your Italian residency, it might make an easier argument for keeping your U.S. driver’s license. If you don’t have a residence or own property back in the States, you might be walking on shaky ground if you renew your U.S. driver’s license. Many states expect you to surrender your license when you have established residency in another state or another country, and after having obtained a license in your new state or country. Some states even require that you sign a statement, when renewing a license, that you are not resident elsewhere.
White truffles on display in Città di Castello during the annual tartufo festival.
I live for eating truffles (tartufi)….
I am one of those people who have both a love, and a response to truffles that verges on something sensual. My head swims and my salivary glands come to full attention in anticipation of savoring this one-of-a-kind flavor. The truffle usually divides people into camps of ardent lovers, and camps of those who have a gagging response to anything related to tartufi. If you are the former the truffles in Umbria will take you to paradise.