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.
We decided on a day trip to Bolzano to cool off if the protective embrace of the Dolomites
The three-plus hour journey from Treviso was well worth it. But let me assure you, on this particular August day the heat almost did us in. When we arrived in Bolzano it was around 100 degrees. The heat wave in Europe has been such a scorcher it appropriately has been called ‘Lucifer’. Upon returning home, it took me a full day to recover and bring my body back to a normal temperature.
We enjoyed a lovely day there however, thanks to a strategy of drinking lots of water, chasing shaded areas, and ducking into to shops with robust air conditioning.
Okay, with the heat factor out of the way, let me share what I’ve learned and experienced (thus far) about Bolzano.
A fusion of Italian and Austrian cultures
Bolzano is part of the autonomous Trentino province of Italy. It’s in the area called the Alto Adige, meaning “above the Adige river”.
This week I share an image I recently captured in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. As I was finally going through the batch of images taken on a hot July afternoon, this leapt out at me and its power took me by surprise.
In Venice a common theme is beggars in supplication to people passing by.
I call this “passive begging” and the streets of Venice are populated with people such as the man above. I’ve also seen numerous women prostrating themselves on their knees and elbows. Their heads are bowed and a small cup is in their hands. They don’t move. Rarely do I take photos of these people. I feel more comfortable taking photos of the street performers. After all, they’re actually doing something to earn money, right? That’s what I tell myself. But looking at this particular image I say, “Jed Smith you don’t know this man’s story, do you?”
Hmmm, that gives me pause.
People are adept at looking away, and avoiding what makes them uncomfortable.
And this is what stands out to me as the central theme of this photo. This man is patiently and humbly looking with expectation
Here I am, several years after pulling the trigger on my Italy move. And I’m damn glad I made the decision, even though it didn’t turn out exactly as I envisioned. It turned out even better than I’d imagined. In the process I’ve realized one over-arching piece of wisdom:
You’d best get out of your head, and your pre-conceived ideas about how things are supposed to be.
I didn’t realize just how imprisoned in my head I was when I landed in Italy. My left brain was hungrily involved in a mass of thinking and problem solving – so much, in fact, I mourn the fact that I wasn’t fully present for my first days as a resident in this extraordinary country.
I share this in hopes of preparing you, if you’re about to embark on a life as an expat in Italy, for the shifts in your being that have the potential to be of seismic proportions. It’s easy to be lost in the romantic notions of the beautiful life awaiting you after your Italy move. But, the reality is, if you’re anything like me,
I’m just returning home, after an unexpected adventure. Mind you, initially I wanted to thrown an internal hissy fit, having been catapulted off the course of my well-laid plans and expectations. But, somehow (don’t ask how) something in me relaxed, and I ended up with a very nice, one-day diversion. And, I seized the opportunity as an unplanned photo assignment.
Here’s how my unexpected trip to Brighton unfolded…
Simone and I had been in London for a three-day mini vacation. What’s so awesome about living in northern Italy is the ease and economy of being able to hop around to other countries. My easyJet round trip ticket was less,than $100, and the flight a mere one-hour-forty-five minutes. London was great, especially the annual 2017 BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (my favorite museum in the world) and a jaw-dropping presentation of An American in Paris.
Fast forward to Monday afternoon when Simone headed off to two days of business while I took the train to Gatwick. I’ll try to make this short and as pain-free as possible. The skinny is there had been a runway “incident” involving an exploding tire. Tons of flights were cancelled, including mine. Here’s the fork in the road. Do I throw an adult temper tantrum (like many of my fellow passengers) or go with the flow?
Your documents are plentiful. Make sure they all match!
When you take the steps to becoming an expat in Italy you’ll soon learn that there is a good bit of bureaucracy, which requires standing in line, quite often, and developing advanced skills in patience. Italians take their paperwork and processes seriously, and if you’re American, like me, you may be scratching your head in wonderment at all involved in the simplest of tasks. You may find yourself just wanting to “get it done”, but I encourage you to slow down and make sure, when you are getting things like your permesso di soggiorno, your carta d’identità, your driver’s license, etc., all your personal information lines up. If not, your journey to becoming an expat in Italy may be a bit painful.
I’m writing this post to spare you, hopefully, some of the difficulty I’m now encountering
I love creating. I’m very fortunate that I am able to pour myself into writing, photography and painting. Italy is bringing out the best in me in this regard. After all, when I have creative genius staring at me at every turn (particularly in a city like Venice) I can’t help but feel the universe prodding me to “get going” and to “see what happens.”
A need for something spacious
Three-and-a-half months ago I sat staring at a large blank canvas. Jed Smith, what do you want to paint? That’s what I asked myself, and I knew the answer wouldn’t come through intellectual reasoning. Something spacious. That was the answer.
The island of Folegandros, Greece, is just a short trip from Italy, and we vacationed there last year as part of a sibling reunion. A hasty photo I took, while hanging on the back of a speeding ATV, yielded the inspiration for this painting.
Now, this is probably more information that you care to hear,
Sportoletti excels at making beautifully rendered wines at great prices
Fair warning. I’m going to gush. But, for good reason. Just over eight years ago a bit of research and persistence turned up recommendations by other wine lovers to seek out the Sportoletti Cantina, which is south of Assisi, and just north of Spello. I had been making a list of wineries to visit in nearby Montefalco, home of the spectacular Sagrantino (a BIG wine that ages spectacularly), when I came across this one fellow’s article urging readers to visit Sportoletti. I’m one to follow advice to veer off the beaten path. Boy, am I glad I did.
Sportoletti Cantina has been around since the late seventies
The family started out, playing around with several varietals. Years later, they’d focused their efforts for five wines – two red, two whites, and a dessert wine. Yes, they wisely decided on perfecting fewer wines vs having a huge selection. Today, Sportoletti produces somewhere in the neighborhood of a quarter-of-a-million bottles of wine. And, guess what? Many of them make their way to the United States. I hope, by the time you’ve watched my video about this winery
The big Saturday markets will never cease to be a goldmine of opportunity for capturing the wealth of Italian faces
Recently, when visiting my dear friends Novelia and Peppe in Sulmona for the Easter festivities, I discovered the huge Saturday market held in the piazza. I had wandered out of my B&B (close by) with my camera to see if anything might catch my attention. Suffice it to say, I was snapping away almost immediately.
Dining al fresco – with a view that makes me keep pinching myself.
Welcome to my home away from home.
I’m a lucky man. When I made the journey from a life in the States to a permanent life in Italy, I purchased a house deep in the hills of Umbria, the rich, wild and earthy “green heart of Italy”. Talk about a respite from the noisy and busy pace of life in a larger metropolitan area!
If you’re looking for peace and tranquility, Umbria is an effective remedy.
Why do I call it “my home away from home”? Well, just over a year ago we moved north to Treviso, where we reside most of the time. Treviso is also pretty damn wonderful, but for different reasons. And, living in a city of over 80,000 people, it’s a contrast to the rural life in Umbria.
Just a week ago, we packed up the car (cats and all) and pointed our car south for the three-and-a-half-hour drive to our “country home”. We both needed to relax and “be still” before a very busy month ahead.
Take a virtual tour of my house in Umbria.
I’ve shared so much of my journey to building a life in Umbria. But, I realized I’ve never shared with you, my loyal followers,
I love these faces. I love surreptitiously watching their interactions, and their steadfast camaraderie. The Old Guard, fondly referred to as “Le vecchie guardie” in Italy, is an integral thread, found woven everywhere in the fabric of Italian culture.
Watching The Old Guard can’t help but make you smile
At least that’s my reaction. If only I could eavesdrop on their conversations to round out the picture. Or, maybe it’s just as well (and more fun) to use my imagination, and focus on capturing the moments