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 to 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 missteps 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.
Italy has a new president – Mattarella! Elections held in the parliament January 31.
Yesterday, Saturday, January 21, 2015, we watched “live” on TV the casting and counting of the votes in the parliament for the new president of the Republic of Italy. I must confess total ignorance regarding the subtle and not-so-subtle aspects of Italian politics, and only with the improvement of my speaking and comprehension of the language (I’m starting a VERY intensive Italian language course in just over a week, gulp!) will I be able to share perspectives which are more informed.
What I have gleaned from reactions is that overall people are happy with Mattarella as Italy’s new president. However, some people believe Berlusconi, who is known for his penchant for orchestrating “things” from the sidelines, isn’t so happy. Speculation exists (there is an amply supply here) he instructed members of his party to submit blank ballots (read as “scheda bianca” during the tallying) so as to prevent a 505 vote majority needed to cinch the election for Mattarella. This would have forced another vote at a later time, allowing Berlusconi and his party to craft a plan to get someone in place who would be friendlier to their causes. Instead, Mattarella blew past this simple majority to garner 665 of 1009 votes. Pretty decisive, I’d say.
Mattarella is Sicilian, a widower, and a father of three. Renzi lobbied hard for his election. I have quite an education ahead of me to understand what power the president of Italy actually wields. Many people consider him more of a figurehead. Time for me to get deeper into the swirling and confusing politics and alliances within Italy. I can’t promise I’ll be able to add clarity in future posts. I can hope, however.
“Cellulari” – Mobile phones in a story of movement here in central Rome.
I love capturing people as they go about their daily lives here in central Rome. At times, I resist inclusion of elements that demonstrate how the digital world is taking over people’s lives (no, I’m not immune), preferring to capture the old world charm of this city whenever possible. But, I believe art and photography moves with the evolution of societies. It makes me wonder where and how mobile phones will be viewed by future generations, and if technology will have advanced in such a way that these phones depicted here, will be perceived as old and clunky as rotary dial phones. Will the use of these devices be perceived as something that became nostalgic and romantic?
Pondering these questions, I was very happy to capture this pedestrian scene, which almost feels orchestrated in the movements of the characters. The older woman, stylishly put together (and her dog, too) clearly is engrossed with the contents of her phone, and she has the agility to do this “one-handed”, which shows she’s not a novice. Off to the right a father with stroller makes his entrance, also with the same focus and involvement with the cellphone in hand.
Bella – Private Collection – Jed is a Signature Member of the National Watercolor Society
“Bella” is one of my favorite paintings, inspired by a chance encounter I had, several years ago, with a wonderful Italian woman on the isle of Burano, just outside of Venice. If you haven’t visited Burano, it is a fishing village of colorfully painted houses. Often times you will see women sitting outside their houses along the canals intently making lace. Most visitors to Venice flock to Murano to see the glass-blowers (and make purchases), leaving Burano in its shadow. Do yourself a favor, especially is you’re an artist or photographer, and spend time in Burano. You will find ample subject matter.
From time to time, I will post earlier works as a trip down memory lane. Also, in this particular instance, I want to pay tribute to my dear friend Sherry, who had “Bella” in her private collection. Sherry recently passed away and she frequently told me how much she loved having the company of this painting in her home.
Piazza della Minerva is one of my favorite places in Rome – not only for the architecture, and this wonderful obelisk with the elephant, but for people watching. Here, the scene is punctuated with boys playing soccer – a rare moment when the piazza isn’t crawling with tourists. See this and other photography and paintings in my online gallery.
Even the best of big life changes can challenge you in unexpected ways.
I’m writing a lot about the practical experiences of building a life in Italy. Now, I’d like to pause and talk about the incredible mind shifts and life shifts that have been occurring as a result of making a big life change. I’ve loved how the adventure has unfolded, but it has challenged some long-held beliefs and ways of relating to the world. I suspected the move wouldn’t just be a romantic, magical manifestation (though there has been plenty of magic). I suspected I really would have to see how comfortable I was in my own skin.
I had a wonderful career in creative marketing, working with many talented and kind-hearted people. Friends thought I was insane to leave such a great gig to venture into a world that didn’t provide me a regular paycheck, and a matured social network and support system. I can understand such concerns, because I knew I would have to weather the transition of suddenly living in a dramatically different place and culture – one in which I would feel like a complete novice, and one in which I would be have significantly more time for personal creativity, and reflection.
At last! My Tessera Sanitaria card showing enrollment in Italy’s National Health Plan.
After almost two years of living in Italy as an expat I now have my tessera sanitaria and I have health care coverage in Italy! Woohoo!
By some surveys Italian health care is rated #2 in the world.
Until just a few day ago I was covered with an affordable Cigna major medical plan – good anywhere in the world, except the United States (no surprise). Medical care here is pretty cheap, especially by American standards, so if I had run into a health crisis I simply would have paid my deductible and then filed a claim. Fortunately I’m in good health, so I never had to enact such a scenario.
With so many other things on my plate in my first year here, I decided to forgo making the health insurance change until 2015. Getting the tessera sanitaria isn’t necessarily a difficult thing. In fact in can go quite smoothly. But, a few factors aren’t always consistent, so educate yourself on the process, and be aware of the parts that might veer off your anticipated course.
Even daily laundry can be cause for speculation and commentary amongst the neighbors.
I guess small towns are pretty much the same wherever you go in the world…
You see, my neighbors in Umbria talk about my underwear. Yes, my underwear.
Living in a small rural village in Umbria, everyone pays attention to everything. This is a good thing, because the “neighborhood watch” is fierce. Our home in Umbria is in a hillside cluster of 10 or more homes. Things may appear quiet, but ears are always alert to the sounds of strange footsteps or car engines, and eyes furtively peek out from darkened windows. In these small Italian hamlets, if that’s where you end up living, you’d better get used to your life being up for village commentary and speculation. This won’t be the first and only posting about having my life on display in Umbria. I’m not at all upset about it. I find it endearing and humorous.
I was prompted to write this after having a lovely New Year’s Eve dinner with our next-door neighbors from Umbria, who also live in Rome during the winter. During the course of the meal, my neighbor delightfully recounted a conversation she had during the summer with another neighbor, who lives just around the corner. This was regarding my underwear. We share a communal clothesline, always being respectful of one other’s needs and being sure not to monopolize use of the clothesline. One day I hung out a load of laundry that included a dozen pair of my Italian briefs, courtesy of Intimissimi (a guy has to feel sexy whenever he can). I’m one of those people who like to have at least three weeks of underwear on hand, and I end up washing them in bulk.
Apparently this prolific display of underwear ownership caused quite a stir and my neighbors remarked about my investment in the underwear industry. They chuckled about this “indulgence” of mine, and I’m sure word spread throughout the village. Pretty much anything qualifies for conversation fodder – and this isn’t exclusive to the expats. It hasn’t been unusual for us to be having a coffee at our favorite bar/alimentari at the bottom of the hill, only to find out that people are aware of our activities and whereabouts just two days before.
The bottom line is that we’ve been welcomed with great hospitality and affection and the “talk” isn’t malicious in the least. I like knowing people are looking out for us. So what if my underwear strategy undergoes scrutiny in the process?
Maybe you’re choosing a secluded home up a beautiful cypress-lined drive, and this will afford you much privacy. But, be prepared, because it will also prompt commentary from the locals, and this will be turbo-charged with colorful speculation. Italians are masters of storytelling.
I can only imagine what other stories have been told as the result of the astute observations of our comings and goings. With a bit of exploration, and sufficient consumption of wine and grappa, I’m sure we’ll be able to loosen lips….
Lettura del quotidaino – Reading the daily news. A common scene in bars here in Italy.
This black and white photo captures a scene I enjoy observing every day in cafès here in Italy. Each cafe has several newspapers, so unless someone else is already reading your favorite newspaper, reading is pretty much a fee endeavor. I love seeing the concentration and involvement with these publications, which are ripe with the crazy politics and scandals of Italy and Europe. And, you’ll also find ample commentary on all that is newsworthy in the States. While Italy, and Europe is a bit of governmental and financial mess these days, people also find much of what is going on “across the Atlantic” to be a mess of its own.
Be sure to check out other black and white photos in the online gallery.
This is one of my favorite photos, taken in a restaurant in the town of Foligno in Umbria (close to Montefalco and the amazing Sagrantino wines of the area). We met this lively chef while doing a tasting a Caprai, and made an impromptu decision to lunch at his restaurant. The food was amazing, and the chef was known for sitting down at the table with you, pouring himself a glass of wine (from your bottle), and staying for a brief conversation (until he was needed back in the kitchen). Another unique feature of the restaurant was a glass wall dividing the restaurant. Diners were encouraged to “speak their minds” with graffiti. Unfortunately, I recently learned that this unique Osteria is now closed. I’m glad I found a moment in time to experience its unique offerings and ambiance.
Hollywood has helped build a heavily weighted view of living in Italy. While I liked “Under the Tuscan Sun” (Diane Lane is one of my favorite actors) for the sheer entertainment value, I found it a bit sugar-coated (unlike the book). Yes, there were hurdles and tests for Frances, but still it all happened just a little too magically – thanks to the Hollywood “spin” to make sure audiences walked away satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, there is a LOT of magic to be experienced when you live here, but there is also a lot of red tape and bureaucracy, and laws change frequently and unexpectedly. I’ve found things that seemed to be a “no-brainer” in the U.S. to be quite difficult here. For example, the Italian postal service is incredibly unreliable and unpredictable. If you want to raise your estimation of the U.S. Postal Service significantly, just come to Italy and try to post a letter back to the States.
A blue-themed restaurant just in front of the Pantheon in Rome.
You might think I’m trying to scare you away. I’m not. I’m just a big believer in due diligence and full disclosure when it comes to factors that can influence a major life decision. Italy IS an amazingly beautiful and endearing country, for countless reasons. However, many people make the move here, only to feel sideswiped by the non-romantic practicalities of living here. Disillusioned, they retrench and head home. I’d hate for that to happen to you.
All the hard work associated with making Italy my home has been worth it, thus far. My heart has been in it from the get-go, and I felt reasonably prepared with the intestinal fortitude needed to deal with a long list of logistics and regulations.
So, here’s my advice based on my experience and my personality, starting with #1, which is….
Have a dream, but pair it with a well-thought out plan.
When The Secret came out, a lot of people thought they only had to dream, and imagine something happening. I believe that is only half of the formula. The other half is the hard work of researching, planning AND doing. Do a vision board (I did) if that helps, and make a list of the details of your ideal life in Italy. Then, start a notebook, and research all the requirements of getting residency (or a long-term stay permit – a permesso di soggiorno), and all the practicalities of living in Italy once you have arrived. There are several good websites with information for potential expats, but I felt like I had to wade through information that didn’t pertain to my particular situation. I needed to know what living in Italy would mean for an American, not for an EU citizen. Believe me, there are some big differences.