10 Years in Italy: What I Have Learned

This week officially marks my 10 years in Italy. Something so crazy, when I think that I have lived my entire adult life here. I feel old, yet like there is still so much to explore here in Italy. I had a hard time naming this post, but as I was reflecting back on my 10 years here I realized, there’s nothing I regret per se. I’m very happy with where I ended up, and happy for the hiccups and challenges along the way because through each and everyone I learned more and more about Italian Bureaucracy that I can now share here with you.

But looking back, for someone who was aiming for a smoother way to make Italy home, there are definitely 10 things I would recommend doing a little differently. So here goes, here are 10 things I would have done a little differently over my 10 years in Italy.

Learned Italian better, earlier.

Sure I figured out the basics before even coming, but I didn’t actually speak Italian fluently enough to have a real conversation and feel comfortable until I had lived in Italy for 4 years. I didn’t bother because I could always get by and had someone there to translate. I think this was a big mistake, it held me back from exploring on my own, from internship and job prospects, and from a lot of potential friendships.

So my number one advice for those of you planning a move to Italy: Learn the language as best you can early on, throw yourself into it! Here are some great resources to get you started.

Invested in a long term stable rental

During my time in Italy, so far, I have moved over 20 times! With another one in the plan for this year. Honestly, it wasn’t a great experience, I was always packing and unpacking, stressing over deposits, and never really making myself a stable home. Sure when I was a student I guess it was exciting, but it also added another level of stress.

I also never looked for a valid contract that was registered with the Agenzie delle Entrate, because I didn’t realize how important it was and they seemed more expensive. This left me at a disadvantage for many residency perks.

Having an actual place to legit call my own would have been more at the start,  but would have given me a much better sense of stability and home, and have helped set me up for the long term with…

Getting Residency ASAP

If I had gotten residency much earlier, I would have saved myself a lot of mess later on, and I would have been able to claim a Carta di soggiorno and citizenship either this year or not far in the future.  Residency is a great perk that makes things like healthcare, certain permesso easier, and sets you up for citizenship via residency.

I held out on residency for a while because of not understanding the implications for student loans, but it would have been better to do it as soon as I could. This is of course a choice that really depends on your long-term plans. But given that I was planning to stay in Italy always, I should have gotten it together and applied earlier.

Signed up for National Healthcare Earlier

Following up on speaking Italian and getting residency, due to the fact I didn’t catch up on those, I waited so long to get my healthcare in Italy! If I had gotten a valid contract, and residency, I could have taken advantage of free healthcare much earlier on, which just would have been great to access when necessary. Even if you are not a working tax resident, you can voluntarily sign up and pay about 150 a year. You can technically do this even without residency, but you are most likely to receive much less resistance from the ASL if you bring the residency paper.

Having access to IT healthcare means I can get to a doctor when I need it for free, I get very affordable medicine and treatment for my migraines, and if I have an emergency I am covered.

Not relied so heavily on others

Now, wait, I definitely do recommend asking for help when you need it and learning from people for moving to Italy. But let me explain the fine line: For most of my early years in Italy, I figured my boyfriend or friends would sort out the Italian things for me. So, I never practiced the language or even tried.

I figured that my school would sort me out with an internship and job and set me up to stay long-term. So I never looked heavily into my permesso options or job plans post-graduation. (HUGE mistake)

I just went with the flow a lot and let other people take care of things for me without making an effort to really understand how life in Italy works.

Early on, if you know your plan is to stay, while you should ask for help, you should also take control of your life. This is your plan and your life, you’ve got to take a little more responsibility to make sure it goes where you want it to. Plus you will never get fully settled independently if you let someone else take the Italian lead always.

Spent more time with Italians & local residents (positive ones!)

I came over to Italy for university, which meant I was more interested in hanging out with friends and sticking to my English comfort zone. Personally, I did have one or two Italian friends but mainly spoke English. I wish I had spent more time again figuring out the language and connecting with more Italians.

And spending more time with people who had figured out long terms stays in Italy, and have learned from them. I could have saved myself a few years of stress.

Another trap that happens early on – every ex-pat tends to fall at least once into the trap of connecting with other ex-pats who are miserable. They add a negative spin to EVERYTHING in Italy, and really don’t seem interested in finding a solution, just in empty complaining. Avoid these people. Their energy is going to pull you down and make creating your dream life very difficult.

Using time and language skills to network more, meet more people who can help out with classic life-in-Italy-struggles or even jobs, opportunities. They always tell us networking is key, I wish it had set in earlier.

Many jobs are found through friends in Italy, so reach out and make local friends as often as you can!

Not wasted my time on wine under 5 euros

Can you believe I willingly sipped Tavernello sometimes? WHO WAS I?

Don’t get me wrong, 2 euro Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can hit the spot when you are at a casual event with friends. But now I know what is out there, I’m embarrassed I used to waste my monete, time, and life on cheap wine.

You’ve come to one of the absolute best wine regions of the world, with over 600 different varieties, open your palate and get sipping!

I say splurge for the 8-10 euro bottles, it’s worth it. However, will say the Fontanafredda 5 euro Barbera d’Alba is also a decent start.

Gotten a Therapist & Taken Care of my Mental Health

At the moment I am at now, I feel comfortable with myself, and think I have learned a lot. But for a number of years, I was still refusing to let go of some things and not facing some mean nasty parts of myself. This expressed itself through even more stressful situations on top of culture shocks.

I think if I had taken care of my mind early on I could have avoided a lot of the more hurtful and panicky moments of my years here.

Moving to a new country meant taking along a lot of baggage and facing a whole new world that really hit some insecurities, I wish I had had the mindset to deal with things early on.

Especially for those of you considering moving to Italy as a way to run away from something, Italy can’t do it all, you are going to want to find some extra help. Finding someone in Italy can be tough for price and language,  but sites like BetterHelp work internationally!

Figured out all my banking needs and finances earlier

Over the last 10 years in Italy,  I was always able to find jobs and take care of myself, but I was not great at holding onto money and saving up for bigger future things. I was also scared of how complicated Italian savings accounts seemed.

So something I would have set myself up with a good budget and savings accounts early on, and explored what investing looks like as an expat (still trying to figure this out, FATCA is weird)

Plus, I would have just figured out an Italian bank account early on, I waited until I had been in Italy 4 years before actually sorting out my own account. I didn’t do enough research I ended up bouncing around to different banks, which ends up costing a bit, and as every bank wants you to come in person to set up, it also was a lot of time and energy to get it together. Now, this is sorted I am sharing with you some of the best bank accounts for ex-pats and non-residents. 

Traveled even more.

Even after ten years, there is so much of Italy I haven’t seen yet and I so wish I had taken even more trips to explore around me. Italy may seem like a small country, but every region is so different, even more every province! You just can never get enough.

I will also say that I did usually stick to Italy for my vacations, which I was happy about because it felt like I got to know my cities really well. But now that restrictions have us tied down and made travel a little more difficult I do feel a little bummed I didn’t take more advantage and travel even more over the last few years.

So those are all the things I guess I would have done a little differently in my ten years that if you are looking to make your time settling into life in Italy easier, I would go ahead and keep these in mind.

Does anything surprise you?

If you found this information helpful you can show your support by buying me a glass of wine 🥂. I really appreciate it and each glass inspires me to research more into life in Italy!

And if you are looking for more help on your journey of making Italy home or looking for local insight to plan the best trip, get in touch, let me help you experience authentic Italy.