Living in Italy FAQ

Since moving to Italy from the USA at the end of 2012 I’ve been asked lots of questions… some of them many times. After recently being featured on a popular national TV program that’s syndicated around the world I have seen extra traffic on my websites and Facebook. I am receiving more of the same questions, including some specifically about the show.

I figured it’s about time to write a post about the top questions I receive and offer some advice I have for those who may be interested in making the same sort of move. Please keep in mind, my experience is unique, just as it will be for everyone, but I do believe there is value in many of the common questions that I’m asked and that I often see in ex-pat chat groups found on Facebook.

On my personal experience

“Why did you move to Italy?”

Tradition says if you toss a coin into the fountain you will find your way back to Rome.

From the moment I first arrived, the Italians, ex-pats, and tourists that I would meet all asked me the same question. Though the Italians usually said it with more of a “are you stupid or something?” sort of tone because they all want to go to America where they feel are more opportunities for work. Though many speculated it was because of love that I came to Italy, they were only partially correct. My answer when I still lived in Rome was always the same, “The Trevi Fountain worked.”

However, it wasn’t because of someone specific. It was because of a dream to be in a culture that I loved. A culture of magnificent art, excellent design styles, a rich history, delicious food, and the hopes of finding a beautiful Italian man to love was appealing too. 😉

“Could you speak Italian when you moved?”

I had taken a class years prior to moving or even visiting the first time. I had a very basic understanding at an elementary level. Fortunately, in Rome there were many people that speak English when I arrived and I could get by in most cases. Google Translate was a big help for looking up the names of things when going to shops, but it’s not always accurate.

Once, I was a bit confused when I went to a hardware store and they said they didn’t have nails. They told me to go to the Chinese market that sold all kinds of things like a little five & dime shop. I realized once I was there and played charades with the sales clerk to indicate what I wanted, that “unghie” is not the word for “nail” as the kind you use with a hammer, but it’s the word for “fingernail” like the false ones he first directed me to next to the nail polishes when I originally asked for unghie.

Because I live alone, most of my friends are ex-pats, and my work is always in English, the advancement of my Italian really improved more when I moved away from Rome where it’s spoken less frequently. I still don’t study as much as I should and don’t mingle with too many Italians consistently for it to be great yet. However, I understand way more than I actually speak it correctly and I can say now that I’m at more of an intermediate level.

“What do you miss the most from the USA?”

The biggest thing I miss is the variety of everything, except pasta. As one can imagine, there are plenty of varieties of pasta in the food markets. But it’s the variety you find shopping at places like Target or getting good international cuisine at restaurants in most cities that’s limited. Also, when in nature, the wildlife that I see out hiking or at a park doesn’t seem to exist beyond birds and lizards. Squirrels are reclusive and rarely seen in big parks. Being a Florida girl I’m used to all kinds of dangerous and big wildlife, sometimes even coming into your backyard.

One food item I particularly miss, I have found in a shop recently in Salerno. That is Cheddar cheese and it’s one regular food ingredient I used to always have in the fridge. That cheese is kind of expensive here, the quality I’m finding isn’t the best, and the taste is rather mild, but it’s the real thing if I decide to do Mexican food at home. So, I have that option now.

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