I’ve have always loved Italy. I still love Italy. I used to say ‘Italy is my lover and London is my husband’. When I could I would get on a flight to any Italian city. I would spend my weekends in an Italian wonderful towns. I even moved to Rome planning to live there for a year. However, the reality hit me and everything changed.
When I first fell in love with Italy was when I first ever had a holiday abroad all by myself. What a sweet memory that is! Florence and Tuscany countryside stole my heart. I loved the art around in architecture, in how people spoke and drank coffee. Their hospitality was something out of this world. I had a pleasure of staying at an Italian home with a friend of mine from a language school.
Her parents were architects. Their flat was on the top floor right in front of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and the square. To wake up in Florence with the view that takes your breath way was magical. It’s not a surprise I fell in love with Italy. I feel in love with the countryside views where perfection had another dimension. I fell in love with the language, the food and the honesty of people.
I was under the spell of Italian heat, pizza, red wine and art. I was so lucky to have stayed with an Italian family. I had a friend who took me everywhere with her. She introduced me to everyone she knew. I loved the parties where people would sip red wine from a vineyard near by, talk about art, philosophy, architecture and design.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the nights being hot, the architecture to inspire for life, the food to crave forever with inspirational ideas for life. I promised to myself then and there that I will be back to live in Italy. I made it happen. After excruciating six months of search for jobs I got one. I moved to Rome. I love Rome. It was a city to dream about but not to live in.
When I landed with my life packed in five suitcases I didn’t know what to expect. I had mixed feelings of fear, excitement and who knows what the future brings. In a few days I found a place to rent. It would have been quicker if only I spoke Italian as soon as people heard me speaking English they’d hang up.
In less than five minutes I would run out of a massive list of rentals as one would go through a massive bowl of popcorn. The place I managed to rent was in central Rome ten minutes to the Coliseum. The owner was a philosophy professor at Rome’s University who spoke many languages but preferred to converse in Italian.
He used to say ‘You will learn Italian much faster if I speak to you in Italian.’ Most of the time I didn’t understand what he would be talking to me about. More than ten years later he still owes me my deposit of over 500 euros and a pair of shoes. When I first met him he offered me coffee but asked me to make it. His French girlfriend from Paris, who was cheating on her husband, came to Rome for a visit.
She didn’t have a pair of shoes to go out with so I lend her mine. I never got the shoes back. For more than a month I would be walking around Rome loving the architecture, weather, art and food. Rome is a walkable city. You can walk everywhere. The tourists would be as annoying as mosquitos wizzing around you. My ‘holiday’ mode in Rome ended. Work started.
However, there was a whole lot of paper work I had to get done beforehand. I had to get something called ‘un permesso di soggiorno’. I was lucky because it only took me two days to get it. Generally it takes six months to say the least. The guy who was dealing with the applications liked my blue eyes. He asked for my telephone number in exchange for ‘un permesso di soggiorno’.
He handed me ‘un permesso di soggiorno’ on the same day like freshly baked bread with an incorrect telephone number of mine. He was married and probably with children. To get a doctor, on the other hand, was a challenge to say the least. I got a terrible flu. I was sent from one institution to another with no clear site as to when I will see a doctor.
Apparently ‘un permesso di soggiorno’ was too new or something like that. Two organisations that kept me moving between them were like a bad married couple arguing with me in between got me nowhere. I gave up and went home. A porter in the building where I lived saw me unwell. Took pity on me and called a doctor he knew. I went to see him. He spoke no English.
I spoke no Italian. He prescribed me something might as well had been some sweet stuff as I had no clue what kind of medicine it was. I got to a pharmacy and people wouldn’t sell me the stuff because they didn’t understand me. What is there to understand? I gave them my prescription in Italian, give me the medicine and I pay for it. Right? Nope, that’s not that simple.
I lost any hope and went home without any medication in the end. I spent more than three days what it felt like I am half dead. No-one had called to ask if I was ok. I thought if I die here no-one will know. I had terrible thoughts circling around like dark clouds. I was looking forward to a weekend. My boyfriend at that time was coming to visit. It was not to be.
He decided to dump me for another woman through an email. It felt like he was unsubscribing from an email he no longer wish to hear from. I was sad. I had to work. It was hard. The teaching job didn’t pay well. I ran out of my savings. The job I had was slow with students. The school was run by an English guy who thought of himself as a superhero.
I decided to leave Rome it wasn’t working for me. I fell out with the school’s superhero and got on a train to Venice before flying back home. A friend of mine greeted me in Venice with the warmest hugs. Venice was empty and sunny. My friend made sure I got rid off my three suitcases and sent me home.
To go to a country for a holiday and to go to a country to live is a different kettle of fish. To live in a holiday destination is great to start with. I see the magic, beauty, art and everything wonderful. However, when I have to work and get the paperwork sorted it’s another story. I started to see the cracks on white wall. The romanticised view of Italy changed.
However, I love Italy no matter what. I cannot live there many reasons but I will always love the country and its magic. When you decide to make a move to another country you have to be ready to wait. You have to learn to respect another country’s rules, systems and process. It’s not for the light hearted. However, if you prepare and know about it it’s ok.
The system and paperwork exists in every country. Everything takes time to get ready and get done. I was naive when I went to Rome. It was a great learning in my life. I learned a lot. Living in a holiday destination is great as long as you know you are going to have to deal with bureaucracy and it will take time. If you are aware and ready for it then it’s a dream that comes true.