Advice on relocating to Italy?

Old Aug 9th, 2013, 08:18 PM
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Advice on relocating to Italy?

I am looking at relocating to Italy -- for lack of a better word, retiring there. I'm retired (disabled veteran) and and currently living in the Seattle area, and I have a stable and reasonably good pension that will follow me wherever I go. My brother lives in Pordenone and has his permanent residence as of two years ago, though I want to live in a city somewhere in the Veneto (Venice? Trieste? Verona?) rather than a small town, so I can live without a car, and where public transit is good.

My brother has offered to sponsor me over there. I have no intention of looking for work. The veterans administration will cover part of my medical while I am living overseas (they cover all service-related disabilities, which means I would only need medical insurance for emergencies). I've been working my way through the checklist of things needed for the visa application, but I do have some questions for someone who has been through a similar process.

I'm in my early 50s, single, no kids, but one small dog, and have been living away from my family since I was 17, so I'm not really going to feel the whole missing the family thing very much, though I will miss my social network in Seattle, as I've been living in the Pacific Northwest for close to 30 years now.

My brother is uncertain what to say in an invitation letter and has been rather slow about contacting the Questura, though he says he will happily put me up for the first few months until I find my own place to live.

My general needs aren't really that much - studio or one bedroom place, city culture, internet access from home, and being able to walk to the things I need like groceries, music, cafes, and a literary or arts scene. I'm working on learning Italian.

I'm uncertain how long the visa process for a residence visa is supposed to take once it's been filed with the consulate. I have seen "within 90 days" quoted but that seems a bit optimistic. And apparently the visa application process requires me to already have a plane ticket when I apply at the consulate? The nearest consulate to me is in San Francisco, and they have not been terribly responsive via email, but I don't find that terribly surprising.

Anyway, I'd love to hear from anyone who has gone through the process to retire to Italy without intending to work once they arrived. Your advice would be most welcome.

Thank you!
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Old Aug 9th, 2013, 08:36 PM
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Have a look for Sarge56's posts. She went through a similar process a few months ago.

Although she ultimately decided the move want quite the right timing for her & returned to the US, she has a lot of information I think would be valuable to you.
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Old Aug 9th, 2013, 08:54 PM
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Thanks very much, I will do that. I'm still figuring out the search function here.
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Old Aug 9th, 2013, 09:52 PM
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Good thread about one Fodorite moving to Venice (from the UK):

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...inevenezia.cfm

and her husband's blog:

http://jonesesavenezia.blogspot.it/
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 09:34 AM
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Thanks, indy_dad, I appreciate the links.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 09:49 AM
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Have you looked into the cost of living in the places you want to settle?

I think the biggest thing is proving that you have a steady income that will support you on the local economy and cover the cost of health insurance.

As for living in Venice - it;s actually quite a small city and I believe that finding a legal place to live is a very complicated an lengthy process. I would look at some real estate prices to get an idea of the cost of even a small apartment there.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 10:22 AM
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<<they cover all service-related disabilities, which means I would only need medical insurance for emergencies>>

What are you talking about, none of my medical expenses are "emergencies", anybody, especially as you get older, has medical costs due to preventive and other care. Some of mine are chronic as I have a thyroid and high BP issue, only discovered in my late 50s, but I have various periodic tests, such as colonoscopies, some cardiac testing, and I had some minor nerve damage once due to some work I was doing around the house. I have friends who have back and other issues as they get older, someone who needed knee surgery, which was not an emergency, etc. YOu could get cancer or lots of illnesses and diseases, hopefully you won't. Now medical care is no doubt cheaper in Italy than the US, so maybe it isn't a big concern to you, but the idea that no one needs any medical care but for emergencies isn't true. Especially as you get older, you should be having regular screenings and blood tests for various things (like choesterol, etc.).
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 10:46 AM
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Christina - I have actually had emergency medical expenses before; I broke an arm taking my dog for a walk in the snow at one point.

I agree, annual medical exams will need to be covered. Most of what I deal with in terms of healthcare honestly is covered by the VA for me - migraines, mental health counseling, chronic pain, some other issues. So yeah, emergencies and preventative medicine would be something I'd need insurance for, but the vast majority of what I deal with regularly is in fact covered.

Thanks for your comment.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 10:56 AM
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Yes, but you would still have to buy insurance - the italian government would require proof of it to allow you to be a resident.

Not sure of the cost there - when I was freelancing BASIC insurance (hospital care and MD visits - no drugs, dental or eye care) was about $1300 per month for a healthy adult around 50.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 10:58 AM
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I am the Caroline whose thread about moving to Venice indy_dad pointed you to. It was rather different for us as we are EU citizens and came intending to work, but obviously many of yhe same considerations apply.

I have one question on a subject you haven't mentioned - have you visited any of the places you are considering living? Before deciding to come, we'd already spent a considerable amount of time on holiday here so knew we liked it and were used to how things work. Also, you say you are working on learning Italian, but how far have you got? In his round-up after a year, DH says in his blog that your enjoyment will be directly proportionate to your level of Italian and I agree. Although at least you will have your brother to help you with officialdom.

I agree with Christine, healthcare costs are about a lot more than emergency cover and I already have considerable experience here of visiting the GP, being prescribed medication and sent to various hospital departments for tests. Even as EU citizens, for our residency we had to show that we had coverage for *all* medical costs (on top of money to live on) for the period before we started work.

Would you be thinking to buy or rent a place to live? Finding somewhere to live in Venice isn't that difficult but it is quite expensive. We moved into our current rented flat (all legal and registered with the comune etc) 24 days after arriving, having initially stayed in holiday flats. You can find very small flats to rent from about E700pm, although being prepared to pay up to E1000-1200pm will widen the scope quite a bit. Prices for buying are mostly from about E300k.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 11:00 AM
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nytraveler - Yes, I've been looking at the Italian equivalent of craigslist for cost of living stuff like rental expenses and what types/sizes of apartments are available, and whether they are furnished or not. Venice rents seem roughly equivalent to Seattle in Capitol Hill or downtown (two of the more expensive neighborhoods, with smaller apartments for the money you pay), from what I have seen. Trieste and Verona seem more equivalent to some of the suburbs around Seattle, which tend to be less expensive for the same amount of space. I know not to look at anything on the ground floor in Venice.

I don't want to buy, so that may remove at least some legal hassle in finding a place to live, though it would certainly offer another set of issues. I know the usual rental contract runs for four years, often with an option for four more.

My brother tells me that my income is roughly twice that of the "average" Italian, so I assume I would be able to cover living expenses and medical insurance on that. All of my income will go with me wherever I live, so I'm very fortunate in that regard. I've been doing some research for the last three months or so. I know it's not like actually being on the ground there and having firsthand experience, but my brother has been living in Italy off and on for about twenty years now, and has bought a house and vehicles there, so he does know how to negotiate the territory, and is very willing to help me out.

Most of the reason I'm asking questions here and in other places is because he is often very slow getting back to me in email - he's not much of a correspondent, despite his general willingness to help out. And he got his residence while he was living there and working at the airbase, so his process was somewhat different than what I'm facing in moving there from here.

Thanks for your response.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 11:29 AM
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Caroline - thank you.

I have visited Venice. If I manage to get through the visa process, I'll be staying with my brother for a couple of months and visiting the various places I'm considering before I make any firm decisions about exactly where to live and what to rent. My brother is totally behind me on this and willing to help out however he can. He also has friends scattered around the area who are also willing to help out a little bit when I get there, though I don't want to presume upon any of his friends' generosity.

As far as rental costs, I would be able to pay up to about E1000 a month. I don't have any intentions of buying, at least at this point. I neither drive nor watch TV, so those are a couple of "normal" everyday expenses that I won't have, and perhaps that will help at least a little.

My Italian right now is very poor, but I am working on it and hope to be a bit better by the time I get there; I live a little north of Seattle right now but there are classes available in Seattle when I move down there, once I've sold the place I'm currently living in. Being immersed in the language once I arrive can only help, and I plan on taking classes once I do get there so that I will get batter at it. My brother is functionally fluent in Italian, though he says he's still awkward sometimes.

I can't currently hold a conversation, but I can read a little bit, and I understand a little more of the spoken language (if it's said slowly) than I can currently verbalize. Once I get into a class where I can interact with other people, I'll pick up conversation a bit more, I'm sure. Fortunately, I'm a reasonably quick study, and I'm very motivated. (Italian so far has proven much easier than Irish to get the hang of. )

I know that I have a lot to learn about all the various aspects of living in Italy, and about conducting my life in a new language. This is why I'm asking questions and doing my research on everything I'm able while I'm still here in the US. I'm doing my best to be realistic, to learn, and to revise my hopes and expectations as I learn more.

Thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate your thoughts.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 02:56 PM
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Erynn, sorry to end rather abruptly before, I was off to walk 10 minutes up the road to the Goldoni theatre to see an excellent production of 'An Enemy of the People' (part of the Biennale theatre festival, in Flemish with Italian surtitles). Never having driven myself, being able to walk everywhere (or occasionally take a boat) plus the absence of road traffic is to me perhaps the best thing about Venice - and not something you'd get anywhere else of course! And DH, who did have a car in our previous life, loves not having one now.

It sounds like you are going into this with your eyes open. If you can run to E1000pm for a flat, this will give you a decent choice even in the centre of Venice. There are a few websites such as casa.it & casaweb.it which I used when we were looking. Yes, keep working on your Italian. Unfortunately I didn't find that once here I was immersed in the language - I'm still not, after 17 months - so my progress has been less good than I'd expected, which I've found difficult at times (and this despite having done evening classes on & off for 20 years before moving plus 3 months of 20 hours a week at the Istituto Venezia - which I can recommend - after moving). There's a limit to how much conversation you can make in shops and since I have a British husband and a job which involves speaking only English... But for you, staying with or in the same town as your brother, who I assume must have Italian friends and maybe family by now, should help.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 07:58 PM
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Caroline - No worries. My brother has an Italian wife but is trying to get divorced (a paperwork nightmare if ever there was one!), and many Italian friends both on the airbase at Aviano and off the base in the local towns. I actually talked to him today via skype before he heads up to Austria for a few days on his motorcycle. He was going to talk to a friend of his at the town hall about what needs to be in his formal invitation letter, since the Questura has been somewhat less than forthcoming. A domani, sì?

I've never lived anywhere but in the US, but I have lived on both coasts and in Hawaii, and I've been in the military, so I have a long history of packing up my life and moving, having to adjust to a new place and find new friends. The big differences in this move will be language and an entirely different culture. Yes, there are huge cultural differences between New England where I grew up, Hawaii where I spent 18 months, and the Pacific Northwest where I've spent most of the last 30 years, but they are still American cultures with a lot of similar expectations. I suspect the difference in Venice between visiting and residing is much like the difference between being a tourist and a resident in Hawaii - things don't operate the same way.

Your husband's blog is really wonderful - please thank him for me. I've started at the beginning and have read my way up to 7 July last year so far; I'm enjoying it greatly. It's been so useful to see how things have gone for you and what you've both had to go through to get to Venice, and I'm very appreciative of the account he's been keeping.

As to living spaces, I've been looking at Subito.it from time to time to try and keep up with current prices, primarily in Venice, and in Trieste, where all of my brother's friends are (unanimously) saying I would really enjoy living. I'll definitely add the housing websites you mentioned to my bookmarks for further research. My brother lives in/near Pordenone and I'd prefer to not be more than a couple of hours away by the nearest train; both Venice and Trieste apparently qualify. When you live on the US west coast, 2 hours isn't really that long - on a really bad traffic day if there has been a bad accident or if there has been snow, it can take that long to drive from Seattle to Everett, where I live (usually about a 30-45 minute drive).

In the US, even in the cities (except maybe for New York), having a car is mostly a necessity. There are a couple of neighborhoods in Seattle where you can get along reasonably well without one, and I lived in Seattle for 12 years without a car before I moved about 20 miles north to Everett so I could afford to buy a place. Unfortunately, now that I can't drive anymore, that makes living here no longer viable for me because there's very little public transit and not a lot of stuff I can walk to. I'm going to have to move back to Seattle temporarily while I work on the visa application, but I expect I'll be paying the same in Seattle as I would for about the same size of place in Venice, from all the various housing ads I've seen. I'm looking at about the $1200pm range in Seattle for the neighborhood I'm wanting to move to, and that for a studio or small one bedroom in decent condition, unfurnished. In either case, I'm cutting my living space about in half, but I've been viciously pruning my possessions as I am preparing to sell the condo. Aside from selling the car, it hasn't been nearly so traumatic as I was expecting.

While I will be perfectly happy to live in Seattle if I don't get visa approval for Italy, I am so very excited to even be attempting this move. My friends here have all be very supportive, and I've told everyone that if I do get to live in Italy, they are all welcome to come and crash on my couch for a visit! I certainly will never succeed if I don't give it a try.

Thanks again, it's a pleasure talking with you.
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Old Aug 10th, 2013, 10:59 PM
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I don't have any advice to offer, but from someone who lives just South of you, and is very soon heading to Italy for our 4th trip in 5 years, and who also would very much like to retire in Italia (but doubtful that will happen), I want to wish you the Best of Luck in your endeavors!
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Old Aug 11th, 2013, 10:49 AM
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Thanks, Gal-in-EdmondsWA! Have a fantastic trip.
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Old Aug 11th, 2013, 11:24 AM
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Erynn, you're welcome, nice talking to you too! Interesting to hear about those aspects of US life from your pov.

Thank you for your kind words about DH's blog, he'll be pleased to hear you're enjoying it (he's away for the weekend, which is why I've had the time to look at Fodor's for the first time in ages!).

A few other things which occurred to me...

Is it important for you to be near an international airport? I know you say you have no kids & are used to living away from your family, but how frequently are you likely to want to fly home to see friends and family? We don't have kids either but we do have some ailing relatives, and anyway like to go back to the UK a few times a year to see friends & family; so some cities we might consider (if we had to leave Venice, for work or whatever) are probably ruled out by lack of a nearby airport with regular flights to the UK. But since the distance is so much greater in your case, I suppose it's not quite the same. Although I daresay you may want to take advantage of being in the heart of Europe to see some other places? As I expect you know, Venice Marco is a medium-sized international airport bt not huge. There are also some flights from Trieste, which is the cheapo airline Ryanair's local base, and from Bologna. Otherwise, the nearest big airport is Milan. Trieste is not so well served. (Incidentally Trieste is 2 hours from Venice by train.)

Second, you mentioned taking Italian classes on arrival - these may not be available in smaller places, except in the form of private 1-1 lessons. I know the Istituto Venezia where we studied also has a branch in Trieste, but I don't know if there's anything else between here & there.

Third, weather. We haven't been to Trieste yet but everyone says it's really nice and really interesting, and I suspect you may also find the weather is pleasanter there than in Venice and most of the Veneto which gets very humid. I used to assume that Venice was the worst because of being surrounded by water, but apparently not so - the geography of the Veneto causes some sort of blanket of air to lie over the mainland plain and keep it humid. A friend who lives in Padua but regularly comes to Venice maintains it's both hotter and more humid there. In Venice this summer hasn't been as bad as last year's when it got hot and really humid - frequently 90-100% - and largely stayed like that until early September, but we've had 70% a few times now. It still quite hot now - early 30s - but much more bearable as it's not too humid. But I suspect Trieste is pleasanter.

Next, fellow ex-pats. I know you have a ready-made social circle through your brother and I don't imagine you are thinking of moving to Italy to mix with Americans, but it generally takes a long time to become friends with Italians so the availabilty of potential English-speaking friends is nice too! There are lots of Americans and Brits in Venice and a few societies associated with them, but I'm not sure about Trieste - although there must be some English-speaking residents, as the Anglican chaplain of Venice goes over there once a month to hold a service.

Think about if you have any skills you could use to gain entry to groups of potential Italian friends. DH was in a choir in Edinburgh and now sings in 2 choirs here, which has been a great way for him to meet Italians and has made a big difference to how happy he's been. (Sadly I can't sing!)


Anyway, that's all for now. All the best!
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Old Aug 11th, 2013, 01:47 PM
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Caroline - I would want to come back to Seattle once or twice a year, and possibly down to the San Francisco area for a conference I usually attend every year in February, so being somewhere around an airport is good, but I'm okay with traveling to get to one. I tend to travel very light when I'm just going for a week or so. I actually did about a trip last year where, after I sent home my camping gear from the Isle of Man, I traveled all over with just 10 kilos of clothes and gear in a backpack.

My family is scattered all around the US. Mom lives in rural Missouri and I have only seen her a couple of times in the last ten years. If I get to Italy, my brother and I are going to make a concerted effort to get her over to visit us at least once; she's in her mid-70s. I haven't actually spoken to my dad, who lives in Florida, in probably ten years or more. (He is not a nice person.) Until a couple of years ago, I hadn't actually seen my brother more than twice since I left New England in 1979, though he stayed with me for three months back in 2011, and I visited him last August. I'm much more attached to my friends and my social circle in the Seattle area in a day-to-day sort of way.

I've been looking into various expat groups online in hopes of making some acquaintances, at least in passing, by the time I arrive. There is apparently a fairly active US cultural group that runs an American Library in Trieste who are always keen for volunteers, and one of the universities there has put together a resource packet for people moving to the area, which says that there are Italian lessons (some even for free) in the city. I'm both introverted and social, which means that most of my getting together with people is in small groups or tends to involve going to concerts and such. One of the expat websites has people who host meetups in different cities (Venice apparently has a reasonably active group) so that people can meet and make friends.

I'm hoping to find cafes or bookshops with poetry readings (I'm a poet and writer, though I can't say as I make any money to speak of, despite being published), and small live music venues. Those tend to be good places for me to meet people with similar interests. I'm also really good at meeting people online; last summer's trip to Europe involved almost six weeks wherein I visited several countries and stayed with quite a number of friends, rather than trying to deal with hotels, b&bs, or hostels.

One of the things I'm looking forward to most when I get to Italy is the ability to hop on a cheap flight and go visit other countries very easily. I was a little nervous trying to make sure I made my train and plane connections in countries where I didn't speak the language, but I got where I needed to go on time despite the anxiety! Last year's visit included some time in Ireland with a tour group, camping on the Isle of Man for a week -- in a tent barely bigger than my sleeping bag with a gale blowing every night -- the Lake District in England, and Penrith for Potfest, then a tiny village in Brittany (only ten adults and eight dogs: I raised the population by 10% just by arriving) and bits of the Festival Interceltique in L'Orient, a train to CDG and a flight to Prague, then a road trip with my brother from Prague to Italy via Salzburg for an overnight stay there during the Mozart festival. It was quite the adventure!

I've been reading about your husband's choral adventures, and it sounds like such great fun. I used to sing in choirs a bit. The last one, though, was about a decade ago, and we sang in Scots Gaelic. I took gamelan lessons for a while, which was a lot of fun. I hang out with steampunks and sometimes go to science fiction/fantasy conventions, though I don't know what kind of a fandom scene there is in Italy. I also really like going hiking and camping, so perhaps there are clubs that do hiking or backpacking that I could get together with, as well.

Weather here tends to be moderate and rainy most of the time. It only snows a couple of times a year and things tend to shut down entirely when it does. I left New England to avoid long, cold winters with months of snow. As we say here, you don't have to shovel rain.

I am definitely keen on living in a city. Small towns are really not at all to my taste. I grew up in a town of 800 people and just hated it. Give me lights and people and cultural events! Restaurants! Cafes! Music! All that stuff, you get the idea.

Hope you are having a lovely diurnal cycle.
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Old Aug 11th, 2013, 03:29 PM
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No one has mentioned the dog... Are you taking him/her with you?
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Old Aug 11th, 2013, 10:39 PM
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Schnauzer - yes, I plan on taking the dog. I know there's no quarantine for Italy as long as I have the proper form documenting his vaccinations. I'm curious about how difficult it will be to rent a place with a dog, though. He's fairly small (just under 20 pounds), 8 years old, housebroken, and crate trained, so he's not too much hassle, but he doesn't like other animals much at all, so that's an issue for me. I can't let him off leash or there would be problems, but he's used to always being on leash outdoors. I assume that there are animal licenses that are required, so I'll be looking into that as well.
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