Advice on relocating to Italy?

Old Aug 11th, 2013, 11:17 PM
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The dog will make renting an apartment harder but improve your social interactions enormously, in fact it's better than a wheeled trolley for appearing local.
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 03:35 AM
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If you can make it happen, do it! We have been in Italy a year and love it; it would not have been our first country of choice, but that is where my husband's work took us, and would now probably choose it over France (our first love) and Germany...dread the day we have to return home.

Italy is very expensive for car owners; try to locate to a major transportation hub so you don't have to own a car. It seems like there's even tax on the taxes at times! Insurance is outrageous, road tax, license, etc. so if you can forego a car, do. If you do get a car, pay premiums monthly or quarterly (whatever the minimum allowed) because they will not reimburse you should your car unexpectedly "die".

Sounds like Ryanair will become your most hated best friend.
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 10:39 AM
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Klondike - I can't drive anymore, so being in a walkable place with transit is exactly the plan. I had to sell my car about two months ago due to vertigo. I can still do most things just fine, but I feel drunk all the time, which makes it impossible to drive. This is part of why I'm looking at Venice, because everyone walks, but also why I'm looking at large cities, because transit is usually much better and dense city neighborhoods tend to have the things I need all in close proximity.

Tarquin - That sounds pretty good to me. In the apartment complex where I live, I know all the dog owners, and only a few of the folks who don't own dogs. We all have to get out and walk them, so we actually see one another fairly regularly, even though I keep vampire hours. Sadly, I know more of the dogs' names than I do the people, but we still stop and talk to each other whenever we are out.

What kinds of restrictions on pets do Italian apartments tend to have, if you know? Are pet deposits usually required, and does it add anything to the monthly rent if you own a dog?

In Venice, where do people even walk their dogs?
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 11:16 AM
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Erynn, it sounds to me as if you are preparing very well.

Do check the public transport situation in whatever cities you consider, though - I know you're not looking at Rome, but for locals there it's not very good which is why nearly everyone drives.

In Venice, and I daresay elsewhere, there are lots of book launches, lectures and some poetry readings in places in the Ateneo and in bookshops, although obviously you'll need to get your Italian up to scratch to enjoy those & to talk to people there. Until work got in the way I went to a fair number of lectures and it did help with my listening - although I realised that understanding a lecturer at the Ateneo better isn't the same as understanding the fishmonger!

I think the main thing you have to think about now is just how much you'll miss your friends. I know I miss mine; although in my case it's mitigated by 1) the fact I'd moved cities several times in the UK, so most of my best friends were already hundreds of miles away and I see them now as much as or more than before (i.e. once or twice a year, or even less), and 2) the fact I moved here with my best friend.

Re dogs, in fact I'm not sure it is much a problem when renting in Italy, although it certainly is in Britain. Maybe because so many people - at least in Venice - have got cats or dogs, it's taken a bit more for granted? In all the (certainly dozens, possibly hundreds) of flat adverts I've looked at over the last 2 years, I don't remember ever seeing 'no pets'. And the although our current landlady was very nervous about renting out the apartment (it was the first time she'd done it) - our lease has some odd clauses like not going out and leaving the washing machine or dishwasher on as she's worried about her lovely wooden floors, and at one point there was going to be a stipulation that we use her cleaner at certain intervals - pets were never mentioned.

(Since you mention rental deposits - the standard seems to be 2 or 3 months. We actually also paid our first year's rent all upfront since we were new in town and had no local referees etc - and we were desperate to get this flat!)

It is surprising that there are a lot of dogs in Venice, isn't it? Mostly very small but some large ones too. And mostly people just walk them in the street - and not all of them clear up afterwards...
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 11:51 AM
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One other thing I meant to mention. I suspect you'd find it a *lot* cheaper to get your supplementary health insurance in Europe rather than in the US - and you'll need the documentation in Italian anyway, for your permesso di soggiorno.

When I asked here for advice on what to do as a Brit about health cover, Peter in Ischia mentioned that he and his wife used the French company AXA and gave a useful link -
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...low-brits-.cfm
http://www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/in...ry-information
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 12:17 PM
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Caroline - Deposits for apartments here tend to be first and last month's rent and a damage deposit, with a pet deposit sometimes on top of that, so it can be three months' rent to move in. I was figuring something of the sort would also happen over there, so I would be saving toward that while I stay with my brother, and am currently selling a bunch of my stuff to put money toward moving expenses. It's good to have an actual idea of the practice there, rather than just a guess from my experiences here. I figure my brother can act as a more local reference than any of my US friends, or management where I've lived over here, when I do go to rent a place the first time.

I'm sorry to hear that some people don't clear up after their dogs. For me it's been long ingrained habit, though not everyone here does it, either. I just see it as part of the responsibility of having a dog.

I'm not sure how much I will miss my friends. I have a lot of them, but most of them I don't see too often. Even my girlfriend, I only see a couple of times a week, and she lives just down the street from me. I suppose some people would probably think I'm a bit distant, but I tend to be very solitary by nature. I communicate really well online, so I have friends all over the world that I chat with in email or on Livejournal or on Livestream or via Skype text chats.

I'm happy to have tea or dinner with friends now and then, and I have fun when I do. I love cooking for people. I have just never been someone who spends hours on the phone with people, or who hangs out with my friends for hours every day. My mom calls me once a month or so to make sure I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. She gives me all the news from her life and we talk for maybe 20 minutes. I suppose I'm much more of a hermit than most people. That may work in my favor in this situation. I can't be sure until I'm actually experiencing it.

One thing I have only been able to get a little bit of an idea about online is what Italian attitudes are toward queer people. I'm not flamingly obvious, nor am I looking for relationships, but do you know if there are queer communities in Italy in the cities? I would assume so, but of course I can't be certain. I know it's not something that straight people would necessarily know much about. I've seen statistics that suggest acceptance of GLBT people is generally higher in Italy than in the US -- our far right tends to have a lot of influence around that kind of social issue, though it is fading at least in a legal sense, and it varies wildly from region to region. I don't know what that statistic means in practical everyday application, though. If I were to walk down the street in Venice holding my girlfriend's hand, would it get us beaten up, or would people not care? Or is it something that would be interpreted differently there than it is here?

I tend to hang out with alternative communities, and in Seattle there's a lot of overlap between alternative cultures -- fandom, gamer geek, queer, steampunk, kinky, Pagan, goth, all that kind of thing. In some ways Seattle is like the world's largest small town, because if you go to one alt culture thing, you're likely to run into people you know from other alt cultures and find them going to many of the same events. It seems like there's always a built-in set of acquaintances if you go from one subculture to another. I'm not really the sort to go skipping down the street wearing rainbow flags, but I prefer not to hide who I am as a human being.
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 12:19 PM
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Caroline - thanks so much for the health insurance links! I have no idea how much that kind of thing is likely to cost. At the moment, all of my health care is covered by the Veterans Administration so I pay nothing out of pocket. They will cover some of my care in Italy (they have a special division just for that) but yes, I will need coverage for the things they won't, as well.
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 04:19 PM
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Erynn, a place to consider living might be Treviso. Small-ish town, population about 80,000, which is the same as Venice roughly. Easy public transport, and quite pretty.

About 20 minutes on the train to Venice, with rentals that might be a bit cheaper.

(Caroline, hi!, and our regards to Phil. We're missing Venice awfully.)
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Old Aug 12th, 2013, 04:56 PM
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Peter - Thank you. I'll put that on my list of places to consider. Not sure I would want to go that small (Venice is an exception), but it would certainly be worth a look.
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Old Aug 13th, 2013, 11:24 AM
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Hi Erynn. I haven't been here long enough or met enough people yet to have much of an idea about the gay scene, I'm afraid, although as you say surely all cities do have one even if it's not obvious at first. When people I know start coming back after the summer, I'll try slipping in casual enquiries.

The question of Italian attitudes is interesting. There is the odd report in the paper of gay-bashing or the suicide of a young gay person who can't cope, but these seem to be rarer (at least, as reported) than in the UK. As with many subjects, Italian attitudes are contradictory - on the whole people are still very traditional about things like the family, at least in terms of lip-service, but in practice seem much more relaxed and 'live & let live' about other people's lives than in most other countries. Most people still live near their extended family or if they have to move cities for work (very unusual, comapred to Britain), they aspire to move back to their home city when they can. (I'm basing this on various books I've read and my own students, only 2 of whom so far - inteestingly, both women - were from other cities and moved here for their jobs, but aspire to go back asap.) So living near their family (or indeed with their family to a surprisingly advanced age in many cases, especially among men) probably means outwardly living a more traditional life and not being so openly different as we find elsewhere.

(For other examples of Italian lipservice v. practice, see the fact that almost everyone is theoretically Catholic but the country has the lowest birthrate in Europe, plus the attitude to paying taxes or indeed obeying any kind of rules...)

Conversely, the current government makes all the right noises about equality of all kinds, but the law is still some way behind in terms of rights and protection - no consideration of the idea of hate crimes, no gay marriage or even civil patnerships in prospect. However the most exciting and charismatic political leader in the recent election was the openly gay Nichi Vendola, who I think would have been unimaginable not long ago, so general acceptance is getting there.

In practical terms, I think many people might be a bit uncomfortable with public displays of affection by a gay couple, or even with the idea of gay men - but I suspect that like Queen Victoria, these same people might not even think about the idea of gay women! As regarding holding hands, I think that would probably just be interpreted as friendship - it's not something most straight couples seem to do, at least here, although I've an idea it's more common (but maybe more among friends) in the south. But on the whole I think almost everyone wouldn't care - most people, however nice, don't actually care much what anyone does outside their own friends & family - although sadly I suppose there is the odd mad bigot everywhere.
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Old Aug 13th, 2013, 11:29 AM
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(Peter, hi! We are missing you and Lou awfully When are you coming back?)
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Old Aug 13th, 2013, 01:56 PM
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Caroline - Thank you, that's about what I had thought from the little bit I've been able to read online about the situation over there. I'm sure, for the most part, it's likely to be far more mellow than most places here. Milan seems to be the hot spot for queer community, but I found lots of listings for "gay friendly" hostels, b&bs, and hotels in a lot of cities. I suspect some places take it more seriously than others. I also wonder if "it's that green-haired American" might put me into "harmless eccentric" territory. People outside of my social circle are sometimes not certain what to make of me.

Then again, I suppose anyone willing to uproot themselves from friends and family and live alone in a foreign country is probably going to be considered something of an odd duck over there.

More sorting through my life and packing bits of it into boxes has been taking place today. I think I may have sold some of my bookshelves to one of my neighbors. They're supposed to be back early this evening and will probably come and get them then. Nine years in one place certainly collects a lot of stuff...
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Old Aug 15th, 2013, 10:48 AM
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Mm, Venice is certainly used to foreign eccentrics and artistic people, and I daresay Trieste is too since it's been such a cultural crossroads over the centuries. I think people here probably regard all foreigners as a bit odd and we frequently get the impression that people think we are quite funny! But they are always polite with it

Mentioning Trieste being a cultural crossroads reminds me, have you read any of Jan Morris's books? Her book on Venice is 50 years old but the city obviously hasn't changed that much, and I sometimes think it's the most interesting book I've ever read. So I'm sure her book on Trieste is also very interesting - I haven't got round to it yet, but certainly intend to before we go there.

NB I've now noticed from the paper that there's a Pride festival going on in Padua, so I don't know if that says anything about it as a city.
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Old Aug 15th, 2013, 12:04 PM
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Caroline - I have not, but I ordered her book on Trieste yesterday after running across a reference to it while I was doing more online searches about different things in the city. I must admit that the whole cultural crossroads aspect of Trieste sounds appealing. I'll have to look up her Venice book as well.

One of my brother's friends recommended to me the poetry of Alda Merini, just to get a feel for modern Italian poetry. I got a volume of her work with facing page translations, in Italian and English. It's been interesting reading, and I'm working through trying to read bits of it and translate for myself. I've always liked dual language editions of non-English language poetry, because even if I have no real grasp of the language, it can give me some feel of the sound and rhythm of the original, and how it might feel in the mouth and in the body.

One of my friends, a young Canadian poet and hiphop artist, just spent a year in Granada, Spain, and says that working on translating poetry was one of the best ways he'd found (aside from speaking the language) for learning. Geordie is a kick, and a really wonderful kid, very smart and very talented. He's been studying Spanish, Arabic, and one of the local indigenous languages in British Columbia. Everything works differently in poetry, so it tends to be more challenging, yet if you can get it right, it teaches so much about the way a language works, and about how a culture manifests in words. I should be seeing him in the next week or two when he comes to pick up some books he bought from me while I was selling off chunks of my library.

Patience is so hard right now. Everything in my life currently hangs on how long it takes to sell the place I'm living in. I'm feeling restless and eager to move on to new things. It can take me a while to make up my mind about a thing but, once I do, my attitude tends to become "are we there yet?"
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Old Aug 15th, 2013, 03:55 PM
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I've read Morris' book on Trieste, and it's good. Ditto her book on Venice. Venice has been re-published a couple of times, edited in 1990 - but an old copy from a second hand book shop still works well. It's my favourite guide book for Venice.

Conundrum, which Morris wrote detailing her gender re-assignment is worth a read - probably one of the best descriptions of the process, and the emotions behind it.

Morris wrote a 3 vol history of the British Empire. Two volumes prior to her gender re-assignment, one volume after. The tone changes from Vol 2 to Vol 3, becomes a bit softer, maybe more feminine.
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Old Aug 15th, 2013, 11:04 PM
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Peter - I actually have a bunch of trans* friends; I'm a little surprised I hadn't heard of Jan before.
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Old Aug 16th, 2013, 06:38 AM
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You're probably too young, that's why. She was fairly well known back in the day.
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Old Aug 16th, 2013, 07:13 AM
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<i>Advice on relocating to Italy?
Posted by: Erynn on Aug 10, 13 at 12:18am
I am looking at relocating to Italy -- for lack of a better word, retiring there.</i>

For some of the nitty gritty of moving to Europe see http://tinyurl.com/ymwge3. Do you need to be near a VA hospital? Are there any in Italy? A friend broke her leg in Italy and was happy that she had med evac insurance because the native hospital was terrible. Are there any US military bases remaining in Italy? Will you have on-base shopping privileges? That would save you a lot on your grocery bill.
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Old Aug 16th, 2013, 08:46 AM
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Another blog of someone who moved to Italy for a year, with a good description of the visa process, is http://www.ilbelcentro.com/

A city that both my husband and I said we would be happy to move to is Torino.
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Old Aug 16th, 2013, 09:06 AM
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If I were looking for somewhere with a vibrant and alternative vibe, Padua would be the place. It has a large student population, the best food markets anywhere and is a good transport hub. USAF Aviano is not too far away.
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