Stef on how living and…”surviving” the Italian Good Life!

I realized that many of my followers are interested in learning about the experience of other expats who decided to move to Italy. Due to popular demand and the possibility to get in touch with other bloggers, I’m glad to interview and share with my readers this kind of experiences.

So, today I would love to introduce Stef, a Dutch expat who moved to Italy in 2008, accompanied by his husband and dog, to start their own Bed&Breakfast: the “Villa I Due Padroni” in the Oltrepo Pavese wine region, just 30 miles south of Milan. In 2014 Stef published his first book (in Dutch) about their life in Italy. The English translation is available from November 2016 as “Living in Italy: the Real Deal – How to survive the Good Life” and has had raving reviews from editorial websites and readers alike.

So let’s get started and hear about Stef’s experience as an expat in Italy…

Where are you originally from and when/where did you move to Italy? Did you move with family?      

  • I am a Dutchman and moved with my husband to Italy in 2008.

    Stef and Nico

 What inspired you to move to Italy and particularly to set up your own B&B?

  • My husband Nico was a few years from retiring and wanted to make a last career change, while I was busy with a masters study that required a stage in a foreign country, for which I chose Italy.

    Stef and Nico’s B&B, the “Villa i Due Padroni”

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?

  • It was difficult at first to find a rental appartment in Pavia, where we stayed the first 6 months but getting used to the Italian way of life was rather easy.

How does the Italian culture differ from home? Which aspect of Italian life was most difficult to get used to?

  • The most difficult part is getting used to sloppiness, agreements, time frames etc. You keep expecting people to live up to them but more often than not they don’t.

What are the locals like? Do you mix mainly with other expats?

  • There aren’t many expats in our region, which is the countryside south of Pavia. We do mix up with the locals though who are almost all of them agreeagble pleasant people.

Was it easy meeting people, making friends and integrate into the community?

  • Nico started singing in a choir and made some friends that way. Then we got acquainted with some of our Italian colleagues that wanted to cooperate and with restaurant owners, wine makers etc.

Is there anything you miss about living in Netherlands?

  • The one thing I miss is the possibility to cycle to shops etc. Here the hills are steep and the streets bad, so almost everything needs to be done by car.

What do you enjoy most about living in Italy and the Italian lifestyle?

  • Eating out! The climate, the beautiful landscape. The people as well, it is fun (mostly) to try and understand the cultural differences.

    Stef and his lovely “expat”-dog:-)

What’s your favorite Italian food?

  • What not? I like almost everything. The taste is always much better than in the restaurants in the Netherlands. Very fond of (vegetarian) lasagne, but risotto as well.

With your B&B you guest people from different areas and countries interested in discovering Italy. What are their feelings about our country?

  • Most of them are very surprised to find such a beautiful area close to Milan and can’t understand that nobody has ever heard of it. The like the fact that is non-touristy, quiet.


In our blog we try to incentivize people from all around the world to find out more about Italy and particoularly about Le Marche and their local tradition. Have you ever visited Le Marche and if so what did you love the most about Le Marche? 

  • I visited Le Marche yes. There are quite a few Dutch expats running B&B’s over there. I have discovered the coastal area mainly from Ancona to the south. There are some beautiful villages to visit. I will definitely return to visit the mountains as well!

How difficult was getting a work visa/permit?

  • We did not need permits, as EU-citizens.

Did you experience many difficulties in setting up your business?

  • Not on the administrative side as we are lucky to live in a very small ‘comune’ (aka: municipality). Buying and renovating the house however turned out to be a rollercoaster ride which I decribe in detail in my book!

How does the Italian work culture differ from your country?

  • Difficult to say, our work here is completely different from what we did at home.

    Some friends helping in picking grapes for the harvest

How does cost of living compare to home?

  • The cost of living is not much different, although eating out is much cheaper here.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Italy?

  • The distance to native friends and family of course, but apart from that I wouldn’t know!

What are your top tips to any future expats or people considering moving to Italy from abroad?

  • Language, language, language! You’ll find everything to go much easier and you’ll have much more fun if you know the language BEFORE you move. 

In retrospective is there anything you would change?

  • I would not go and live in the house that is being renovated again, better to rent a temporary apartment to have some possibility to escape if things get hot.

Why should people visit Italy? 

  • The climate, the culture, the people, the food, the landscape. Visit the countryside, not only the cities! Rent a car and admire the beautiful panorama’s, discover small nontouristy restaurants.

You are also writing your own blog.  Can you tell us a bit about it and when/why did you start your blog?  

  • Since 2008 we kept a blog for family and friends to learn about our adventures. In 2013 I decided that is was worthwhile to turn our stories into a book, which was published in 2014, in Dutch. It met with quite a success and favorable reader reviews and has now become available in English as “Living in Italy: the Real Deal”: 60+ stories about our hilarious and horrendous adventures in Italy. Again the readers’ reviews are (very) positive. It is available as ebook and paperback at Amazon and other retailers.
  • See https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N7OY6DM
  • A Sneak Preview and pictures, reviews etc is available at http://italiaanse-toestanden.duepadroni.it/index-UK.html
  • Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/livinginitalytherealdeal/

I also had a lot of fun in reading Stef’s book and stories! I highly recommend his book and be ready to have fun! 

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45 thoughts on “Stef on how living and…”surviving” the Italian Good Life!

  1. What a good idea this is, Isabella. 🙂
    I very much enjoyed the interview, and had some idea, from watching certain television programmes, of the difficulties and barriers language differences can cause; especially when communicating regarding renovations and the like! Add to this an easier pace where time and time frames are more relaxed per se; the frustrations for those not used to such conditions could certainly cause difficulties.
    I wish Stef and Nico all the best with their new lifestyle. It must take a brave heart to do as they have done!

    • Thanks Bernadette!
      I’m happy to let my readers find out more about Italy trough my blog. In particular, about areas that are not so popular and ‘touristy’ but really beautiful, as well:-)

  2. I think it’s awesome that their expat stories turned into a book and turned out to have positive reviews! Thanks for sharing your post. I tend to write about my stories as an expat in countries I’ve lived in around the world. Have a great day 🙂

    • Shamim,
      thanks so much for your comment.
      I think it’s always very interesting to get an ‘insider’ insight from other expats.
      It’s a way to share your experience and tell your stories. St the same time, it can be also very helpful for people who are trying to make a decision or just would like to know more about living in a different country. It’s definitely a precious different point of view!

      By the way, congrats for your blog: it’s really nice and much fun!
      XoXo, Isa:-)

      • Isa thanks for the compliment by the way, I try to make my blog sound fun and funny as much as I can. I try to put myself in someone’s shoes who’s thinking of moving away from their home and living in another country, because, well, I’ve been there before.

      • I think that’s the right way to do!
        If you really know and care about what you’re talking about, people will just feel it and trust your advice.
        It’s good to have some ‘staples’ to refer to about things you might not know very well. Especially when you can rely on trusty people, who are talking about their own experience.
        Good job!:-)

  3. Always an interesting read seeing how people fare living in another country. If those people are Dutch, it rings my bells even louder. I came here with parents in 1956 but after all those years still found it an amazingly risky move by my parents. However, no crying over spilt milk.
    Australia does have a lot more room than Holland.
    I too published a couple of books through Amazon. Perhaps you two might care to glance through one of them, and could I be so presumptuous in asking for a review?
    In a way, my parents’ migration was so much more final. In Italy one can go back if the call for a nice herring or croquetje becomes too strong. (met uitjes)
    Here is one book;
    https://tsw.createspace.com/title/6255884

  4. how wonderful an achievement!
    someday perhaps i’ll get to italy,
    but i’ve enjoyed being with many
    italians in france, asia and america.
    beautiful, heartfelt, expressive human beings 🙂

  5. Ciao! I visited Italy for the first time last year and fell in love with it! The countryside is amazing and the lakes in the north stunning! I am looking forward to going back soon!

    • Ciao Roland,
      spero tutto bene.
      So happy you enjoyed Italy. Which lakes did you visit in the north? There are many and they are all amazing, I know.
      Next time, you have to visit the seaside and countryside of Le Marche, too.
      I hope soon!:-)

      • So beautiful!
        I know Lake of Garda very well. So many beautiful villages on both sides of the lake. I love Sirmione, Salo’and Riva so much.
        I thought you visited another lake in Italy last year: the Lake of Iseo.
        Last year there was an exhibition of floating piers on the lake from the international renowned artist called Christo. Stunning!

  6. I love this post! I have been “living” on and off for 3 years in Bracciano from the US. It is interesting to read about expats in different parts of Italy.

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