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.
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.
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.
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.
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!