Living in Rome
Italy for the Long Term
|Another relaxing morning starting with
a cappuccino in Trastevere, Rome.
Photo © TransitionsAbroad.com.
My husband and I are not trust-fund babies,
nor self-made millionaires. But as readers of Transitions
Abroad, we dreamed of living outside the U. S. After much discussion,
research, and planning, we boarded the airplane in Houston, Texas
with only two bags each. We arrived in Rome the following day
to begin our plan to live abroad, learn the language, and absorb
the culture. Our dream was coming true.
John was 43 and I was 38. Too old to throw caution to the wind, too young to retire, we wanted to live somewhere and not feel like tourists in city after city. I wanted to know my neighbors and understand what their lives were like. We both wanted to experience another culture but also prepare for future earnings.
John spent 25 years in television news. He decided to continue his education and study international affairs, a decision that was the catalyst for moving abroad. It would take 21 months for John to graduate. My background is in retail sales and marketing. Learning another language would open new doors for me as well.
Planning a Move
When we got serious about our plan, John
began researching English-speaking degree-granting universities
on the Web and we started preparing our family and friends. We
expected to be told we were crazy but received only enthusiastic
responses, even from my financial advisor. John narrowed the field
to four schools and began the application paperwork.
We evaluated the cities and our interest in the culture, language, etc. The final candidates were Madrid and Rome. We couldn't make such enormous changes in our lives without visiting at least once, so to put our minds at ease we planned a vacation to both cities for a final winnowing.
One of the universities in Rome filled all the requirements. We were even shown some apartments during our visit. By choosing an apartment that normally houses only one student, we were able to trim costs. We left a housing deposit for the fall semester before we departed.
|Apartments are available on side streets
in Trastevere and across Rome.
Photo © TransitionsAbroad.com.
The details on how
to obtain visas in Italy are covered on the detailed website
provided by the Italian government. Since I was going to be
enrolled in Italian classes, we were both able to apply for
student visas, which is one of the least complicated types
to obtain. All the required information is laid out on the
we were visiting Italy, we checked to make sure our bank ATM cards
could access cash (better, in fact, to do so beforehand and inform
your bank that you are traveling to Italy). They did, making it
unnecessary to open a checking account overseas. We withdraw a
set amount of cash once a week that covers all our food and incidentals.
Knowing our limit keeps us on budget. We each have mobile phones
that are recharged with cards purchased at the tabacchi,
so we don't have the hassle of getting a land line, though there
are many other
cellular options available, including international plans
and options such as using Skype on your laptop computer. The apartment
we leased through the university had water, gas, and electricity
included. We did not own a home in Houston (the lease on our apartment
was expiring at just the right time), but we did have lots of
possessions-many of which we didn't need or really want anymore.
We were actually giddy about selling our automobiles and looked
forward to public transportation. Most errands in Rome are completed a
by foot, and shopping with a 2-wheeled cart is actually fun.
In making a move like this you should learn
as much of the language as possible before you depart. Italians
are extremely patient and accommodating when you are trying
to learn and will often try to help you any way they can. One
of our understanding neighbors, Signora Molinari, kept repeating "piano,
piano." Slowly it will come.
Shopping at an inexpensive outdoor mercato (market),
such as Piazza
San Cosimato in Trastevere, is one of the best
ways to integrate into the daily ritual of Roman life, and is
far less expensive than eating at local restaurants. If you have
a kitchen, you can prepare your own food for a fraction of the
cost, or eat out as often as you can afford in places from wood-oven
pizzerias to the many trattorias with tables on the cobblestone
We are sharing just a moment of Rome's 3,000-year history, but it will resonate in us for the rest of our lives.
Editor's note: See our section Living
in Italy: The Essential Resources for more information on
living in Rome and in Italy in general.
MARTHA MILLER writes from Trastevere, a Roman neighborhood, across the Tiber River from the historic center of Rome. More more about her experience, see her book Times New Roman: How We Quit Our Jobs, Gave Away Our Stuff & Moved to Italy