Moon Living Abroad in Italy by John Moretti
Paperback, 257 pages, Avalon Travel
In 1999, author John Moretti, then 26, left his job as a small-town reporter in Vermont for an extended vacation in Italy. Like so many who visit Italy, he could not bring himself to leave, having fallen in love with the country and its people. Four years and several jobs later in Milan and Moretti went on to write a comprehensive, practical, honest, and highly engaging insiders' guide to Living Abroad in Italy, which has now been released in its second edition.
As with all books in Moon's ever-growing Living Abroad series, John Moretti provides the inside scoop on a variety of aspects of life in Italy, covering everything from the history of the country, to the various major regions where you might contemplate moving, to every practical consideration necessary to make a successful transition when seeking to move and live in a country which has seduced so many. Moretti does so in a very conversational yet informed style which makes for enjoyable reading.
The Background and Cultural History of Italy
Given Moon's philosophy of cultural understanding through cultural immersion, it makes sense to start with an overview of the history of a country which is really a collection of highly diverse provinces that only became unified as a nation in 1861, but whose various peoples extend back to prehistory, and on through Greek, Etruscan, and Roman eras (not including the influence of many other foreign invaders). The Dark Ages and the rich and glorious period of the Italian Renaissance are well covered. Moretti discusses the evolution of Italy to the post WWII Italian Republic and on through the 100+ governments which have run the country since, while emphasizing politics in the context of his brief cultural history. The historical background is supplemented with a sidebar denoting the dates of major events in Italy, which provides a much-needed quick reference.
People and Culture in Italy
Moretti moves on to discuss the varied culture and subcultures of contemporary Italy, including ethnicity and class, gender roles, the central role played by religion, as well as the importance the arts play in the daily lives of Italians—a source of much of the aesthetic appeal and charm of the country and its people.
A Fact-Finding Trip to Italy
Before moving to Italy, John Moretti suggests taking a fact-finding trip to Italy in order to experience first-hand a feel for the various regions of the country. By gaining a broad sense of the many practical considerations involved in living in Italy, he writes, this will make a decision to move a more informed one.
Daily Life in Italy
Moretti discusses the many aspects of daily life, starting with the logistics of moving with your children and/or pets, visa requirements, and what you should take with you. If you are moving to Italy for the long-term, you need consider how you are going to shelter yourself, so Moretti breaks down the options of renting, buying, and offers an overview of housing expenses you can expect. Moretti goes into the bureaucracy involved in the process of buying a home in great detail, including what is involved in restoring an old farmhouse given the difficulty of purchasing land and building from scratch in a society where aristocratic land rights retain much residual influence.
In order to live in Italy, it is extremely helpful to learn the national language (which does not include the many regional dialects) and Italy is absolutely full of independent language schools to suit almost any taste, Moretti writes. He recommends learning some basic elements of the language before coming to Italy in order to get a head start. Having some knowledge of the language is desirable in order to attend an Italian educational institution at any level. Moretti describes the educational system prevalent in Italy should you wish to study or send your children to public Italian schools, which tend to be a bit more advanced than the corresponding levels, particularly in math, than in the U.S.
Health care is quite good in Italy, so while initially Moretti suggests purchasing travel health insurance for the first six months or so, it is advisable to pay into the national system when and if you find full-time employment. Pharmacists are quite helpful in Italy, often providing drugs over-the-counter which would require a prescription in the U.S.
Employment in Italy
One of the most difficult aspects of life in Italy—assuming you have not been sent by an employer from your home country—is finding work of any kind in Italy. Italy is subject to the same EU restrictions to which all members must comply, and finding above-board work is not easy (though Italy, as Moretti points out, is notorious for its "black-market" jobs). But if you do manage to find work as a non-EU citizen after going through bureaucratic hoops, the long vacations and other perks are enviable. Moretti writes that many non-EU members are now opting for self-employment and freelancing “ranging from Web design to farming.” However, Moretti writes, the majority of working people you will find in Italy are working for employers, and your knowledge of English is a great door-opener. You may find yourself beginning your working life teaching English while developing contacts for what may be higher-paying or what you may consider to be more interesting jobs. Moretti offers tips on writing a resume when you are applying for any position with another company and the paperwork details involved in creating and running your own business in Italy.
Finally, to round out the section on the practical aspects of living in Italy, Moretti goes on to describe dealing with finance, communications (including an admonition to avoid Italian TV and read newspapers instead), and the many options for transportation in Italy—including road rules for the uninitiated. When driving, road rules are often the corollary of the use of the famous hand signals favored by Italians —which add an illustrative flare to daily conversations. Understanding them in Italy is critical if you wish to drive safely through the narrow roads in the beautiful countryside, the high-speed autostrada(highway), and the tight ancient lanes or the chaotic piazze at the heart of the center of ancient cities.
Prime Living Locations
As Moretti notes, “choosing the right place to live in Italy is like surveying a desert cart. Everything looks too good to pass up.” Each of the many beautiful and diverse regions has so much to offer that one must combine the aesthetic feel with the practical considerations of where you can find work. Moretti breaks Italy down into the following cities/regions: Rome, Milan and the Lakes, The Northeast, The Northwest, The Central Regions, and the South. Moretti offers his own impressions while going into detail about the attributes of each region, and his descriptions should help you narrow down your options, even if you will likely wish to visit each of them at some point once you have settled down as they are all relatively accessible via the network of roads both small and ancient and wide and modern.
The compact book concludes with many useful resources and addresses which offer more details complementing all the subject matter covered.
In sum, Living Abroad in Italy is an easy read which provides everything you need to know if you are contemplating a move to Italy for the long-term. Moretti leaves you with a taste of the country and people, and has you yearning to experience life in Italy in person—today!
For more information— including an excerpt of the book and links to order it from various sources—go to Moon's Web page on Living Abroad in Italy on its fine new website.