Periodically I will receive an email form someone about our experience of moving to Italy - people who share the same desire to take the plunge. Since we have returned to the United States, I want to reflect on some of our experiences in moving to Italy, speaking as an American couple who are not wealthy nor retired…covering both the good and the bad.
Our experience, and anyone else’s experience, should not be viewed as the exact steps someone wanting to make this move will need to follow. We quickly learned that everyone will encounter different bureaucracy at different consulates here in America and also at different provinces in Italy.
Our journey started after visiting Italy the first time, as a desire to move that just never seemed to lessen and we spent a minimum of two years trying to figure out ways we could get jobs or Valerie could obtain citizenship through her heritage...all of these were dead-ends. We were fortunate to sell our house at the peak of the market in New Mexico and used a portion of that equity to go to Italy.
When we finally made the commitment to move to Italy our plan was to come for one year and see if it was all that we had hoped; it was and much more. One year quickly became two years which we were able to extend to three years in Italy. It was not always easy and there were times of frustration with the bureaucracy, language and figuring out how things work. Then there were many wonderful experiences, interesting people and unique opportunities with life in Italy. Life in Italy is good, but living there can be difficult.
The first step to move to Italy was obtaining our visa from the consulate in America. A visa only gets you into the country; you then start the process for the permesso di sioggiorno (PdiS) which is renewed every two years. If you have family ties then citizenship may be a route to look into, though a lengthy path. With the electiva residenza that we have we are not allowed to take a job in Italy, which means I can't go work in a store or factory. We had to show that we could support ourselves with investments and cash in the bank. The consulates would never say how much cash you had to have but our funds were enough to be well beyond "just making it".
Despite all of the planning and calculating we did, our actual costs have been higher than our worst case scenario. We do not live extravagantly yet we also try to enjoy what Italy has to offer…why else move here?! Then there are the exchange rates...none of the economic pundits in 2005 could foresee what happened to the dollar in 2008.
You can work autonomously in Italy but that requires a different PdiS and the specific type varies depending on what kind of work you are going to do. There are also only a limited number of these available each year on a province by province basis. From what others have told us, these can be difficult to obtain.
Remember…there is never a guarantee that you will be granted a visa or a PdiS.
The work we have set up is based in the United States with addresses, accounts and taxes in America. Any business with direct Italian business connection will require a commercialista, an Italian accountant. The tax laws here are so complicated that even the simplest and smallest businesses require professional assistance. We have found that some things we think would be great business ideas did not developed as we had hoped. Also, doing business in Italy is very different than North America...the gears of Italy work based on who you know, who they know and who they will introduce you to. Being the best or having the best idea does not always insure success.
It can be daunting to plan and make this type of move but for those who really want it, they will make it happen. I would recommend that if someone is looking to move and start a business then to plan on having funds for at least 2 years to support yourself once you actually have your business operational. Most people seem to experience at least 2 years before their business really begins to develop. Starting ahead on the business you choose before your move would be a good step; get a good business plan, check your financial situation and when you are ready get to know your local consulate and inquire as to what specifically they will require.
One of the frustrating things for us when we were planning our move was figuring out what to budget. Living in Italy can be less expensive for some items (food and eating out) but more expensive for others (gas, utilities). If you would spend $2000 a month for a lifestyle in the US I would suggest you can figure the same amount in Italy…but in Euros. If you plan to travel a lot, it can be expensive to always “be on vacation”. You will also encounter start-up costs such as a vehicle, furnishings, etc.
Then there is the language. Being conversant in Italian can help to open many opportunities for you both personally and professionally. A strong base in Italian before your arrival would be recommended as well as enrolling for several weeks of intensive classes upon your move to Italy. Trying to start a new life, and a business or work, can easily interfere with attempting concentrated study on your own.
To learn more about the process of our move to, and life in Italy, I have made extensive posts listed under the process tab – feel free to browse.