Yes, you read right, we're leaving Italy. We're packing up our house in the Tuscan countryside, saying goodbye to sipping wine right next to the vineyard where the grapes were grown and soaking up our last few days of blue skies and sunshine before we move back to Scotland.
But why? Let me explain....
The Italian Dream
Living in Italy was a dream come true. We moved here after years of dreaming about la dolce vita, eating the most beautiful food, sipping on wine in the sunshine and soaking up the culture, language and landscape Italy has to offer.
Four years ago we made the decision we were going to leave our jobs and leave to go to Milan, find jobs somewhere and try as best we could to make it work for as long as possible.
The thing is a job offer came out of nowhere, unexpectedly before we even left. My boyfriend Nathan applied for a job to work on the restoration of a Tuscan villa and got it! There was one catch though, he had to leave straight away!
We were filled with so much excitement, joy, nervousness and being only 22, naivety! So we packed our bags and off we went, a one-way ticket to Tuscany.
Living In Italy
Phew, living in Italy has been the biggest challenge we've ever had to face..EVER! It's been so much fun and the best experience. We lived right next to the beach in a seaside town for two years and then moved to the countryside in the Tuscan hills of Siena for another two years.
The Things I'll Miss and Loved Whilst Living In Italy
- The People - I've met so many great people and friends in Italy especially my friend Stefania who's not only been the kindest person I've ever met but she's helped me with so many things along the way, she's a true friend for life and I'll miss our get-togethers, picnics and all the beautiful lunches we've had together.
- Food - This had to be on the list, it's pretty much the main reason we moved lol! The quality of food is so much higher in the supermarkets, the tomatoes, peaches, everything is so much juicer and tastes incredible. Bell peppers and fennel bulbs are the size of my head and half the price of what they are back in Scotland.
- Italian Ingredients - This one's obvious but having Italian produce at my fingertips has been a luxury. The cheese sections are huge and filled with burrata, gorgonzola, pecorino, taleggio, scamorza, mozzarella...this could be an endless list and it's totally different from what you get in UK supermarkets. Also the raw meats, cured meats and PASTA sections are so varied and so amazing. Let's just say I'm stocking up on things I won't get back home.
- The Weather - Blue skies and hot summers. The weather is beautiful in Italy especially during the summer, something I definitely did not have back in Scotland. Suddenly we were able to make plans knowing the weather would be great. Going to the beach, BBQs and picnics are all normal things you can enjoy when the sun is shining and I will miss it!
- The Landscape - I have seen the most breathtaking views I've ever seen in my life living in Italy. From the most beautiful sunsets over the Mediterranean Sea to the rolling hills of Siena. The clusters of old and rustic, dusty orange towns dotted around the hills and windy roads of cypress trees. Vineyards and olive groves for miles, that, I will definitely miss.
The Things That Made Life Hard
Ok so I've given my reasons for loving Italy and what I'll miss but WHY am I leaving?! The thing is life has not been so easy and as romantic as people think when you say you live in Italy. It's not a living holiday and we've run into our fair share of problems. Here is a short list of the things that made life difficult.
- No Jobs - It's so hard to find work in Italy unless you live in a large city like Florence or Rome and even when you find a job it's almost always seasonal just for the summer.
- Having a Job doesn't Mean you Get Paid! - Can you imagine working hard for the month, it gets to payday, you check your bank and you've not been paid?! This happened A LOT and unfortunately, it's a common thing in Italy. Employer's say they can't afford to pay you and then don't. I can't even start to explain the stresses we had with this.
- Self Employment Is A No Go - In the UK becoming self-employed it a fairly simple process and being so young (and not doing much research) we just assumed it would be the same in Italy. When you work for yourself in Italy you are hit with high taxes, accountant fees that you can't avoid and you're pretty much left with nothing after all your hard work. When I first started working doing English lessons I sent the information to my accountant who then told me I'd have to pay 110% my wage after taking off tax and fees. Yup, I would have to pay more than I earned (and it was very little), crazy right?! After talking to Italian friends they all said becoming self employed is a BAD IDEA (if only I knew before).
- Customer Service Ain't Great - Try searching for a new apartment, opening a bank account, registering with a doctor....all these things take forever and I'm not joking. I know people that have had to wait 6 months just to open a bank account. Our experience searching for a new apartment to rent was awful, agencies don't reply to emails or answer the phone. It was stressful to say the least.
- Driving - When I first started driving in Italy I thought the big problem for me was getting used to driving on the right hand side of the road, little did I know that would be the easiest thing to overcome. Driving in Italy is CRAZY! There are no other words to describe it. It doesn't scare me anymore, I just have to expect the unexpected whenever I get in my car but I will never understand it. Oh and then there's the annual car tax that you pay basically just because you have a car (no it doesn't go towards road repairs or toll fees it's just because).
- Money - Yup, if you have plenty to throw around then you'll do just fine living in Italy. If you're like us and come to Italy looking for adventure with no more than a suitcase then it's going to be a problem. Jobs pay low (if you can get one) and there is a tax for EVERYTHING and if it's not a tax that you're paying then it's a charge that some company will make you pay, well, just because.
Personal Reasons For Leaving
Apart from some of the reasons I listed above that made life hard for us living in Italy there are a few personal reasons for us leaving. All the things below are things or comfort and nostalgia and what I'm looking forward to having again.
- Family - Four years is a long time to be so far away from friends and family and although we were so set on living in Italy for the rest of our lives, it soon dawned on us that we were only going to see our family once or twice a year. It just got harder and harder and we soon realised how important it is to have our family around us.
- Home Comforts - I started to miss silly everyday things like going to the cinema without watching a dubbed film. Topshop (yes, I miss the British high street shops lol). Telling a joke to someone that actually gets it (that's when languages get difficult). Drugstores, being able to run into a drugstore for makeup and toiletries, there are no shops that are like that in Italy. CHRISTMAS, I am a Christmas crazy! It's pretty much on my mind all year long and Edinburgh has the most amazing Christmas market which I missed like crazy. I also missed the shops filled with Christmas decs, clothes, gifts and music! I got none of that in Italy and I know it's all commercialised and some people hate it but I just love it and to me, it's a big deal. P.S it's the atmosphere and Christmassy feeling I miss not the gifts. Diversity, the UK is so diverse when it comes to different cultures. Although I cook and eat Italian food the majority of the time I missed being able to buy ingredients to make an Indian curry or go out for Mexican food.
So What's Happening To Inside The Rustic Kitchen?
The big question everyone always asks me is but what will happen to your blog? I can safely say I am going nowhere! This blog is my life, seriously it's like a baby and Italian food is my passion.
I can't imagine my life without blogging and I will always continue to cook Italian food as I always have *happy dance*.
I actually think not living in Italy will help me help you more when it comes to Italian food. It's so easy for me to run to the shops and pick up fancy Italian ingredients that not everyone can get their hands on easily. THIS will be a new challenge for me and I'm excited about it. I'll be able to know what it's like to try and create recipes without that luxury anymore and find the best solutions. Easier recipes for you and a better understanding for me!
When Is This Move Happening?
Next week! Ahh, as I'm typing this I'm waiting on the removal company arriving to pick up our stuff and take it all the way back to Edinburgh. The extra crazy part? We're driving...let me rephrase that, I'm driving! Yes, I'm driving the 4 day journey from Siena to Scotland because we have a dog and it's the only way for us.
Nathan can't drive and I have no sense of direction so he's the map and I get us there. It'll be an experience but I think it'll be fun (I'll let you know).
So there you have it, we're leaving Italy and I am SO excited! I can't wait to go home and start the next chapter of our lives. I'm so curious, have you moved to or lived in another country? How was your experience, did you move back and why?
I love talking about this kinda stuff so let me know all about it in the comments below! In the meantime, I'll see you next week with more yummy recipes and updates!
I've lived in Italy for 20 years
Came here for a week's holiday and never went home
Life is for living and learning.
Take the challenge and overcome all obstacles.
I'll be answer any questions.
Hi, sadly you have just burst my Bucket List bubble! Following retirement we, (me really, hubby not so sure) hoped to take a 'Gap Year for the Older Person', and spend 3 months in Italy, 3 in Spain, 3 in France, and then decide which country was preferential for the final 3 months. However, Brexit happened and the 90m day stay limit was set in stone. I have been learning a few words in Italian, but comforted my lack of progress with the thought that living in Italy for 3 months would resolve that. As each year passes the chances of fulfilling that dream gets less and the constant threat of Covid hangs over us and determines our future somewhat.
That's the bad news for us, but the good news for you and your husband is that you took the chance and did it! You have lived your dream, albeit limited in length, but well done for taking the chance and surviving! You have prioritised the aspects that are most important to you and feed your soul, and you have so much more life experience.
The regrets in my life are not the things that I have done, but the opportunities that I did not have the courage, or confidence to take. Time passes so much more quickly than you think, and you are soon at a point where opportunities are no longer open to you.
The UK will have more challenges than when you left and you will find difficulties here too as society has changed so much. But hey, you are now experts at dealing with change and will cope, and you can now fulfil another dream.
Just go for it girl, and enjoy!
Best wishes, and Edinburgh is a lovely place. My daughter visits her boyfriend who works there and loves it!
Hi Ann, the new rules with brexit are a complete and utter nightmare, it's taken away so much freedom and opportunity....it's just sad and infuriating. Definitely, don't let our experience deter you from retiring in Italy, a lot of people have very successful moves you've just got to have a lot of patience. I recommend reaching out to Damien O'Farrell who I've discovered since moving back from Italy. He helps expats relocate there and will give you very realistic expectations https://damienofarrell.com/. We've been back in Scotland for 4 years now and can safely say that we miss Italy greatly and a move back there is not off the cards BUT we have learned valuable lessons from the first time. Our circumstances are very different now, in particular, being financially stable which is incredibly important to move there!
Hi Ann I hope that you don’t mind me jumping on your post. I have a holiday home in the Veneto Region of Italy and have had it for 17 years and we love it. I am just setting up a business selling Italian properties to people in the UK. I have teamed up with my friends who have a law firm in Italy and together we are sourcing the properties and getting everything set up for people wanting to buy homes. We even offer a service of setting up Utility bills. If you are interested in buying a holiday home in Italy or even for your forever home drop me a line email@example.com.Uk (our site will go live at the end of March)
Thank you so much for sharing your story! i live in the US but always dreamed of moving to Europe. Sad to hear about all of the problems you had, especially not getting paid! That’s outrageous! It must have been very difficult to leave your friends and return home. It is a big decision to move and an even bigger decision to return! My husband and I are struggling with that now. We moved from Cape Cod to Tucson, Arizona, four years ago. We love it, especially the hiking, and have made good friends here BUT the wildfires, water issues, excessive heat caused by climate change, and missing friends and family … we are thinking about returning home. Sometimes you have to move to a place before you fully understand the reality of actually living there. The Bighorn Wildfire was a huge eye opener for us as it started right behind our house! (a dry lightning strike). Happy to hear your business is doing well and that your return home worked out so well! 🙂
Hi, I was interested to read your story. Moving abroad permanently can be a great experience but it is never easy! My husband (English) and I (Canadian) went from Canada to travel and work in Europe shortly after we were married. We ended up teaching at a school in the Swiss Alps and travelling extensively during the holidays, with our trusty little tent and a copy of Europe on $5 A Day! It was possible in the 1970s!! We returned to Canada after two years but then moved back to Switzerland a year later and are still here after 52 years. We love it and have been fortunate and grateful for our lives in this wonderful country. But, there were obviously ups and downs along the way, the worst being the separation from family. Luckily, as time went by, flying got easier and cheaper too, but it has remained my only regret.
I sympathize with your decision to go home. We lived and studied on Umbria for 5 months one winter while doing a homesitting. It was fabulous but even the smallest taste of the bureaucracy and a short stay in the hospital was enough to make us realize we could never actually live there! Italy is an amazing country and the people are incredible. We have travelled there extensively and have met and remained friends with some wonderful people. In the end though, home is where your heart is. Allora, buona fortuna con la tua 'nuova vita' in Scozia!
(BTW, my paternal grandparents emigrated from Scotland -Edinburgh and Oban - to Canada in 1911. My Granny only returned to Scotland once with her two small children to visit her Mum. It must have been even harder in those days!)
Hi Carol, that's amazing you've made Switzerland your home! I'd love to visit, it looks so beautiful! I completely agree, it's really hard being away from family and not being able to pop in and see them whenever you like. Italian bureaucracy is the worst but I suppose it's something you just have to accept and that it is what it is and it's not going to change anytime soon. After spending 4 years back in Scotland we know that our hearts are definitely in Italy so we'll see what the future holds!