US expat Living in Rome, Italy - Expat Interview With Natalie

Published: 2 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Italy
Stuck in the wrong job and pining away for a life abroad Natalie finally took the plunge and moved to Italy in 2010. While she moved to Rome for a graduate program, she ended up with more than just a degree. Settled into a Roman apartment with an Irishman and a street kitten, she now calls Rome home. Missing the conveniences of her life in the States, she lives by the motto "when life hands you lemons, make sorbetto." When she's not cutting through Italian red tape, you can find her blogging at An American in Rome (see listing here)

Meet Natalie - American expat living in Italy
Meet Natalie - American expat living in Italy

Here's the interview with Natalie...

Where are you originally from?
San Diego, USA

In which country and city are you living now?
Rome, Italy

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
Going on three years, but I had only planned to stay for one school year (about 9 months)

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved to attend graduate school but now I work for an international organization.

Nuns and cobblestones
Nuns and cobblestones
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I moved solo! My entire family still lives in the US.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?

I would describe it as a wave of emotions. When you first move, the newness is irresistible. You feel as if you've just begun an endless holiday. The thing is, this is not a vacation and eventually reality sits in. I hit a wall about 4 months in. For me, that coincided with the holidays and I suddenly felt so far away from all of the people I knew half way around the world. After that newness wore off, so did the charm. I found it overwhelming to deal with bureaucratic rules I couldn't follow, due both to language and to unwritten procedures that you can only follow if you've been familiar with them for a lifetime.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
When I first moved, I made friends through work and school. Learning Italian helped even more. It's hard to build friendships if you don't speak the language. But Rome has a huge expat scene and we all seem to find each other.

Obligatory laundry shot in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood
Obligatory laundry shot in Rome's Trastevere neighborhood
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The one thing I would recommend is to come with your paperwork in order. Be ready to apply for a permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay), your bank account, your health insurance. It means less worrying about bureaucratic hoops and more getting on with your new life in a beautiful city. Rome has so much to do, that whatever your interests, you can find it.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
Wandering. After the three years, the colors of Rome have never faded for me. I love coming around the corner to a beautiful piazza with a brilliant blue sky above.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Prices aren't exactly low in Southern California, but I still find the cost of living to be higher in Rome. It has to do with the city itself (the most expensive in Italy- take that, Milan!) but also the Euro exchange rate. I like to pretend that Euros = Dollars when I buy something, but my bank account indicates this is not true. The price for common goods varies: cheese is cheap but flu medicine is outrageous.

The Trevi Fountain under a rare blanket of snow
The Trevi Fountain under a rare blanket of snow
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The post office.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Commit. If you commit to it, you'll make it through whatever hurdle. Anxiety is normal, but if you move with doubt or regret, the adjustment will be that much more difficult and it will be easier to give up when the inevitable challenges appear.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The lack of transparency with the process. It's been a constant learning experience... and have I mentioned the bureaucracy?

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
It will be incredibly difficult. So difficult that I can't imagine doing it. I will love being back in the world of convenience, but I miss the pace of life here. Also, olio nuovo (new olive oil), has ruined me for life. It's liquid gold! I'll be importing it from Italy to wherever I move next.

The Tiber and St. Peter's at sunset
The Tiber and St. Peter's at sunset
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn the language before you come.
  2. Live with locals, e.g. have a roommate at first.
  3. Make the effort to make new friends, but make the time to keep in touch with friends from home. They will keep you grounded.
  4. Document it. The newness will wear off, and you'll settle into the motions of your expat life but this is a great experience and you'll want to look back on it some day.
  5. Explore. That's why you're here. Get out every day and challenge yourself to do something new.

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I found it difficult to uncover information about processes or advice for moving to Italy. I started my blog to fill a bit of that hole, with the hope that my own bumbling along might make it a bit easier to the next Italophile dreaming of a life in Rome.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Please feel free to stop by and leave a comment or a question on I also have a contact tab if you'd like to send me a message.

Natalie blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. An American in Rome has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Natalie, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 3 comments

Jimmy Kennedy wrote 7 years ago:

Great work!! You inspire me to want to live in Italy some day! Where in Rome do you live? I really want to see the Colosseum.

Mary Ogno wrote 7 years ago:

I loved reading this- I related to so much of it! This is such an excellent interview, must share!

Holly Nelson wrote 7 years ago:

Really enjoyed reading your story - I went to Rome after a bad break up a few years back and felt so healed during my time there, though somehow I managed to get caught up in the riots, which was pretty scary. Such a beautiful, spiritual city. I would love to live there xxx

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