Australian Expat Living in Italy - Interview With Elisa

Published: 8 Jul at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Italy
Elisa Scarton Detti is an Australian journalist who followed love to the Maremma - a part of Tuscany that's off-the-beaten tourist track, but all the more beautiful for it. Six years later, she writes a travel guide and a blog about life in country Tuscany with all its joy and woes. Elisa's expat blog is called Maremma Tuscany (see listing here)

Meet Elisa - Australian Expat in Maremma Tuscany, Italy
Meet Elisa - Australian Expat in Maremma Tuscany, Italy

Here's the interview with Elisa...

Where are you originally from?
Melbourne, Australia

In which country and city are you living now?
The Maremma Tuscany, Italy

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
Six years to forever, if all goes well!

Why did you move and what do you do?
I moved to sunny Tuscany with my husband who's originally from the Maremma. I'm a journalist, travel writer and guidebook author. I'd like to think I'm the English-speaking authority on all things Tuscan Maremman, but that sounds terribly conceited when you write it down.

Elisa and her husband
Elisa and her husband
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Expat life isn't all holidays and cutesy cultural exchanges. It's hard work assimilating. Things were a little easier for me because I come from an Italian background and speak Italian well. I don't envy anyone who has to learn a new language in country! My biggest teething problem was getting my head around Italian business hours and operating style. There is nothing more annoying than an afternoon siesta when you're trying to get things done!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I'm in the fortunate (or unfortunate position) of being the only expat for kilometres, so I was forced to make friends and meet new people. I still worry that my Italian isn't up to scratch whenever I speak to someone new, but hopefully that will fade in time.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
My Maremma is wild and unspoilt. It's Tuscany off the beaten track with a remarkable natural beauty and an incredible heritage. We are home to the Saturnia hot springs, which never fail to draw tourists and expats alike. We're also a good slice of what was once ancient Etruria, the home of the Ancient civilization, the Etruscans, so we have a patrimony of archaeological sites and museums to almost rival Rome! After six years, I am still besotted with the diversity of the landscape around me. In a hour's drive, I can travel from pristine beaches, through nature parks and national forests, Medieval towns and Renaissance cities and find myself at the feet of Amiata Mountain, which transforms itself into a ski resort in winter. Then, of course, there's the food! Unfussy, like all good Italian dishes, with an infinite respect for seasonality and the traditions of the region.

Montemerano, Maremma Tuscany
Montemerano, Maremma Tuscany
What do you enjoy most about living here?
The quiet and the character. I come from a very beautiful, but very cookie cutter part of Australia. , My home suburb looks very much like the one next to it and the one after it. I love the Maremma Tuscany because it has such a natural identity. Every town and city has its own history, its own traditions, its own recipes and its own pride. You never get bored exploring new towns.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
To be honest, I can never get my head around the exchange rate so my analysis of the cost of living is always a little off. In some ways, Australia is more expensive, but we earn more money so it evens out. The only thing that really stands out is the cost of electricity and gas in Italy. Australia is a resource rich nation, so we don't spend as much. Ordering anything online or buying anything that's not made in Australia tends to cost more simply because we have such high shipping costs!

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
Life in country Tuscany takes some adjusting to. Tradition is admirable in a tourist sense, but it can be frustrating when you're trying to get things done and move into the 21st century. I wasn't used to small town gossip. In fact, I'm still not used to small town gossip. There are days when it's funny that everyone knows everyone's business and there are days when it's just plain annoying.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Embrace the beauty of it all. You could moan all day about the lack of shopping centres, modern conveniences, multiculturalism, specialty items, non-Italian restaurants and slow pace, but that's life in country Tuscany. You need to appreciate the positives - the sense of community, the pride of heritage and the incredible views outside of your bedroom window.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Finding my niche. No one wants to be the expat forever. You want to find your own place in this new community and feel like you belong. I'm haven't gotten there yet. I'm not even sure if it's possible, but it's the dream.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Celebrate your heritage, language, cuisine and whatever else you like with the new friends you make. Your heritage makes you who you are, so you should share it.
  2. Don't dismiss the idea of making expat friends. You'll quickly learn that its nice to have someone who can relate to your situation.
  3. If you don't speak the language, learn it quick. There's nothing more isolating than not being able to understand the people around you.
  4. Get an international driver's license. You'll be surprised how much more confident and independent you'll feel if you can drive.
  5. There is no point getting frustrated over the cultural differences. In Italy, things don't always work and they don't always move at a reasonable pace, but getting angry and venting on expat forums won't help you. You need to accept it and plan ahead for next time.

Saturnia hot springs
Saturnia hot springs
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is part travel guide, part personal experience, part advice column. It's my way of sharing the incredible beauty of the Maremma Tuscany with the rest of the world, so that they too can get a slice of la dolce vita.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I'm always happy to share advice, insider's tips or information about the Maremma, Tuscany or Italy, so feel free to contact me via my blog.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingElisa is an Australian expat living in Italy. Blog description: A blog about life in the Tuscan Maremma - a province honest in both landscape and lifestyle, promising la dolce vita and Tuscany off-the-beaten track.
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