British Expat Living in Italy - Interview with Sue

Published: 27 Aug at 10 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Italy
Sue moved to Le Marche in Italy from London in the UK in May 2013 after falling in love with the country during a holiday. Sue has a passion for the new and exciting and has thrown herself into her new lifestyle head first. In her blog, she gives an enthusiastic and entertaining account of the highs and lows of moving to Italy including learning the language, teaching English, buying a house and discovering the hidden treasures of a little known region in Italy. Sue's expat blog is called Move to Italy (see listing here)

Mountains in the beautiful Majella National Park
Mountains in the beautiful Majella National Park

Here's the interview with Sue...

Where are you originally from?
I was born in Hampshire, South England, living there for most of my childhood and adolescence before moving to London for work after graduating from University.

In which country and city are you living now?
Italy. I’m in the Marche region on the east coast and I’m currently flitting between a house I’ve just bought in Sarnano and a rented flat in Falconara whilst I renovate the house.

How long have you lived in Italy and how long are you planning to stay?
I’ve lived in Italy for almost a year and a half. When I moved I reassured myself that if it all went badly, I could return home but actually, it’s all gone well and I’ve got no plans to go back the UK permanently at the moment.

Portonovo - a stunning bit of coastline
Portonovo - a stunning bit of coastline
Why did you move to Italy and what do you do?
I had a lovely holiday in Italy a few years back. I came with a friend to attend a wedding and whilst here we rented a car and had a fabulous time seeing Venice and Lake Garda, and driving through Tuscany before spending some time in the back of beyond for the wedding. It struck me just how beautiful the country was and how it just seemed to have everything - fascinating cities, ancient villages, rolling hills, mountains and an impressive coastline. From then on, I started planning my move! I worked as a Project Manager in London but here, I do some teaching and I started an online business recently making and selling art ( My life is pretty unrecognisable from what it was before!

Did you bring family with you?
Alas no! I’m not married and don’t have children so I came out alone, but would love to have had my family and friends here with me! It’s the only thing that’s missing.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition wasn’t too bad actually. I had enrolled in a course with a language school so I had something planned for the first month. They organised my accommodation for me near the school. It was a great set up - school in the mornings and three times a week they organised a trip to a village or city in the local area as well as regular walks around the spectacular Monte Conero regional park. It meant that the first month I didn’t feel quite so “in at the deep end” and it gave me a chance to work on my Italian and explore the area in a relaxed, stress-free way. In fact, I liked it so much I stayed on at the school for another month.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
For a long time I was only making friends with other language students so I’d bond with people for a week and then they’d leave! I like to think I’m quite a friendly and proactive person, but making friends is difficult. Before moving to Italy most of my friends were from school, college, uni and then work but here I don’t have the same opportunities to meet people. There aren’t too many ex-pats in Le Marche to make friends with. I decided I needed a more organised way of meeting people so signed up to a couple of language swap websites where you meet people from other countries and you practice your respective languages. That worked to an extent but it was mainly men and I missed female company.

My next cunning plan was to get a job so I found a position teaching English to infant and primary school children. All the other teachers were indeed female but it was difficult to bond with anyone – there was little time to socialise and it was a case of a minute or two before and after lessons and that was it. Besides, teaching was awful!

My next plan is to start doing things at regular times: Going to a local bar, going swimming, maybe join a walking club, maybe do some volunteering... It’s not that I’m lonely - technology like Skype and Whatsapp has been a life-saver in that regard, but I do want to feel more like part of the community and I’d love the opportunity to improve my Italian.

The bustling university town of Urbino
The bustling university town of Urbino
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
1. Visit Numana and wander down to the port and along the beach towards Marcelli.
2. Have a walk in the Monte Conero regional park and have a drink in Bar Belvedere. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, walk to the Due Sorelle beach but be warned, it’s a bit of a trek!
3. Visit the impressive Loreto, a catholic pilgrimage sight and see where the Virgin Mary used to live (the house was purported to have been transported there by err, angels a few hundred years back).
4. Go sunbathing at the San Michele beach in Sirolo.
5. Explore the Frasassi Caves, they’re the most spectacular I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot of caves!
6. Take an evening stroll around the beautiful Portonovo from the “great” lake, around the fort along the seafront and back.
7. Visit the busy hilltop town of Urbino which was said to be an inspiration for the Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle.
8. Check out the mountains - either in the Monte Sibillini National Park or Monte Murano by Serra San Quirico (a quaint little village nestled in the hills - itself a worthwhile visit) which offer spectacular views.
9. Have an evening stroll around the hill top town of Offagna and see the beautiful castle lit up at night.

What do you enjoy most about living in Italy?
In a general ex-pat sense, I love that it’s a completely new experience - exploring new places, learning a new language, experiencing a new culture, meeting new people. And I adore the countryside. Around every corner there’s something worthy of a photo whether it’s a rustic building or a beautiful sunset or rolling hills.

The weather is proper weather. It’s sunny, or stormy, or snowy, or really windy. It’s not the overcast incessant drizzly kind I’m used to in the UK!

The food is great - I could eat pasta and pizza all day (I really shouldn’t). The vegetables are interesting and sometimes ‘other worldly’.

In the summer there’s so much to do - all the little towns and villages have parties dedicated to obscure things like truffles, pancetta, gnocchi, fish... And all of the town participate and get involved.

How does the cost of living in Italy compare to home?
I don’t know how the Italians cope! The average Italian seems to earn substantially less per year than in the UK and yet in my mind the living expenses are the same. Rent, gas, electricity, phone, water, food.... It’s all pretty similar or perhaps even a bit more expensive. The Italians are very family orientated and it’s not the norm for adult children to fly the nest in their late teens like in the UK. The nice thing is that they don’t stay at home out of necessity because it’s so expensive to move out - the parents seem to like the idea of their offspring being close by as much as the offspring like getting their dinner cooked!

Visit the castle of Offagna - beautifully lit up at night
Visit the castle of Offagna - beautifully lit up at night
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Italy?
True to stereotype, the driving is absolutely appalling! I’ve visited many countries but none have such an awful nationwide driving style.

The bureaucracy really is something to behold. Sometimes I feel there are entire jobs dedicated to making life more challenging!

There is quite a poor selection of food from other countries - it’s basically Italian or nothing! If you move out, if you want to eat Indian, Chinese or Thai be prepared to extend your cooking repertoire and make it yourself.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Italy, what would it be?
Make an effort with the language. Le Marche is astonishingly still lacking in tourism even though in my mind, it’s one of the most beautiful regions in Italy. The people that come on holiday here are Italian so there’s not a big need for anyone to speak English. In little towns and villages, it’s essential to speak Italian so it’s a really good idea to enroll in a language course to give you a head start!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Without a doubt it’s been being away from friends and family.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I don’t know! I enjoy going back to the UK to catch up with people, but I get itchy feet because I want to get on with my life back here. When I go back to the UK for holidays, I half expect life to be exactly the same as when I left but obviously everyone else moves on too, so I imagine I’d find it difficult to find my `place` again, but not impossible by any means.

This was taken at Camerano's annual games
This was taken at Camerano's annual games
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Learn Italian - I have countless tips on that, have a look here:
  2. Explore the area so you feel a bit more at home in your new home! If you haven’t got your own transport, make it a priority to learn how to travel on the buses and trains and get into walking and cycling if you’re not already!
  3. Get the bureaucratic ball rolling when you arrive. You’ll need to declare yourself a resident and that can be a long and frustrating process. It's worthwhile though because you’ll need to be a resident to get cheaper bills, buy a car, get a doctor etc.
  4. Find some friends - language swap schemes are a good start and if you’re an English speaker people are always keen to swap with you.
  5. Get set up on social media if you’re not already. When you’re moving everything is so new that it’s lovely to be able to have a bit of “normalcy” by chatting to friends and family back home. With technology these days there’s no excuse to feel on your own or out of touch.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started the blog a few months before I moved to Italy. It served as a good way of keeping momentum on my `move` project because there was such a lot to organise. Writing about it kept me on track with the plan. Then when I moved, it was an excellent way of, I suppose, coming to terms with my new home. There were so many new experiences and I wanted to share them, not just with friends and family but also with people wishing to do a similar thing.

Apart from being a therapeutic experience, the blog has helped me meet a number of interesting people over the last couple of years which is something I’m really grateful for. It also gives me a great outlet for my passion for photography!

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Leave me a comment on my blog or send me a tweet and I'll get back to you :-)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingSue is a British expat living in Italy. Blog description: Escaping the rat race and beyond... The experiences and challenges of moving from the UK to Italy's stunning Le Marche region(by Sue)
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