Who hasn't looked at Italy as the country of arts and architecture, family and food, of a powerful empire, and the center of the Renaissance? Rebecca, a Scottish expat in Veneto, is feeling totally at home in Italy, and makes the most of the uniqueness this country has to offer – full of history museums, off the beaten track villages waiting to be explored, and traditional cuisine. Italy inspires!
Hello Rebecca, where are you from, and why are you in Italy?
I am an English teacher living near Venice, and spending all my free time writing, drawing, and exploring Italy! I come from Edinburgh, Scotland, and I moved to Italy following a degree in History of Art. My motivation to move here was to learn Italian and to live in the country I’ve always felt I belonged in – from the Gothic architecture of Venice to the terrifying chaos of Naples I love (nearly) everything about Italy.
What is the process to move to Italy?
I had no real obstacles to overcome moving here as the first school I worked in provided accommodation and, when I arrived, helped me register my residency.
What has attracted you to Veneto?
I live within an hour from some of the best cities in Europe – the surreal fantasy of Venice, the medieval drama of Ferrara, Bologna with the oldest university in the world, Romeo and Juliet’s Verona, and Padova full of very elegant clothes shops.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
How easily you become accustomed to a new place, new customs, and a new culture. For example, I used to drink a big mugfull of milky coffee after dinner in Scotland, but not anymore.
Was it difficult to find accommodation in your area?
The ease of finding accommodation and the cost depend greatly on where you go. In Venice you can expect to pay extortionate amounts for a mould-ridden flat, while in Ferrara, you can pay a more reasonable price for comfortable accommodation.
What are the features of today’s expat job market in Italy?
Everybody wants to learn English. Every day we have new visitors at the school asking for lessons. With a university degree and a TEFL course you can find a job in most English schools.
How do you find the Italian lifestyle?
I think I’ve assimilated the culture well. I follow most food rules, don’t drink a cappuccino after midday, and have learnt to accept that in working situations, Italians are just a little bit less organised than in Britain. I have also found that attitudes in the North of Italy are not wildly different from Britain – sometimes just a bit more conservative.
What does your every day life in Veneto look like?
It depends greatly on the season – I have a three-month summer holiday due to being a teacher, so I go cycling in the mornings when it’s not burning hot, have a coffee with friends, then either stay at home cooking and writing, or explore a new city. When I’m working I start early, come back home for pasta lunch, work the afternoon, and then dance classes twice a week, and an aperitivo at the weekend.
Is there an experience in the country you would like to share with us?
Most people will have visited or will visit Venice in their life, which makes it quite difficult to have a unique experience of the city. Recently, I went on a tour of the islands of Venice with a friend’s boat, and it was magical ! I think relatively a few people will sail through the shimmering lagoon, stopping at quiet islands with empty beaches !
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Veneto?
The North of Italy in general is more expensive than the South, but in comparison to Britian it is cheaper on average.
How do you spend your leisure time?
I always enjoy writing my blog, but my favourite thing to do is travelling. Almost every weekend I persuade my boyfriend to visit a new hilltop, village, or explore a new area of a city.
What are your favorite local dishes?
It has to be cappellacci di zucca, a pasta from Ferrara that is stuffed with a pumpkin, parmesan, and nutmeg filling, and smothered with a rich ragù. I’ve just posted on my blog where to find the best cappellacci in and around Ferrara – trust me, I’ve tried a lot of places.
What do you like the most about Italy?
I love that even the smallest village completely bypassed by tourism will have a local dish, an interesting monument, and some significant moment of history. I recently wrote about Arquà Petrarca, a medieval village in the Colli Euganei, which is home to poet Petrach’s retirement villa, and has an annual festival of jujube berries.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
Generally attitudes are a little more liberal in Britain. Italy has so much tradition and culture that is still difficult to be a little alternative. In Britain innovation and the unusual is often not only accepted but also celebrated.
What has motivated you to write your blog La Brutta Figura?
Living and working in a country is radically different from visiting even for an extended period of time. I want to share my constantly evolving impressions of my life here, as well as reccommending travel destinations that one only comes across through tips from locals and exploration.
What would you advise soon-to-be expatriates in Italy?
Learn and speak Italian ! In a big city you may be able to struggle through each day finding English speaking Italians, but wherever you are, you won’t make proper friendships if you haven’t learnt Italian, or are too timid to speak it.
What are your plans for the future?
This year I hope to sufficiently improve my Italian to be able to work in a gallery or a museum in Venice in the future. In terms of travel my next destination will be Sicily or Sardegna.