82 days to go! 82!!

82 days, 11 weeks or just under 3 months left before move date. So far I have organised.. well absolutely zero. I have applied for two jobs in total. I have started to organise my clothes, I have some boxes ready to pack. I actually did pack my large suitcase (full of my winter clothes) which is probably going to need to be condensed even further. I honestly thought I’d be a lot more prepared than this. My Italian is still around that A2/B1 level and doesn’t seem to be improving so much lately.

Now I am a person that likes to be well organised, months in advance, so you can imagine the level of stress this is having on me. When I think of how unprepared I actually am, I start to hyperventilate. But really, there is not a lot I can do.

The one thing I have managed to achieve is to research fully the process of actually moving there. But now that is done and my Italian seems to not be progressing, I have zero motivation anymore. So my days are filled with mindless scrolling through social media and watching youtube videos and Netflix. ARGH! HELP!

It’s time to hit reset. So here goes. Time to make a list of all the things I need to do. And then get it done!

The secret of getting things done is to act!

Dante Alighieri

TO DO LIST.

  • Sort out my wardrobe (box things to donate/sell). Set aside stuff to take. THIS NEEDS TO ALL FIT INTO TWO SUITCASES!
  • Sort out my books! Why do I have so many books? Why? I don’t even read half of them. I will donate most of these to charity shops, and maybe try to sell some of my old nursing textbooks. I will be keeping all of my Italian books, and probably a selection of my recipe books.
  • Sort out and box my kitchen stuff – this is all in storage in my brother’s attic, and at the moment I am not allowed to go there due to our lock-down restrictions. Hmm.. dilemma.
  • Sort out my make-up and toiletries. This I actually did manage to achieve! YAY, GO ME! YOU ARE A STRONG, CAPABLE WOMAN AND CAN ACHIEVE THINGS! Ok ok… next…
  • Sort out all of my papers and notebooks (I have so much stuff leftover from uni. Why do I even need this?) A lot of this will be shredded and recycled. Some of then notebooks I may be able to salvage, even though I only really use my iPad to take notes now.
  • Miscellaneous items: Electronics, decorative items, and all the other stuff. This is probably the hardest section to tackle.
  • Research the best way to box up my PC. I have done a bit of this already, but I need to find the best method and to purchase any packaging material I may need. My PC will probably be one of the last things I pack, to be honest.
  • I need to do a dummy round of packing my stuff and weighing it, to get accurate quotes from the shipping company I will be using which is Pack link. I already got estimated quotes and I was pleasantly surprised with how cheap they were. My partner used this company when he moved to Spain and he recommended them.
  • SELL/DONATE all unwanted items. If I have items to sell, I need to do this fairly quickly, as they may take some time to sell.
  • I would like to get my boxes (to ship over) sorted by at least the 17th of August (apart from my PC). So this gives me… 10 weeks exactly from today.
  • Keep improving my Italian! I would love to get to a confident B1 level before moving, but I’m not sure this is attainable within the next 11 weeks. But I will try my darn hardest!
  • Exchange my money! I have no idea how I am going to do this! Really. I know there are some things you can use like transfer wise but I might just transfer it all to cash as I do not have a bank account in Italy yet. If I am transferring it to cash, I may need to do this in several transactions as I am not currently sure on the limit – CHECK THIS OUT ASAP!
  • Speaking of bank accounts.. which one do I want to use? I was torn between two choices. So I will try to decide between them. This doesn’t need to be done right away though.
  • Apply for more jobs (there are another 3 language schools I wanted to apply for) and finish the application for one of the schools which I have started (need to rewrite my CV for this). This needs to be done ASAP.
  • TODAY I am going to go through this list and try to organise it into relevant time frames, prioritising important tasks such as applying for jobs, more research etc. I may edit this post when it is done!

BTW, if anyone knows any decent resources for selling stuff (in the UK) like clothing, please leave a comment. I would be super-duper grateful. Otherwise, this will be me going to the airport in August!

Italian bank accounts

Unicredit is a very popular choice amongst Italians. They have over 8,500 branches in most cities and towns in Italy, so you will be able to find a branch, or an ATM almost everywhere. Unicredit offer several different accounts with varying benefits and fees. For traditional bank accounts there are three levels – silver, gold and platinum. The silver account offers a prepaid card, release of check forms and SEPA transfers online, this account costs 9€ a month. The gold offers also the Flexia credit card with an annual fee and costs 12€ a month. Finally the platinum offers 2 debit cards, an additional credit card as well as the ability to transfer money from ATMS in Italy and abroad. This costs 22€ a month. They also have 2 types of investment accounts – gold and platinum, costing 5€ and 7€.

ING are a good international bank but not found in as many locations around Italy so you may not have a branch in your area. ING have the conto corrente Arancio which you can manage from an app as well. You can pay the 2€ fee for the Zero Vincoli which offers free cash withdrawals from anywhere in the EU, as well as up to 50,000€ free SEPA transfers.

HYPE is part of the Banca Sella group and is a mobile banking platform. They offer a free bank account, as well as the piano plus and the piano premium. The free bank account and the piano plus only give you a prepaid card where as the premium one gives you a debit cards. The premium account gives you other services including access to airport lounges, travel insurance, ATM theft policy purchase protection policy and even support over whatsapp. The cost for the piano plus is 1€ a month and for the piano premium it is 9.90€ a month.

Intesa Sanpaolo is a result of a merger from Banca Intesa and Sanpaolo IMI, and they have 4,825 branches across Italy so likely have one in your locality. At the moment they are offering the XME conto free for people under the age of 35 if you open by 30th of June 2020. This allows you to withdraw cash from any ATM in Italy and SEPA transfers abroad. The normal cost of this account I believe is 7.50€ a month.

Banco nazionale del lavoro is another popular choice, and is the 6th largest bank in Italy. It offers a lot of different types of bank accounts – BNLX semplifica ogni giorno (smart, powered or full) as well as i conti di base BNL, one for kids and a tennis one. The BNLX semplifica ogni giorno smart offers a debit card, as well as in branch, telephone and online banking. It is around 6€ a month but you can get a discount on this (if your under 30 it is free). However, you have to pay for ATM withdrawals. You can purchase an extra package that allows you to withdraw from ATMS twice a month and this costs 2€ a month. The powered bank account includes these 2 withdrawals a month and a credit card for a monthly fee of 9€ a month, and the full allows unlimited withdrawals worldwide and unlimited SEPA transfers. As well as unlimited counter transactions and a free cheque book. This account costs 17€ a month.

Crédit Agricole Italia provides retail and corporate banking across 10 regions of Italy. Their bank account offers you unlimited cash withdrawals from their own ATM machines and 24 cash withdrawals from other banks for free. Cash withdrawals from other banks after the 24 are 2.10€. The cards are free except for the NEXI classic credit card which costs an annual fee of 30.99€ and they charge up to 2.50€ for SEPA transfers.

There are also a load of other bank accounts that I haven’t managed to look into yet. One thing is certain, you pay for your bank accounts in Italy (which is crazy to understand coming from the UK). If you go for the cheaper options then you have to pay to withdraw money, pay for a debit/credit card etc. So its best to find one that suits your needs. Hype is good if your tech savvy, but if you want to go in person to the bank then it would not be a good choice. If you want unlimited cash withdrawals then its better to go and get a higher premium account, however, if you use a credit card a lot then go for one with a lower charge for unlimited credit card use. Just shop around.

How to move to Italy.

Always dreamed of a life in ‘Il bel paese’? Want to make the move but don’t know how? I was in the same situation just a few months ago. Here is all of the information I have managed to gather over the past year.

Do I need a visa?

This depends entirely on where you are travelling from. If you are travelling from the EU then I am sure you already know, the answer is no. You do not. If you are travelling from outside of the EU (or are from the UK like myself) then the answer may change.

As of the 31st of January 2020, the UK has formally left the EU. We are no longer a part of it. However, currently we are still within the transition period. The transition period runs until December 31st 2020. This transition period is too allow both the UK and the EU to establish a new fair trade agreement. After the transition period has ended, the UK will leave the single market and customs union. During this transition period the UK will still follow all EU rules and will maintain the same trading relationship. This also means that until December 31st 2020 we have nearly the same rights as we did before leaving the EU, including moving to countries within the EU and gaining residency. After December, all current residents in Italy will be allowed to remain in the country. This means that we have until the 31st of December to sort out all of our affairs, get residency, exchange driving licenses etc.

After the transition period then we will likely be classified as a non-EU country and will have to follow the same rules as other non-EU countries.

To live and work in Italy as a non-EU citizen then you need to have a visa and a work permit.

Work visa’s can be granted for employment, seasonal work that is related to either agriculture or tourism, scientific research, sporting activities and some other reasons related to employment. You can also get a visa for study, medical care, tourism, religion or other reasons, these visa’s do not permit you to work.

The work permit you will need to work will be completed by your employer in Italy. They will need to show a copy of your i.d documents (such as passport), a work contract, proof of accommodation, and evidence of your residence contract.

There is also the blue card for highly skilled workers. More information on that can be found out here.

Once you have a visa to live and work in Italy, your family can also apply for a visa under family reunification.

I posted a bit about the process of getting the permesso di soggiorno here.

Renting or buying a house?

Housing prices and rental prices vary vastly depending on the region you are searching for. It is important to do your research when looking for which region you want to locate to. As I am moving for a specific purpose, I have never looked up rental prices or housing prices in any other region except for Puglia. And specifically within the city of Bari in Puglia.

Rental prices vary but probably the more expensive areas are Milan, Florence and Rome.

Within cities, most of the places will be apartments or an appartamento. In Italy, apartments to rent are advertised by number of rooms monolocale, bilocale, trilocale etc. A monolocale is like a typical studio apartment in other countries. You usually have a kitchen and a bedroom/living room in one room and a bathroom. Within a bilocale the bedroom and living room is usually separate.

Rented accommodation usually comes either furnished or unfurnished.

I will be posting more about renting property in Italy in a later post.

How about healthcare?

Healthcare in Italy is generally excellent. And free to all residents in Italy. The public healthcare system in Italy is called the Servizio Sanitorio Nazionale (SSN) and you can register for it once you have your permesso di soggiorno. You sign up for the SSN in your local Azienda sanitaria locale (ASL). Once you are registered for the SSN you obtain your Tessera Sanitaria and chose your family doctor (Medico di base).

If you are employed in Italy then you will be eligible for mandatory registration, however, if you are not then you will have to pay a voluntary contribution. You will be able to find out if you are able to get mandatory registration at your local ASL. The form you get given to register for the SSN will need to be filled in and then payed for at the post office. From what I can gather, most things you need to pay for are done at the post office.

It is possible to find English speaking doctors however, you will need to research this. I find that if you ask on expat groups (in facebook) or on forums, a lot of expats from the area will be able to advise you on this.

Opening a bank account.

Just like in the UK, there are various types of bank accounts you can open in Italy. Conto corrente is a current bank account, and this is the standard type of bank account that people use for their day-to-day activities. Another common bank account is a chequing account or assegno.

Other bank accounts include joint bank accounts or Conto corrente cointestato, savings accounts Conto di risparmio and deposit accounts Conto di deposito which is similar to a savings account but with less flexibility and a higher interest rate. Bank accounts in Italy are generally not free, and you will have to pay a fee for them. All bank accounts charge different amounts so it is important to do your research on them.

To open a bank account in Italy you need to have your codice fiscale which is your tax code.

Getting a mobile phone

You can either get a pre-paid sim card called a ricaricabile or a mobile contract abbonamento. This contract is usually at a fixed monthly rate and is either a contract for 12 months or 24 months. With the pre-paid sim card you must top up your phone with vouchers ricariche which can be bought at stores, tobacconists, bars, magazine shops, ATM’s or at the store or website of the provider. Like with bank accounts, you need to have your codice fiscale to purchase a pre-paid sim card or to get a mobile phone contract.

The most popular providers in Italy are TIM, Vodafone, WIND, Fastweb or 3. All of these providers offer different packages and services so it is better to research them first to find the best deal for you.

Transport in Italy.

Trains are very cheap in Italy. Especially the regional trains (which are also slower). You can buy train tickets at the station (at the desk or at the machine) or you can also buy tickets online through mobile phone apps.

Trains are either run by Gruppo Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane or by Italo.

Types of trains are Eurostar Italia or Frecce services, which are considered the fastest. Seat reservations are mandatory on these services. Intercity (IC and IC+) run across most of Italy and between cities and Large towns. You can either book first or second class on these trains. On intercity + seat reservations are mandatory but are included in the price of the ticket. And finally Regionale trains are the ones that stop in all of the smaller towns. These are cheaper in price but because they stop off in all of the small towns, they are much slower than the other train services.

Using a car in Italy can be expensive, petrol is generally quite expensive, most roads in Italy are very poor (in comparison to the UK) unless you are travelling on the Autostrada. And in my opinion, it is definitely true what they say about Italian drivers. They will force their way out into traffic, usually putting out their arm to let drivers know they are doing this.

If you are buying a car in Italy then you need to tax, MOT and insure it. Car tax (Bollo) is mandatory and you must keep the receipt in case you are stopped by the police. There is a fine if you fail to produce this. An MOT or Revisione is also required on all cars older than 4 years old. These are only required once every two years unlike in the UK where you have to do this every year.

Insurance cover will differ in cost depending on type of insurance (Casco or Responsibilità civile). The first is fully comprehensive and is very expensive, most people opt for the second which is third party. You can also add on fire and theft (incendio, furto).

Foreigners in Italy can drive for one year on their driving license but after that need to switch it over to an Italian driving license. If you are from an EU member state then you do not need to resit your driving test for this, however, if your country does not have a reciprocal agreement (USA, Canada, Australia) then you will need to sit an Italian driving test.

If you are stopped by the police in Italy then you need to produce the following documents:

  • Identification document (passport or i.d.)
  • Driving license
  • Car tax receipt
  • Insurance (at least third party)
  • Logbook (libretto) with the MOT
  • A yellow luminous jacket.

It is important you carry these documents on you at all times when driving in Italy.

There are several books you can purchase that will provide a lot more detailed information. I have personally only read the moon living book which was great, although I feel it was a little more focused towards Americans.

Moon Living Abroad Italy, 4th edition
Times New Roman
The real guide to living in Italy.

Why am I moving to Italy?

Hi guys. As this is my first blog post I thought I would give you a little insight into why I am moving to Italy and the whole thought process behind it.

So why?

Well basically… I met a guy. He is Italian. And it goes on from there.

So me and Alberto have been in a long-distance relationship for nearly three years. Crazy huh? This involves a lot of creativity in keeping our relationship intimate. And no, I don’t just mean in ‘that way’. Dirty buggers! I mean… finding ways to do things that all couples do, like watching a TV show together. We do this on Netflix usually by the way. At the moment we’re watching a great show called Shtisel, which we are both loving. And it’s in Hebrew, or Yiddish. I don’t recall which one, or even if there is a difference? One thing I do know though is that it is a language neither of us speak! We like to synch this up together during a voice call on discord, which usually involves Alberto counting down from 3, in an array of languages. Ok ok, just two languages. English or Italian. Luckily my Italian is now good enough to be able to count down from three.

Anyway, I am not going to bore you with details of our long-distance relationship. It has been tough at times, but we survived it. And I got to visit a beautiful country a whole heap load of times. Bonus.

 “Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.”

Anna Akhmatova

I don’t even remember when we had decided we were going to live together. Him moving to the UK though was not really an option. So Alberto graduated Med School in February 2019 (I hope that is right? I am pretty sure he would kill me if it wasn’t). Since graduating med school, he had to do some crazy exam along with all of the other recent med graduates in Italy. This huge exam was to gain a place in a residency. Basically, whoever scores the highest gets to pick their residency first. Alberto of course is super intelligent, and did fairly well in this. So he managed to get the residency in his hometown. He is now doing this for the next 5 years. So therefore, the only option was for me to move to Italy.

Who wouldn’t want to move to Italy though? Great food, fantastic weather, beautiful architecture… its a dream right?

So we set a date. This date has changed several times in the process. First we had decided when I graduated from my Msc, then we changed it til later. And then even later. It currently stands at the beginning of July. On a Monday, as it is my father’s day off work and he can drive me to the airport. I think the provisional date I set was July 6th.

2020-07-06T16:58:00

  days

  hours  minutes  seconds

until

Moving to Italy!

Aaaaaaaah. At the time of writing this, there is 61 days until that date! Crazy. There is so much to do in the mean time.

Unfortunately, due to this global epidemic that is going on at the moment, that provisional date is highly likely to change. We are just waiting at the moment for any news of the lock-down in both Italy and the UK ending. So fingers crossed. I will keep you guys updated.

By the way. If you want some insight into the place I am going to be living. It is a city called Bari, which is the capital city of Puglia, a region in the South of Italy, right on the heel of the country pretty much. You can see it where the red balloon is on the map below.

Bari is a beautiful city on the coast. There are loads of beaches around, and a big port in Bari. And the old town is absolutely stunning. It is also one of the largest cities in the area, so has plenty to do. A lot of shops, bars and restaurants. Hopefully it will also be convenient for me to find a job there as well.

I have inserted a random picture I found online of Bari just for reference. In no way is this my own photograph, frankly I am definitely not that talented. So thanks google image search and lonelyplanet.com for the snap. Very grateful!

Image by Michal Ludwiczak / Getty Images