I’ve been living in Italy for just over a month now. So far, life is nothing like what I had hoped it would be.
Even though we’re here our lives are still very much on hold due to COVID lockdowns. Here are a few brief details on how extensive lockdowns in Italy are and how they impact our ability to start living in Italy as planned.
COVID-19 Lockdowns in Italy
As one of the first outbreaks of COVID-19 outside China, Italy was slow to react. However when Italy locked down it did so completely.
By March 10th Italians were restricted from being outside their homes for any reason other than work, health or groceries. Leaving home required carrying symptom-free self-certification paperwork at all times.
Fines for breaking quarantine rules could go as high as 5,000€ and anyone found making false claims on their self-certification paperwork faced criminal charges.
By the time we arrived on April 20th, Italy was still fully locked down.
What’s amazing to me is that despite feeling stir crazy and frustrated, Italians have not protested the lockdowns.
It’s true that Italians really know how to enjoy life. In the face of COVID they have shown grit and determination to get back to doing just that, together. #andràtuttobene
Our First Month of Living in Italy
Our original plan was to get to Italy, visit with Paolo’s parents for a few weeks in Torino, then start house hunting in Tuscany near Florence. To date, this still hasn’t happened.
The lockdowns prevented movement between regions in Italy. So instead of house hunting in Tuscany, we spent our first month in Italy locked down with Paolo’s parents in Torino. During that time:
- I’ve spent countless hours in front of my laptop, reworking my blog and writing, writing, writing.
- Started working on a larger project I’ll share more about later.
- Returned to daily workouts.
- Obsessively researched property listings for our first home.
- Slept. A lot.
- Drank a little too much wine.
- Ate way too much.
- Socialized more than I did while living in the US via zoom.
- Thanks to Paolo, I was also assigned a national health Doctor and received my health card in Italy.
- Have an Italian cell phone number!
- Have appointments later in June to meet my Doctor and get my Italian ID card.
- Have a game plan for getting my Italian drivers license, for which I need to take a written test in Italian 🤦♀️.
- Worked daily on my Italian language skills.
- Felt frightened watching America struggle through COVID without leadership.
- Felt frustrated and full of rage at a man who can’t stop tweeting or talking long enough to listen.
While these are not the stories of moving to Italy I had hoped to share, there is more hopeful news on the horizons.
COVID-19 is Weakening in Italy
The first week of June marked a turning point in Italy’s fight against the Coronavirus. The number of new cases in Italy has fallen daily since May 29th with 516 to 416 to 355 to 178 new cases by June 1st. The lowest daily rate since February 26th.
The lockdowns worked. Italy is recovering from COVID and finally seeing light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.
With the number of new cases and fatalities steadily declining, Italy is finally, slowly opening up. Every two weeks the government tested small measures of change. First, we could go for walks outside. Next we could go to parks so long as we wore masks and kept socially distanced. Then the big news, phase two of the Italian lockdown has arrived!
Italy COVID 19 Phase 2
I’m writing this right now from Bardonnechia instead of Torino because phase two of the lockdowns allowed Italians to travel to second homes and visit family members who lived in the same region. Not girlfriends and boyfriends mind you, family only!
The exact decree of law says:
Until June 2, 2020, it is forbidden to travel, by public or private transport, to a region other than the one in which you are currently located, except for proven work reasons, absolute urgency, or for health reasons; in any case, you are allowed to return to your home, domicile, or legal residence.
Now there are other restrictions still in place like:
- Citizens with respiratory infection and fevers higher than 37.5° C are forbidden to leave their homes and required to immediately contact their doctor.
- People are still not allowed to gather in places typically open to the public. So all conferences or conventions have to be cancelled.
- Sporting events (hello soccer!) is still suspended however training for professional athletes is now permitted.
- Restaurants were allowed to open with extremely restricted capacity but no bars yet.
- Schools are still closed.
Still, here’s where things start to get exciting for Paolo and I when it comes to living in Italy right now.
From 3 June 2020, travel between regions will be permitted.
We’re close! We’re so close to being able to begin living in Italy the way we had hoped. Or so I hope.
Unexpected Parts of Moving to Italy
When we dedicated to move to Italy, I knew there would be challenges. I expected to encounter little frustration like not finding latin ingredients, brown sugar, dill pickles or mustard. I expected bigger issues like feeling isolated by the language barrier. I expected to get a little homesick.
What I didn’t expect of my first month in Italy was to be so worried about my family and friends back in America. Maybe I should have.
American Expats Face Unexpected Challenges in 2020
At the end of 2017 and again in 2018, I remember my friends and I joking “this year sucked bring on the next!” We’re only half way through the year and I‘m willing to bet we’ll be saying “2020 was the WORST! Bring on 2021!”
Even if I could have anticipated the racial and political divide boiling over after we moved, what I couldn’t anticipate were the new challenges American expats face in light of COVID-19.
Social isolation is more difficult to overcome with networking opportunities and language schools closed due to lockdowns.
Plus, telling my parents “I’m never more than a flight away” feels hollow now. Airlines shutting down flights from Italy to America and cancelling flights at will, present American Expats with a new set of unexpected challenges to navigate.
Fortunately, two empowering life lessons became crystal clear after moving to Italy in the middle of all the 2020 chaos.
Flexibility is a Critical Life Skill
Becoming homeless during a worldwide pandemic and hunkering down with family was unexpected. Yet, it ended up playing out in our favor financially.
At times having a nomadic lifestyle has left me feeling behind in life. Now, I’m realizing the flexibility that comes with living a smaller life has been one of our strengths as a couple.
If we had taken the traditional American path and had a mortgage or a car lease, credit card bills or business loans, we would not have been nearly as flexible or quick to adjust our lifestyle when COVID hit.
As the American economy shutdown we were able to shift our cost of living down to less then $1,000 a month. Our flexible lifestyle is how we have managed to stay financially stable after loosing our income due to COVID-19 shutdowns.
Now, I firmly believe being flexible in life is the key to surviving trying times. How this little revelation will play itself out in our plans to buy our first home is yet to be seen! Stay tuned.
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Procrastination & Inaction are Not Just Lazy, They are Dangerous
The scariest part? Had I not become an Italian citizen by the skin of my teeth back in September, I would not have been able to come to Italy during lockdowns. With the current political climate Paolo and I both feared we would lose the opportunity to gain dual citizenship. Thank goodness we pushed as hard and as fast as we could.
There are political forces in both America and Italy that are trying to end immigration. Right before I became a citizen, Italy introduced new immigration requirements that made gaining Italian citizenship incredibly difficult.
Now Trump is blatantly using COVID-19 to stop all immigration. Had we procrastinated for even a few months before applying for our dual citizenships, our move to Italy might not have been possible.
This life lesson has also been made clear through the current riots in America. Before leaving Portland Paolo and I had started attending ACLU meetings. We were looking to play a role in helping preserve the best parts of America. Liberty and JUSTICE for all.
America is now seeing exactly how dangerous inaction is. As an American expat in Italy who believes #silenceisviolence I’m struggle to know what I can do from here. What I know for sure? The single most important thing Paolo and I did our first month after moving to Italy was to register to vote by absentee ballot come November.
In the coming months, I’m hoping I’ll be able to share more positive stories about moving to Italy. Right now, it would be disingenuous not to share the full picture of what it’s like to move to Italy from America in 2020.
That said, if the reasons we moved to Italy in the first place hold as COVID fades, I know there are bright and beautiful days of la dolce vita ahead.
In the meantime, my plan for June is to stay as safe as I can. Stay informed about what’s happening in America. Stay connected to the people I love and make headway on a project to share how Paolo and I gained the flexibility in life that’s made this move to Italy possible.
How about you? What are you hoping to see change or make happen in June?
- The coronavirus is weakening in Italy, several doctors say — but health authorities warn that ‘this is still a killer virus’ – Business Insider
- President Trump Has Blocked New Legal Immigrants. Here’s Where Else He’s Clamped Down on Immigration During the Coronavirus Outbreak – Time
- UN condemns Italy’s anti-migrant decree and ‘climate of hatred’ – The Local.IT