'Challenges go with the territory'

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Photos: Laura Thayer
11:15 CEST+02:00
It's a story that novels are made of: an American goes on holiday to Italy and falls in love with an Italian. Laura Thayer has now settled with her husband in Amalfi and is writing her own novel. The Local gets a snippet of her life there.

So what brought you to Italy?

Well, my mother had planned a holiday here in 2007 while I was at graduate school in the US, and I just knew I had to go along! I was studying art history at the time, so it made sense to come to Italy.

We came to the Amalfi coast on a week-long tour, which is when I fell in love with the architecture of the area … and our tour guide! We did the long distance thing for quite a while, with a lot of back and forth, until we finally married in 2012. 

So Italy wasn't on your radar at all?

No, I always thought my path would be to stay in the US and to maybe work in a museum after graduating, or pursue a PhD. Oddly enough, my research interests in graduate school before coming to the Amalfi coast were narrowing in on Italy. One glimpse of Amalfi’s incredible Duomo—the Cathedral of St. Andrew—and I knew that was where I wanted to focus. I wrote my master’s thesis on the 19th-century façade of the Duomo – very fitting!

What did your mother think of the momentous life changes from your holiday together?

That’s another synchronous moment, because she has always dreamt of living in Italy. It's strange, as a young girl she wanted to visit Positano in Amalfi, and this place has always had a very strong pull on her heart. I guess I inherited that from her since Amalfi wowed me from the first visit, too.

My mother plans to spend as much time in Italy as she can, and now we’re seeing how our dreams are melding into one and we're thinking: "We could live in Italy together!"

Thanks to your shared passion for Italy, you're also collaborating on a book together. Tell us a bit about that.

We're jointly writing a novel, which we hope to complete by the end of the year. The book is set in Amalfi and it's a romance with a bit of intrigue and plenty of love from a big Italian family, alongside the beauty of the Amalfi Coast.

My mother writes her parts by hand in the US and then sends them to me. We’re always talking about the story and the characters, which has been an incredibly creative and bonding experience. Between old-fashioned handwriting and modern day Skype sessions, we’re tackling the challenges of co-writing a book with such a great distance!

CLICK HERE to view some of Laura Thayer's photos of the Amalfi Coast.

Have either of you written books before?

My mother has a brilliant creative mind and amazing storytelling ability, and I’ve always been inspired by her love of reading and writing.

Since moving to Amalfi, I’ve focused on writing, including travel writing, copywriting and contributing to quite a few guidebooks about the area. But this is our first novel!

So until the book is are you earning your keep?

Since I didn't know any Italian when I arrived, there wasn’t a lot I could do except write. In retrospect, it was wonderful to have been pushed in exactly the direction I wanted to go, but that I didn’t know how to pursue in America. It also helped that the Amalfi coast is so incredibly inspiring!

I love sharing this beautiful part of Italy, and I do copywriting, write travel pieces as well as blogging and other social media work.

Not knowing the language must have made settling into a small town more of a challenge?

Learning the language was one of the hardest parts, especially since I needed to work right away to pay student loans and taking language courses wasn’t an option. I made some good friends in the online community, who advised me on how to get going with copywriting. Looking back, it was slow and a lot of work to get things off the ground. But people in Amalfi are so kind and exceptionally open to foreigners, maybe because they see so many tourists, and I’m grateful that I never felt out of place.

Being married, I take it you didn't have too much trouble getting a visa?

I spent a lot of time going back and forth while I was in the US. For an American, spending any period of time in Europe is a challenge, unless you get married. For us, it was just about finding the right time.

Do you miss the US and would you ever go back there?

I definitely miss family and friends. It's nice being able to keep in touch through Skype, Facebook and email. Because of university, I hadn't lived at home for many years before I came to Italy, which I believe made the move less traumatic.

But with cultural differences, it can be hard to find close friendships. I’m grateful every day for my friends that have stayed so close despite the distance. As much as I love Italian food, I do sometimes miss other types of food. It's hard to find ingredients for other things here, but I've managed to grow herbs to make guacamole, salsa and other Thai and Indian inspired dishes. I also missed berries, but now grow them in my garden. If you miss something and are creative enough, you can always find a way.

I'm definitely in Italy for the long-term and can't see my path being in the US. It feels right to be here and I love the Italian lifestyle and dreams I'm pursuing.

So is there anything you don't like about living in Amalfi?

No! Ok, so you have cold winters just like anywhere else, and there are daily challenges you face just like anywhere else. But you just have to look on the bright side, which is especially true when you live in another country.

The challenges go with the territory of being an expat, but there is so much that makes up for it!

What would you advise anyone else considering a move to Italy?

To be optimistic … and stubborn! If you really want that dream you have to take the complications with the bureaucracy and any other frustrations along with the amazing views, food and lifestyle. 

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