'You need patience and perseverance'

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Annie Ojile Nerone runs a scooter tour business in Rome. Photo: Annie Ojile Nerone
14:48 CEST+02:00
Annie Ojile Nerone moved to Italy from Minnesota in 2005 and now runs a scooter tour business with her husband in Rome. She tells The Local why the city's hidden gems are best found on two wheels and why it's the best way to avoid traffic.

So what brought you to Italy?

I studied Italian and fashion in college so I was lucky enough to do my study abroad in Milan. That's when I fell in love with the language, the culture and the people. Not a man, or else the love affair wouldn't have lasted very long! Then years later I made the move across the pond to Rome when I was 30.

Did you carry on with media and fashion work once you got here?

Originally I thought I would, but it was hard finding work without a work permit. So I immediately started working in tourism until I'd figured it out. Well, at least, that was the plan. Eventually I did do some work in production, mainly with American production companies doing projects on Italian soil.

What inspired you to set up Scooteroma?

Well my cousins from California came to visit me in Rome and I asked them what they wanted to do, and they said: 'Let's rent scooters!' So I said 'Va bene!' I had already started scootering at this point so I led a very impromptu tour. During the tour they said: 'You should do this as a job!' And that's how Scooteroma was born. 

Had you ever ridden a Vespa before?

Once in Guatemala, but I really don't count that. I ended up buying an old Scarabeo as my first motorino so I could scooter to work in the centre of Rome. The first time I ever drove in Rome was on a Friday during rush hour. I made it in one piece.

So I take it the notorious Rome traffic doesn't affect you too much then?

No! It can be a little complicated when there are transportation strikes and/or demonstrations, but we are lucky because we have two wheels instead of four. Plus we have the luxury of scootering in between the lanes of traffic…we just whizz by all those cars!

What about the high rate of accidents. Have you had any hairy moments?

If cats have nine lives scooter riders have at least 100! Thankfully, I've never had any accidents.

There are plenty of other ways people can see Rome, so what makes a Vespa tour unique?

Scooteroma is the perfect way to see Rome in an efficient, fun and adventurous way. Not to mention it's an awesome way to see monuments, neighbourhoods and places you would never find on your own, or where you need a mode of transportation to get there. It's also a great time saver for people who have limited hours in the Eternal City.

Does living and working in Italy live up to the dream?

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My dream was to move to Italy. I had three goals: to become fluent in Italian, to legally work there, and to have a successful career. I'm thrilled to say I have accomplished all these things. The cherry on top was meeting my husband Giovanni after four years of living in Rome. Now we are also business partners. 

Can you ever see yourself returning to the US?

We take long vacations in the winter time when it's off-season. Unfortunately, I am from cold and snowy Minnesota, so it's not the best time to take a trip home. I don't think we'll ever move to the US permanently.

Any tips for those looking to live and work here?

My motto in life is: 'Go slow to hurry up!' You need to have patience, perseverance, not be afraid to ask for help, be a little bit stubborn (in my case a lot), network network network both with expats and Italians, and never give up until you reach your goals.  

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