‘I dream about returning to England one day’

Make-up artist Nicki Storey had been going on holiday to Positano on the Amalfi Coast since the age of 12, so it was the obvious choice to spend a summer learning Italian. She tells The Local how she ended up staying for 15 years, and the hidden frustrations of her 'dolce vita'.

'I dream about returning to England one day'
Nicki Storey with daughter Skye. Photo: Nicki Storey

What attracted you to the Amalfi Coast?

It was never my plan to live in Italy. I was only going to stay for a summer to learn the language and then go back to London, but I was having too much fun to leave at the end of the summer. Then of course I met Carlo, fell in love…and here I still am!

I chose Positano because I already knew it. I had been coming on holiday here with a schoolfriend since I was 12, and from the age of 18 to 22 I lived on and off in Positano with my boyfriend. I already had quite a network of friends in town, so it was the obvious choice really.

So was there a particular moment when Italy started to really feel like 'home'?

Honestly, I think Positano has always felt like home. I've always felt comfortable here and I think having been around since I was little, having childhood memories here helps. Although I have never stopped thinking of England as home either, I love going back to visit and actually dream about living there again one day!

Looking at some of the photos on your blog, it seems like you have the true 'dolce vita' lifestyle. Are there any not so idyllic aspects?

Oh yes, but I get in trouble if I blog about the bad stuff! In the summer you tend to get fed up with tourists everywhere and then in the winter you get fed up of everything being closed and nobody being around. It is also a very small town and there is far too much small town gossip for my liking.

Most people only know the Amalfi coast as a holiday destination. What is it like once the tourist season is over?

Positano is totally different in the winter. The majority of shops, hotels and restaurants close down from the beginning of November until Easter. The beach is empty, the boats vanish and from January to March a lot of the locals go travelling, so it really becomes a ghost town. 

In January or February there is often snow on the mountain tops and it feels really cold. Although it might not get much lower than eight degrees celsius, it feels colder because it is so humid. Clothes feel damp when you get dressed, a lot of places don't have central heating and it can rain heavily for days on end.

Working as a makeup artist, have you noticed many differences between English and Italian fashions?

Yes, English brides tend to want a very simple, natural look for their wedding while Italians go for a much stronger make-up look. English wedding guests dress much more colourfully, the women with those funny fascinators on their heads and flowery dresses, whereas the Italians go for all out glamour – dressing up to the nines – but mainly in black.

Would you recommend Positano as a good place to bring up a family? 

It depends what you are looking for. It is a very safe place and I think it is amazing that kids in Positano have the freedom to run around the beach and take the bus home alone at an early age, something that is virtually impossible in most other places.

But my daughter longs for a bicycle and rollerskates, she gasps when she sees a patch of grass and is beyond excited when she sees a play park. I think the education system here is incredibly old-fashioned too: school six days a week, no half-terms, and so much homework that there is never any time to play or have a weekend away with the family.

After 15 years living in Italy, are there any aspects of Italian life that still frustrate you or that you just don't understand?

You know what frustrates me? The driving. I take my daughter to school in Sorrento so I spend two hours a day on the coast road taking her there and back, and the standard of driving is just shocking.

I can't figure out how they all manage to stay alive. People have no respect for traffic lights, pedestrian crossings, signalling. They push, shove, cut you up, don't wait their turn, drive either three mph or 300 mph, but never in between, and generally leave me screaming in frustration every single day. 

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Long-term Brits in Italy to get back UK voting rights

The British government announced on Thursday that it would lift a ban on citizens voting in UK elections if they had lived longer than 15 years outside the country.

Long-term Brits in Italy to get back UK voting rights
A protest against Brexit in Florence, September 2017. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The government statement said that UK citizens would now be able to vote in domestic elections regardless of how long they had been abroad, a rule change which will give millions of people living overseas the right to register to vote.

The 15-year time limit proved to be a constant source of frustration among British expats, particularly during the referendum on EU membership, when long-term expats felt like they were robbed of a voice.

“Participation in our democracy is a fundamental part of being British, no matter how far you have travelled from the UK,” Minister for the Constitution Chloe Smith. “It is right that we should remove the 15-year time limit on voting rights of British citizens living overseas and allow those who previously lived in the UK the chance to participate in our democracy.”

“Expats retain strong links with the United Kingdom: they may have family here, and indeed they may plan to return here in the future. Modern technology and cheaper air travel has transformed the ability of expats to keep in touch with their home country,” she said.