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How I went from teaching in Italy to working for the UN

When Englishman Jonathan Moody, 29, moved to Rome in September 2013 he had no clear plan. Three years later he is still in Rome – working for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

How I went from teaching in Italy to working for the UN
Jonathan Moody's Italian odyssey has taken him from TEFL teacher to UN worker. Photo: Genevieve Lavoie Mathieu

What brought you to Italy?

I'd been teaching English in South America in 2012 and returned home on Christmas Eve, flat broke.

I started looking for jobs immediately and on January 7th headed out to Puglia to begin a new teaching job there.

I hadn't expected to be here after three years, but things can snowball….and they did.

How so?

Well, my girlfriend of seven years, Genevieve, was offered a one year master's in development at Roma Tre university, just after I finished teaching in Puglia. 

So in September 2013, we moved to the capital. When she finished her masters in 2013, she got an internship at the UN's World Food Programme, which then turned into a full-time job.

Since coming to Rome, I've had several different jobs but I've been working in internal communications at FAO since October last year. 

What kind of jobs have you had?

At first I was an English teacher – which was great. The pay's not great, but you get to interact with people all day long and the lifestyle is second to none. However, after doing it for years I'd become unsatisfied and didn't feel like I was doing anything constructive. I needed a new challenge.

I found a new job as a food tour guide in Rome's Trastevere area, which is probably the best job I've had. I got paid to tell groups about the history of the area while taking them to places where they could sample some of the best food and drink Rome has to offer.

After that, I found a job in communications with the NGO, Slow Food, but had to leave my girlfriend in Rome and move to Bra, Piedmont. I was employed to write, edit and translate articles for their English language websites.

Even though it was less fun than being a tour guide, it was closer to what I wanted to be doing – and I learned so much about the issues and politics surrounding food. After about eight months, I wanted to move back to Rome to be closer to my girlfriend and fortunately found a job at FAO doing internal communications.

My current job basically involves writing articles for the FAO's internal websites.

What would you say to someone thinking of moving to Italy?

The first thing I'd say is to relax about it. Moving to a new country isn't a big deal.

The second thing I'd say is to forget about money and career plans – at least in the short-term. I mean, I came without a clear plan but followed my passions for food and writing and have managed to find work.

I've been in Italy for nearly three years and it's honestly the most settled and happy I've felt since university. Lots of my university friends graduated and went to work in London's financial district. Perhaps I haven't been earning so much but in terms of experience it's been so varied.

What have been the biggest challenges and frustrations?

The language has been a challenge. I started studying when I moved to Puglia and learnt the basics pretty quickly. Since then though, I haven't been actively learning it.

I don't really struggle with it socially anymore, but there's still plenty I could be doing to improve.

As for frustrations, it's probably a cliché, but the bureaucracy drives me nuts. Even something simple like going to the bank can quickly turn into an ordeal in Italy. Also, simply crossing the road in Rome can feel like running the gauntlet.

In what ways has living in Italy changed you?

My lifestyle is probably more 'Italian' now – especially in terms of food. Before I came here I didn't drink coffee – but now happily have two or three sociable coffee-breaks each day.

I also eat dinner much later, which is something I only noticed recently when English friends came to visit and wanted to eat at 6pm, which by now is completely alien to me. 

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ROME

Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

Rome is one of Europe's most beautiful cities, but living there isn't without its challenges. Here are six apps that will improve your life as a resident.

Six essential apps that make life in Rome easier for foreign residents

myCicero

This app has been a game changer for Rome residents (or visitors) who rely on the city’s public transport to get around.

In pre-myCicero days, you had to buy a paper ticket from either a metro station (if the machines worked) or a tabaccaio newsagent’s (if it was open).

If you found yourself ticketless and without any metro stops or tabaccherie nearby, your options consisted of jumping on the bus and crossing your fingers you wouldn’t be stopped by an inspector, or walking home.

With myCicero, you can buy tickets in advance and activate them whenever you need. Similar apps recommended by ATAC, Rome’s public transport operator, include Telepass Pay, TicketAppy, DropTicket and Tabnet.

As of January 2023, ATAC says you can pay all fares by contactless card – but as the system is very new and Rome’s public transport doesn’t have the best reputation, we’ll be using the app for a while longer. Download here.

READ ALSO: Metro, bus or tram: Rome’s tickets, passes and apps explained

Waidy WOW

Aside from its immense historical patrimony, world-class cuisine and all-around beauty, one of Rome’s best features is its many nasoni fountains dispersed throughout the city that provide free drinking water to passersby.

To encourage people to take advantage of this service and discourage the use of disposable plastic bottles, water utility provider Acea created this app that maps all of Rome’s drinking fountains and shows where you can find the nearest one.

A woman drinks from one of Rome's fountains.

A woman drinks from one of Rome’s fountains. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP.

Its precursor, I Nasoni di Roma, is also still active, though a bit less well serviced.

If you’re in the mood for a history lesson, Waidy also provides information about Rome’s larger fountains of historic and artistic interest. You can download the app here.

Enjoy

If you have a fixed appointment in Rome, you probably don’t want to rely on the city’s public transport to get there on time.

In that case you may want to use one of the several car-sharing apps that allow you to move around the capital without worrying about having to pay for parking.

Enjoy is one of the most popular, but there’s also Car Sharing Roma and Share Now.

All the apps will show you the nearest available car; you can book it several minutes before arriving so you’re not competing with anyone nearby. 

If you’re looking for a nippier option to scoot past traffic jams, Ecooltra, Acciona and Zig Zag all let you rent electric and motorised scooters.

READ ALSO: 15 simple hacks to make living in Rome better

Free Now

If you need a taxi in Rome and don’t want to have to traipse around in search of a stand, Free Now will allow you to summon a taxi to your location and pay via the app, much like Uber.

You can in fact also now use Uber to take a cab in Rome, as well as to book trips in advance – which might confuse you if you’d heard that Uber doesn’t work in Italy.

Apps make it easy to summon a taxi in Rome.

Apps make it easy to summon a taxi in Rome. Photo by Andreas Solaro / AFP)

It technically doesn’t, unless you want to pay over the odds for the luxury Uber Black service, but in July 2022 the company launched a partnership with Italy’s largest taxi dispatcher that allows users to hail ordinary taxis through the app in some cities, Rome included.

Others, like appTaxi and itTaxi, are also available, but Free Now still remains one of the most popular options – download here.

Lime

This recommendation comes with a big asterisk, because while mopeds and e-scooters can be a very convenient way of getting about the city quickly, they’re often misused in such a way that terrorises pedestrians and other motorists.

If you do make use of one of these apps, then, follow some basic etiquette.

Don’t go on the pavement or run down children and pensioners. Don’t dart out in front of cars or pedestrians and risk causing a collision. Don’t leave your ride in everyone’s way at the end. Be respectful.

There have also been a number of accidents in the last couple of years – particularly related to e-scooters – and if you’re new to Rome and unfamiliar with its traffic culture, you’re safest starting out on the cycle path by the river or in parks like Villa Borghese. 

A man rides an e-scooter along the River Tiber bike path.

A man rides an e-scooter along the River Tiber bike path. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP.

Those provisos out of the way, these apps can provide a handy and reasonably environmentally-friendly way to get from A to B speedily and cheaply.

Lime is one of the most popular (if you already have Uber you can just use the Uber app, as they’re in partnership), but there are numerous others, including Dott, Bird, and Helbiz.

The Fork

If you’re trying to get a table last-minute at a decent restaurant in Rome on a Friday or Saturday night, you may run into some trouble.

It’s disheartening to be brusquely informed by the sixth person in a row that your place of choice is al completo (fully booked) – and if your Italian isn’t great, you might struggle to even get that far.

That’s where The Fork comes in: enter your party size, the date and time you want to eat and the neighbourhood you’re looking in, and it will suggest only those places that still have space. One click and you’re booked.

As a bonus, some of the restaurants offer discounts of 20, 30 or even 50 percent if you book through the app. Download here: buon appetito.

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