The ten positives you’ll notice after moving to Italy from the US

We all know Italy is an amazing place to visit. But is it really still "la dolce vita" when you live here permanently? One reader who moved from the US says it is - if you focus on the positives.

The ten positives you'll notice after moving to Italy from the US
The town of Arrone, Umbria. Photo courtesy of Rita Graziano

Rita Graziano, an Italian-American California Bay Area native who has lived in Umbria, Italy for a little over a year now, told The Local how, of the many striking differences she’s found compared to life in the USA, it’s the little things – and the positive things – that stand out to her the most.

While it’s easy enough to complain about Italy’s famously slow bureaucracy, and the hiccups many of us experience after moving, Rita said: “I don’t dwell on those. Sometimes I am amused, sometimes frustrated, but always willing to let it be in the end.”

READ ALSO: The biggest culture shocks you’ll experience after moving to Italy

Rita, who works remotely and made the move alone with “dogs and cats galore”, says the slower pace of life and “the lack of the “buy, buy, buy” mentality of the US” are some of the biggest positives.

Here, Rita gives us a quick glimpse of her life in Italy by describing some of the beautiful moments and gestures which define for her what living here is really all about.

The beauty

The way you can “stumble upon” beauty anywhere. The gorgeous architecture in churches and other buildings as well as small points of beauty such as the way someone has arranged their garden flowers

The patience

The patience of the people with my poor Italian, the way they apologize because they don’t speak English! (Not necessary to apologize — this is Italy!) and the way they will say “I speak only a few words of English”, and then they speak it very well in fact.

READ ALSO: The 15 absolute worst things about living in Italy

Photo: Clare Speak/The Local

The church bells

The sound of the church bells ringing, randomly as well as gloriously at 12 noon in the piazza.

The kindness

I asked the pharmacist where the health center was and she dropped everything to walk with me there so I would be sure to find it. And when I put my credit card in the wrong slot of the gas station machine, in the dark, in the pouring rain, I was able to get it back at the  Carabinieri station with four Carabinieri attentively listening to my poorly-told story, eager to help.

The friendliness

The way at holiday time, everyone greets each other with Buon Natale or Buon Anno. And how the vet’s office (she is the only one for the village of Arrone) is not only a place to take your animals but is a social meeting place where people drop by to chat even while she is giving your animal a vaccination.

Rita’s cat Harry, who as a kitten was saved by Arrone’s vet. Photo: Rita Graziano.

The openness

The way you can meet people in a restaurant – in Spoleto my friend and I became immediate friends with a 97-year-old Navy veteran.

READ ALSO: Seven surprising Italian food rules foreigners fall foul of

The history

There’s too much to say here, but as an example, the town of Terni, which was bombed 120 times during the war so is not a pretty city like so many others. And in Umbria the many hilltop villages built in the middle ages, causing me to wonder every time: how on earth did they build those villages and towers perched precariously on a hilltop?

The seasons

This is probably a California thing, but here in Italy every season unfolds with such beauty and is distinct and wondrous.

Photo: Clare Speak/The Local

The people

The old men sitting in cafes talking endlessly and watching the world go by. And the way every single Italian has an opinion on most things!

The security

The feeling that I am safe and never alone. People are always willing to help.

The creativity

The creativity used to make everything work… somehow.

Do you agree or disagree with the opinions expressed in this article? Let us know in the comment section below.

Member comments

  1. So, so perfect! We’ve been here since early ’18, and our Christmas cards to friends and family back in the US that first year included this “Top 10” list of “Rules for Living in Southern Italy”:

    10. The traffic lines on the streets are just for decoration.
    9. If something happens at 3:30 instead of 2:30, it’s not the end of the world.
    8. Life’s too short to eat fast food.
    7. Life’s too short to eat bad food.
    6. Most big problems usually aren’t.
    5. You’re never too busy to help someone.
    4. Coffee isn’t just coffee. It’s an art form.
    3. Same goes for cooking, only more so.
    2. Life is meant to be enjoyed!
    1. Family and friends are EVERYTHING!

  2. This is a paid subscription why are there pop up ads everywhere?
    It makes attempting to read the Local very frustrating

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Five things you’ll only know if you live in Milan

Milan is famous as Italy's economic and style capital, but there are a few things you'll only know about the city if you spend time living here. The Local's Milan-based reporter Giampietro Vianello tells us what to expect.

Five things you'll only know if you live in Milan

Milan is well known for being Italy’s economic powerhouse and one of Europe’s most prominent fashion and art capitals, and it is by far the Italian city with the greatest degree of international appeal.

But, much like most other major cities in the world, there are some things about Milan that only residents are really privy to. 

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

Here are five things that you’ll know if you live in the northern metropolis.

Electric bikes galore

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… no, it’s an e-bike whizzing past you at the speed of light. 

Over the past three years, Milan’s urban landscape has been radically changed by a sweeping e-bike craze.

The main driver behind the city’s e-bike mania has been the staggering rise of affordable online rental services, with five different companies now offering residents a chance to quickly locate and hop on an e-bike from anywhere within the city limits.

E-bikes in central Milan

Milan residents love to move around the city on e-bikes. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Regular bikes are also available for rent, but residents seem to have a penchant for darting down the city’s streets on e-powered two-wheelers. 

To be fair, e-bikes have become popular in most Italian major cities over the past few years, with the trend propelled by Covid-related restrictions first and government-backed ‘green’ initiatives after.

That said, e-bikers seem to thrive in Milan more than anywhere else in the country as the city offers a total of 144 kilometres of cycle lanes and e-bikes allow residents to quickly slip through the city’s traffic.

Apericena: myth or reality?

Milan is the official birthplace of the so-called apericena: classic Italian aperitivi or pre-dinner drinks are served along with a number of snacks (here that’s usually skewers, bruschetta and pizza or focaccia) which can essentially replace dinner. 

That all sounds great. However, here in Milan only rarely does the concept match the actual execution as the amount of food served isn’t usually that substantial. 

READ ALSO: ‘It takes time’: Foreign residents on what it’s really like to live in Milan

Of course, if your plan is to drink on an empty stomach and see double by 9pm, the whole thing might work in your favour.

Otherwise, an apericena in Milan will generally mean forking out anything between 20 and 30 euros and yet feeling peckish for the rest of the night, which is definitely not ideal.

The land of the ‘imbruttiti

Generalisations are never good and different people shouldn’t be painted with the same brush. That said, as a Milan resident, I’d be remiss not to mention that most Milanesi are indeed fairly short-fused.

While the reasons behind locals’ quick temper still elude even the most respectable of social scientists, you might be interested in knowing that there’s an expression for it: ‘il Milanese imbruttito’, which roughly translates to ‘the pissed-off Milan resident’.

Not convinced? Try pressing the accelerator a tenth of a second too slowly after a traffic light switch and you might just find out the hard way.

Traffic light in Italy

Being slow off the mark after a traffic light change is the easiest way to draw the ire of Milan residents. Photo by Christophe SIMON / AFP

Unbearable suffixes 

Diminutive suffixes like -ino, -etto, -uccio and -ello are variously used by Italian native speakers to refer to either a particularly small object or place (for instance, a ‘paesello’ is a small ‘paese’ or ‘village’) or to something that’s very dear to them (a ‘fratellino’ is a beloved brother). 

Most Italian speakers use these sparingly, only resorting to them when they’re essential to the meaning of a sentence.

But many Milan residents seem to have somehow missed that memo and nonchalantly pepper their conversations with a barrage of suffixes – such as ‘cinemino’ (cinema), ‘cafferino’ (coffee) and ‘vinello’ (wine).

READ ALSO: Why Milan is a much better city to live in than Rome  

Even ‘whatsappino’, the latest, hotly-debated Italian neologism, enjoys a certain popularity among Milan locals.

While foreign nationals may find this behaviour amusing, native speakers born and raised far from the northern city usually find it excruciatingly childish and have a hard time putting up with it.

Cases of skin rash following exposure to these dreaded suffixes have been reported in Italy, and we have no intention of verifying these claims.

Padel on the weekend

For those who might not yet be privy to the game’s sacred rules, padel is a racket sport which is in many ways similar to tennis.

However, there are three main differences: the court is enclosed by walls and balls can be played off them; players use solid, stringless bats; finally, when serving, the ball must be hit at or below the waist level.

People playing padel

Milan is Italy’s padel capital, with the city currently boasting as many as 61 padel courts. Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP

Though you might not think much of it based on the above description, padel is a lot of fun and Milan is second only to Rome when it comes to the sport’s popularity among residents.

In Milan, most locals tend to play doubles during the weekend, especially on Saturday. So, if you’re new to the city, it’s only a matter of time before one of your colleagues or new city pals sends you a message along the lines of ‘Padelino sabato?’. 

Of course, there’s only one correct answer to that question: ‘Dove e a che ora?’ (‘Where and at what time?).