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Moving to Italy from the UK – is it easier for Europeans?

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Moving to Italy from the UK – is it easier for Europeans?

On January 25, 2016, Posted by , In Moving to Italy, By , With 39 Comments

I often get asked how difficult it was moving (or emigrating) to Italy from the UK and my initial thought is that it is probably significantly easier for a European than a non-European (Americans for example). I put that down to the freedom of movement we experience in Europe. I would say straight off the bat that that ’emigrating to Italy’ sounds like a massive upheaval (’emigration’ sounds so big and final). Our family emigrated from Scotland to South Africa in 1982 and in those days that was a massive step; in those days there was no email and so a letter took 3 weeks and if whoever sent the letter wanted a response or a questions answered then they had to wait 6 weeks in total.


Lets get back to Italy…because we had holidayed in Italy for so many years before the move and read some great books on the subject we had certain expectations already about Italy and theCinque-Terre Italians. Although their workmanship and quality of product is world-renowned (and envied) we had learnt that when it came to arranging anything of importance it generally took longer than we are used to in other countries, so when it came to arranging utilities or basic services or, in fact, anything associated with ‘admin’ it was going to take an age. So we had psyched ourselves up for a lengthy wait for phone, mobiles (cell phones), internet, gas electricity and water when we first arrived and then even longer for identity cards, bank accounts, permits/working visas and the such-like. I wish I had written down the exact dates of applying for each of these and when they were delivered because you are never going to believe me. I must give some credit to the estate agent we used particularly with regard to the utilities but the rest we pretty much arranged ourselves. How did we do this? (Refer to a previous post around waving money in the air and seeing how quickly you are understood!)


Pleasantly surprised


I think it goes without say that we were pleasantly surprised with the speed of delivery of each of these services. In fact, if the truth be told I had pre-prepared a couple of arguments in Italian and was quite disappointed that I never got to use them! As much as I read to the contrary, Italy is indeed a first world country and most things do work, and people do go to work on time and services are delivered.


Similar outlook


Once we decided to go then the planning was relatively straight-forward. Sure there were concerns and worries but ‘what was the worst that could happen?’. We were all adults at the end of the day and Italians understand the concept of family life so they weren’t about to watch us suffer unnecessarily and so offered assistance where needed. When I say ‘What is the worst that can happen ?’, excluding such things as natural disasters it wasn’t as if we were about have our application for residency or immigration visa refused or one of our permits rescinded (we are European for goodness sake!). At the outset I said that I think its easier for a European rather than a non-European because in Europe we have this freedom of movement and to be honest our outlook is similar. Throughout Europe we experience the same seasons (I daren’t mention ‘the same weather’ as this is pretty far from the truth!), we dress relatively similarly (although the Brits and Germans are thought to dress like shit by the French and Italians) and we all used to jumping across the borders quite frequently to experience other cultures and foods and coming into contact with those that don’t speak our native tongue.


Back to the Plan


Again, once we had decided to go the plan was to rent for a year to make sure that it was as we thought, although we did go with the mentality that ‘it would work no matter what’ and that villawe weren’t coming back unless something horrific occurred (I think this is very important) and also to make sure that we were in the right area. What is it they say about ‘the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray’…by month 5 we knew that we had made the right choice, we knew we were staying and a fantastic little house with a pool came up for sale. The one thing I will say is prepare for all eventualities, I had a vision of buying a ‘remotish’ villa with some land with a few olive trees and vines, a horse or two, a couple of chickens and maybe a pig for my salami. I had no intentions whatsoever of staying in a village, but guess what?? One forgets that kids need interaction and someone to play with every now and then and being a few miles from anywhere or anyone is not the best idea in the world. Our ‘rental’ property was exactly what I wanted but I soon realised that dropping off and picking up 2 kids (separately) every other day was going to be a huge pain in the arse! So village life it is and again it’s not what I thought. I know the neighbours probably think we are strange (we actually go out in the rain; we sometimes have salad as a starter and we don’t wait 3 hours after eating before get into the pool!) and I’m sure they probably talk about us behind out backs from time to time but after 2 years there have been no wars and I think everyone is still talking to us.


Throughout this blog we will elaborate on certain subjects and give guidance on what we did when it came to arranging for utilities, permits, schools, etc. but in summary I wanted to be brutally honest about how simplistic the process was for us. Be this down to a good plan or that fact that we don’t give Italians enough credit for being as organised as they are; I don’t know but the experience definitely didn’t meet our expectations…in a good way.


I think emigrating to South Africa in the early 80’s and then back to the UK again in 2000 was difficult and seemed like a huge decision/event at the time but maybe due to the availability of the internet and having researched such a move and arranging certain things in advance has made this a (I won’t say comfortable) but a manageable and less stressful experience than we first thought.

39 Comments so far:

  1. Tar says:

    I’m guessing you guys must have been planning for quite a while on deciding whether to emigrate.

    Although you did say it’s a simplistic process, what about domestic matters. Like items not necessarily needed to bring along? Donate to charity?

    Also, did you guys have like a sending off parties? A one last time gathering? All in all, it’s great that everything is settled.

    Talk about world, I guess this is one factor why Britons don’t want UK to be separated from EU. It would dampen and affect the benefits such as this.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Tar,

      For four years before we actually moved we certainly had put a basic pln in place but it was really only in the last year before that we got really busy but it didn’t take up a lot of time, maybe a few hours here and there at weekends or some evenings.

      I’m not entirely sure how the freedom of movement would be impacted if the UK left the EU; from what I understand it may not be as severe as this, but only time will tell. .

  2. Cerulean says:

    I think its amazing that the Italians are such an accommodating people.

    As a Singaporean living in Southeast Asia, I’ve been to Italy only once before. I can’t remember much as I was young but the area we visited was very quaint, the pace of life was pretty measured, and the food was excellent!

    As someone how probably will not be emigrating to Italy, but may be travelling on holiday, do you have any advise on how best to blend in with the culture? Its tricky sometimes when in a new culture not to accidentally offend anyone!


    • Brendan says:

      Hi Cerulean,

      I don’t think you need to worry to much about offending the locals I think Italians are quite used to tourists just visit Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi coast and you know what I mean. The best way to blend in is to learn a few expressions and read up a bit on the country before you travel. if you continue to read my blog I’ll offer some travel tips and assistance with the language and many resources to help you on your travels.

  3. Tyler Dillenburg says:

    First off I really enjoy the picture when I log on to the website. It paints an image in my mind and makes me want to read on to learn more.

    Very good content and in depth writing, makes me want to read all of the pages and posts you have created.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Tyler,

      I’m delighted that you love the image, thankfully I get to see this almost every day. I hope you stop by from time to time and read all the posts.

  4. Hey Brendan,
    Interesting page you have written. I was wondering do you speak Italian?
    Also so you mentioned that it is harder for an American to move there, why is that?

  5. Paul "Hillbillyvapor" says:

    You have written an interesting page here. Do you have to speak Italian to live there? The thought of living in Italy is intriguing. But I think that I like the freedom of the states to much to move to another country.
    Keep up the good work on your site and best of luck to you.
    Hillbilly Vapor

  6. Penny Oates says:

    Great article. Italy sounds great so I am not surprised you decided to up sticks and go. Has it fulfilled it’s expectations since you have been there? With the benefit of hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently?

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Penny,

      It has exceeded our expectations. With the benefit of hindsight I can only look to the language; could we have done a bit more? The first few months were a little stressful for the kids and as a parent you don’t want them to experience any anxiety or discomfort; but overall I think it all worked out. In life you can’t lan for every eventuality.

  7. Alyssa says:

    Hi Brendan,

    You come from a family of adventurers! It must be in your genes. First emigrating from Scotland to South Africa and then from the UK to Italy. You really exhibit an admirable mind-set. Yes, its going to be a change, but what’s the worst that could happen? I like how you guys decided to give it a year, with the option of changing your minds if it didn’t work (even though you really wanted it to work). My husband and I are applying the same mindset to our plans. In about a year we want to move onto a boat full-time. I keep telling my husband, nothing is final or irreversible…if we don’t like it we can always move back on land. I’ll have to share your website with my step-daughter. She’s quite adventuresome and I think she has plans to live overseas. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  8. Johnson says:

    I never thought i could come across a review on immigration and it’s specification.

    Thought it may not be of any favorable benefit to me but still i want to take out the time to appreciate you for writing a review on this as i believe it will be of great benefit to so many.

    Your review is quite information as am sure will be very useful too

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Johnson,

      Although there are resources on ‘how to emigrate to Italy’ there is nothing from a personal expereince and so i thought it would be good to show a different perspective, not just all the facts.

  9. Jon says:

    I love the scenic picture at the top of your site. It’s a beautiful image and very serene, it kind of paints a different picture of Italy I hadn’t seen before. I also liked the section on pros and cons of moving to Italy. I thought the information was very detailed and informative and can definitely help folks decide on whether they would like to move to Italy. I have never been to Italy myself but have always wanted to go, and after seeing your site I’d like to go sooner rather than later.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks for your comments. There are many sides to Italy and that is what I love about it; there is something for everyone. I’m glad I’ve added Italy to your list of places to see, you won’t be disappointed.

  10. Gabriel says:

    Hi Brendam.

    You know, I’m from Brazil but my family is from Italy. Although I am in the fifth generation of Brazilians now, all the generations before me were Italians, meaning everyone married a Brazilian-Italian along the way, so at some extent my blood is Italian…

    I always though to go to Italy and perhaps even live there, are there many Latin Americans there? Would you know if immigration is very strict towards us? Or if they would consider the Italian bloodline when accepting/declining a Visa application?

    Thanks! Addios!

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Gabriel,

      in our region we do have quite a few Latin Americans from Puerto Rico but I’ve not came across any Brazilians in my travels. Immigration is no stricter for you than any other country and I’m not entirely sure if your bloodline would work in your advantage; generally Italy is more interested to see if you can support yourself while you live here or not.

  11. Anh Nguyen says:


    Just when I read the question, I though the answer was “yes” thanks to the European Union. I would love to hear more about the processes and the paperworks you have to go through while moving. In truth, I’ve always love to travel and stay in different places so I am sure I’d be able to learn a lot from you.

    Thanks in advance!

  12. Jam says:

    Nice and interesting topic you got there. We are Asians & our family planning to move in Europe but no specific country yet. Still, we are doing some research about that huge decision. This article makes us want to try Italy and know more about the country. We love Italian food i think Italy is one of the best place in Europe. Our main concern now is the visa application for sure we need a lot of research before we can finalize all our plans.

    • Brendan says:

      I wish you lots of luck in your journey. It’s truly exciting. I’m adding as much content as I can as quickly as I can that might help with your journey, so keep looking on from time to time. Drop me a line if you have any questions

  13. roamy says:

    Hello there
    Glad l found your site, l lived in Verona for a year in 2013, but l did nt consider moving permanently as l did not know the process of asking for permits.
    You have made me think very hard as you say moving to Italy is easy for Europeans, i like the weather in Italy more than the weather we have here in Switzerland.Your way of life so relaxed.
    Once again thanks for this very informative post,will make things easier for me in the future should i decide to move to Italy permanrntly.

  14. Surrounding Beauty says:

    Hi Brendan,

    Interesting read on your experience emigrating to Italy. Was to tough making the decision to move? I can imagine the amount of work and planning involved in the move. I’m curious, how did you manage to move all your furnitures or do you leave them behind in your previous house?

    • Brendan says:

      It wasn’t difficult making the decision to move as I am an Italophile at heart and Italy feels like home; so it felt like I was going home. I think people are very surprised when they learn that it wasn’t as difficult as we thought it might be. We had our furniture shipped but again that happens frequently in Europe so that also wasn’t such a big deal; many removal companies will take 3 days door to door.

  15. Alan says:

    Hi thanks for this great post.

    I agree with what you say, i think being European is a great advantage, i used to live in Spain ( Born in Argentina ) and whatever my family wanted to do there were delays all the time and arguments.

    None of those arguments became a real problem but it is true that people from outside Europe find it much harder to travel in it than their residents.

  16. Heather Grace says:

    I might need to agree with you that moving to Europe is a big move for an American. My brother (American) moved to France about two years ago and it has been quite the adjustment. And what you said about utilities and services is quite funny and true! My brother waited nearly 3 months for internet haha.

  17. JP says:

    That’s quite an interesting story. I can’t imagine the hardships of wanting to move to another country. I personally have tought of moving out many times, but never happen to do it so as most of my life has already been settled here.

    Your blog gives encouragement to anyone that wants to settle in another country for the first time.

    • Brendan says:

      Relocating isn’t for everyone. ‘Home is where the heart is’ at the end of the day and the ‘grass isn’t always greener on the other side’ but if your heart is set on something, go for it!

  18. JeffWA says:

    Hi Brendan,
    That was an interesting article that you wrote for your website as you put into great detail all that you, (and I presume your family) had to go through as you moved to Italy. I liked how you first made a move back in the early 80’s going from Scotland to South Africa. No doubt you knew what would be expected now with this move. Only with today’s technology now in place as you stated you anticipated waiting for such needed services now as the Internet, cell-phone/mobile provider in addition to the other necessities you mentioned.

    As I was reading your article, and no doubt aware of the situation going on all across Europe with the tremendous influx of illegal immigrants escaping out of the Middle East- Syria especially because of some serious problems taking place there, I thought of how many of those people have fared in their move to Europe.

    No doubt those people more than any other group that you mentioned, (you stated Americans) would truly have the hardest time coming into a strange country with little possessions with them. They would need housing and jobs in order to survive for long, in addition to the long process of getting their immigrant status accepted by officials.

    I have a pen pal in Germany and quite frankly though she supports what the govt. and Chancellor Merkle is doing nevertheless my friend told me that the country is now one big, mess with such a huge number of illegal immigrants living in Germany and the need for them to be supported. I can only imagine that it is like that with all European countries, Italy included.

    Have you noticed the same problems so far in Italy after you arrived? You were from the U.K., your status no doubt accepted easier by Italian officials compared to the family of 4 who has escaped by boat from Syria with literally nothing on their backs.

    Indeed your article still highlighted the minor problems that you had to go through. I can’t fathom what it must be for people coming from the Middle East.

    Great article, Brandon!

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Jeff,

      A really great point…this bolsters my argument even more…its not that difficult moving to Italy if you put it into the context of what the refugees have to go through. The difference being that we have choice and generally they don’t but its amazing how quickly one can adapt no matter what life throws at you and a better life can be achieved elsewhere.

      I’m not sure exactly why the refugees don’t seem to stop here, but seem to be more focused on getting to Germany, the UK or Scandinavia (maybe they don’t like pizza!) but I’m not seeing huge numbers of refugees here, they seem to be passing through. Anyway, we wish them well and for those who stop here we hope they get to experience the wonders that Italy ash to offer.

  19. Chris Towers says:

    Thanks for this information.

    This is not the first time I have visited you and I always come back here and there as I have quite fond memories of Italy when I was there.

    I know being part of the EU, it makes setting up home abroad a lot easier.

    I have a question though, as I know there is a referendum approaching in the UK, and was wondering how things could change if they opted out. Any ideas how that would effect people wanting to live abroad in other EU countries?



    • Brendan says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your comments. I understand that there might never be a total divorce but the UK may remain as a European partner similar to Norway, this would entail a bit more paperwork than there is presently but I don’t anticipate that things will change dramatically but this could present an opportunity for a great blog post.

  20. Derek Marshall says:

    Hi there,

    I’d definitely say that emigrating is far easier for us European Union citizens that it is for anyone outside of that union. Simple reason is, as you stated the “freedom of movement” that we very much enjoy, no visa required, no work permit ..nothing..even our driving licences are valid! . It is comparable for some one in America just moving from one state to another even if very far apart say NYC to LA. But there is there language and cultural difference in Europe between countries.

    I have experience of what you talk about having moved from the UK to Spain.

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