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How to Make the Move to Live in Italy
A Q&A with Someone Who Did It
Since I started writing this column, many of you have written to me. Every so often, you can help me offer information to the masses. A reader, Felice Berenson, 56, is an ESL and Italian teacher in Boca Raton, Florida. Before she moved to the Sunshine State, she lived in Florence, Italy from 1969 to 1993. She even published a book of Italian poetry - and became an authentic Florentine. "Italy is a tribute to life - elegance, love, friendship, honor and tradition," she says. "You can fall under its spell easily, and you will never be the same again."
I asked her to answer some of your most common questions about moving to Italy, and she responded thoughtfully in an e-mail. Below are edited excerpts of her responses:
Q: What made you decide to live in Italy?
I applied to graduate school in Florence through the Rosary College in River Forest, Ill., which is now part of Dominion University. It had a graduate program in art history, visual arts and music at the Villa Schifanoia, San Domenico (on the way to Fiesole). I wanted an advanced degree, but it was also the means to an end. I sailed with three trunks and seven suitcases in August 1969 and embarked on the most wonderful adventure of my life. I lived nel centro of Florence, first on Via dei Rustici behind Piazza Signoria and then in Via Santa Reparata between Piazza San Marco and Piazza Independenza.
Q: Did you speak the language when you first arrived?
One of the most important things is understanding quantities [and the metric system]. I was buying a half kilo of everything because I was still thinking in pounds, which forced me to throw out lots of food. They loved me in the neighborhood, until one day the very nice lady from whom I bought wine and olive oil asked if I was living alone. When I said, "Yes," she asked why I wasn't buying "un etto" di prosciutto or formaggio, etc. "Un etto" was a phrase I had never known. From that day on, my grocery bill dropped radically and so did the amount of little garbage bags I used.
I was also very lucky to have had friends from having already studied there and then was introduced to a wonderful group of people who are still my friends who, with santa pazienza, explained words, gave me synonyms and did not translate. Barriers broke also because I wanted to integrate completely, unlike some of my companions at graduate school who returned to the United States after one semester because they couldn't or wouldn't adapt.
Q: What is your number one piece of advice you would offer to those considering such a move?
Q: What resources should one consult when planning a move to Italy?
Q: What's the biggest mistake you made?
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