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Episode #068: Moving to Bella Italia

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If this past year has taught us anything, it is to take the bull by the horns and not keep our dreams on hold. This week we are talking about what many of us have long dreamt of – making a move to Italy for good.

Show notes

In this episode, we talk to Thea Duncan – who made the dream of living in Italy a reality. Thea was born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised in Miami, Florida but, after finding herself called to Italy and a semester abroad near Rome in 2003, she found herself studying and then working in Milan… and decided to stay permanently.

Now married to an Italian, together they have a son and Thea runs an online business, Doing Italy, helping people from all over the world realize their dreams of living in Italy. What a great job! Thea shares some of the things she’s learned along the way to make a move to Italy go smoothly.

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. When trying to decide where you might want to live in Italy – some questions worth asking yourself to help decide where you will ultimately end up are:
    • what sort of lifestyle do I want to live?
    • do I want to live in a big city?
    • do I want to live in a smaller town?
    • do I want it to be warm?
    • do I want it to be cold?
    • do I want to have to drive a car or do I want to have to just be able to walk down the street and get my groceries?
  2. The personality of each region (or even town or village) in Italy is dramatically different. For instance, Milan is  a ‘go go go’ city but when you’re in Molise, in the Abruzzo region, they are known to tell you “piano, piano, piano” – slow, slow, slow
  3. When thinking of moving to Italy, unless you’re retiring, people should take into consideration what they’re going to be doing to make a living. This is as important, if not more important than deciding where you want to live, as employment levels or business opportunities differ greatly between places
  4. There can be great tax incentives to live in Italy – for instance, if you’re a retiree (especially if you’re going to some of the smaller villages or towns), if you want to start a business or if you have a really high net worth
  5. Italian cities are cosmopolitan but still Italian at heart! Thea loves the Milano city lifestyle – as well as the fabulous Italian food, she has the option of sushi or a hamburger if she fancies. However, things are also really Italian – like she is good friends with her local butchers and she can phone her local bakers to put a couple of loaves aside for her.
  6. Italy is known for its bureaucracy, but don’t let that put you off. Everywhere has bureaucracy and with the right advice and support, once you’ve passed the major hurdles of visas, finding places to live/work, and the various bits and pieces that Thea covers in her course, you can settle in and concentrate on enjoy your new life
  7. As well as wonderful food, beautiful scenery, aperitivo with friends and going on vacation for two months in the mountains or at the seaside, there are other, more unexpected, advantages to moving to Italy. When Thea had her son, due to her husband’s accrued vacation and substantial paternity leave, they spent a whole month together as a new family in the Italian Alps.
  8. Italy is ranked extremely highly by the World Health Organization in terms of health outcomes and the health care system, however, the access to health care does change depending on where you are in the country. So when you’re thinking about where you’re going to end up for good – then this is worth taking into consideration, as well as access to English speaking doctors, if your Italian is not so good. As Thea puts it “it’s not such a big deal if you don’t really understand what’s going on when you’re getting your tomatoes. But when you’re talking about your health, it’s important”
  9.  Thea’s husband’s home town Tellaro, on the Ligurian coast, has two amazing traditions
    • Sagra Del Polpo –  the story goes that pirates were attacking the village and the octopus (polpo) climbed up the bell tower of the village and rang the bell. And to honor that event, there is a festival, of course, to eat the octopus!!
    • In November the villagers start making their own candles, which they cover the entire village with, hundreds and hundreds of candles on Christmas Eve. Then they have the festival where the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus emerge from under the sea and it’s brought out and onto the harbor to huge cheers, and it all climaxes with a fireworks display.
  10. Thea has spoken and done research with people of many nationalities – now living all over Italy, about their experiences and pain points when moving and is wanting to help others learn from all her and their mistakes. She has put together a program that is super informative and helpful for people to avoid those mistakes and make a move to Italy go as smoothly as possible, with the aim that they can enjoy living there as much as she does!

About our guest – Thea Duncan

Thea Duncan is the Founder of Doing Italy, an online training company that helps people gain the knowledge they need to move to Italy with ease while avoiding many of the pitfalls that negatively affect other expats when moving abroad.

Trinidad and Tobago-born, and Miami-raised, Duncan spent much of her life traveling the globe, before Italy captured her heart. She studied for her master’s degree at Milan’s Bocconi University in the early 2000s, later holding roles with some of Italy’s most storied fashion and design houses – including Gucci and Luxottica.

Doing Italy, which began as Thea’s effort to reconnect with those travelers and curate her Milan stories and tips, now offers the opportunity to get an even more authentic understanding of Italian culture by helping them move abroad. The company offers 1:1 sessions and group coaching where students dive into just about everything a foreigner should know about moving to Italy. This includes insights into the Italian job market, to why, if an Italian home announcement says an apartment is unfurnished, it most likely means you literally need to bring your own kitchen sink.

Doing Italy’s exciting new program offers live training of the 4-steps to moving to Italy with ease, without the fear and the frustration of figuring out how. Register here to realize your dolce vita dreams of … aperitivo with friends, leisurely strolls, historic beauty, and of course lots (and lots) of incredible Italian food…

You can also find Thea on these social media channels:

Food & Drink

  • pasticcini literally meaning “small pastries” they are often served for dessert, as a treat to accompany espresso, and for celebrations with sparkling wine
  • aperitivopre-meal drink and snacks specifically meant to whet your appetite
  • polenta – made with coarse stone-ground cornmeal, originated in Northern Italy and often referred to as “Italian grits.” 
  • strudela type of layered sweet pastry with a filling. It became popular in the 18th century throughout the Habsburg Empire. Known as being part of Austrian cuisine but is also common in Northern Italy
  • cozze ripiene – stuffed mussels from the Ligurian region
  • Polpo – Italian word for octopus and eaten at Tellaro’s sagra food festival

Places mentioned in the show

  • Milana city in northern Italy and the capital of the Lombardy region and known as the fashion capital of the world
  • Tellaro – Thea’s husband’s home village on the Liguria coast in northern Italy
  • Pescara – a coastal town in the Abruzzo region, on the Adriatic Sea
  • L’Aquila – meaning ‘Eagle’, it’s a city about an hour outside of Rome in the Abruzzo region
  • Ortygia – a small island which is the historical centre of the city of Syracuse, Sicily
  • Piedmont – a region of Italy bordering France and Switzerland, who’s capital city is Turin
  • Friuli Venezia Giulia – a northeast Italian region bordering Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea
  • Molise – a mountainous Italian region with a stretch of coastline on the Adriatic Sea

Resources

  • Rotary International – Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.
  • Bocconi University – based in Milan, Bocconi is considered the best business school in Italy
  • Gucci – Italian high-end fashion brand
  • Loro Piana – Italian fabrics and clothing company specializing in high-end

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

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