My husband and I had decided that moving to Italy to submit our papers for recognition of Italian citizenship would be simpler than waiting multiple years for an appointment at the Italian Consulate. I had read about ‘fast track’ application which sounded appealing.
Rather than wait in the USA to submit papers, we could be living La Dolce Vita in Italy while our papers were processed. Not only appealing, but ‘fast track’ sounded…fast. I like fast.
The first thing we set about doing was finding a rental apartment or house in Italy. No, I take that back. That’s what I set about doing, while my husband concentrated on getting our house in California ready to sell. We were going to leave it all behind. Sell the house, sell the cars, decide what we wanted to keep in storage till we knew where we’d land, donate to charity, or give away to friends and family.
Still sounded easy peasy till we were in the throes of everything all at once. Then it seemed overwhelming.
Most people we talked with thought we were crazy, naive, ignorant, and just plain delusional about living in another country. Truth be told, in hindsight, maybe they were all just a little bit right.
Moving to Italy and choosing a town or village in which to live was partly liberating (endless choices!) and partly overwhelming (endless choices!). We could at least narrow our choices to southern Italy (where my ancestors heralded) and Sicily.
The cost of living was generally more affordable than the north and more rural. We were hoping for a bit of a garden for my hubby to tend, a seaview, a nice kitchen for me to cook, and an economical rental. We thought we were reasonable, but it really was a tall order.
I spent hours researching every rental website, looking at photos, emailing the owners, and bookmarking possibilities. After months, we found a darling house on the north coast of Sicily. Right on the sea, fantastic kitchen, rooftop terrace, a bit of garden. It had it all! And the owner was willing to negotiate a discount for a longterm rental of six months. Woo hoo! We were all set.
We started to realize that we were going to need help in Italy submitting our papers. Neither of us is fluent in Italian, and we knew there would be lots of legal documentation that we would have to understand. We read an article by an immigration attorney in Italy, and we decided to call him for a consultation.
We had our list of questions…everything was getting answered…seemed pretty straightforward. Until.
The attorney asked us about the place we had rented in Sicily. “How many years does your rental contract cover?” Six months, we replied. “Not good enough,” he replied. “The authorities require at least a one year rental agreement.”
Ok, well, we’ll ask the owner if she’ll extend the contract.
Next question the attorney asked: “is your rental contract registered?”
Huh? We didn’t even know what a registered rental contract meant! Apparently, the rental contract needs to be filed with some government office in Italy (my guess is so they can collect some rental taxes). We were advised to ask the owner about registering the contract.
And that’s when we hit another snag. The owner would not extend the contract to cover one year, but worse, she would only ‘register’ the contract if we coughed up 1500 more euro!
My guess is that the additional fee she demanded would cover the taxes she would be required to pay on a registered rental contract. Well, if we wanted to pay property taxes, we would pay it on our own property, not property belonging to someone else!
No thank you. So we parted ways.
Back to the drawing board for a different rental. And that’s when I really started paying attention to the rental disclaimers everywhere (no contract, month-to-month only). Wasn’t there any rental that we could get for one year where the landlord would be willing to register it?
After getting nowhere for months, I really started getting nervous. After all the work we’d done getting documents, it never occurred to me that finding a rental that would satisfy all the government requirements would be such a huge obstacle.
Back to the attorney with our tale of woe. He reported that most people wait to find their rental once they’re in Italy, not before. He recommended a relocation specialist his office works with. We contacted her and got a prompt reply. Good sign.
Since she was based in Puglia on Italy’s heel on the Adriatic Sea, that pretty much sealed the deal on what region we would settle in, at least in the beginning.
We explained our needs and preferences. Not a problem; she would do her best to find something suitable. The plan was for us to fly into Puglia, stay at a centrally located hotel, and she would escort us to inspect possible accommodations that she had already vetted for us. Good plan.
All we needed was a date of arrival.
As with everything else in this entire journey, before you can do this, you have to do that. And before you can do that, you have to do this other thing. On and on until you eventually find the beginning.
So before we could set a date and book a one-way airline ticket, we had to sell the house. And before we could sell the house, hubby had to finish getting it ready for the market: painting, new tile floors, clearing out excess furniture. On and on.
We underestimated how long it would take to get the house ready. We underestimated how long it would take to sell the house. Basically, we have underestimated everything.
Even when we got an offer on the house, it was touch-and-go about a closing date since there was still some negotiating back and forth. Suddenly we had, not only a closing date, but a 2 week deadline to clear out of the house. Egads!
Those two weeks were the most stressful and chaotic of our lives. Simply awful. And we still had to book our airfare, and we had 3 autos to figure out what to do with them.
Three cars and two weeks to go. Funny about life. First my husband’s pickup truck died. Repair costs were more than the truck was worth. So he gave it to our mechanic.
Two cars and ten days to go. What to do with the remaining vehicles.
A contractor friend of ours decided he wanted the SUV. Sold.
One car and 2 days to go before our one-way flight to Italy and our new life.
Problem solved. That remaining car also broke down with repairs costing more than the car was worth. So we donated it to a charity the day before we left.
No turning back now. Two weeks before, we had owned a house and 3 cars. Now, nothing. We decided The Universe was telling us something. We just hoped we were hearing correctly.