My Expat Life in Italy

My Expat Life in Italy

By Alex Benaud

Life in Italy is beautiful, exciting, fun-filled and easy to get used to. My two years living in Italy were amazing; it has been a life-changing experience that helped me to understand what really matters to me in life. I can honestly say I have been quite lucky to have the opportunity to live in one of, if not the most historically rich countries that our planet has to offer, all while working and living like a local.

I had already travelled to Italy three times by the age of 20 and was adamant that it was a place where I wanted to spend an extended amount of time without having to worry about my 90-day tourist visa expiring. So after returning from my third visit to my homeland of Australia, I decided it was time to quit my job and make the change of countries, culture and lifestyle. I booked my ticket almost immediately after my return, saved up some coin, got my visa sorted and jetted off with a one-way ticket to the land of pizza and pasta!

I had made numerous friends on my previous visits to Italy and had arranged to stay at one of my friend’s house for around €100 per month. I was now situated in a small coastal village called Saludecio, which can be found in the province of Rimini on the northeastern side of the boot.

In the first months I studied religiously on my already semi-fluent Italian until I thought I was ready enough to start handing out résumés. Now Italy’s economy isn’t exactly as thriving as say that of Australia with the unemployment rate for under-25’s a staggering 32.3%. Nonetheless, I convinced myself that anything was possible and I was going to give it my all to be able to remain in Italy, at least with some sort of income. As I handed out résumé after résumé I was dealt with the same, slightly humorous, response from each workplace: ‘Che cosa!? Sei venuto dall’Australia a cercare lavoro in Italia? Sei matto!’ which roughly translates to ‘What!? You came all the way from Australia to work in Italy? You are crazy!’ Even after hearing this for the 20th time I continued and continued to hand out résumés, something had to give. Finally I was accepted at a local company about a 10-minute scooter ride from where I was staying that made safety signs for trucks throughout Europe. No, not everyone aspires to be a screen printer of safety signs for trucks nine hours a day, six days a week for a small wage of around $11 an hour (I will state that in Australia we earn a minimum of around $20 an hour).

However, I was more than happy to have found a way to make ends meet and felt incredibly proud of myself for achieving a personal goal to work in a foreign country while speaking a foreign language.

Now with the job situation sorted I could enjoy the lifestyle that I had fallen in love with. It is no secret that Italy is renowned for it’s food and wine that I thoroughly enjoyed most afternoons at the local bar during aperitivo (happy hour). I bought a scooter to roam around, learned to cook from some of my friends’ mothers and even managed to fall in love with a lovely Italian girl from the local village. Life in Italy was treating me well. But good things can’t last forever, at least not legally.

As my year in Italy was coming to a close, I found myself wanting to stay longer. Now, just to clarify my visa situation, we Australians are granted a one-year working holiday visa with the possibility to work for up to six months. But I was still curious as to whether I could somehow extend my stay, I couldn’t see why not, I had a regular paying job and my employee was more than willing to extend my contract. So I headed down to the local police station, took my ticket and waited in line until I was summoned after hours of waiting. I asked whether it was possible to extend my stay and to my amazement the officer casually said “Si, no problem, sign here and send this to this address here and we will take care of it. Ciao.” I couldn’t believe my luck, but deep down I knew it couldn’t be that easy but I ignored those thoughts and kept on living la dolce vita.

Not less than 8 months later I received an unexpected visit from the local polizia, they said there were some problems with my visa and that I should contact the immigration office. I did so and they told me that I had to leave the country immediately as I had overstayed my visa by 8 months and had been working illegally! I pleaded my case, told them that I had been given the wrong information but there was nothing to do, la dolce vita was coming to it’s end.

I left my work with the excuse a family member was unwell back home and told my friends arriverderci as I made the journey back down-under.

Although my time in Italy didn’t end exactly how I would have wanted, I am proud of myself for what I had achieved. I made the jump into the darkness; I left my job and family and went in search of something completely different; changed scenery, changed languages and made new friends. I would recommend to anyone contemplating leaving their job to move overseas for an ‘experience’ to just do it! A saying that I live by and something that keeps me motivated to see new places and meet new people is: “everybody knows something that you don’t”. So just go.

[Photography courtesy of Alex Benaud]

Alex Benaud is 23 years old and from Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia. His love of travel and exploration began when he left school at the age of 17 and booked a ticket to Indonesia and traveled with a friend up through the Sumatran jungle. Since then his passion for visiting new places has taken him across the globe, meeting new people, learning life lessons and finding what makes him feel successful in life. Alex loves taking photos and surfing wherever he goes. He speaks fluent Italian as he lived and worked there between the ages of 19 and 22. He also funds his travels by working at a health retreat curing people with chronic illness by encouraging healthy, organic and positive lifestyle choices. He’s only at the beginning of his life journey, but he plans to make it one to remember. Find him on Instagram @AlexBenaud.

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