Interview with Elaine in Rome
Date of Interview: September 3, 2006
Area of Italy you live or will live in?
Let us know a little about yourself?
I am married with two grown sons from a prior marriage. My husband and I were lucky to be able to retire early due to surging house prices in CA. We sold our house in Laguna Beach, stored or sold the contents, booked an apartment in Rome on line and flew to Italy.
Why did you decide to move to Italy?
My oldest son had a serious medical problem and I wanted to spend some quality time with him and my other son. We came to Italy for 3 weeks in May, 2004 and had a wonderful time. I was upset with myself, though, because I couldn't speak or understand the language. When we returned, my son and I took a semester of Italian at the community college and it was then that I knew that I wanted to move to Italy though I did not know for how long.
What type of process did you go through to be able to move here?
We came first without a Visa. After just a few days, my husband and I knew we wanted to stay for a long time. Fortunately, I found this website so I knew what was required and that we would need to return to the US. We couldn't afford a long stay so I was worried about the time frame to obtain the Visa. In order to expedite things, I got together everything that we needed. In order to get the FBI fingerprint record, I downloaded the form from the FBI website, bought a black stamp pad and we fingerprinted ourselves. We had the FBI return the form to my son and when he had received it we flew back. We went immediately to the Consulate in LA. I thought that we had everything but the woman wanted our marriage certificate. We drove to Orange County where we had gotten married and picked up a certified copy and returned to the consulate the next day. Then she had a problem with my name. I have always used my middle name but my SS# and passport have my full name. After showing her everything in my possession (credit cards, etc.) with the names shown both ways she agreed to accept it. We had a flight back to Rome in 5 weeks and I was very nervous leaving our passports. I checked the FedEx website everyday to see if the envelope we had left with the Consulate had been sent yet. Finally, 2 days before the flight, it was picked up in LA and we received our passports complete with Visas the next day! I was more intimidated about going to the Questura for the PDiS. We went to the main Questura in Rome which is very far from the center. It was closed even though their website said that they would be open. We went back the next day and got in line with the many, many people there and even managed to get a number and to get in the correct line. But the officials were quite confused about the Elective Residency Visa and after much consultation amongst themselves, we were advised to go to the Questura in Trastevere where we live. We went there the next day and the day after and the day after. Finally with the deadline upon us we were admitted and processed within an hour. We were told to come back in 2 months for the permanent Permesso but it has been 3 months now and it still isn't ready.
What problems did you run into during the initial process and how were you able to fix them ?
Besides the issue with my name we had a problem with the length of our rental contract. It was only for 9 months because we wanted to find a more economical apartment now that we were familiar with the area. We had put on the Visa form that we wanted to stay indifinitely but the woman at the Consulate was adamant that we had to have a rental contract for the entire length of our requested stay so I ended up saying that we wanted to stay for 9 months. The Visa is for the 9 months but I am hoping just to renew the PDiS as it says on this website.
How long have you been here?
We have been here since June, 2005
What type of adjustment problems have you had?
We have made many mistakes but we know this is a learning experience. With humor and patience we have turned what might have been problems into fond memories. We moved from a big house to a small apartment. (A noisy one at that with accordion music till the wee hours!) We had two cars and now we walk almost everywhere or we take the bus. We don't watch TV and we don't miss it. As a matter of fact except for family and friends there is nothing that we miss and we are grateful for every day that we have been here.
What do you wish someone had told you before you made the leap?
I did not know that the language would be so difficult. After the one semester of Italian, I went through 3 levels of Plimseur Italian CD's and 2 months of immersion classes after I got here. I can get by in almost any situation now but want to conjugate correctly and use correct grammar. I force myself to converse with people and the best thing that happened with the language was "helping" a local man with his English. We would meet for an hour twice a week over coffee and we laughed so hard sometimes it hurt. A great friendship has been formed but my Italian is much better too. There is a man at the pet shop that I go to who just asked me to come by to talk so he can speak to me in English and I to him in Italian. I am normally shy but I am putting myself "out there"
What inside secret could you pass on to others looking to move over?
Many Italians seem rude and abrupt at first. We didn't take it personally and have found them to be warm, friendly people. They just took a little time to warm up to us. But we have formed many friendships here, more in 1 year here that in 8 years in our last neighborhood! We brought our dog and it was frustrating finding a kennel, vet, etc. But with the internet and common sense, we have found everything that we need.
Do you have any disappointments, things you thought would happen but haven't for whatever reasons ?
The difference here was beyond imagining beforehand. But it turned out better than we hoped and we both still have on the rose colored glasses. We are grateful for everyday here and are happier than we have ever been.
What has changed about you since you have been here ?
I am losing my shyness. I am more patient and laid back. I am not in a hurry!
Do you think that you will stay forever?
For today, there is no place else that we would rather be.