So, you’ve watched La vita è bella (Life Is Beautiful, 1977) one too many times and have decided to move to Italy. Great choice, although hopefully you have other reasons to be there too. After all, moving countries can get pretty complex - and costly. Here’s a few tips on how to keep costs down, before and after the big move.
Unless your main reason for moving to Italy is to zoom around in a vintage Fiat 500, you should consider whether or not you actually need a car at all. In the major cities, parking spaces are as rare as spaghetti trees, and the roads are often heavily congested, or pedestrianised. That’s not to mention the administrative costs that come with car ownership - these are high in Italy.
The quality of public transport varies, but if you’re in Rome, for instance, it’s possible to get by with ease, and it should work out far cheaper. Go on, take the plunge and get on a bus instead.
Expat moves are big business for all manner of professional firms, so whether you’re after van hire, shipping or even someone to manage the whole process for you, there are plenty of options if you’re willing to pay for them.
On the other hand, now might be the perfect time to cash in any favours that friends with mini vans might owe you. The more of the moving process that you can handle yourself, the more money you save - and the more control you have over what you take and what you don’t. After all, a moving company might end up boxing everything, including stuff you really shouldn’t take. The Italians are a stylish people. Do you really want to take all those old T-shirts with you?
Perhaps this isn’t the greatest plan if you’re coming from, say, Australia, but if you’re moving from another European country then there’s a surprising amount to be said for getting a coach. There are a number of Europe-wide coach operators, and seats are often far cheaper than a plane ticket. Plus your carbon footprint stays a little lower.
There’s another advantage too. While planes are understandably strict about the number of bags you can take - and what each of them weighs - you might find yourself able to take more with you if you go by coach. That’s a cheaper - and easier - way to transport another bag’s worth of your stuff.
Get yourself a good book, though. And a cushion.
Hack 4: Don’t get stuck with leftover bills from home. Adult your life by doing a little extra planning.
True, you might need a gym membership to work off all those extra gelato pounds. But your local sports centre in Basingstoke isn't the best place to do it anymore. That’s right: the time has come to cut up your membership card, clean out your locker, and cancel your direct debit.
The same applies to your magazine subscriptions and credit cards. And whatever you do, don’t forget to sort out your household bills. Not to worry - plenty more of those to deal with once you’re in Italy.
Opening an Italian bank account is a relatively straightforward process, but you might well have to wait until you’ve moved there. That means that you’ll need to figure out how to finance the very beginning of your trip - ideally, without having to stuff your suitcase full of euros.
If you get a borderless multi-currency account with TransferWise, you can easily store your money in euros - or any of 28 other currencies - from well before you move, and you can withdraw that money into an account, in euros, pounds or US dollars, at any time. The account comes with its own local account details including an IBAN, so you can also make and receive payments from it, without paying international transaction fees. Plus, from early 2018, consumer debit cards will be available.
You’ll only be charged a small transparent fee upfront and will always get the real mid-market rate when converting your money to euros. So until your Italian bank account is completely set up, a borderless account might be the perfect way to start your trip.
Like a lot of European countries, Italy has been relatively slow to go plastic when it comes to payments. And a lot of businesses have a real aversion to paying the fees that come with virtual transactions - so much so, in fact, that they’re often willing to charge a cheaper rate in exchange for your notes and coins.
So if haven’t been to an Italian ATM recently, try asking for a sconto (discount) next time you make a purchase. It’s surprising how often you’ll be in luck.
Italian TV will set you back around €100 a year as part of your electricity bill, if you own a set. You don’t currently have to pay the license fee for a computer, though, so the smart thing to do is simply not to get a TV. You can still binge-watch your favourite series online to your heart’s content.
Hack 8: Check what’s included in your furnished apartment - and what isn’t included in your unfurnished one.
Yes, this sounds obvious. And you really can’t fault the Italians for logic here. But a furnished (*ammobiliato*)*non ammobiliato*)
Of course, there are plenty of shades in between these two extremes, which is why you should find out exactly what you’re in for before you go. You don’t want to find yourself stuck with more plates than you can fit in the cupboard… and equally, if you’re not even going to have a cupboard, you should probably draw up a plan of action pretty quickly.
Hack 9: Don’t forget to think about and budget for your four-legged friend if you’re bringing your pet with you.
To avoid having your beloved pooch placed in quarantine, make sure they’re microchipped, vaccinated, and equipped with a pet passport.
It’s a good idea to check with specialists like PetTravel.com before you go, especially if you have more than 5 animals to take with you - like elsewhere in the EU, restrictions after the fifth pet tend to change. Oh, and you can’t take your Doberman Pinscher to Venice.
Italy is a great place to move to, but its well-justified reputation for red tape means that it can be hard for a new arrival to make the most of living there. So keep an eye on your costs - but most importantly, enjoy your time there. In bocca al lupo!