Frequently Asked Questions: Studying, Moving, Working, Loving In Florence, Italy


surviving in italy

Every day I get loads of questions ranging from “how do I study in Italy?” to “Is it true that Europeans aren’t circumcised?” I’ve decided to make it easier for all of you who have questions by putting all of the most commonly asked questions here. Please, if you  have a question put it in the comments. Did I miss something? Add it below! I’ll slowly be adding to this page daily. I’m hoping to have it all bulked up with every possible question asap.

Love And Relationships

1) What do your friends/family think about you being married to an Italian?

Most people think that I spend all day eating homemade pasta that little Italian grandmothers drop off in my kitchen every morning. Then I frolic through vineyards, after that my husband romances me with his sexy Italian and we make love in a wildflower field. “You’re so lucky, tell me what it’s like!” People are either really weirded out that I moved away, or are really fascinated with what they believe is my Tuscan romance life. I suppose that part of this is true. Sometimes we eat homemade pasta but we make it ourselves and it only turns out half of the time and then we have to clean up the 2 pounds of flour that litters my kitchen. I have walked through a vineyard once but it was with my father-in-law so that’s not super romantic. My husband and I have totally done “it” outside in a field in Tuscany but it was mostly like, “Oh my God! Hurry up! DO I HEAR HORSE HOOVES!? Can we get arrested for this!? Is it true that snakes fall out of trees here? Sonofabitch! Don’t let a snake near my vagina!” People at home are very attracted to the idea of living in Italy and marrying a “sexy” Italian guy. The reality of all of that is certainly a bit different than the fantasy. It becomes a little frustrating when you struggle (and expats do struggle) and your family and friends are like, “What? But you’re in ITALY!” as if shitty stuff can’t happen to you because ITALY! On the other hand, it’s kind of badass so I get it, and I totally used to be one of those people.

2) Any funny language barriers or stories with your husband’s family and communicating with them? 

There are so many issues with language and my family that I could write an entire blog just about that. If you move to Italy or date an Italian, language is everything. Learn the language way before you come over, learn it even if you both live in the US. Even after you learn it, when it’s your second language and not your mother-tongue there will be mistakes and people will sometimes be patient with you and sometimes not. Once I accidentally told my mother-in-law that I “fucked at my friends house over the weekend,” instead of “I escaped to my friends house.” That was fun. Seriously though, my biggest mistake was not learning Italian  BEFORE I moved to Italy.

3) Is it frowned upon to get married (sign the marriage license) in the US but still hold a wedding ceremony in Italy

It depends on the family. My husband and I had 3 “weddings.” First we got married in a town hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, just to do the legal thing. Then a week later we had a ceremony in Park City, Utah. Six months later we had a ceremony in Cassino, Italy. The reason we did it that way is because it was a lot easier to do it in the US first. Doing a legal marriage in Italy first is kind of a pain in the ass. Were my in-laws happy about it? Nope. They were pretty annoyed actually. However, I don’t think that most parents would care. Many couples do this and most of the time the parents are understanding. Honestly though, having two full out weddings SUCKS so if I could do it again I would just elope and have one wedding that my closest friends and our parents could come to. I’m not religious but like 99% of Italians are catholic and a lot of parents will shit their pants if you don’t get married in a church. The good news is that the church can do a “mixed ceremony” for a catholic marrying someone of another faith or someone who is not religious.

4) Is it difficult to plan a wedding in Italy as an American? 

Planning a wedding in Italy is a lot easier than planning one in the US. Everything is kind of streamlined (at least it was where we got married in Cassino). The place where you buy wedding favors packages everything for you exactly as you want, they even print and attach tags.They also handle wedding invitations (although I made my own because I wanted something really original, and everyone loved them because they’d never seen anything like it before, wedding invites in Italy are kind of lame and very cookie-cutter). The restaurant prints the menu for you and completely decorates the space in your colors (receptions are most often held in a fancy restaurant). They also take care of the wedding cake. The church (99% of weddings are held in churches, priests are not allowed to marry outside of the church like they can in the US), will print the program for you and give it out to guests. The flower place goes and decorates the church for you, supplies it with rice for throwing, etc. Honestly, the only thing you have to do is decide what you want and visit the priest, the favor place, the floral shop, and the restaurant. They take care of everything.

5) Is it true that Europeans are not circumcised?

Yes. That’s true. The only people who do circumcision are: The United States, Jews, Muslims, and some African tribes. The rest of the world chooses to leave their kids’ willies alone. Is it weird? Not really. Dicks are not the hottest body part to begin with. An uncircumcised willy looks exactly like a circumcised one when it’s erect. When it’s not erect it just looks like it’s hiding, or like an elephant trunk. As long as your partner washes his wee-wee (like most normal guys do) you shouldn’t notice a difference. Except that it’s awesome. They have more feeling down there aaand it keeps their business more lubed up so you don’t get all dry and uncomfortable. True story. Why do Americans circumcise? Because they thought that it would stop boys from masturbating (true story). They later decided that it was “more hygienic” but since people shower ever day that doesn’t even make sense.

Getting Married In Italy

13 Things Being Married To An Italian Man Has Taught Me About The World

The Big Cheat : Do Italian Men Cheat?

How I Met My Husband

Greencards/Residency/Immigration For An American Married To An Italian

1) Hi! I Married An Italian In The US! How Do I Become An Italian Resident? 

I’ve written a pretty in-depth page on immigration issues. You can find all of your immigration answers for bringing your Italian partner to the US AND for immigrating to Italy from the US (on a spousal visa).

Everything You Will Want To Know About US And Italian Immigration

Our Immigration Story

2) I’m an American about to marry an Italian and we can’t figure out what would be the best choice–to marry in the US or marry in Italy.We’re together in the US. but I plan to move to Italy. Then in a few years we would like to move and settle down in the States. We’ve read that he can gain US citizenship faster if we marryoutside the US. But then we’ve read that getting married in Italy is a really long and tedious process. So we’re really torn as to what to do.

The best scenario for you guys is going to be to marry in the US. The reason is that it’s a million times easier to marry in the US, it’s faster, and you don’t want to live in Italy without having healthcare, a visa, or the ability to work or whatever. It’s very easy to get a spousal visa in Italy, much more difficult to get one for him for the US. So, if I were you, I’d do what me and my husband did: Get married in the US (it can even be in the city building just to have the paperwork, you can have a big, “real” wedding later like we did), apply to the Italian consulate for you to have a Carta Di Soggiorno/spousal visa. THEN, when you get to Italy, solidify your spousal visa. Then, when you guys are about 6-8 months away from moving back to the US, start the process of applying for his Greencard at the US embassy in Naples. Getting him a Greencard to the US is a royal pain in the ass and will take anywhere from 6 months to 8 months to get it. Then you’re given about 6-8 months to go to the US. WARNING: When you apply in Italy they will want some guarantee that you are still DOMICILED. I wrote about that so make sure you take special care in that area (KEEP your US bank account open, among other things).

Check out my Greencard/Visa Page for details. 


1. How do expats make money or get jobs in Italy?

  • Italy is awesome for living but shit for working. Honestly, very, VERY few expats that I know have conventional jobs in Italy for a number of reasons. You have to have the legal ability to work (either by obtaining residency, having a student visa, or a work visa, or citizenship). Italy doesn’t pay well and a normal wage is usually like six or seven euro per hour. Even engineers only make about 30k per year. If you want to be able to maintain something there the best thing to do is work for an American company remotely. That means that you work for an American company online from wherever in the world. That’s what I do and what a lot of my friends do. I work for a marketing firm as a social media strategist and copywriter and then I make money with the whole blog thing too. There are some companies like that can be really great for side money if you do take the “working part time in Italy” route. There are a surprising number of remote positions you can get in the US with some marketing/writing experience. The best option is to create a job: Sell stuff on Etsy, do graphic or web design or wedding photography, or baby photography or something else that is somewhat self-employed for American clients or whomever if your italian is amazing. If you’re a student the best job for you to get is probably at a pub or restaurant but keep in mind you will make around 7 euro per hour and you won’t really get tips. I have friends who make jewelry, who make art, who write or who do random projects on Don’t know Fiverr? Check it out.
  • A typical option is also to go the Au Pair/nanny route. I haven’t heard any “good” stories about this particular job because Italian kids are BRATS but it’s totally a possibility. You can find some more information on this here: Make sure you’re safe! You never know what kind of family you’re going to be working for. Make sure it’s legit and you don’t end up in some weird human traffic situation or with a crazy family.
  • Teaching English. A lot of my expat friends teach English. Most of them do not teach English at a school, however, most of them do private lessons. There are a few ways to get started: Leave an ad on Ebay (but don’t expect a ton of responses). Italians don’t really function on the interweb the way that we do in the other first world countries. They still stick to the good ole paper posts on billboards thing. One of my good friends made fliers with her phone number and email address and posted them all over the Italian universities, the children’s schools, coffee shops, laundry mats, etc. She’s been making a living off of it for years since. Another friend of mine edits English thesis papers for university students.  She started with a few students and then progressed to many with good referrals. It will take time to do this and you’ll have some competition. It’s probably a good idea to get a TEFL certificate if your goal is to teach English abroad. Keep in mind that these things will grow slowly.
  • Another friend of mine has a dog-sitting/dog-walking service. Actually, if you had a really great way of doing a doggy daycare or something this would probably be a good idea. There are literally like no boarding places in Florence. You’d need to have a lot of experience with animals, be reliable, and loving, and prepared that if something bad happened to someone’s dog that they might kill you. Florentines LOVE their dogs and they won’t take neglect or mishaps lightly. Again, you  have to post fliers all over the city, in groomers, vets, dog stores, and in the newspapers. There are plenty of English-speakers with dogs who need a reliable dog-sitter so the possibilities of making a solid business with this is good right now. Again, only do this if you actually LOVE dogs and are really knowledgable about dog training and dog behavior. 
In These Articles I’ve Talked About Working In Italy:
Moving To Italy By Internations
Here is a relevant posts from one of my favorite bloggers: What Not To Expect When Moving To Italy


Housing In Florence

There are a number of sites dedicated to finding housing in Florence. Many of them have jacked up prices because they are for students. My husband found all of our apartments on It’s helpful to speak Italian because most of the places will be listed in Italian, however, you can always use Google Translate. I also wrote a little about housing in Florence here: Moving To Florence, Studying And Living 

Italian Language

1. How did you learn Italian?

I took a class at the school I was attending and bought some books after I’d arrived. Super DUMB. I did it the stupid way so don’t do what I did. I just kind of tried to study on my own and pick up what I could by listening to other people. I didn’t even start learning Italian until I’d arrived in Italy, I only took one class, and I was often too shy to talk with people for a long time. Don’t do that. Start learning Italian NOW. Buy books, watch movies, listen to music, start now, way before you go to Italy.

2. Do you think I should learn Italian now or after I get there.

NOW. Start learning the moment you decide you might want to move to Italy. I have a list of recommended books as well. Definitely read them because you’ll arrive without looking like an idiot. Learning Italian is the most important thing in moving to Italy. If you’re still trying to figure out how to get to Italy, or how to stay there, I’d recommend going to a language school. This will not only fulfill your visa requirements so you can stay on a student visa but it will also make your life so much easier you won’t even believe it. Seriously, language school is the shit.

Italian Hand Gestures And Body Language 

Italian Music, Movies To Help With Language 

If You Want To Live In Italy You Need To Learn Italian


1. Is Italy dangerous?

Compared to the US? No. There are some areas that are more dangerous than others but for the most part Italy is very safe. As with any country if you’re a woman you should be more careful about rapists and perverts. Don’t go out drinking alone and don’t go anywhere with men alone. Bad idea anywhere in the world. If you go to look at an apartment for rent bring someone with you. Just don’t be alone with strangers.

2. I read a book called “The Reluctant Tuscan” by Phil Doran. From my understanding, it sounds like Italians like to try to hustle you for your money. Does that apply everywhere? I’m wondering because I’d like to visit next year and maybe stay for a month. If I found a place online and I’m given a rate, when I get there is it possible they’d try to charge a different rate?

I’ve personally never really experienced anything like this in my five years in Florence but I’ve certainly heard stories. I’ve heard mostly good things with Airbnb or some of the apartments in Florence available for long term rental though. I think it’s the same in Italy as it is with any large city, you just have to keep your eyes open. It’s also not a bad thing to learn some Italian just in case. Duolingo, Babbel, or Rosetta Stone are all great for learning before your trip.🙂 Italians are less sneaky if they know that you can speak some of their language.
3. I’ve heard that Italians add money onto restaurant bills.
There is something called the “coperto” or “servizio” that they add on. It’s a service charge and it’s the reason you don’t have to tip in Italy.

 Being An Expat

1. How did you end up in Italy?

I arrived as a student for a year at SACI Florence and then continued on with a student visa for various schools such as FUJI Studios. Then I married an Italian guy a few years later and remained on a spousal visa (see above in the immigration section for immigration details).

Keep Calm And Move To Italy

How To Survive being An Expat 

Schools And Studying Abroad

1. What are some good schools for studying in Italy?

There are so many international schools in Florence that it’s really just about doing your research to find the right one. If you speak Italian you can go to the University of Florence (which is probably your cheapest choice) but all of your classes will be in Italian. If you want an English speaking or International school you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here on

2. I will be going to study Italian at Lorenzo de` Medici. I’m 18 years old and will be traveling alone from the Pisa airport to Florence. I am pretty nervous. I already have taken four years of Italian and know the language pretty well, but this is my first time abroad and I guess I’m just seeking a bit of reassurance from someone who knows Italy (especially Florence) extremely well.

Italy is a very safe country and surprisingly a lot of the population speaks at least some English. Especially in Florence. It’s a huge student hub and is full of schools and students studying there. You’ll meet a group of other students as soon as you arrive and you’ll feel fine. Honestly, just use the same caution you use at home. Be weary of the guys hitting on you constantly, just be rude and tell them, “No! Basta!” and they’ll go away. Use the same caution you would use at home. Don’t get drunk alone, don’t walk home alone at night and don’t go anywhere alone with men you’ve just met. You’ll be able to drink alcohol legally but it’s not the best time to experiment with getting shitfaced drunk because there are a lot of guys who will definitely take advantage of your situation (there are really shady guys who actually seek out drunk students so use good judgement and the buddy system). Also, you might need this: to figure out the train system. It’s a quick trip and your school is actually very close to the Florence Santa Maria Novella train station where you’ll get off (careful, there are multiple Florence train stops. You want the SMN stop).
3. Are there any ways to get scholarships to study in Florence?
Yes, there are scholarship opportunities but they are usually academic so you’ll have to check with each individual school, or they are country-based. For example, I know that Canada has a program to help Canadians study abroad. It totally makes me wish I were Canadian. Check with your country, you might be pleasantly surprised.




42 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions: Studying, Moving, Working, Loving In Florence, Italy

  1. Just LOVE your blog.. always make me laugh and smile. Been travelling to different parts of Italy from Canada several times a year for about a decade, taking the leap in two weeks to purchase a place and become an expat.. but down in Calabria. My friends in the north are all shaking their heads at my decision- I figure, if I do it, lets do it MY WAY. Keep the writing up.. your sense of humour and outlook on it all is so reassuring that all will be good – accepting the Italian culture without losing my quirky West Coast attitude will be a full time job I am sure. Have a great day.. look forward to more posts in the future!

  2. I love your blog! I am a senior woman that spends one month a year in Torino. I love spending time in Torino just because I feel safe and love the B &B I stay in. But, the sad situation that happened to me in April, was that the hostess refused to return the money that I over paid. I thought the daily rate was 90 euro but she asked for 60 euro. I asked her four times for the money to be returned but she refused. I really was scammed. And it saddens me. I am sure she took advantage of a senior American. I felt abused!

  3. Hi, I love your blog, in fact I just responded about an incident that happened to me in April. But, I am emailing to ask you if you know someone that would like to be an email friend with a school teacher in San Diego. I would love to have an italian email friend. Can you help me? Thank you for your consideration, Linda


  4. You speak right to my heart!! I am about to marry an Italian man in the U.S. (Austin, TX) then move back to Italy with him. I have been living in Rome for almost a year as it is but the process to get married is so much easier in the U.S. I stumbled upon your immigration post; thank you so much for that. It is the best, most concise information my fiance and I have found while researching. It has been such a nightmare gathering all of the necessary information, forms, and documents so we can get married. It was nice to see all of the info together in ONE PLACE! How hard is it for the consulate of a specified destination get together with the state and compile a list (much like the one you put together) and post it on the web…

    Anyway, that is not the point of my post. My point is that I relate to many of your blog posts. When I first started dating my fiance and I told him that we put pesto on sandwiches and he almost died… He immediately told me how disgusting it is (even though he’s never tried it) and that it is wrong to do something like that! I’m sorry, but if it’s wrong to have pesto on a delicious sandwich then I don’t want to be right!! Reading your post on what you have learned about Italians was fucking spot on. Your posts are interesting and you are hilarious! Thanks for doing what you do. I look forward to reading more brilliant posts from you.

  5. Amazing post, as always! I loved it! Only one problem: I gotta stop reading your posts on the Tram, people stare at me when I laugh alone hahahaha

    • He tried to follow the American tradition by buying a ring and formally asking. But in his own way. He proposed while I was asleep (like the weirdo that he is lol). It was really cute. All of that is in the book I’m working on now.

  6. Hi, I’m from Brazil and I was seaching about living in Italy and I found your blog, I read everything because I got obsessed about how good and fun is you writing, thanks to you I’ll go to Italy. Btw can’t wait for your book.

  7. And btw I also loveeee capibaras, specially living in Brazil and everytime that we go on the country side there’s a lot of them

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  10. As always, awesomely hilarious and intelligent – love this blog. One correction… I believe you can count Aussies amongst the circumcised. Well, at least I can count my husband🙂

    • I think it was common practise in New Zealand up to the mid to late 70s as well. Most men 40 and over are but under about 35 they tend not to be…. Not that I am an expert or anything!! 🙂

      • I’m not expert either ! I have an N=1 as far as Aussie ‘members’ go and it is indeed in the over 40 category🙂

  11. Did you have to leave Italy after your first student visa ended, or can you extend it whilst in Italy? I’ve been trying to find answers on this (the Italy embassy in Japan is probably going to reject my visa app just because I called them every day for two weeks trying to ask all the things) to no avail yet.

    ps–Still in adoration your blog.

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  13. Ciao! I have a question🙂 Q: What should I bring as a gift from San Francisco to Italy? I am going to visit my friend’s family in Milan and stay there for a week next month,

    • Hello, love! I would recommend something that is specific to SF that they don’t have in Italy. I usually bring “odd” things from the US to Italy for friends and family. Maple syrup, cookies, candies (like those cinnamon almonds, etc.).

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  16. I wish I would have found your blog sooner! I’m in the U.S. Air Force and getting stationed in northern Italy five weeks from now. I’ve been trying to soak up all the information I can before I arrive.

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  18. Ciao, I love your blog and your writing style is so fun. Regarding religious marriage, I’m not sure about your statements. In northen Italy 53% of weddings are civil marriages. National average for civil marriages is 41%. So I don’t think that italian parents have trouble if you don’t get married in a church.

    • Hey! Thank you! So glad you’re enjoying the blog! As far as ISTAT.IT is concerned, the civil marriage statistic was 18% in 2008 and 21% in 2011 and 23% in 2013. Which is less than 1/4 of the population.

      • Ciao, if you consider the total number of weddings, the national average for civil marriages was 41% and 53% in Northern Italy in 2012. So in Turin (where I live) when you hear that someone is getting married there is more than 50% of odds that is a civil marriage. Of course considering the total amount of weddings, not only “first” weddings. Sorry for acting like a punctilious pest. Usually I’m not a PITA…… (>.<) Forgive me…..

      • Hello again! That’s a different stat than the one I had for 2013 for overall marriages nationally but it doesn’t change my stance at all on the ill feelings towards civil marriages. 41% is still nationally less than half (and in the south it is lower than this). Back to your original point that the statistics represent public opinion therefore meaning that people don’t care much about civil ceremonies. I would disagree, in my opinion the higher stat doesn’t reflect the general public opinion with the majority of the Italian population being older. The religiosity for the older generation is much, much higher than for the current generation of marriage-aged people. My assumption would be that these weddings are often happening while simultaneously really upsetting someone’s parents or grandparents. Most of the people my age that I know are Atheist, but their parents certainly are not. And from my personal experience, my in-laws, and all of their friends in the community would rather see their kids light themselves on fire than have a civil ceremony. While I think most parents try to be understanding and allow a civil ceremony to take place, I wouldn’t say that it means that they wouldn’t have preferred a church wedding. I’m not religious so ideally it would be nice if people didn’t care so much.

  19. Hello Elizabeth! I discovered your blog last night and have been glued to it ever since! Totally love it! I am moving to Italy in January to pursue my degree and cannot wait till I get there! Oh, and I am from India (Bombay!), and thanks to an Italian aunt I am already noticing the crazy similarities between life here and in Italy!
    Keep writing, Love,

  20. I am LOVING this blog, I am moving (fingers crossed) to Rome for 9 months starting in Fall of 2015 explicitly to learn Italian and become a teacher in the US. If I find a good Italian man over there I will count that as a bonus… but they do make me nervous, considering last time I was in Rome a friend’s friend basically dragged me into a closet to make out with me… best damn kiss I ever had though😉

  21. Hi!
    I’ve stumbled across your blog and it’s honestly fantastic. I’m an English student currently living in Italy and I’m writing a dissertation about marrying an Italian national, and would love your contribution, drop me an email if you can!
    Thanks, Suzie

  22. Ciao Elizabeth! I love your blog. I’d be very glad if you could help me. I’m a US citizen and thinking about studying in Florence this September for one year. I need to work while I stay there. Where can I search for job opportunities in English???

    • Pelin, you’re allowed to work for 20 hours per week on a student visa. If I were you, I would check travel agencies in the city you want to work and also ask the school you plan to attend for ideas.

  23. Hi M.E. ,
    As you said about the financial shittness of American banks failing to provide loans for US students going over seas, I have a question. I just need a student loan so my 529k plan (American thing) can pay the loan off directly- the loan would go to my accommodation in italy. Do you think/know if I become a resident, that I could take out a student loan through an Italian bank? Do you know how student loans work over there? I looked at the scholarship and plan on applying for next year!

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