It’s again my great pleasure to chat with an expat!
It’s again time for me to interview someone who has decided to make Italy their home and to learn more about their experience and their views of Italy after being here for a while.
This time I get to speak with the lovely Olivia Windsor, an Australian woman who has moved to Italy with the intention of staying here for six months and ended up not returning home. Yes, there’s a boy involved: she fell in love, then Covid hit, and she’s still here and has no plan of leaving any time soon.
A big fan of Italian cuisine and food culture, Olivia is working very hard to turn her passion for Italian food into a real profession. As a matter of fact, she has a very interesting blog called Livguine, where she shares Italian recipes and travel tips and her Instagram account is a feast for the eyes too.
You know that I love it when people speak very honestly about their experience in Italy. It’s nice to hear about all the beautiful things we have in Italy but for me, it’s even more interesting to hear about the things that are not so nice and fascinating. So I loved when Liv talked about the absolute nightmare of finding a job in Italy because it is something that needs to be known. But there’s much more in the interview!
So thanks Olivia for answering my questions. It’s time I’ll let her speak, now!
Hello Liv! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. First of all, would you like to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your life and work?
Thanks, Cinzia for having me on the blog! I’m an Australian woman who has been living in Italy for the past 2 years. I currently live in Torino, Piemonte with my boyfriend Andrea and our cat Figaro. I’m a Digital Marketing Consultant and worked in the beauty industry in advertising in Australia before moving to Italy.
With an absolute passion for Italy and regional Italian cooking, it’s my dream to one day write my own cookbook of Piemontese recipes, launch culinary tours in the region, and publish a travel memoir. Let’s see!
What has brought you to Italy?
I left a very comfortable life in Melbourne, Australia for what I thought would be a year of ‘la dolce vita’ but turned into so much more. I moved to Italy because of my passion for cooking, Italian food & wine, and absolute fascination with this country. I wanted to have a cultural experience, properly learn the language and learn more about different regional cooking here.
About 6 months into my ‘year abroad’ I met my now boyfriend, and then a few months later COVID struck. By that point, I had fallen totally in love with both Andrea and Italy and leaving Italy didn’t even cross my mind. I had the opportunity to keep living here and I just didn’t feel ready to leave.
When did you visit Italy for the first time? What was your impression of the country? Has that first impression changed after living here for a while?
I visited Italy for the first time on a Contiki tour in 2014 – 7 years ago! I had been studying abroad in the UK and went on one of those crazy tours where you pack in 10 countries in 20 days, which was totally the wrong way to experience Italy. I saw Rome, Venice, and Florence but was a little disappointed. We rushed through, ate at super touristy places, and before we knew it we were onto the next country.
I visited again for 2 weeks a few years later in 2017 and that’s when I really fell in love with Italy. I stayed in the Cinque Terre and Sardinia and I just felt like I’d found my place. I remember I had a few tears when I had to go home because it just didn’t feel right leaving.
Obviously, I experienced the very best of Italy during my holiday, no dealing with bureaucracy, or the monotony of daily life! However, I have to say that that impression of finding my place and feeling at home has really been a constant now that I live here. Obviously not every day is la dolce vita, not by a long shot, but the days that are, make up for the rest!
Was it easy for you to move to Italy? Is there something you’d like to recommend to people who want to do the same?
Being an Australian under 30 when I moved (I was 25 years old), I was able to move to Italy quite easily. I came over on a working holiday visa which gave me the opportunity to travel for 6 months and work for 6 months. However, I would say it’s not an ideal visa because you can only work for 3 months per workplace which makes it even more difficult to find a job.
If you want to stay in Italy once your visa ends, your only option normally is to return back to Australia and try a new visa. I was fortunate in not having to return home due to COVID circumstances, but this was completely the exception to the rule.
I’d advise anyone interested in moving to talk to an immigration lawyer first because there are lots of loopholes, and they can help work out the best visa for you to take. If I had my time again, I would have come over on a study visa which allows you to work 20 hours a week and is also easy to convert into another visa type once you’re here.
Moving might be easy but getting used to life in Italy can difficult sometimes. Was it easy to get used to living here? What were the biggest challenges you had to face?
I grew up in a very ‘Southern’ Italian community in Australia so I didn’t really experience culture shock or anything like that. I had also travelled to Italy three times before moving which helped. I think the hardest part was learning the language and realising how difficult it would be to find a job, even unpaid.
I remember writing to so many agriturismi, wineries and food tour organisations when I first moved to try to find a job with them or even just work experience and I got countless rejections. Everyone had told me the job market in Italy was terrible, but I guess coming from such a lucky country like Australia I didn’t really understand what that meant until I moved here.
The other difficult part of living here was and still is getting used to the bureaucracy. Nothing is done online (very different to Australia), and the post office is the most happening place in town, always! That’s the part I really hate, but hey you can’t have it all.
Regarding Italian culture in general, what is the biggest culture shock you experienced? Is there something you still cannot get used to and probably never will?
I would say just the pointlessness of some of the bureaucracy. Silly rules for the sake of it, that to me as an Australian sometimes just feel utterly ridiculous. I remember the first time I had to pick up a package from the post office I asked my boyfriend to come with me at 12 pm (they closed at 12:30). He was telling me it was pointless to go, but I insisted and low and behold we got in with only 2 people ahead of us and 30 minutes before they closed.
If you’ve lived here, you know how this story ends. There were 5 employees, one standing around doing nothing, and the rest of them trying to work out how to use the scanner. 12:30 came around and the manager told us to go home because they were closed. I couldn’t believe it! Needless to say, I never ended up getting my package…
When you live in a place for a long time, that place somehow changes the way you are. Do you feel that living in Italy has changed you? If so, in what ways?
I definitely feel like I’ve really rounded out my character here, and grown up a lot here in a way. I’ve learnt to look at things with a totally new perspective by living here, dating an Italian and becoming immersed in the culture. If anything, it’s made me realise how privileged I was and am as an Australian in terms of opportunities.
When I tell some Italians that I quit a stable job to move here they look at me a little shocked because you just wouldn’t do that in Italy. Living in Italy has exposed me to new ideas and endless opportunities for learning about history and their culture.
Let’s speak of tourism now. You live in Turin, a city full of interesting sights and with a vibrant food scene. Can you tell people why they should visit it and what they shouldn’t miss when there?
Turin is such a beautiful city and it’s often skipped by tourists which is such a shame. It’s definitely the most elegant city in Italy as the former first capital of this country and home to the royal family of Savoy. You should visit Turin if you want to experience chocolate, Barolo wine, palaces, views of the Alps, history, and elegance. It’s got real Parisian-vibes in my mind and it’s a great place to visit if you want to experience an Italian city not overrun by tourists.
A trip to Turin shouldn’t miss visiting the Royal Palace, the Mole Antonelliana, a stop at Porta Palazzo (the largest outdoor market in Europe!), looking out from the Monte dei Cappuccini, a stroll through the Quadrilatero, and dinner at a traditional restaurant. For a run down on what to do in Turin, take a read of my post on how to spend a weekend here.
You have a food blog, so I can’t help but ask you about food. Living in Piedmont is heaven for a food lover because food is so great there, so can you recommend three not-to-be-missed Piedmontese dishes?
Piemontese food is SO good, and I’d never really had it (besides agnolotti) before moving here. It’s so hard to choose just three must-eats but let’s go with agnolotti with ragu, anchovies with salsa verde, and vitello tonnato.
Agnolotti is one traditional pasta of the region- it’s a stuffed pasta often filled with meat. Anchovies are also a staple in the cuisine thanks to the region’s history with Liguria and it was a great way for Piemontese to add fish to their diet even if they weren’t close to the sea as anchovies could be preserved. Vitello tonnato is sliced roast veal with a creamy tuna sauce on top. Sounds weird but it’s delicious.
Do you speak Italian? If you do, what is your relationship with the language? Was it hard to learn it?
Si, parlo Italiano! I’m not perfect, and my grammar is atrocious though. I’ve definitely got some more study to do, but I’m happy to say I can understand most things now and I can make myself understood. I actually started learning Italian when I was 5 years old at school. Of course, we only learnt the absolute basics and after 16 I didn’t study it again until I was 24 years old.
I decided to take a weekly class a year before I moved in the hopes to build up my fluency. I thought I spoke not too bad until I moved to Italy (to Bologna) and lived with a host family and realised I really didn’t speak Italian as I couldn’t understand anything! I attended a school in Bologna (Academya Lingua) for 6 weeks which was really amazing and intensive and helped me get up to speed a little.
Other than that, living here has really helped as you’re totally immersed in the language. Having an Italian boyfriend has also helped my language skills as I have to community completely in Italian with his family. I thought after living here for a year I’d be fluent, but I totally wasn’t. It’s been two years now and I’m really proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I’m not perfect, but I’ve got time!
Thank you so much, Liv for taking the time to answer my questions!
If you are interested in more thoughts about Italy, I have a whole section of interviews with expats. I have chatted with a Canadian living in Bergamo, a Polish girl in love with Rome, an American artist who lives in Umbria, another American who moved to beautiful Tuscany, a Mancunian who now resides in Molise, a Scottish lady who is now happily living in Veneto, a British couple who lives and work in Garfagnana, Tuscany, a US lady who runs a hostel in Rome, an American lady who now lives in a beautiful Tuscan villa, a lovely couple who lives in Tuscany part-time, a writer from Seattle who has been living in Rome for 15 years now, a couple who has just gotten Italian citizenship, a lovely Texan who moved to a tiny little Italian village, a super energetic travel expert from the US now living in Rome, two young YouTubers who live in Prato, Tuscany, a Texan lady who lives in Turin, Slovak girl who now calls Bologna home, a Mississippi lady who is now Neapolitan, a girl from Canada who has fulfilled her dream of living in Florence, a New Yorker who now calls Ischia home, an American lady who chose the countryside near Naples as her new home, a brave lady who has moved to Italy in the midst of the pandemic, an American who has a YouTube channel about life in Italy as a foreigner, a couple who has moved from the US to a farm in Sicily and a Jamaican-American who now lives in Monti della Tolfa.