I’ve been following Rick Zullo and his blog ever since I moved to Italy. I’m pretty sure it was his awesome permesso di soggiorno advice that led me to his site or maybe it was his tips on learning Italian. Whatever it was, I’m still a huge fan of Rick’s blog to this day. From funny stories about his Roman life, adorable pictures of his Italian-American daughter, or incredibly useful advice on navigating Italian bureaucracy, Rick Zullo always has something for the Italy lover to enjoy!
Rick Zullo is an award-winning travel writer living between Rome and South Florida. When he’s not wandering through Italy or writing for his blog, he spends his time studying the Italian language, trying to become fully fluent before his infant daughter beats him to it. Rick is also the author of the silly little eBook, “Live Like an Italian,” available on Amazon. Visit Rick’s blog at rickzullo.com, or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.
What brought you to Italy and why have you stayed?
I first came to Italy in the summer of 2010. I was participating in a literature program in Venice for about 6-7 weeks, and decided to extend my stay in the county to travel around a bit. Also, I took the occasion to visit my great-grandparents’ village in Molise.
I wound up in Rome where I met an Italian woman who would eventually become my wife. So I went back to the States, sold my things, got a visa, and moved back to Rome three months later. How’s that for the quintessential love story?
What do you do for a living in la bella Italia?
I was teaching English, but now I’m a freelance writer, blogger, and web content creator. I write mostly about Italy and travel related topics, but also a bit about social media.
How did you land your first job in Italy?
English teaching jobs are actually quite easy to find in Rome. They don’t necessarily pay well. But if you are a minimally-qualified native speaker, there are plenty of opportunities to exploit your language skills for fun and profit.
How were you able to legally stay in Italy? What documents did you have to apply for?
I was lucky enough to get the Elective Residency Visa 5 years ago before they tightened up the criteria. From what I’ve heard these days, people are having a lot more difficulty than I encountered.
Any advice for visiting the “dreaded” Italian consulate?
The consulate in Miami was actually very helpful to me. But it’s important that you show up for your appointment prepared and well-informed. It’s surprising how many people show up without having done their research online.
What was the most difficult part about moving here?
Well, once you get a visa, your relationship with the bureaucracy is not over. There’s the Permesso di Soggiorno to deal with, and it can bring the most seasoned traveler to tears. To help others out, I’ve compiled a little Permesso eGuide which is available for free download on my site. Don’t come to Italy without it!
Did you experience culture shock and if so, how did you cope?
I had visited Italy several times for extended periods of three months before moving, so culture shock wasn’t a problem, really. In fact, I’ve found the cultural challenges to be one of the most enjoyable elements of living in Italy. It can occasionally be confounding, but it’s always fun!
When you go back home, is it difficult to adjust? Do you experience reverse culture shock and if so, how do you cope?
Yes, in fact, I would say that the reverse culture shock is worse, in a way. Returning to the US, I recognize things that I don’t like about my own country and culture. And that is much more personal and emotional than things that I don’t like about Italy, which I can easily overlook since the they don’t touch me as directly.
Did you know Italian before moving to Italy? What are some tips for learning the Italian language?
Yes, I made a conscious effort to learn as much of the language as I could before moving. Really, I think it’s impossible to become fluent in Italian without living in Italy. But by using a language software program daily for about 3 months, I got to a point where I was “functional” even before I moved.
That said, the best way to learn (besides living in Italy) is to engage in multiple input techniques. Supplement your lessons with movies, music, magazines, etc. in order to reach every corner of your brain.
Do you have any advice for making friends and meeting new people here?
It can be tough, and tempting to stay inside the cozy expat bubble. For me, teaching English to Italians was the way to meet and interact with locals on a deeper level than, say, just ordering coffee at the bar. So my advice? Get a job.
For you, what’s the best part about living in Italy?
Wow, it’s just the little details of daily life. The food markets, the church bells, the remnants of history all around you. The pace of life, the contrasts, the variety. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but once you live in Italy, you know what I’m saying!
The aim of “Moving to Italy Interviews” is to provide a wide range of perspectives on the Italy immigration process. Each interviewee has a unique “Italy” story to tell. Whether they are to be learned from, or simply enjoyed, it is my hope that this interview blog series provides new and enlightening information for Italy dreamers and enthusiasts alike. Read more Moving to Italy Interviews.