I recently got an email from a woman who was contemplating moving to Sicily from the US as she desired a change in her life and felt connected to her Sicilian heritage. She was looking for some advice and here is what I said to her:
Thanks so much for your email, I feel privileged you choose to contact me about such an important choice in your life, I will do my best to be honest and hope I can give you what you are looking for.
As an Italo Australian I can honestly say Italy and Sicily will always be quite alluring to you as it is a part of your upbringing, your family and heritage so you will always feel emotionally connected to Sicily in one way or another.
Living in Italy is never going to be the same as simply visiting it, even if you have gone back and forth for years to visit relatives being here full-time will be a deeply challenging and at times isolating.
I moved to Sicily ten years ago with my Sicilian husband and I can tell you it has not been an easy journey. Yes, Sicily is a beautiful place, great food, wine and the people are amazing. At the same time it is a land of crippling bureaucracy, it’s an old country and so with it’s ancientness comes the problems of an archaic place, it’s not all museums and Greek ruins, it is corrupt, inefficient at an infuriating level, people will try to rip you off and at times the culture shock will be mind numbing. The bigger cities in Sicily have the usual problems of big metropolis, they are densely populated, with high crime rates, they are dirty and confusing. I guarantee you will always feel like an excluded outsider, despite acquiring a fluent level of Italian, there is nothing you can do about it you will always stick out, whether it’s the way you dress, your accent or diverse point of view, a Sicilian will always pick you out as a foreigner and you will be constantly reminded of this.
I suggest if you are feeling strongly about moving overseas why not simply test the waters a little, if you have long service leave coming up why not try to spend a few months here and see how you go? Rent a house for a few months, perhaps instead of coming in the summer try 3 months in the fall when things are more relaxed and real. I think the secret to life in Sicily to create your own community, projects and work towards your goals and above all do not let anyone get you down, Sicily can be a negative place.
The language is going to be important for you too, Sicily more so than anything else will mean one hundred percent Italian as it is a thoroughly monolingual country and it would help if you understood a little dialect too!
Be sure you have a project to keep you busy and connected while you are here, be it doing a language course, teaching english, volunteering, learning about Sicilian cuisine, wine, art, writing a book or whatever else you might enjoy as it will help you feel more connected to the place. The connections to make to the place are what will sustain you if you are not actively experiencing Sicily and not simply complaining about it constantly you will never get anything out of your experience here.
The best advice I can give to you is to be honest and tell you the truth, moving to Sicily isn’t going to be a bed of roses, but if you want to be challenged the an expat life can be rewarding.
So try it and see.
Life’s a journey feel free to try new experiences.
Good luck to you and let me know if you make it to Sicily.
18 thoughts on “Don’t quite move to Sicily, yet …”
Very well said. A lot of people think moving to Italy will be non stop drinking wine and eating lunch in an olive grove. While Italy is very beautiful and you can forgive it almost anything, as you say, it can be very challenging and frustrating, especially if you come from a country that functions well on a day to day basis.
I love my time on Italy, but when to time comes to go back to Australia (I am currently at the airport in Hong Kong for the last leg of the long trip home) I am pleased to be in a place I understand.
I think it is a good idea to try in on a part time basis for a while before making the final commitment.
Thanks Debra. I think people really ‘sugar coat’ living in Italy, when the reality is different. Everyone’s journey is different, I struggle in Sicily all the time but I’m not sure if I’ll end up going back to Oz … tricky choice.
I am lucky that I can spend 6 months in each place. If I was still working I would be doing that in Australia.
Yes, it would be a dream to do six months here and six in Australia but it disappears when you have young kids 🙂
Mrs Sensible and I will be moving south in 2 years, so put the kettle on. Your post is very accurate and we know how difficult Sicily is (Mrs S reminds me whenever I mention the move) however we have family there and the wine is good
You and Mrs Sensible are more than welcome to come over for a ‘cuppa’ or ‘cappuccino’ whatever your preference is. Yes the family and fine wine does help! I think you need to let go of many things that seem important when in reality they aren’t … shed your skin and grow a new one.
I will remind you of the invite when we go visiting the in laws. I will bring the biccies
For sure! Can I ask where abouts are the in laws and I hope you aren’t planning to move to close to them are you?!?!?
I appreciate your honest response to this person’s inquiry. Wise, hard won advice, Rochelle, to balance the heart yearning.
Thanks Katharine, yes I was speaking from experience, I’m still trying to balance heart and head but I’ve also become this totally wise, super strong person out of the experience and I wouldn’t change a moment 🙂
Great advice, and best of luck to the woman looking to move there!!!!
Yes, I wish the best for her too, that’s why I gave her such truthful advice.
Just read the whole article and couldn’t agree more. Not that I know Sicily that well but I live in an area where people retire to and within a few years they have mostly found it’s a mistake (the life lived on holiday is quite different to the life lived for real). I would advise at least six months (the worst six months of the year). Rochelle has given some really good advice there.
Thanks so much, yes that’s the point I was trying to make living and visiting a place are two different things.
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