Making your own Dolce Vita


The #dolcevitabloggers have chosen to explore the concept of the Dolce Vita in Italy. There is a fine line between loving and visiting the bel paese as a tourist and the reality of living here, in the search for your own personal sweet life. So cheers to Kelly from, Jasmine from and Kristie of for choosing such a fascinating topic this month. I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts.

For more on how to join in on the fun click here.

I have a problem with people who idealise Italy, there are countless bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers who fall into the trap of depicting life in Italy and in general as an unrealistic bowl of cherries. Let’s be honest the world is far from perfect, and when you come to Italy, it isn’t going to be like Eat, Pray and Love or Under the Tuscan sun. But Italy does give you the freedom to make your own path. There is always a way to find or create your own Dolce Vita.

Making your own Dolce Vita

I live in Sicily which has a bad reputation when it comes to employment, so if you are the competitive type, a move to Sicily is not going to give you a better career. One popular joke describes the typical islander work environment as one Sicilian doing all the work and five others looking on at him. It’s probably more exact to say one Sicilian being paid and the others pretending not to do anything but secretly working and getting paid ‘under the table’ as no one can afford to pay all the taxes.

There is something about the South, all over the world which inspires a laid-back attitude to life coupled with decadence, idleness and corruption. It could be the heat, the poverty or history …

Sicily has always been the most downtrodden, taxed, molested, dominated and trampled part of Italy. If you read anything about the history of the island, you will be surprised by an endless diatribe of conquests, violent wars, pestilence and persistent subterfuge to most major world powers from the middle ages to modern times. No wonder Sicilian’s are so hedonistic as in their past everything has literally been taken away from them.

Stemma della famiglia Salleo

Unemployment is a concern throughout the peninsula, many Italians are forced to invent their own jobs. Over the past decade, for example, there has been a succession of young Italian creatives who have set up online businesses to export their own creativity overseas. Unfortunately thanks to the current economic crisis Italy is experiencing a massive ‘brain drain’ as many brilliant Italian entrepreneurs and students are leaving to work abroad, as many industries are closing down in Italy and moving offshore, tax levels are on the hike, and the economy is going in the wrong direction.

My own experience in the Sicilian work environment is almost as long and convoluted as the Sicilian penal code. As a foreigner, you will be starting off with a distinct disadvantage, and I discovered as an ‘extracomunitaria’, or as someone born out of Europe, my academic qualifications and even drivers license are not recognised in Italy.

I cannot tell you how many dead ends I came across while trying to have my degree recognised so I could teach in Sicilian schools or at least continue my studies. Someone told me I’d have to redo my entire degree. One politician said he’d validate everything with his big magic official stamp and even promised me a job as a ‘mother tongue English specialist,’ I’m still waiting on the phone call!

I have long since given up on the academic side of my life. And as for my driver’s license is concerned I will continue to renew my ‘International’ one until I find the time to swallow my pride to sit the written and practical tests together with skintight-jeans-wearing, eye-shadow-smeared high school children.


Since coming to Sicily, I’ve become a master of odd jobs and doing-all-kinds-of-shite-to make-ends-meet (this title is so on my resume) from the secretary in my husband’s architectural office, translator, interpreter, to English tutor of unmotivated ‘Liceo linguistico’. These language-based high schools are a particular breed of young adults forced to study the likes of Shakespeare, D.H Lawrence and James Joyce in implausible Literature programs when they are unable to string a simple sentence together in English.

It is difficult enough to explain the significance of Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ monologue to a bored Anglo Saxon student, but you can imagine the hours of fun doing it all in Italian, to a student who is studying English only to make his parents happy. It’s a real barrel of monkeys with much screeching and gesticulating, mostly on my part.


Nowadays my English students have almost disappeared, my work boils down to tricking people into occasionally publishing my articles, working with the primary schools in individual after-school English courses, some online work and my own personal passion projects.

Most of my work in Sicily has been either underpaid or not paid at all. That’s not to say there aren’t work opportunities in Italy, there is a huge tourist industry, and in the major cities, foreigners will find work opportunities in I.T, fashion, language teaching and childcare areas. You’re not going to become a millionaire, but you will find a way of making a living to stay in one of the most fascinating countries on the planet, even if this may involve lowering your standards or getting a second job as a waitress or shop assistant to make ends meet.


In small-town Sicily, where things are usually much more slow-paced and the time in between work is getting longer, there is nothing to do other than adopt a Sicilian ‘dolce far niente’ approach. This attitude of pleasant idleness has become almost a torture for this workaholic expat who keeps slamming her head forcefully into a wall of culture shock, which I always forget to look out for.

Living in the moment is normal for Sicilians but I worry about my savings, career and future and so these are challenging times for this unwilling expat who is always having to adjust. Sicily is perfect for reflection, writing, history, food and wine and finding stories. Work is not essential as life tends to disrupt employment in Sicily.

My Dolce Vita is about finding a balance between my work and life in general. I love how Italians will always choose to savour the moment, yet for me, work is something I cannot do without. I try to do as Italians do with their love of life while always working on my passions.


Want to read past Dolce Vita Blogger Link-Ups? Check out the links below!

#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #7 June 2018 – Italian Hidden Gems

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #6 May 2018 – Five Italian Words

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #5 April 2018 – The Perfect Day in Italy

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #4 March 2018 – International Women’s Day

#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #3 February 2018 – A Love Letter to Italy

#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #2 January 2018 – Favourite Italian City

​#DolceVitaBloggers Linkup – #1 December 2017 – ‘The Italian Connection

14 thoughts on “Making your own Dolce Vita

  1. I really loved your post, Rochelle. It was so thoughtful and really gave some insight into what life in Sicily is like for an expat, something I have no experience with. I can sooo relate to feeling like you’re teaching a brick wall with students who don’t understand a word you’re saying and you just have to keep trying in English. I realized early on that teaching wasn’t my passion and thankfully I’ve managed to find something else here in Rome. Do you think you’ll live in Sicily long term or are you contemplating a move?

    1. Thanks Abigail, life in Sicily is always a challenge but its beauty and history intrigues me. Teaching is always a challenge, not my dream job but there is a high demand. I’ve been living here for a long time, but I don’t know if I’ll be here forever 😉

  2. This was really interesting to read! We know that with only going on Holiday to Italy, that we always see the good things, but having family there means we know the struggles too. It’s good that you are finding a balance, as we think that’s important anywhere. It’s nice to enjoy work but then have other passions to pursue, so that you can enjoy La Dolce Vita! 🙂

    Lucy and Kelly

  3. Thanks for sharing this, Rochelle, that is a very honest depiction of Sicily and Italy in general!

    As for the work department and the huge tourism industry you mentioned, I have to say that , even though tourism is indeed one of our biggest assets, it tends to be a disaster as well. Local tourism departments only want to employ volunteers and there’s a lot of nepotism and raccomandazioni. One of my dearest friends is Sicilian and has a degree in tourism: she ended up working in Austria, because in Italy, the country of tourism (!!!) there were not opportunities for her (not even in Northern Italy). I have a similar history but I will spare you the details :/

    1. Yes, indeed Sara it’s difficult all over Italy, last year I was surprised to meet so many Northern Italians working in Australia of all places, it has never been the case to see people from places like Lago di Como and Venezia move overseas, but all say the same thing, very little opportunity for people who want to start their own businesses. It’s so sad.

  4. Oh the balance!! I can totally relate to everything you’ve mentioned. I do feel I’m getting better about not being so worried and update but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to adopt the complete relaxed-laidedback-everythingwillworkout-tranqulla attitude that some Italians have. So, I like you, am constantly looking for the balance, but thankfully I’m always presented with situations that remind me that things will work out, I’ll be ok, and life will in fact work itself out! 🙂

    1. Yes, some days I’m sure things will be fine, others its harder to balance everything. I don’t know how those around me can be so blasé!

  5. Such an eye-opener, Rochelle! I have quite a few friends who have expressed similar viewpoints. Your post has really made me think about the future of my family as expats living in Italy. Thank you!

    1. There are many things to consider while living as an expat in Italy, it takes a lot of sacrifice, adaptation and finding a balance but if you manage it, it can be a beautiful journey.

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