Moving to Naples, Italy! Need help with lots of practical questions
July 4, 2014 8:24 PM   Subscribe

My wife has just accepted a good job in Naples. She's a British citizen and so, according to the Italian consulate, I'll be able to get an EU residency card and a work permit, healthcare, etc. wiout much trouble at all. (Sadly, she just recently turned down a job in the UK because the spousal visa process was so onerous as to be ridiculous.) A new adventure! But we know *nothing* of Italy and Naples n particular. Help!

Neither of us has lived n Italy before, and though I've managed to learn a fair bit through expat blogs and the like, I'm looking for help answering some important questions. I'd also love to hear about what life is like in Naples...

- It looks like most apartments are furnished, so we're trying to figure out if it's worth it to ship over our household goods and look for an unfurnished apartment. But it's not clear to me whether unfurnished apartments are common enough such that we won't have troubles with our next move in Italy, etc.

- We're very excited about our next adventure and would love, before the move, to learn more about where we're moving. Any recommendations for Italian films, music, art, novels, television, etc.?

- We have a well-behaved dog and cat, and from what I can gather they won't be be much iof an impediment to findng an apartment, but I'd like to know more in case I should be prepared for a struggle.

- I want to bring my motorcycle with us -- it's a Moto Guzzi, after all -- but I've only six months after getting residency to import the bike duty-free. I'm generally a very perseverent person, but stories about the paperwork and The Italian customs service have me worried. Has anyone imported a vehicle into Italy? Was it worth the trouble?

- Speaking of the motorcycle: Am I crazy to motorcycle in Italy? I've a couple of decades of experience in North America, and a few years of experience in the UK, so I'm feeling confident that I can adapt to riding in Italy.

- Can anyone recommend good language-learning software, preferably for the iPad? There's no Italian courses to take locally, so I want to spget as much of a head-start as I can.

And finally, I'd love to hear from anyone with good stories about becoming an expatriate in Italy. I've a bit of experience living In other countries and cultures, but each one is different, and there's no substitute for on-the-ground knowledge.
posted by alaaarm to Travel & Transportation around Naples, Italy (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
- We have a well-behaved dog and cat, and from what I can gather they won't be be much iof an impediment to findng an apartment, but I'd like to know more in case I should be prepared for a struggle.

You probably want to get pet passports as soon as you can, to be able to bring them there, and bring them back.

We're very excited about our next adventure and would love, before the move, to learn more about where we're moving. Any recommendations for Italian films, music, art, novels, television, etc.?

My wife and I liked the Inspector Montalbano tv series.

It looks like most apartments are furnished,

No idea. If askmefi isn't enough, try a dedicated expats-in-Italy forum.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:34 PM on July 4, 2014

I used to live about an hour's drive from where you are going, in a neighbouring province. I'm half-Italian, and spoke none when I got there originally. Do try to learn the language as soon as you can, of course. I hear good things about OneWorldItaliano but haven't tried it myself.

My father had really good advice when I went - buy a good Italian-English dictionary, buy a newspaper every day, and just plunk down and try to figure it out, word by word. Supplement this with a good grammar book and you'll be amazed at how quickly it comes to you. He did this in reverse when he emigrated to Australia (we live in Canada) and he speaks English more fluently than many natives here.

Be very careful and keep your wits about you at all times. Pickpocketing is a real problem in and around the train station; until you feel more comfortable I would limit my exposure to it as much as possible.

I might not be the best guide, so take my advice with a grain of salt. I didn't like Napoli all that much, to be honest: I found it really dirty, and never enjoyed coming into the city at all, as it is quite broke as a rule, and mired in corruption. The yearly spring-summer garbage strikes were a particular nuisance. I rather much more enjoyed Emilia-Romagna and Milano.

That being said, parts of the city are spectacularly beautiful, like the Piazza del Plebiscito (one of Europe's largest open squares), San Francesco di Paola, and the area around the Castel Nuovo are just the first of many, many great local bits of architecture worth checking out.

Napoli is pretty much the land of song and such like, so you'll quickly encounter the music of local stars such as Pino Daniele (probably the most famous of local sons) and Nino D'Angelo. Not really my taste, but to each his own. For some reason I heard a lot of jazz in the city, which pleased me enormously. Other Italian artists you might like include Carmen Consoli, Tiromancino, Negramaro, or dance exports like Mauro Picotto. The radio stations in the city are pretty chaotic and fun as a general rule.

Italian TV is generally pretty crass. Berlusconi still owns the biggest private networks and has dumbed down content. I do like Sebastien's recommendation above, though: Montalbano is great. Local Napoli TV tends to be quite a lot like the radio stations, high on local flavour, low on production values, and totally crazy.

I'd try to get my hands on expat writers living in Italy like Tim Parks and Tobias Jones (since returned to the UK) for good introductions to the country. This might be a bit hardcore for an intro, but I greatly enjoyed Gomorra, the book and film from Roberto Saviano about Italian criminality and how it's damaging the country. Parts of both talk about Napoli and Campania in depth.

Definitely try to check out places like Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast. Absolutely breathtaking and not far at all. I spent much of my visits to the city in the Centro Direzionale (business district) for work, and varied that with time overlooking the Bay of Naples, or working at the convention centre for trade fairs and whatnot.

Napoli is also the birthplace of pizza (ie pizza margherita, basically tomato sauce and cheese, named after a visiting Queen of the day [late 19-century] ) and generally the seafood selection there is fantastic, perhaps only exceeded by the choices around Bari or Sicily.

I'd really want to keep my cat indoors as much as I could; this may not be possible but I'd be very scared to let the feline out for fear of it getting hit by a car (see below).

Personally, I really do not recommend driving a motorcycle there. At all. And especially not in Napoli proper. My father grew up there, and every time he goes back he has a heart attack with the traffic. Some family friends agreed to drive me to the Fiumicino airport in Rome as I left the country for a short trip, and I swear I nearly died of fright myself en route -- and this was after 2 years.

Italy has one of the highest levels of paving in Europe, innumerable speeders and would-be F1 drivers, and a concomitantly high mortality rate. Every holiday weekend, I'd hear about jaw-dropping numbers of accident deaths from insane drivers. Really, please don't do it.

Many years ago I penned a short piece on about 'Dio non c'è', or 'God is not here', a bit about some local graffiti in the region that you might enjoy. You can see it here.

I'd be happy to share more about life in Italy and the Campania region, just MeMail me (now I have to figure that out!).
posted by northtwilight at 10:20 PM on July 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

While I've not been to Naples itself, I've been to Italy a few times.

Speaking very generally, the food is better the further south you go, but crime tends to be a bigger issue. For example, I loved the food just south of Rome, but up in Milan it was kind of... meh. Having said that, I have not personally had issues with pickpockets, but while in Pisa on vacation with my family, someone stole our camera bag right out of the trunk of our car while we were looking at the tower. My parents have said to me that rental car insurance is impossible to get if you're going to (or further south than) Naples. I'm unsure how true that is.

In terms of language, if you already know any Latin languages (French, Spanish, etc), you'll have a head start. I'm pretty fluent in French and picked up basic Italian fairly easily over the course of five classes at university. That said, not all genders for things are the same. (Table in French is feminine, while it's masculine in Italian.)

Also helpful (certainly more helpful than French) is in Italian, they pronounce every letter of a word. French has these crazy verb endings like "aient" that sound just like four other verb endings. You don't have that problem in Italian!

What will certainly help is acclimating yourself to the sound of it, so I recommend Italian movies or TV, but if you can't see those where you currently are, head over to to either see stuff or listen to stuff in Italian. Beware: they can speak CRAZY fast. (If you're ever speaking to someone in Italian and can't understand them, just ask them to please speak a little more slowly: "Un po' piu lentamente, per favore!")

Also, Italian is less of a unified language than you might think -- regional dialects are spoken everywhere. So while I had trouble understanding people in, say, Rome or Venice, I understood them just about perfectly in Florence. (Florence, aka Firenze, is basically where you go to speak "book Italian", as I understand it.) I'm not sure about Naples in particular, but again, in general, the further south you go, the less comprehensible the dialect tends to be.

For an app, the problem I had when I was planning my most recent trip to Italy was that I'd forgotten a lot of my vocabulary. My verbs and conjugations were okay, but I had forgotten things like "room" (la camera) and "chair" (la sedia) and "train station" (la ferrovia), so I downloaded an app from Keewords. It's not outstanding on actually teaching you the language and how to string words together, but it was really good at refreshing my memory in terms of vocabulary.

Hope any of that is helpful at all! :)
posted by juliebug at 10:51 PM on July 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Memrise is a good app for learning vocabulary.
posted by neushoorn at 10:54 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

A previous answer of mine on movin to Italy part 1 part 2

Questions not answered there:

- in general the apartments ads will usually say "No animali" if the owners don't want animals. You tend to see that more with the furnished flats. Ask in any case, as sometimes the owner doesn't care but boilerplate language in the contract says no. There's not really the concept of pet deposits here, as far as I've experienced in my 16 years here. The suggestion to get a pet passport is spot on and you'll need to check what the importation requirements are.

- Naples traffic is insane and I've only ever seen Cairo traffic that beats it in the insanity department. In addition, your insurance is going to be equally insane because Naple is notorious for car/moto theft and even car jackings. If you do decide to bring over your bike, have a damn good lock or three. Haven't imported a vehicle so I'm afraid I can't help you there.

- Naples is a love or hate city. I personally love it, but I also haven't lived there. But the food is omg amazing. It's 9am and I want pizza margherita and pasta alla Genovese just from answering your question.

More as I think about it - my toddler just smushed Cheerios all over the living room.
posted by romakimmy at 11:58 PM on July 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

- Speaking of the motorcycle: Am I crazy to motorcycle in Italy?


I've a couple of decades of experience in North America, and a few years of experience in the UK,

I live in NYC, have lived in London, and have visited Rome and Naples. When I got to Rome it was the worst traffic I had ever seen — then I went to Naples, and was shocked that the traffic was even worse.

so I'm feeling confident that I can adapt to riding in Italy.

I'm not confident you can, sorry.

Naples has the worst traffic I've ever seen. By far.

Do not ride a motorcycle in Naples.
posted by John Cohen at 12:48 AM on July 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've visited Naples several times (holidays only), and just got back from a trip there a month or so ago.

Naples is more crazy and full of life in all its gleam and grime than imagination or description can put across. It's amazing, but very, very full-on. The most culture shock I've had anywhere in Europe, far and away (Brit by origin, lived around parts of France for 10 years, travelled fair swathes of Europe all over).

Living there would be quite an experience; not one I would find it easy to take up, to be honest, but then I've lived in a little village in the Alps these past 5 years...

On my most recent trip we stayed not in Naples but in Salerno, which is a bit south just the other side of the Amalfi peninsula. Soundbyted as "one of Southern Italy's most livable cities" by Lonely Planet, it's still a lively, attractive city but doesn't have the same intensity and edginess that Naples itself does. Transport links into Naples (and all over Italy) are good as it's a main-line high speed train stop, commuting into Naples is definitely possible from there.

Roads in Italy are ok outside of towns and cities, but in and around urban areas (even ones much smaller than Naples) getting around by road is not fun, at all. Echoing the above, I honestly would not get on a motorcycle in Naples for any sum you could offer me.

For language learning, Rosetta Stone gets good ratings for absolute beginner to early intermediate levels - with a good emphasis on functional communication and pronunciation.

Sorry for the mainly tangential answer, which on reflection sounds overly negative for the main part...

Italy is the most consistently stunning place I've visited; one reads and sees so much before arriving about the landscape, food, art, history, architecture and culture that it seems impossible that the reality can live up to this, yet it has always done so for me, and every time emphatically above and beyond those preconceptions.

You have an amazing opportunity and I wish you all the best in your advertures there!
posted by protorp at 1:33 AM on July 5, 2014

I just had a squizz at your profile - you'll be coming from Canada? That's going to make shipping your household goods/furniture over wildly impractical unless your wife's job I s paying moving expenses. The majority of any electrical appliances would need transformers/convertors, anything with moving parts would be subjected to more mechanical strain as a result, and then you'd have to deal wit import duties on top of it all. I would recommend selling as much as possible and buying once you get here (or stick it in a storage space if this is a not so permanent move.) even if you find an unfurnished apartment that you have to have, there's an Ikea in Naples for the immediate necessities.

If you are still harboring ideas of importing your bike, it will take a little while for you to establish residency. As noted in the answers I linked above, first you have to get your permesso di soggiorno (or at least the piece of paper saying its in the course of being issued, known as the cedolino) and codice fiscale before you can go to your municipality to register your residency. That should give you enough time to have a gander at Naples traffic and decide if you really want to place your Moto Guzzi and yourself at its mercy. You'll want to check horsepower limits for new drivers as well; if, like the US, there are no reciprocity agreements for driving licenses, then you will be limited for a certain amount of time to lesser horsepower vehicles. I got my Italian automobile drivers license last year and haven't been able to drive my husband's car until now because the motor was too powerful. I know there are similar limits on the motorcycle licenses as well.
posted by romakimmy at 5:07 AM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

- It looks like most apartments are furnished, so we're trying to figure out if it's worth it to ship over our household goods and look for an unfurnished apartment.

I have no idea re: the availability of furnished vs unfurnished apartments, but regardless, I would personally take as little as possible (read: just what you want to keep for sentimental reasons), sell the rest, and buy what you might need once you're in Italy.

- Can anyone recommend good language-learning software, preferably for the iPad? There's no Italian courses to take locally, so I want to spget as much of a head-start as I can.

I've been having decent success using Duolingo (link goes to web app, but it also has an iOS version) to refresh my Spanish and slowly learn German, and it does have an Italian course. (Obligatory disclaimer: I am a native Italian speaker so I have never touched that course and, therefore, have no idea how good it actually is.)
posted by sailoreagle at 5:49 AM on July 5, 2014

I lived in Italy for nearly twenty years, and am there (here) right now, as a matter of fact. I disagree with the "food gets better as you move south" comment, since my city of Bologna is generally regarded as the nation's food capital (see: green lasagne, tortellini, mortadella, Bolognese sauce, etc.). I do agree that Milan isn't exactly a culinary mecca, but Rome is also pretty meh in that regard from my perspective.

Anyway. That has nothing to do with your question, since Naples has a very well established and terrific food culture.

As a fellow motorcyclist, I have to agree with the advice against riding in Italy, especially a) as someone who is not familiar with the driving culture here, which generally speaking is VERY different from what you find in North America and even other parts of Europe I'm familiar with. Lane splitting is not just the norm, it's practiced like an extreme sport, and no one pays much attention to where they are crossing the street, opening a car door into traffic, suddenly double- or triple-parking right in front of you. Then add in b), that you'll be in Naples, where all of the above is multiplied by a factor of about 10. In fact, although I had a hard time re-adapting to driving in the US at first when I moved back, and am very comfortable with the, uh, improvisational style of Italian driving, I'm not sure you could pay me to drive even a car in Naples, much less a more exposed vehicle. I was nervous riding a bicycle in the city or on certain busy country roads back when I lived here, and the past couple of weeks have reminded me why.

There are such huge cultural differences every few miles in this country, I'm not sure how applicable any advice I could give you might be to your specific situation. However, in my experience unfurnished apartments typically come without even kitchen cabinets or appliances, so that may be an additional cost to factor in when you're deciding about furniture.

Feel free to memail me if you have any questions.
posted by Superplin at 5:58 AM on July 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Chiming in to second reading Tim Parks, especially "An Italian Education,"I think it's called. Very funny and insightful. Also Luigi Barzini, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison ("Italian Days"), and Donna Leon's novels set in Venice but very smart about Italy--nicely snarky about the south as seen from the north, for example. I envy you.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2014

I confess that I hate Tim Parks' books and they are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike my experience of living in Italy. Especially the attitudes towards pets.

Mine is clearly a minority view, though, so it's probably worth reading them and drawing your own conclusions.
posted by Superplin at 2:22 PM on July 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the helpful answers! Some MeMsils will be going out soon.

In sum:
- I'll put my Moto Guzzi into long-term storage here in Canada. There's time to change my mind, if I like, but the forthright advice from fellow motorcyclists is very helpful and will be taken, at least until I have actual first-hand experience of Italian traffic.
- We may look for a flat in Somma Vesuviana, a small town/suburb of Naples on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, as my wife will be working there. That should help with the cultural adjustment, and we can always move closer to or further from Naples once we become more acclimatized.
- I've done the pet passport thing for the UK before, but the Italian regulations are much less restrictive, so that should work out. We'll fly the creatures out from Canada we get settled.
- I've been using Duolingo on my ipad and it's working well.
posted by alaaarm at 1:08 PM on July 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

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