Monday, February 22, 2010

Searching for rentals in Italy is hard

As we are staying in Firenze for 3 months we have decided to rent an apartment near the city. Doing things this way is alot cheaper than staying in hotels. You can rent a 2 bedroom apartment for around 600-1200 euros per month (+utilities) depending on how close to the city it is and what you want in a place to stay. You need to check that the apartment is fully furnished, because if it isn't fully furnished you could turn up to an apartment that is empty, literally without even a kitchen sink. When Italians move they move everything with them including fixtures if they own them.
We are looking at spending about 700-900euros per month on rent and utilities, so we will stay approx. 20mins from the centre of town and utilise the public transport system. As we have never set foot in Italy we plan to explore the area we will be living in and really developing a relationship with the people in it. Because if I do get my Euro passport before we leave and manage to pick up enough work to live on we will be staying in the area for at least 12 months and really living in Italy.
We will hire a car if needed to take short trips on weekends to visit touristi places like Venice, The Cinque Terre, Rome, Chianti, Pompeii etc... otherwise we will use the train or bus.
Our children Levi (9) and Phoenix (7) are starting to really look forward to our adventure. They keep asking if they can see this or that while we are in Italy and if they can make new friends there. We just reassure them that whatever happens we will be there to help them learn the language and meet lots of children before they start at a local school. We don't want them to get anxious or worried about communicating with other children. I have made many friends over the net in expat groups and on facebook that speak english and have children they can play with.
Anyway... back to rentals in Italy, I suggest getting contact with as many real estate agents as possible, letting them know exactly what you need and your exact budget. If you see a property that is slightly over your budget do not be afraid to ask the real estate agent to see if they can negotiate the price down. Tell them you can pay cash each month for the rent (cash works wonders everywhere).
Remember if you are only going for a few months talk to them about the contract and let them know your plans. Many ads for rentals state that they want you to sign a contract for 4 years, this can always be negotiated too. Don't be afraid to ask them questions and give them a detailed account of what you want and need and what you need to be close to if you won't have a car.
I say to contact real estate agents, because you are taking a gamble contacting private owners. Especially on the net and via email. Never hand over any money until you have had a look at the property in the flesh and seen what you are getting. If you are unable to do this (as we are) contact the local expat community and ask if one of their members lives in the area and if they are willing to go check it all out for you. If everything is good and you really want it then send the deposit as soon as possible so you don't lose it to a holiday let (this is what happened to us, very disappointing). But we live and we learn, at least we hadn't sent any money yet. Also many of these holiday houses are fake and can be an ad set up by someone who doesn't even live in the country, they will have beautiful pictures and will ask you to send a deposit and then tell you they need more deposit or the first months rent up front in order for you to secure the property. Then you turn up and there is no house for you and you have no where to stay, this would be very hard especially if that was part of a very strict budget.
It is much safer to go through the real estate agents, you may pay a little more, but you can be more assured that you have something to go to when you arrive.
I will keep you updated on our rental search and add any other information as I come across it. is a good real estate search website, it is in Italian but google translate can give you quite a good translation, you can also sign up for emails from them.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why Italy? Why Not?

Many people are probably wondering why Iain and I have decided that we would like to take the kids and spend as much time as possible in Italy.

Well I have always wanted to visit Italy for a holiday and we were planning on going by ourselves (child free) for 4 weeks, until Iain came home from work one day and said " let's just go and move over there if we can."

So we sat down and tried to decide what area would we thought we might want to live in. First we looked at the big city Roma, we decided it would be too busy. Then we looked at Pisa and Livorno, we decided against these two because getting jobs there is less likely to happen then in a bigger city. In the end we decided Firenze (Florence) or the surrounding towns like Prato, Scandicci, Sesto Fiorentino, Pontessieve, Fiesole etc...

Anyway back to why we are doing this "trip", we want to get away and experience a totally different culture, learn a new language and show the kids a new lifestyle. All the teachers I have spoken to have said that the kids will learn so much from this experience.

If we are able to live and work in Italy for 12 months the kids will be enrolled in an Italian school where they will learn italian and keep up their studies. We understand that for the first few months it will be really hard on the boys but after a while they will be speaking Italian like the locals. We on the other hand will find it a bit more difficult to learn Italian and become fluent in it. But practice makes perfect and immersion is the only way to do it.

Our adventure and Life Under the Tuscan Sun begins 11 July 2010.