So here I am.
21 years old and living in Florence, Italy – Only a quick 24 hour flight away from home in Australia, in a country that doesn’t speak English (well Florence is an exemption, I’ll be honest – I call it Little America sometimes because of all the tourists around…) and experiencing the ‘total immersion’ of Italy.
Next month, it will have been six (6) months since I packed my bags and left Australia to move abroad. Prior to this I was filled with questions about the trip, asking any person who had experienced even anything in the slightest bit similar; for advice and recommendations. Naturally, you are filled with curiosity and questioning prior to leaving everything at home and relocating to a whole new country. So here’s my attempt to answer your questions.
What you are doing?
I am taking a gap year and living in Italy!
I have saved enough money to last me between 4-6 months depending on my lifestyle costs, so I have been working casually doing some freelance website editing, tutoring and marketing. I am also working for a company in Brisbane doing some freelance marketing and advertising work – however at the moment the money I am making is not enough to support me – so my work circumstances will change in August – maybe I’ll get a second job!
Are you only travelling for the year?
At the moment I have been based in Florence however I will travel over the summer and potentially relocate to another Italian city and live there for another three months. I am leaving everything very flexible so that I have choices and can change my lifestyle as I please! It is a lot of fun not having any commitments for where I will be in the future, and also very exciting.
Where did you do your language course/which one did you do?
I went to Parola language school in Florence, which is in the area of Santa Croce – you can read my review here. I have done two months of full-time learning and another 3 weeks of casual classes.
Have you learnt Italian yet?
For the first two months I was learning Italian full-time at a language school (4hrs/day), but as I am living in Florence it is one of the bigger cities in Italy, so there is a lot of English, which means it can be easy not to learn. I have stopped this month because of work commitments however I still have more learning to do but I’m a lot better than I was!
I have been told it takes between 6 months – 1 year of regular speaking to become close to fluent – you will always have a thick accent and sometimes find words you have never heard of, but that’s just part of the learning process!
How are you staying in Italy for so long? Do you need a visa?
I have an Italian passport which is a huge advantage and provides me with the flexibility of living or working anywhere in Europe and the UK. However if I didn’t, I would need a working visa specific to the Schengen Region, I have written some information about the application process here.
How did you decide on living in Florence?
I did a bit of research and asked a lot of people for their opinions. But if you can, go to Europe and check out the cities you are thinking of moving to, which is also what I did – this helped me a lot to understand the atmosphere and culture of the city.
From there, simply decide on a date to leave, and keep in mind which season it will be, because this makes a HUGE difference like summer or winter etc and then work toward it.
I decided on living in Florence because to me, it is like living in a dream, I love it, but now that it’s coming into tourist season it’s becoming overrun and I am considering going to another city that is less touristy and busy! My apartment was a flexible contract, so I am able to leave whenever I wish, which has turned out extremely well for me!
Did you save a lot of money?
I saved all of last year trying to put away between $250-400 per week. I made sacrifices on things like – not buying unnecessary clothing, jewellery or shoes, meeting friends for coffee instead of dinners and inviting people to over instead of going out. I also sold a lot of my items that I wasn’t using – like my old iPhone, handbags, clothing and whatever else I could find. Little things like this really do add up and make a difference when you are trying to save money.
Do you have family in Italy, and does this help?
Yes, I have cousins and relatives in Torino and Milano, however I am living in Florence which is about a 2.5hr train ride away and around 60€+ return – so not cheap! This helps knowing that if I need them I can easily get a train and reach them, however at the same time I am still living alone in a new city – so it didn’t make it any easier here!
Have you found it hard to find a place to live?
It can be a little annoying trying to find a single room in a shared apartment, however I have been lucky. On both occasions I needed an apartment, I have moved in with friends I had made while I was travelling. In August I will move to a new city, therefore won’t know anyone and will be using sites like Bakeca, Easy Stanza, Kjiji and Craigslist to find a room. I always look for apartments with lots of photos try to go and see the apartment before I move in.
What are some important things to know before choosing an apartment?
- Find out how noisy the area is, and if it is safe.
- Make sure Wi-Fi is included – because this is expensive to maintain if it isn’t!
- Check public transport or walking distance to where you think you’ll spend most of your time (usually the city centre).
- Understand the area and what it has to offer – For example: I live in Santa Croce – which is very close to where the tour buses stop, so we get a lot of tour groups passing through. There are also a lot of bars and restaurants in this area, so it is becoming really popular.
Is it expensive to live in Florence?
You can expect rent in Florence city-centre to be between 350-400€ per month + utilities (usually an extra 50€).
Restaurant food is around 8-12€ for an entrée and 13-18€ for a main. You have to pay for water at every restaurant you go to in Italy – which sucks!
Wine is cheap here, around €4 for 500ml at a restaurant and from €3 for a bottle at a Alimentari (mini-mart – they remind me of the Kwik-E-Mart).
Fresh fruit and vegetable markets cost about the same price as the supermarket which isn’t overly cheap – however this is a tourist city.
- Apples are 2.50€/kg
- Chicken 5-8€/kg
- Water 500ml 1€
I also use this website to compare city costs -> Numbeo is extremely helpful if you’re trying to get a better understanding of how the cost of living in your current city compares to where you plan on moving to!
Average pay per hour?
In Italy you can expect to receive between €6-8/hour for bar work, cafe, restaurant and shop work.
Overall you can ask 100+ people for advice and information about the city you will be moving to, however once you arrive and begin to discover the city, that is where all of the learning really comes from. Don’t stress if you haven’t organised everything prior to arriving, because sometimes it’s just easier to do it there, and remember that you always have short term options like staying in a hostel or AirBnB if you can’t find an apartment that you like at the beginning of your stay!
Do you have any tips or stories from when you have lived abroad? Comment below!