|Stef Smulders, personal archive|
How did your Italian story begin?
We went to live in Italy for six months, me to study at the university of Pavia and my husband Nico for a sabbatical leave. We already secretly dreamt about the possibility to move abroad definitely and start a bed and breakfast, and once we discovered the Oltrepo Pavese wine region just a little south of Pavia we decided to see if we could find a house that matched our purpose. To our surprise we found our current house .
What do you recommend to someone considering becoming an expat in Italy?
Learn the language before leaving! Do not live in the same house that you are renovating. Prepare yourself by reading books and articles about buying a house in Italy to avoid disaster.
What is the most hilarious experience you had?
There are lot of these (thats the fun of moving abroad) that I relate in my book Living in Italy: the Real Deal. I do not want to spoil the fun for those who want to read it, but one of the funniest experiences is how I made a reservation at a restaurant nearby that turned out to be of a member of the choir Nico was a member of as well, which we did not know. As a matter of fact the owner was sitting next to Nico when I made the reservation, her not knowing that it was for Nico and me. LOL.
What is the most important lesson as an expat abroad in Europe?
For US citizens I would not know, as I am a European myself. I guess there are more cultural differences to cope with as the US and Europe differ a lot as well. The lesson would be to realize and accept that people are different and there is no absolute right or wrong in this respect.
What are your best travel recommendations in your area?
Pavia, Milan, the Mediterranean, but the landscape and the people themselves, not to forget the food and wine!
Where do you see yourself living in five years from now?
Probably retired, in a nice home at one of the lakes.