If you’re wondering whether you can make it as an expat in Rome, look no further than Green’s award-winning When In Rome: Chasing la Dolce Vita for invaluable inspiration and insight. After living and working in the Eternal City, Penny moved south to Naples and, intrigued by the local mafia, wrote her second book, See Naples and Die: The Crimes and Passion’s of Italy’s Darkest Jewel. And by the time you’re completely hooked on her intimate writing style and hilarious honesty about the expat experience, you can dive straight into the final story of when she moved to Procida, a tiny island across the bay from Capri, with her Italian partner, Alfonso: Girl By Sea.
You think running away to Italy you’ll have an instant social circle. Hello? You know no one!
What are some of the greatest misconceptions about running away to Italy?
That you’ll live immediately like the Italians do, e.g have an instant social circle (hello? you know no one!), eat the best home-cooked pasta every day (say what? unless you are billeted, that won’t happen), find the love of your life (reality check: the mostly lascivious locals make that a challenge). Surprise! Like most places, there is a reality in Italy which can often be banal, i.e. I must work to pay rent/taxes, must worry about job stability when economy is up the spout… You get my drift.
In the beginning, what was your most difficult period or moment and, at the other end of the journey (aside from publishing three best-selling books) what has been the most rewarding?
I can’t really say one single moment was the hardest but obviously learning the language was incredibly frustrating. But also great fun. The most rewarding would have been resuming my career as a journalist there, that is, being fluent enough to make that possible, both freelancing for home and for a local news agency (ANSA).
What is your advice for expats in Rome, both the foreigner who is enchanted and naive, and the straniera who is at the end of their tether and thinking of giving up and flying home?
To the naive: make that feeling last and enjoy the best of it while you can, say yes to everything (within the range of commonsense, that is) and enjoy each day because Rome is a pretty super place to be.
To the jaded: Is there any way you can improve your life/add new goals to achieve that and, if not, do you REALLY want to go back to life as you know it? Remember, it’s the hardest times in life that stay with you the most but if you can get through them the experience will be even sweeter.
How did your view of Rome change after living, working and falling in love in this city?
I didn’t have any pre-conceptions of Rome and so I don’t think my views of the city changed. It was just a huge metropolis that constantly challenged and entertained me in equal measures.
Now that you live in Australia, what are the four things you miss the most about Rome, or Italy in general?
Having an aperitivo at Il Nolano (Campo d’Fiori) where I worked and chatting with my colleagues there (ciao Mario, Simone, Alessio, Fede, Marianna, Susanna, Armando e tutti!). Wandering the centro storico and Monti with friends, eating out late and hanging in the piazza until late. Having mind-blowing history literally at my doorstep and being able to explore and enjoy and celebrate that in daily life. My gorgeous amici Italiani with whom I still remain in contact.