Why we made the move to Italy
Whether it's our family and friends around the world or the Italians we meet here, the first question/reaction on hearing that we have made this massive life change is almost always 'why?'.
It’s a simple question really but difficult to answer. Obviously there was no single reason. We may not even know or fully understand the reasons even now but here are some perspectives.
Yes of course there was the lure of the Italian way, the beauty of this magnificent country and the temptation of all things gastronomic. For us, however, it was much more than that.
Our individual and collective journeys led us to a 9 week sabbatical in 2017. We turned off our phones. We turned on our out of office messages. We didn’t read a single work e-mail. We de-compressed for the first time since, well, forever. We spent about a month in Italy, doing a 'zigzag' across the country, from Napoli to Milano with various stops along the way, getting to know it, its people and its culture. Fascinating and inspiring.
As cliched as it sounds, we came away with a new perspective on life in general and our lives in particular. Maybe it was just that the timing was right or maybe we were, in that period and in that mind space, ready to receive and listen to the messages that life was sending us. Maybe we just like Italian wine a lot!
At that point we had each survived and dare we say it, thrived as lawyers. There was no burning reason to make a change. Life was very comfortable and that way of living was a 'known commodity' - we could have quite easily continued with that life but we knew that, at some point, our life as lawyers in Dubai would come to an end. We could either wait to see what destiny had in store for us or we could give a destiny a nudge in our chosen direction. Whatever it was, after our sabbatical and our time in Italy we were ready to take risks, to explore options, to create options. There was no timeline, no deadline but the game was well and truly afoot!
We spent days discussing and debating, and many an evening pouring over books and articles on what constitutes 'a good life' - we are nothing if not analysis-driven. We felt that there was something missing. Being in Italy for an extended time forced us to stop and reflect on what the 'it' was.
It didn't take us long to figure out that the 'it' was being connected.
Connected to people, connected to nature and the environment, connected to a greater purpose.
That's not to say we didn't have connections in our previous life. The fact of the matter is that we wouldn't have been able to have this dream without living our previous lives. The connection we sought was however deeper. We wanted to be part of a community (in the true sense of the term), we wanted to build something and give something back to the world, and we wanted to do all of that while being as close to nature as possible.
We believed we could find all that (and much more) in Italy. Of course, being suckers for a challenge and hugely goal-oriented, we decided to throw in starting two new businesses into the mix. So started the dream, and so started the planning. It is likely that one or both of us even spoke to the person reading this post about the dream and our slow (very slow) process of execution, so you would know what we went through in that part of our journey (thanks for listening by the way!).
It ultimately took us three years from the time we made the decision that this would be our 'next phase' to making the move here. During that time, we:
made frequent visits (about 4 times a year) to Italy, and in every season;
tested the Italian health system by having one of us contract pneumonia;
poured over real estate websites and then visited around 80 properties of varying sizes and descriptions, between the Chianti and Montepulciano regions;
had several meetings with real estate agents, lawyers and commercialistas (a mix between an accountant, tax advisor, government specialist);
went on a course about living and working in Italy (featuring great food and wine…);
successfully completed the WSET level 2 course (not a very advanced certificate in wine, but a start nonetheless - and yes, one of us achieved a Merit in the course);
made a start on learning Italian; and
While it was a good start, did it prepare us completely for life here? Assolutamente N-O. More on that in the posts to come.
For now, we will end by saying that as far as we know (and have read), no one on their deathbed has ever said 'I should have spent more time working in the office'. What they have said is 'I wish I had...'
and knowing this how could we not?
Paari & Niall