My name is Valeria from the Instagram @dramatically.expatic. I’m a Ukrainian girl who has been living and traveling in Italy as an expat for six years now. My line of work is in content creation and freelance writing – so my life sort of resembles a constant quest for new adventures.
I was born in the city of Odessa, in a multinational family. I guess I have always felt like a global citizen. As a child, I traveled a lot with my family and loved being on the road. To be honest though, I don’t remember the exact point when my passion for travel started, it’s always just been there.
At a certain point, when I was eleven or twelve, I realized that I wanted to live abroad – and not just travel abroad. I know it was early but I think it also helped me to get prepared to move to a foreign country, since I have been eyeing various places for so long. Basically every time I went somewhere new, I was asking myself: “Can I see myself living here one day?”
Moving to Bologna, Italy as an Expat
I have always loved Italy but I never really planned on moving here! I was nineteen and was working in TV back home during my gap year. However, I was looking for a destination where I could go to university, since studying abroad as a full-time student had always been on my mind growing up.
I was considering France or Ireland (since I spoke both French and English). But then I ended up on vacation in Italy one summer, and the idea of staying there permanently started to cross my mind. I moved to Bologna, Italy in August 2015, initially thinking it would be just for one year.
I didn’t speak Italian when I moved. So first thing was first, I enrolled in a language school. That year was fundamental as it made me fall madly in love with Italy and I decided to stay for longer. It has been six years now!
A Typical Day for me Living in Italy
My typical day in Italy is a mix of spending time working and studying. I’m finishing my Masters degree at the University of Bologna now. As of the past year, I have been doing both my work and my study remotely.
I love how slow-paced life is in Italy. In the morning, I try to go for a run and then I have a class or two, before heading to a coffee shop in the city to complete whichever work I have to do – whether it’s writing or editing for my Youtube channel. My evenings vary greatly, from having an aperitivo with friends to attending one of the numerous events in Bologna.
Bologna, Italy: An Expat Friendly City
Bologna is located in the north of Italy, in the beautiful region of Emilia Romagna. I think Bologna is a perfect place for young people because there is something going on at all times. Being a university city, it’s very lively and people of all ages usually enjoy the great choice of activities.
The city isn’t big, so you can get around easily. When you get tired of the city, there are stunning hills to see – and the Apennine Mountains just an hour away! Bologna’s central location is perfect for traveling around Italy.
It’s also known as one of the most welcoming cities. From my own experience (and that of my friends), I can confirm it: Bologna is indeed an expat friendly place. Travelers of all kinds will find something for them in Bologna: with its rich history, great art scene, incredible architecture and some cool parks. It’s a perfect (and somewhat underrated) destination.
Visiting the Quaint Villages of Italy
I have had the pleasure of traveling around Italy a lot, so much so that I have decided to film my travels because (in my opinion) there are hidden gems everywhere in this country! Tourists usually visit well-known places, and while I love Venice and Florence, there is so much more to Italy.
What I love most is visiting small villages and taking the offbeat routes, instead of following in the footsteps of mass tourism. There are still places I have yet to go, but I have been to numerous spectacular spots. And each time I go, I fall more and more in love with Italy! I love local travel as it allows you to discover the country you are living in from a different perspective.
Venice, Florence and Lake Garda are some of my favorite places. However, there are small towns all around the country that will take your breath away. The Umbria region is the most picturesque, while Liguria has the best seaside views and Trentino-Alto Adige is number one for mountains.
Speaking of my region, Bologna is my favourite (of course) but I also love Cesena and Ravenna, among many other towns. And of course, I have to mention the Apennines. To me, these mountains are too underrated!
What Expat Life in Italy is Like
I would say being an expat in Italy is a great experience. As with any country, it’s important to understand that the local mindset and culture will differ from yours. You should consider whether that country suits you.
In my case, Italy suits me very well – I would struggle in more “organized” places. I love that little “chaos” that Italy has sometimes. Of course, there are the downsides to this as well, like the infamous Italian bureaucracy – just ask any expat and they are going to tell you this is their main struggle!
On the other hand, Italians are usually extremely welcoming, and in the case of Bologna locals are really really welcoming. During these six years in Italy, I have made friends among both Italians and other expats. I can say for sure that I would love for these people to stay in my life for good.
Glorious Food Culture of Italy
Most people know that Italian cuisine is one of the best in the world! In fact, you can’t avoid the food topic when you speak of Italy. Italian cuisine is indeed very good, and I’m lucky to be living in Bologna – which is known as the stomach of Italy. Lots of famous products are produced in the Emilia Romagna region. What I love most is that each region has its own cuisine.
Seriously, you can make a trip around all regions just trying local food and tasting local wine! Italian food never disappoints. I love that food for Italians is such an important thing about their culture. If you want to get to know Italians for real, you should start with food. It’s a huge thing.
I can’t say it was a surprise – after all Italian cuisine is present everywhere in the world (although, it’s not always authentic). But I have learnt so much about Italian food after moving – and I keep learning! As for my favourite dish, it may sound simple but I’m happy eating margherita pizza all day.
I also can’t say no to tagliatelle al ragu, a very local thing known as spaghetti bolognese in the rest of the world (but don’t call it this name if you are in Bologna!). And of course, I’m a huge fan of local cheese and ham – there are plenty of types to choose from and I love trying new foods!
Tips for Moving to Italy as an Expat
The biggest piece of advice I can give: you will never be prepared for everything. When you think you have settled down, Italy (and probably any country) will throw you something new that you have to endure.
I talk a lot about it on my Youtube, but ultimately it boils down to a very simple thing: enjoy the ride, without looking for your final destination – as there is none! Let go of your expectations and embrace the unknown.
More practically, I would say learn the basics of the language (people in cities usually speak English, but if you want to go to smaller places you might need Italian). Try to find a hobby too – you would be surprised how easy it is to find local friends once you enrol in a club or society!
Be open and respectful of the culture and trust the process: living abroad will make you uncomfortable, but it will make you grow. Living in Italy as an expat could be the most rewarding experience of your life, if you let it be so.