In 2008 Stef Smulders moved from his native country, The Netherlands, to Italy with his husband and dog. In beautiful Oltrepò Pavese, he started a bed-and-breakfast. In 2014 he published Living in Italy: The real deal – how to survive the good life, a collection of witty anecdotes about daily life among the Italians. In this interview he tells us about his experience.
What brought you to beautiful Italy? Did you go to stay, or installing yourself was a result of repeated visits?
We had been in Italy several times on holiday, Tuscany, Sicily, Umbria and we loved it, of course. But our choice was also of a more practical nature: Italy is only a day’s drive from our native country The Netherlands, which is important in case of family emergencies. Then again the climate is Mediterranean without being too hot (Spain definitely was a no-go with its 40 degrees Celsius in summer!).
You moved with your partner and dog: did they come along straightaway or did they reach you later?
We went together as my husband decided to take a long wished for sabbatical leave while I was supposed to work on my masters thesis at the university of Pavia. We rented an apartment (with much difficulty as you can read in my book) in Pavia for six months.
Did you face any particular problem in adapting to the Italian frame of mind?
Yes, straight from the beginning! While we were looking for an apartment to rent we stumbled from one unpleasant surprise into another. We got to see apartments that were not available for rent after all, without the landlords telling us so beforehand. Why? I was supposed to get a desk at the university faculty offices but when I arrived nobody of the faculty members was present, ever! Finally I gave up studying as a result.
You opened a bed&breakfast: wasn’t it a nightmare from a bureaucratic point of view?
The actual paperwork for the permission of opening a B&B was surprisingly easy, actually. It turned out that for B&B’s especially the Italian lawmakers decided to shift aside all rules and regulations that annoy you when you want to open a ‘real’ vacation rental. And as we live in a very small community of 650 inhabitants, access to the responsible people of the commune was very easy and they were very helpful. The trouble started once we began to renovate the house we bought…
Do you feel at home in Italy? What is it that never makes you tired of the country? And what wears you out?
We feel very much at home. The climate, the food, the people are excellent, most of the time. And if things go wrong, we try to see the funny side of it: another story for my next book! The thing that tends to wear you out though is that when you really need something from somebody within a specific time frame… it just never happens. So, better not plan too far ahead in Italy!
Tell us whatever you want to share about the book you wrote about your Italian adventures
Well, I had a lot of fun writing it! And now I am very happy to notice that most people have an equal amount of fun reading it. It doesn’t make me rich money-wise but I certainly feel rich having been able to write it and having succeeded in a lot of readers have a good time.
To buy Stef’s book: https://www.amazon.com/