Here we are again with another story of our expat interview series! After Rob and Corine who are moving from the Netherlands to Le Marche regardless of the recent central Italy earthquake, this time we reached the nearby region of Lazio and met Sonseere and her lovely dog Henry in Arpino.

Have you ever heard about Arpino? If not, then you should definitely found out more about this marvellous ancient hamlet laying on a ridge halfway between Rome and Naples, which are just an hour and a half far, and a few kilometres from the amazing Riviera of Ulysses.

So in the very birthplace of Cicero, Sonseere, an incredible woman and attorney from USA, is starting her new Italian life. Read more about her story!

Hi Sonseere! Where are you originally from?

“I’m originally from the Minnesota. I was born in the capitol city of St. Paul and lived in what is known as the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul, for my entire life.

I’ve traveled a lot throughout my life, even though I’ve called Minneapolis “home” for most of my life. And now I just bought a second floor apartment in Arpino, Italy in Frosinone province in Lazio.”

Why did you decide to move to Italy?

“Well, I’ve dreamed of living in Italy most of my life. My mother was Italian and started bringing me here when I was only four years old. Her family was mostly from Abruzzo so when we visited, we hardly ventured from the countryside of L’Aquila unless we were staying with the relatives who lived in the centre of Rome.

Over the years I came with my mother, my sister, other family members, eventually my own children and then without my mother, when she became too weak to travel.”

And why did you choose exactly that area as your Italian retreat?

“I choose Arpino mainly due to its good connections for me traveling from the US, especially the midwest, where I am from. I didn’t want to be “too far” from people I knew.”

“So I started my research on the Internet and arranged some viewings with a real estate agent in Arpino to see some apartments, houses and farmhouses that were in my budget, including renovation costs.

After looking at all of the options I still decided that I’d like to be in the city so I could walk to a grocery store, the bank the market etc.”

What’s the social scene like? It is easy to make friends in Italy?

“You see, I’ve met a lot of people here who speak English and live within walking distance of me. They are from Canada, Australia and the UK. I’m hoping to convince also a few more of my friends to move here too. It is a nice mix of people. The Italians here are quite accepting of us and so kind to put up with my horrible speaking skills. But I’m trying and once I settle down, will make a much better effort to understand the language and the culture of the city.”

Now that you’re in Italy, what are you doing for a living? Did you find a job here?

“I’m now trying to earn a living with my writing and my law background so I can enjoy what I’ve worked so hard for over the past six months. Recently, I helped one of the hotels here, rewrite some of their marketing materials in proper English, with the goal of increasing sales and search engine results in English. I’m hoping to find more clients who need better English translations than what Google translate can do – because those are not very good.”

Arpino by gerry.scappaticci (CC BY 4.0)

We know you moved to Italy with your adorable ten-year-old dog, Henry. Many people think of relocating overseas with their pet like you did. What about booking a flight for a pet? What are the requirements?

“I think there are a lot of variables when answering that question. Each airline has its own rules about the type of pet allowed in the cabin or in the hold, the size, the breed and the carrier. Your vet needs to research the vaccination requirements for travel depending upon the destination country and if the pet will transit through a third country. Then, you would usually have to take all of this paperwork to the nearest USDA office – if you are travelling from US like me – and pay a fee to have a vet sign off on everything within a certain time period before the flight.

Once I got to Italy, I found a local vet and had him complete the remaining shots my dog needed. There were a few that my vet in the US couldn’t give to him before we left because they were not due for a couple of months. I knew that I had to go back to the US in a few months with the dog, so I had to have my dog Henry get these shots before then.

But in order to travel with him back to the US, so that the airline would let him on the plane, I had to get an EU Pet Passport for him. The vet in Italy arranged for me to go see the vet the next day at the government office that issues these. The vet cannot issue them. But I believe that he can update the passport once the government office issues it. I do not think that I need to return to have it updated each year.

The vet there looked over all of the US paperwork and the paperwork from the vet in Italy. After about an hour, they finally issued the passport for my dog and two or there days later, we were flying back to the US without any problems related to Henry’s papers. I even went through customs in JFK and had not issues at all coming in.

But the biggest thing is that the microchips here are different than they are in the US, depending upon the year your pet received it. Henry’s was not compliant because he was almost 9 years old when I brought him over. So the vet had to insert a microchip that was compliant with EU microchip readers. So now he has two.”

So Henry has been your faithful companion during your relocation to Italy, isn’t it?

“Yes, definitely! I mean, this dog gets me out of bed in the morning and gets me into the sunshine when I feel a bit afraid as I moved all alone.

He’s already been back to the US once with me and is now a seasoned international traveler with his own EU pet passport. I would never have left him in the US. Bringing him along was always in the plan and was one of the best things I did. He still doesn’t understand Italian but is having a blast running all over the country with me – from Piedmont to Puglia!”

Anything to recommend to future expats?

“As you know, house hunting, purchasing and remodeling is a very exciting yet daunting experience, especially doing it all alone like I’m doing. So try not to be discouraged if something goes wrong during the process and always let yourself enjoy even some little things in the midst of setbacks. You see, when I’m not occupied with the relocation process, I take some time off to explore new streets or try new foods I find in the market. Each store sells bulk wines from the area, local cheeses and breads. I will have lunch in a restaurant once a week and get a pastry at the bakery up the street. It is not very expensive to live here. There are beautiful views everywhere, and I can sit in the café in the piazza and just look at the free art that is all over the buildings. Here in Arpino, the work of the guest poets is inscribed on marble slabs and posted all around the city. And, with summer approaching, the number of tourists will increase and that means more events and activities around town, all free for me to enjoy.

Also try to have work lined up before you come to Italy and do the math ahead of time. That’s very important.”