5 Things To Know Before Moving To Rome

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So, you’ve set your heart on moving to Rome, and nothing is going to stop you. Living in Rome is amazing! Gelatos and la passeggiata every single day, what more could you want? Despite the countless hurdles that present themselves, I managed to land and settle in Rome to pursue my master’s degree. This city has many wonderful aspects, but it also comes with its challenges. If I were to describe Rome in three words, it would be like a toxic boyfriend. Wait, but that’s three words, nevermind. The point is, this city is incredibly beautiful and breathtaking, and there’s never a dull moment, BUT it’s not without its share of hassle. Disclaimer: This post isn’t meant to criticize Rome or Italy. It’s intended to assist non-European people like me in being better prepared and settling in quickly. This post isn’t sponsored; all my recommendations are based on my genuine experience. Without further ado, here are five things I wish I had known before moving here.

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Tips moving to Rome
5 tips on moving to Rome

1. Applying for Permesso di Soggiorno in Rome Takes A Long Time

A woman moving out of her house by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels
A woman moving out of her house by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels

If you’re moving to Rome for studying, chances are you’ll need to apply for the permesso di soggiorno (PDS). Your student visa typically lasts for a year, and afterwards, the permesso di soggiorno becomes your permit to stay. To obtain it, visit the post office/Poste Italiane with a ‘sportello’ account and request the permesso di soggiorno kit (also called the yellow kit or il kit giallo). The envelope will contain all the necessary forms that you’ll need to fill out and sign. Then, you’ll need to return to the Poste Italiane and submit the kit along with all the supporting documents. Prior to submitting your application, it’s important to have health insurance. Insurance can be quite expensive here. I personally obtain one that covers emergencies and fulfills the requirements for my PDS application from the Welcome Association Italy. Don’t forget to check the duration of the health insurance required for your PDS. Once you’ve applied, they will provide you with three papers/receipts that you must safeguard since they serve as proof of your stay, alongside your visa. One of these papers will have your appointment date with the ‘questura’ or local police for an interview to obtain the PDS. My appointment is scheduled for 6 months after the date of application. Fingers crossed for my appointment at the end of March 2021!

Pro tips:
Visit the post office early in the morning to avoid long queues. When inquiring about the PDS kit, politely inform the people in line that you only need to ask the staff if they still have the PDS kit. People will allow you to ask first before joining the queue if you kindly explain. Don’t repeat my mistake! I spent at least 3 hours in line before reaching the staff, and he informed me, “Sorry, we ran out of the yellow kit, try another post office!” I learned my lesson.

People Queueing at Poste Italiane. Source from: siciliafan.it
People Queueing at Poste Italiane. Source from: siciliafan.it

2. Brush Up on Your Italian!

Brush up on your Italian before coming here! I can’t stress this enough. While you can get by with English as a tourist, living here and dealing with hospitals, pharmacies, supermarkets, post offices, and the questura requires at least a basic level of Italian. Most public officials speak only Italian, including the staff at the post office and central bank locations. So, be prepared to communicate in broken Italian, use body language, or even feel frustrated and try again. Google Translate on your phone can be helpful. And believe me, they treat you much better when you make an effort to speak to them in Italian.

3. Opening a Local Bank Account Is a Hassle

Signing a contract by Cytonn Photography on Pexels

I tried 12 banks, and only ONE let me open an account as a non-resident. Most banks here don’t allow account openings without an EU passport or PDS. Yes, this includes big banks and online banks. The same problem persists. So, if you’re coming from Asia like me, consider using Wise and obtaining its debit card before moving here. It will be a lifesaver! Oh, and that one bank that allowed me to open an account without waiting for six months or more after my PDS is… drum roll Fineco! I called and tried a dozen banks before one of my friends kindly referred me to Fineco. Finally, after four months of arriving here, I was able to open my bank account.

4. Prepare Cash in Advance for Apartment Rental

Apartment prices in Rome can be quite unpredictable. You may come across great deals in the city center or excessively expensive options. When negotiating, be ready to offer upfront payment for six months in cash, as it gives you better negotiation power. Typically, you’ll need to search for rental properties through an agency or immobiliare. You can find them online on websites like immobiliare.it or idealista, or you can visit property agencies in person throughout the city. Another option is to use affito privato or private rentals, where the company connects you with a list of landlords based on your budget, and you pay a fixed amount to the company instead of a commission. The advantage is that the fee is usually much cheaper than using an agency. However, you have six months to find and match with your ideal landlord and property. Luckily, I found one, and my landlady is an angel! But be warned, this process is not for the faint-hearted, as apartments get snatched up quickly here. I had to go through numerous landlords and property listings before finding the right one.

5. Get Used to ‘Going With the Flow’

Women eating pizza by Adrienn on Pexel
Women eating pizza by Adrienn on Pexel

After living in Singapore for 12 years, moving to Rome and living here during this pandemic felt like a shock to the system. I was accustomed to paperwork taking only a few days or a maximum of two weeks. Bureaucracy here is even more complex and time-consuming. Regulations change frequently, and I honestly struggled during the first few months. But I’d like to believe that I’m getting the hang of it now. The moral of the story is that you can plan all you want, but be prepared for things to not go as planned. It’s best to go with the flow and embrace the journey in this beautiful city called Rome.

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Rome relocation tips

I hope my opinion will not deter you but rather prepare you to move here and fully enjoy the city! Trust me, it’s truly worth it in the end. If you’re new to Rome, feel free to check out my favorite places in the city as well.

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