Jessica Morton’s Story

Jessica Morton accidentally fell into living in Italy after travelling from her native New Zealand

1. When did the idea of moving to Italy first arrive for you?

When I was seventeen years old, I sold my horse in order to buy a one way ticket to Germany to work with horses. I found a job with a very well known international rider and horse breeder, and soon found myself homesick and miserable living in a cold, grey village in Northern Germany. My parents, classic kiwi tough love advocates, refused to pay for my ticket home until I had stayed a minimum of six months in Europe. So I started searching for an alternative job, and found a stable in Tuscany looking for help. I caught a train from rainy Hannover and twelve hours later, found myself in the center of Florence. I knew from the first moment I stepped outside, that this was where I wanted to live.  

2. When did the idea turn into the actual decision to move?

I worked a year in Tuscany and then traveled around the country with a friend of mine who had been studying at a high school in Venice. By that stage we were both fairly fluent in Italian (a benefit of traveling so young) so we really were able to immerse ourselves in Italian life. We had boyfriends, friends, jobs - and returning to New Zealand afterwards was a reverse culture shock. I used my time back home to get a degree, and the day I finished my last exam I was back on a plane. 

3. How long did it take to then move here once the decision was made?

I initially came back to Italy just to work the summer of 2006 with just a small bag of things. I never really made the decision to move here, life just kind of decided for me. 

4. Can you paint a picture of how you felt about finally living here in Italy?

Since it was never really planned, I didn’t really think about it. It just ‘happened’. 

5. What do you do here in Italy, do you work/have your own business?

For ten years I worked as an equestrian guide/riding instructor for a large resort in Tuscany. In the summer I would escort groups on week long riding tours, and in the winter I would help with the marketing and sales activities. After a knee injury curtailed the amount of time I could spend in the saddle, I started writing magazine articles as a side hustle, and eventually I had enough work as a writer to leave my job and make it a full time gig. 

6. What were your top two greatest challenges when you first moved here? How did you get over them?

Language and bureaucracy. 

Language requires bravery. You won’t learn Italian on an app practicing with your cat. You need to get out and about and speak to people. Yes, you will feel stupid sometimes. Yes, some people will treat you like you are stupid… but it is all part of the learning experience. The people I see that struggle most with the language are those that don’t have Italian friends/partners to practice with on a daily basis. Just because you can get away with speaking English in Italy, doesn’t mean you should. 

Bureaucracy requires patience, acceptance and wine. Lots of wine. They say that if you manage to last five years in Italy you have passed the test. By that time, if you're not hiding out in a box, you will have had to deal with the questura, tax office, health system and open a bank. If you have survived that, you can survive anything. 

7. What is something that has surprised you the most about what you love about living in Italy?

Italians are not the chilled out personalities that the media makes them out to be. Quite the opposite. Try walking down the street barefoot if you want to test this theory ;)

8. Is there anything that you would do differently here, if you had your time over?

Nothing :)

9. What is the strangest thing about Italian culture that you thought you would never get used to but now couldn't live without?

The rules around food. They all make sense now. 

10. Give us a run-through of your favourite Italian day.

A day spent riding one of my horses with friends through the local countryside. Better still if we come across some wildlife (which is typical of most rides here). Maybe finished off with a nice aperitivo at sunset.