Nikol Toteva’s Story

Nikol Toteva works as an English teacher in the northern Italian city of Como. You can follow her at

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

Like any other day dreamer watching films set in Italy, the idea of moving to the foreign land comes up once or twice. The mere thought of being part of the Italian community would have never been reachable had it not been for my stubborn decision making. When I make up my mind, there is no turning back so I first applied to be an Au Pair which worked out and I set out on a one year journey in northern Italy. Then my second voyage turned out to be permanent.

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

The decision became reality in October of 2019 when the opportunity of a lifetime was offered to me. My resume was spotted on the website where I had published it and the outcome was a job offer for a private English school. To be honest, I didn’t think twice and immediately accepted. My return ticket to America was abandoned and I began searching for apartments.

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

Let’s say that in the blink of an eye my life completely changed. So, of all the possible emotions a person could experience, I was living through each one of them rapidly. I didn’t react to the what-ifs, I was really just intoxicated by being in the moment of it all. It was a breath of fresh air once I finally settled in. Wouldn’t have traded that feeling for the world.

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

I’m a teacher for Wall Street English which is a private English school located right in the city center of Como, Italy.

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

I would have to say that moving here right before Covid graced us with its presence was by far the biggest difficulty of my life. Living in isolation without my friends and family in a country that had been hit the hardest by the virus, next to China. That to me is a feeling that will remain with me for the rest of my life.

Thankfully my boyfriend at the time kept me sane and we comforted each other because he, even though Italian, lived on the opposite side of the country far from his family so we were kind of the in same situation. During the lockdown we realized just how important human contact and being outdoors is so when we were given the ability, we rushed outside and never looked back.

Then, bureaucracy which still to this day I am struggling with.

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

I guess the difference in the way of life ranging from region to region. I used to think Italy was one single country, but it’s so much more than that. For example, the way the language is spoken changes so each city could have their own form of dialect which the locals use to communicate. Even the food is diverse. The times in which you eat shift around. I have several students from all over Italy and I love when they get so passionate talking about where they originate from. Italians are just so proud of their hometowns and so I learn even from my students.

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

Possibly, I would have started a language course immediately after moving to Italy. I had all the time in the world to learn during the lockdown, but I’m the type of person who needs to follow a teacher and a book to improve. I tried over and over to follow various apps and books I had purchased from Amazon, but it wasn’t sticking. I would say my Italian is good enough to interact, but of course I would like it more advanced.

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

I wouldn’t necessarily say it was strange but I had a hard time adapting to the copious amounts of pasta that are eaten here. I mean sure, who doesn’t love a nice bowl of carbs every now and then but I hadn’t realized just how much Italians have a pasta based diet. Now I find myself constantly looking for a new pasta dish to make.

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

You know, Italians have a unique way of living their lives. In their eyes I’ll always be the foreigner that fell in love with their culture. But to me it’s so much heavier than that. I live in front of this frequently populated market and at the crack of dawn the vendors are out there unloading their trucks full of produce. So imagine at 5am you get woken up by Marco and Ana going face to face over their products. You can hear the hand gestures flying about and I love it. Then I open my shutters and the smell of fresh brioche and coffee is usually knocking on my window from the cafe’ down below. I walk out of my apartment and hear the ringing of the church bells from the ancient churches at every corner hinting that it’s noon. I sometimes run into a familiar face as I’m going for a daily walk or I’m giving tourists directions and that to me truly makes it feel like I’m home. Each day is an adventure in Como so even on my off days where I’m not feeling completely like myself, I find a way to make it my favorite.