It is entirely possible to live in Italy with few interactions with Italians, flitting between expat meetups and sticking entirely to the foreign crowd. While great friendships can be built this way, leaping out of your linguistic and cultural comfort zone is hugely rewarding. The process of making Italian friends can be daunting but, as the following experts tell The Local, it might be easier than you think.
Sara Rosso, writer, photographer and business & digital strategist, Naples
“I think the hardest part about making friends in Italy is that many Italians have the same friends from when they were young. They don’t really network for the sake of it, so you have to work harder at meeting people. It’s best to find people who are in the same situation as you, such as Italians who are making new lives for themselves.”
Hande Leimer, founder of Vino Roma, Rome
“I wholeheartedly recommend finding Italian friends before you even come to Rome; this means having at least some functional level of Italian before you arrive. Whatever your professional area or hobbies, start following relevant blogs that are preferably written by Italians. Start building a relationship with others by commenting on and sharing posts, then when you are in town write a nice email to ask if you can meet with the people you’ve come across.
“If you are young and single, then consider living with flatmates; this is a great way to get to know Italians.”
Katja Meier, blogger, Tuscany
“I live in a Tuscan village and got in touch with the local neighbourhood association. If you live in the countryside you should do the same and go to their dinners. You’re probably not going to cook as a foreigner! But participate wherever you can; the smaller towns really need people to lend a hand and appreciate it.
“It’s also important to develop a daily routine of having coffee at the bar. This helps you integrate into the community. It’s not enough to go once a month, you have to keep showing up and then you get into the texture of the Italian social life.”
Krista Ricchi, blogger and business owner, Florence
“I think that making friends with locals in Florence can be hard, especially for an American, because the city centre is full of American tourists and students that are here for a few days or a few months. Italians learn to think about English-speaking foreigners as temporary guests and don’t invest much time in getting to know someone they’ll have to say goodbye to soon.
“I initially made friends with Italians by meeting a few friendly bartenders and being introduced to their circle of locals and hang-out spots.
“It helps to speak Italian well, even if Italians speak English. I think we all connect on a deeper level in our mother tongue, so make the effort!”
Rick Zullo, blogger and English teacher, Rome
“When I moved to Rome, I found the easiest way to meet locals was through language exchange meetups that were organized by the many expat groups. Then as I became more comfortable with my surroundings, I started to venture out and explore the city on my own. There are organizations that offer historical tours of specific sites, generally the lesser known sites. The groups are small and personal, which gives plenty of opportunity for interaction.
“Now I tend to meet locals more naturally. For example, I joined a gym last year and found a group of runners who introduced me to some parks and trails that I would never have found on my own. After running, we sometimes stop for a drink and a chat.
“Participate in the things that you already enjoy doing and reach out to those who enjoy the same activities. There’s no lack of opportunities in a big, culturally-rich city like Rome. You just have to get out there.”
Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments section below.