17 July 2017

Barry Lillie - Expat in Abruzzo, Italy

Barry Lillie - Expat in Abruzzo, Italy

We’ve had the chance to talk to Barry Lillie, 56, a British expat who has moved to Italy with his partner. Mr. Lillie who has been living there for six years now works as an international sales manager (real estate). 

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: Stoke on Trent, England.


Q: What made you move out of the UK?

A: I fell in love with Italy back in 1988 and despite working and holidaying internationally kept coming back.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Abruzzo, Italy. To be honest I’d wanted a change for a long time and because of the amount of time we spent here, it seemed inevitable we’d come here to live. Although if I had to make a second choice it would be Malaysia.


Q: How long have you been living in Italy?

A: Six years with a break of 1 year when I had to return to the UK for work.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: With my partner and we’ve both found the transition quite easy as we’ve embraced the Italian way of life. Originally I retired here before being asked to join the agency I’m now working with.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Sounds terrible but no, I have to return to the UK for around 2 weeks each year on business and find I miss being away from Abruzzo more. Of course, the family has missed it’s only natural but with social media, it’s easy to stay in touch.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I love the locals where I am, we’ve been accepted into the community and have integrated well. I guess working with local Italians has made the transition easier too.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Italy? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: Italian’s are friendly people and take the time to say hello so making Italian friends have been easy. We only mix with a handful of expats, particularly those who have embraced the Italian way of life and take the time to learn the language and local customs. We steer clear of those who retain their Britishness and refuse to integrate.


Q: How does the cost of living in Italy compare to your home?


  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: €1,00.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: €10,00 for 2 courses including wine.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Around €40,00

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine, €1,45 cigarettes not sure as I don’t smoke.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Italy?

A: You need to obtain a Codice fiscal (fiscal code) first from Agenzia dell’entrate after that it’s fairly straightforward. My only advice is to tell people it’s free to obtain a fiscal code and open an account, any agents that tell you there’s a charge for administration is lining their own pockets.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: There’s too much emphasis on the red tape of the past. Italy has changed and I found it all very straightforward and simple.  Settling here shouldn’t be difficult if you find a good lawyer or use an organisation like Confedilizia, which is a superb nationwide service for expats in Italy.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Italy is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Italy is according to the WHO always ranked as second or third best in the world and my experience here has been much better than in the UK. Less waiting times, cheaper prescriptions and excellent service.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the UK or Italy?  What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: It’s prudent to secure health insurance before you arrive and until you are settled and resident, even then some people still renew policies if their command of the language is poor.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Italy? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Most memorable were shipping half our possessions over to have the house broken into and have them stolen – oh hum, it helped with the downsizing. We used an independent mover and it went smoothly with no problems.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Working on a restoration and living in it was an experience and one I’d have to consider carefully if I was going to do it again.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Italy?

A: Positive: Italy is very welcoming of foreign property purchasers.

     Negative: The lack of public transport in rural communities.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: Abruzzo is the largest green space in Europe, so there’s always something to do here, either visiting the coast or national parks. Here it’s possible to ski in the morning and visit the coast in the afternoon. There’s a plethora of medieval villages and also great beach resorts for children.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No, not at all.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Don’t make assumptions, check out everything. When you’re viewing properties ask lots of questions. Also ask hotel owners, bars, waiters and every ex-pat you meet about the area, the agents you’re using and what’s available. They’ll give you all the gossip. Also, visit at different times of the year, don’t limit yourself to just the summer months. Read personal blogs too, I’ve had so much good feedback from readers of my blog telling me they have got answers to the questions they’ve forgotten to ask from it.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Italy?

A: There’s so many out there I don’t have a favourite. I do stay away from independent forums where the advice can be incorrect and out of date. One blog I particularly like is https://livinginthelanghe.wordpress.com/ as it gives a great insight into a different part of Italy.