Fifty Days To Go – Bankers And Final Minimizing

During our October appointment to the Italian Consulate General in Los Angeles, Tracy and I signed our visa application in front of a consular officer who also endorsed the application.  However we were also required by the Consulate to submit three additional documents before they would process the application.  The Consulate wanted a copy of our marriage certificate, a notarized letter of why we wanted to live in Italy, and a letter of financial solvency from our banker.  The last request seemed very old fashioned since we had already submitted pension statements and account balance print-outs.  I had an image out of  the film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and the Consulate wanting us to go visit Jimmy Stewart down at the Bedford Falls’ Building and Loan office and asking him for a personal letter of reference.  We, like most the people we know, don’t have our very own “Banker.”

We followed-up with an appointment with the manager at our Bank of America branch.  We were surprised to learn that we actually did have our own banker.  Cherye, the branch manager, recognized us as long time patrons of the bank.  She was extremely helpful with getting us the document we needed.  She requested the financial letter from the Bank of America corporate office for us and co-signed the letter when it arrived at the bank branch five days later.  We added the bank letter to the other documents with our previously endorsed visa application and “FedEx’ed” the whole package along with our passports  back to the Consulate for their review.  We are now anxiously waiting for a return FedEx package from the Consulate with our final approval, visas, and passports.  We are in “hurry up and wait,” mode.  Although we can only apply for the formal visa a maximum of  90 days prior to scheduled departure, the Consulate does not provide a time estimate for processing and final decision.

Our efforts on minimizing “stuff” is going well.  Tracy and my goal is to downsize our personal possessions and move to Italy with only two suitcases and a carry-on bag each that contain all our clothing, computers, Kindles (in place of books), and cameras. (The dog has her own carry-on bag to ride in.)  We went through our wardrobes and reduced our clothing to just 10 outfits each, coat, and shoes.  Our son Nicholas, who is a similar height and build as me, made off with several suits, shirts, slacks, ties, and jackets from my closet.  Tracy has been copying our legal and financial records along with family photographs by scanning them into digital files while saving them to external hard drives.  She has already “ripped” all of our DVD movies into digital files so we can have some English language entertainment while abroad.

We put the Smart Car Cabriolet, our last vehicle, up for sale on Craig’s List. We wanted to get the car on the market before the upcoming holiday season diminishes the cash flow of potential buyers. The Smart car is our last “big” possession that we need to divest ourselves from.  After owning minivans, station wagons, and family sedans because of raising eight kids, I really enjoyed the last few years of having a “ragtop” two-seater and driving with the wind and sun in my face.  But getting rid of the car is a final step for making the move and transitioning on to the next big step in our lives.

Alan driving Smart car
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Homeless . . . and happy!

We got great news today — the house closed!!

Our beautiful, 3 bdrm, 2 bath, 2 car garage home has a new owner and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Selling the house was one of those “big list” items that was important to both of us to be handled prior to our move. This morning we received an email from our realtor that the house has closed and that there is a check awaiting us at the title company. Woohoo!

After our first buyer didn’t quite work out due to their bank not getting the paperwork together over a rather long nine month period, we had to make the decision to abandon our first buyer and re-list the house. It was a difficult decision as we had been hopeful that the first buyer’s bank could get it together and close the deal, but that just didn’t happen.

So, after a discussion with our realtor we re-listed the house on July 5 at 9:30 am, by 10:30 am there were 25 requests to view the house, by July 6 at 5 pm our realtor took the house back off the market so that we could go through the four offers we had already received. Of the four offers, two were cash. After reviewing each of the four offers we accepted one of the cash offers. The buyer had checked the box on the offer stating he was not planning to live in the house and we figured it was someone interested in flipping the house.

We eventually found out that the buyer wasn’t intending to flip the house but the reason he wasn’t planning to live in the house was that he bought it for his paraplegic brother and sister-in-law. Talk about feeling good about a decision, after realizing what an amazing person was buying our house, we couldn’t help but feel good that we had re-listed the house allowing this new buyer the opportunity to find a house in his price range, leaving enough left over for the renovations necessary to add ramps and remodel the master bath to accommodate his brother.

Thankfully our home had wide hallways, spacious living areas and would need minimal upgrades to accommodate a wheelchair, thus allowing his brother to move into the house within weeks of the purchase and the few upgrades the house would need.

We are super happy for the new owners and hope that they have many happy years in the house, we sure did.

For us, it was a moment of joy to find out that we are now free to move without fear of having an anchor back in the States that we’ll have to deal with from afar. We are grateful to our realtor, Terri Cole with Coldwell Banker and would recommend her to anyone in the Reno/Sparks area in search of a dedicated realtor.

With 143 days left until we move, this news couldn’t have been more timely. Now we will refocus our efforts to selling the cars and finishing our other tasks before moving.

Visa Requirements: Check!

Successful day for us.

Tracy arranged an 18 month lease for an apartment on Via Laura in the downtown historic district of Florence from Apartments Florence.  The apartment is about 1/3 of a mile north of the Duomo, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower), and a block away from Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation.)

Alan obtained travel insurance from World Nomads.

For a greater than 90 days visit, Italy required a full Schengen Visa.  Our requested visa is titled “Elective Residency” which requires proof of financial support, a place of residence, and medical insurance.  We now have two requirements out of three and statements requested and enroute from the Nevada Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) to demonstrate our financial independence with our pensions.  An Elective Residency visa does not allow our employment in Italy.  Which is fine with us since our goal is retirement not work.

Alan rubbing the snout of Il Porcellino, Florence.
Alan rubbing the snout of Il Porcellino (Italian “piglet”) the Florentine nickname for the bronze statue of a boar. Originally intended for the Boboli Garden, it is currently in the Mercato Nuovo in Florence. Visitors rub the boar’s snout to ensure a return trip to Florence, a tradition that has kept the snout in a state of polished sheen.

Researching and Planning the Move

“Wow! That was sudden.  You’re moving to Italy?”

It’s that old joke about a rock band performing for ten years in small halls and venues to suddenly make it big and become “an overnight sensation.”  Tracy and I have been considering and planning our retirement for about five years.

Tracy explained on the “Back Story” page that it all started with a cruise to the Mexican Rivera for Tracy, her mom, aunt, and sister.  Tracy fell in love with old colonial Mazatlan and came back told me we should consider retiring to Mexico.

That started the research for retiring to a locale where our pensions would stretch further and we could travel and explore more of the world.  We carefully considered Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize. After much thought and discussion, we discovered that one reason for looking for an inexpensive place to live was to have the ability to travel to Europe.  Rather than flying from Central or South America for occasional visits, why not live in Europe full-time?  In the current financial situation, Greece, Spain, Portugal,  Ireland, and Italy were all bargains for cost of living.  Tracy and I love art and with UNESCO saying 60% of the world’s great art being in Italy, we decide on relocating to the country of Tracy’s heritage, Italy.

In our constant “work in progress” for retirement planning, we started research in earnest. We have been asked over and over “How do you know that?”  Well these are the resources:

BOOKS:  We love books and started there when we were considering Latin America.  The problem you have to consider is the “lag time” between the book being written, publication, and the book being purchased.  We found many issues, like immigration rules, to be a “moving target” that is constantly changing.  Generally speaking, the more recent the book is, the more accurate and useful it is. Tracy was a graphic designer for over 15 years and truly understands that something is out of date the moment it goes to print.

Living Abroad in Italy,” John Moretti, Moon Publishing

Living and Working in Italy, ” Caroline Prosser, Survival Books

Retirement without Borders, How to Retire Abroad–in Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, Panama, and Other Sunny, Foreign Places (And the Secret to Making It Happen Without Stress),” Barry Golson with Thia Golson, Scribner Publishers

How to Retire Overseas, Everything You Need To Know To Live Well (For Less) Abroad,” Kathleen Peddicord

The Expert Expat, You Guide To Successful Relocation Abroad,” Melissa Brayer Hess and Patricia Linderman

The Grown-Up’s Guide To Running Away From Home, Making A New Life Abroad,” Rosanne Knorr

PDF AND e-BOOKS:

With e-Readers and online publishing become more common, we found several of the above books found available as e-books.  The are also books available exclusively as e-books that were very helpful, even if they were non-traditionally published.  Many books are available from Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble, some directly from the authors, and some provided by travel sites, often as a courtesy or a “leader” for other services.  I have downloaded several to my Kindle e-reader.

The DIY Guide To Moving Your Dog Abroad,” Kate and Rob Hash, Hash Consulting, LLC

Italy From The Inside Out, The Definitive Survival Guide For Travelers,” Francesa Tosolini

WEB SITES AND FORUMS:

There are many Web sites with expats moving to Italy as their intended audience.  Like all Web sites, some are professional; some written by talented and dedicated amateurs who have a love for the topic; some by businesses hoping their well written site will attract you into purchasing a service they provide; and some accurate at the time they were written, but now out of date; and some are badly written and often just plain wrong (they often have an adjacent “Alien Abduction” or “You Never Have To Pay Taxes Again” Web site.)  Several Web sites are intended for British subjects and you have to remember that the rules may be different for citizens of the European Union than for citizens of the U.S.

AngloINFO, The Global Expat Network.

Expats in Italy, For Those Who Dream And Those Who Live The Dream.

Italy Magazine, The Community For Lovers Of All Things Italian.

ExpatFocus, For Everyone Moving Or Living Abroad.”

Life In Italy.”

EXPAT BLOGS:

What we have found is that there is no better way of learning how to become an Expat than to read about the recent exploits of people who accomplished just that.  Expat blogs are a great way of getting recent information. It’s important to remember the “moving target” factor that rules and laws change, people have their own unique circumstances, and there are geographic differences. With that in mind, blogs are still a great tool to learn from other people’s experiences. They also have the added bonus of being able to contact the blog’s author with a question.  Most bloggers are more than happy to share the answer.

La Vita E Bella

An American In Italy

Italy Beyond The Obvious

Living In Italy by Melinda Gallo

Moving To Florence

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LOCAL NEWSPAPERS:

A good way to understand the local culture is to read expat and English-language newspapers from your preferred destination.

The American InItalia

The Florentine

ANSA.IT ANSA English

GOVERNMENT WEB SITES:

The definitive source of information is government Web sites.  However, you may need to search through several sites to find the answers you need. Remember to check to see if it up to date. Most sites have a date of the last update somewhere near the bottom of the home page. Language may be an issue as not all government Web sites are bi-lingual. There are some translation sites like Google Translate that do a fair job of translating the information, but it can be time-consuming and is not always accurate. Again, the famous “moving target” factor is compounded by how well the site’s Webmaster does their job.

The Italian Embassy

The Consolate General for Italy in Los Angeles

Italian Immigration

Italian State Police

PLANNING:

After reading and researching tons of information, verifying known conflicts, we believe we have an understanding our goal now. We have moved onto the implementation stage our plan to retire to Italy.  Tracy is the “Queen of Organization.”  On the wall of our bedroom is now a project calendar listing all the remaining “To Do’s” that we need accomplish in the next six months.  We have the “To Do” lists in our computers and on our Kindles.  One reason Tracy is retiring six months prior to our departure is to make sure all “loose ends” get tied up and do not delay our scheduled move.  Our big move will not be an “overnight success,” but an achievement built on a lot of hard work.

Pre-Planning Communications Abroad

A question we have repeatedly been asked is how Tracy and I plan to stay in touch with family and friends back in the States after we relocate to Italy.

We are planning to make maximum use of today’s communication technology.  We won’t have cash flow to make frequent trips make to the US, so we plan to stay in touch through the constantly evolving technology.  The cost of international phones calls and the nine hour time difference the west coast can make traditional telephone calls problematic.

SOCIAL NETWORKING:  Tracy and I started this WordPress Blog with the principle goal of staying in touch with family, old friends, and new friends we will make.  We wanted a central platform to journal our new lives, share travels and events, post photography and communicate.  We will also create “An Italian Point of View” FaceBook page and link it to this blog to mirror the posts and provide an easy second method of access for FaceBook users.  FaceBook Chat allows us real time communication when we and another person are online at the same time.  A third access method is to link the Blog postings to Twitter so people know when we have updated our Blog.

E-MAIL:  The Blog allows for an e-mail notice whenever there is a new posting to the Blog.  Tracy and I both have new G-mail addresses for traditional asynchronous e-mail.  Google Docs (soon to be Google Drive) allows us to create real-time, cooperative documents, like a vacation itinerary, that can be shared a with a friend planning to visit while updates and edits can be done on both sides of the Atlantic before their departure.

WEBCAM:  We have had good previous experiences using Skype and ooVoo for free video chats with family.  We hope to expand on that to see family and friends frequently and see the grandkids getting bigger over time.  G-mail also have a video chat service available that we want to explore more.  There is also a premium service from Skype and ooVoo that allows multiple participants in a video conference call that we intend to investigate.

WiFi:  Italian anti-terrorism and anti-mafia laws limits free WiFi Hotspots like we are used to in the States.  There are free and paid WiFi locations in Italy, but there is a more elaborate sign-in process. We will also have WiFi at our apartment, a MiFi system, or mobile WiFi cards for our laptops.  Broadband Internet is one “luxury” that we consider a necessity for our life abroad.  It is our key to staying in touch with family and friends in the US.

TELEPHONE:  Before leaving the US we will purchase an unlocked cellphone with an Italian phone number that we can share with family and friends in the event there is an emergency that requires that we be contacted immediately.  Cellular Abroad, sponsored by National Geographic, has unlocked cell phones available with the Italian SIM cards and a “pay as you go” payment option.  This is useful for us since we don’t plan to have much need for a phone in Italy immediately, but still need one for emergencies and business related calls.  Italian government agencies will often use phone text messaging for notifying clients.  Cellular Abroad provides its cell phone services through the Italian cell phone company, Vodafone, which provides phone service nationwide in Italy.  We don’t expect family and friends to pay international rates to chat on the telephone when video calls, text chats on the computer,  and e-mail is free, but we wanted the telephone option for an exceptional events, emergencies, and for our local use in Italy.

Ask us next year if these “best laid plans” worked as we intended.

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Letting Go: The Art of Minimizing

It has been big year for minimizing and downsizing our material world to prepare ourselves for retiring to Italy.

In July 2011, Tracy and I put our house up for sale.  After living in the same home for the last 12 years, it was a big commitment minimize our possessions to move into a one bedroom apartment in preparation for moving into what will probably be an even smaller living space in Florence.

We went through the contents of the house and donated, recycled, sold, and trashed, trashed, trashed. We disposed of everything that would not be going to Italy with us and we would not be using through 2012.  We delivered surplus household items to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, Committee to Aid Abused Women, Truckee Meadows Community College, Silver State Law Enforcement Museum, in-laws, children, friends, and Disposal Services.  The adult kids in town helped too with hauling things away.  Guess how quickly two college aged sons respond to the text message of, “Would you two want a bar for your apartment?”  I didn’t realize how much furniture sons Casey and Adam could fit in back of a Subaru hatchback.

Absolutely amazing the sheer volume of  material that can accumulate over the decades from two adults with eight children.  (Seriously, who still needs three bulletproof vests after being out of police work for a decade?) Even with trying to repurpose every item possible in the house, we filled one 14 cubic yard dumpster, two additional 6 cubic yard dumpters, and a 14 foot U-Haul truck with debris.  We mistakenly thought that the adult children had taken all their things with them when they moved out into the world.  No exactly true. Incredible how much is actually in what we thought was an “empty” house.

It’s incredibly liberating to free yourself from “stuff.”  Comedian George Carlin had a whole stage routine about “stuff” overtaking lives.  Tracy and my plan is to move to Italy with two large suitcases each.  We are passing keepsakes on to the adult children now and starting to live a minimalist life.

Moving from house to apartment was a huge step, next up is selling Tracy’s car over the summer and my car come November.  After years of used cars, minivans, station wagons, SUVs, Tracy and I love driving our two-seater convertibles, but they are not going to Italy with us so it’s time for the next major step in minimizing.

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. . . in Italia!

While all of our preparations are coming along great for our “big move,” we still expect a certain amount of culture shock when we arrive in Florence.

One of the things we know will be challenging is the paperwork required by the city and country for our “extended” stay retirement visas. We read other blogs of those expats who have made the journey before us and know that we will face long lines, take a number and wait three hours only to find that we do not have the correct documents with us so we must start the process anew the following day. We expect this, we have planned for this and we are hoping that we are prepared each time we undertake such an excursion.

We have put together a binder with all of our most important documents, photocopies of our documents and are even planning to have many extra copies of passport style photos that we already know are required for different types of ID cards and such.

However, as life-long students in higher education as well as employees of the same, we know that things often change so even the well-prepared, pre-planned and organized fall victims to bureaucracy.

That’s were movie history comes in. Historical fantasies like Arthur (the Romans at Hadrian’s Wall, not the rich drunk) and Troy will serve in shaping our destiny a wee bit. You see we’ve noticed that warrior’s in the movies have “battle cries” to encourage their men and whip them into a frenzy of patriotism to face an impossible-to-win battle and come out victorious.

Our battle cry: “. . . in Italia!”  The reminder that no matter how daunting the bureaucracy becomes, no matter how tedious the requests, no matter the number of hours spent waiting only to come back the very next day . . . we’re doing it “in Italia!”