Relocating to Milan & Rome
Do you need help relocating to Milan or Rome? Are you looking for expert advice on where to live, how to chose a school? Are you struggling to understand the nuances of Italian culture? Stefania Molinelli has experienced expat life in many different destinations from Africa to Europe, combining different cultures and lifestyles with managing family and professional challenges. In 2019 she founded Feel at Home Relocation to provide customised services to families relocating to Milan and Rome.
Stefania, after 20 years of being an expat yourself, what made you decide to return to Italy?
Throughout my life, what I experienced is that nothing happens by chance: this doesn’t mean that our existence is solely based on destiny or fate, but that we can transform this “randomness” into a potential, through the intuition that what is happening to you is going to change your life. Some would call it serendipity.
That being said, when my husband was proposed for a new assignment in Italy, my son was finishing his high school and was preparing to “leave the nest” and start university; these two “coincidences” made me understand that it was time to abandon my role as “manager of the family” and to resume 100% my professional role. Through my return to Italy I had the opportunity to realise this project that I had in mind for a while, starting from the premise that “it’s never too late to change.”
How did the idea for Feel at Home Relocation come about?
During the years of my expatriation, I experienced many relocation services as a client myself, both on arrival in a new country and departing from it; the services, certainly very professional, were unfortunately often rendered according to a pre-packaged scheme that didn’t leave much space for our specific requirements. The aim to make the service more “personal”, tailored on the needs of each member of the family and to anticipate their demands was the impetus.
I believe I am a sociable person, empathetic and I find it easy to make connections withe people; through relocation I have the opportunity to help families during a crucial moment that could affect their first impression of their host country.
What kind of research do you suggest families do before they make a decision to relocate to Italy?
There are many factors that get in the game when making such an important decision as moving to another country: age, family situation, logistical and work needs as well as lifestyle expectations.
Each case is different from another and that’s why at Feel at Home Relocation we organise first of all a detailed meeting/interview in order to understand as much as possible which are the needs and desires of our customers so that we can provide them with as much as possible targeted information and advice.
During the interview, beyond the objective needs of the family (what will be the workplace, the school location, size and type of accommodation sought, etc.), we try to bring out the lifestyle preferences by analysing the national / regional culture of our clients, their personal history, their professional and generational culture.
Milan is a cosmopolitan metropolis, but it is also smaller than one might expect. It is fairly easy to get round the city and out to the suburbs. Therefore, we often advise our clients, even if their place of work is in the city centre, to also have a look at areas in the neighbouring municipalities to live as the combination can offer a good work-life balance.
On the other hand, Rome’s main characteristic is a clear distinction between the various districts of the city; they appear as real microcosms in which all the services one may need can be found, due perhaps to frequent traffic jams and parking difficulties that don’t allow easy movement. Our advice for this city is to try to live in the same area where you will work or study.
What would you say are the most challenging aspects of moving to Italy?
As with any relocation to another country, moving to Italy involves an important challenge arising from the awareness of all aspects of the so-called “invisible” culture. Every culture has a visible part, given by language, architecture, food, way of dressing, traditions etc, but it also has an invisible part which is made up of history, values, profession and social rules, education and beliefs. The perception of what is fair and unfair, of what is right and wrong, the perception of time, our relationships with others – in my opinion, these are challenging aspects to take into account when moving to a new country. Getting to know the invisible part of a country’s heritage is the most complex but usually the most rewarding part, if we are looking for a real integration.
Finding the right school for your children is often the biggest concern for parents when relocating. What are the key questions to ask when looking at potential schools?
It all depends on what the purpose of the move is. At Feel at Home Relocation we usually ask a series of questions that allow us to understand the type of teaching that parents are seeking for their children.
First of all we try to understand what was their children’s school path up to that time; generally, this helps us understand if families are looking for a complete integration in the country (and in this case we turn to Italian schools) or if their scope is to find an education as much as possible in line with the studies already undertaken and that will allow, in a few years, to be able to move back home or to another country (Milan and Rome offer a wide range of international schools).
Another aspect we pay close attention to is the personality, temperament and interests of the children in order to be able to address families to the institutions that best meet their needs. Encouraging the artistic, musical, sporty attitude of the kids, as well as helping them in their weaknesses is just as important as providing them with the best teaching.
How difficult is it to enter into the public school system without speaking any Italian?
From a purely formal point of view there is no difficulty in enrolling a foreign child in a public school, even without speaking Italian. All foreign minors have the right and the duty to education in Italy and public schools are required to welcome them.
The enrolment can also be made during the school year and the child is usually welcomed in the class corresponding to his age. There are also forms of support, also through cultural mediators, who facilitate the integration of the student within the school system.
You offer a ‘Check-out Service’. What does it include?
Our Check-out Service is also “tailored-made” to customer needs. The goal we always set is that people who leave Italy should only remember the positives of our beautiful country without finding themselves, after some time, having to solve bureaucratic problems resulting from the failure to communicate their departure to the innumerable authorities involved. You can discover some of our services in the Check-out Service section of our website.
Have you had any unusual requests from clients?
Unusual requests are practically the order of the day in our business; anyway, this is the beauty of providing a personalised service: offering a solution to every question, however strange this is!
Just to tell you one, for one of our clients we had to literally recreate their home, looking for an apartment that had the same layout, and furnishing it exactly the same way, including the wallpaper and the taps !!!
What do you love about your work?
I love the human side of my work. Very often our work is a work of sharing. Clients share their visions, wishes and dreams with us. We become their confidant for a while and they make us part of the path that led them to our country. In the end, it is natural for us to feel affection, the sensitive companion of empathy, after sharing so much and having achieved the common goal of feeling @home!
To find out more about Moving to Italy
To find out more about Education in Italy