I’m Martin Gani, a British journalist/travel writer/photographer/English teacher/translator/editor of Cypriot descent married to a Swiss/Italian national. To date I’ve published over 300 articles accompanied by some 400 of my photos in periodicals around the world as well as 10 e-books including a collection of celebrity interviews.
What brings you to Italy?
I was invited by Italian friends, my future wife among them, I’d met in London, after spending a week in Como by the eponymous, famed lake, I decided to move there. Thirty years on I’m still here. A few years ago I published an e-book, 25 Years in Italy (also translated into Italian) giving an account of my life and travels here.
How do you like your life in Italy?
I love it most of the time, can’t stand the bureaucracy, then again neither do Italians themselves.
Do you feel integrated into the Italian society?
Yes, as an EU national I’ve never felt discriminated against, people find my British/Cypriot background fascinating. Giving priority to learning Italian asap and speaking it well within a few years has certainly helped.
How does Italy fit into your success?
I hold a Bsc degree from London University in Biological Sciences and worked as a technician in a London hospital before moving to Italy, I did the same job also in Italy during the first year of my stay but soon realised there were more opportunities in teaching English, I did a TEFL course and began teaching full time, enjoying it and earning good money, in London I would have continued working as a technician. Mid-1990s I did a course of journalism and began contributing to the British weekly, The European, as well as a number of travel, culture, and inflight magazines, most of my writing, naturally, focused on Italy.
What would you like to “import” from Italy to your home country?
Dolce vita, in Italy there’s more to life than fierce competition, working long hours, building a career, and a meal is more than just feeding yourself.
I don’t want to generalise this though, in Northen Italy in particular, people work hard, careers are important. I’d also import artistic, architectural sensitivity, emphasis on aesthetics, craftsmanship in all fields, and the concept of ‘bello’.
Does Italy seem multicultural to you?
Over the three decades I’ve lived here, Italy has become increasingly multi-cultural but unlike UK immigrant population hasn’t had time to assimilate properly yet, Italian legislation hasn’t helped either, obtaining Italian nationality is very difficult, even somebody born in Italy doesn’t automatically become Italian citizen, someone of Italian descent living in Argentina, and perhaps never even been to Italy, can obtain Italian citizenship faster.
What is the first thing you do when you go back to your home country?
When I return to London, I check out The National Gallery, and British Museum, no queues, no admission fee, when I return to Cyprus, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, I meet up with friends, walk down memory lane, and always end up in a restaurant.
Advice to a new expat who is thinking of moving to Italy?
Learn Italian, otherwise you’ll never fit in.
If you’re a mother-tongue English speaker (or just as competent), you have a good chance of finding a teaching job. Generally prepare to be patient, bureaucracy will seem unbearable at times but things are sorted out, gradually, and remember Italians themselves go through just as much bureaucracy, you’re not being discriminated against. If you like, or quite rightly, expect, neat queues, and disciplined drivers, Italy is not for you. Healthcare is universal, and high quality, no worries there.