This first month of our new life in Italy has been one of the wildest rides for me so far.

Long story short, we arrived safely but after that, things didn’t quite go my way. Most importantly, when it came to finding a place to rent before the ever so impending February 23 check-out date for the Airbnb we arrived at.

It was a situation that pushed me to a mental stress that I had not experienced in years, and I’ve barely been able to recover from it, because I’ve not been in a great mental headspace for the past month. I found myself at the very verge of quitting and returning to Venezuela, as, due to our circumstances, I found myself stuck on a loop and unable to get local documents nor rent a place on my own.

Be that as it may, though, we thankfully received much needed help, and we’re slowly but surely finally starting to get on track with starting a new life from scratch little by little.

I’m going to start by giving you a quick recap of what exactly was the problem we were facing:

We are Italian citizens, but we are not residents of Italy

This is the crux of the paperwork problem. Regardless of the circumstances and date in which we obtained our Italian dual citizenship (me spending all of 2022 solving 35+ years of my father’s paperwork neglect), we are both Italians living abroad, and thus registered on the AIRE (Registry of Italians living abroad). There is a clear distinction between an Italian living abroad and an Italian living in Italy, the former is unable to access some stuff, healthcare, for instance.

In order to become a resident of Italy and obtain local paperwork, one must go through the corresponding process at your local town’s offices, for which one needs to register an address as residence — in other words, I had to find a place to rent, not just any place, but one whose landlord allows you to register the address as your place of residence.

So, without a place to rent, there’s no residence paperwork process, that means no local ID cards, no healthcare, no ability to open a bank account in places that ask you to be a resident, and many other things.

In order to break the loop you have to find a place to rent, simple enough, right? Well…that’s where I failed on my own. For all my financial and initial information gathering preparation, this is where I made the most glaring rookie mistake.

The “sus” nature of our circumstances

We are Italians, but we do not speak Italian. I work remotely for a US company and do not have a local job. My brother, due to his mental condition, does not presently study nor work.

This makes us not exactly the best tenant candidates in the eyes of Italian landlords and rental agencies — simply put, a person that has a better local job, or a student that can show proof of enrollment is a better prospect, simply put.

As it was explained to me, the thing is that Italian law allows you to rent at your own discretion, as in, if you only want to rent to tall blonde blue eyed white women, or short men that can double jump, that’s within your rights. At the same time, there’s several provisions and tenant protections that can work against landlords, so that’s why everyone’s justifiably wary.

As a result, finding a place to rent in Turin as we stand was essentially impossible.

Believe me when I said that I tried everything, from directly calling, emailing, and walking to rental agencies, to websites such as Idealista and Immobiliaire, to even local Telegram and Facebook Groups. As soon as I had to describe my job and my brother’s status that was it.

I would get outright rejected or ghosted. Some agencies and persons did go ahead and scheduled apartment visits for us, but the outcome was ultimately the same. I would send bank references, letters of employment, public proof of my work, but nothing would work.

There were website listings that would get up, I’d call right away, and then they’d tell me that “the place is under negotiations” or “already taken” even if the listing was just a few minutes old (I had automatic email alerts for rental websites setup).

The prime example of this was one unfurnished 2 bedroom place for 500 Euro a month that’s literally across the street from the Airbnb we arrived at.

“This is the one,” I said to myself. Only to be told that the place was already under negotiations. That same person told me that his agency had another apartment way further down the road. It was also unfurnished, but it was more expensive (650 Euro), but it’s not like I get to choose in my life.

I went through the whole ordeal, only to get ghosted too. Another one told me that the place had been taken hours before my appointment.

This went on all throughout February. Each time I’d get even more defeated and frustrated, as time was off the essence. My first weeks in Italy weren’t exactly good, while most people come here on vacation and enjoy the landmarks and historical places, my first time here was spent being frustrated and defeated over and over again, unable to secure a place to rent.

One Monday morning had me walking to two different rental agencies only to be told that they had nothing. In between that route, I got rejected by a couple more that I had reached out to via email. This was the start of a complete mental collapse for me, one that I tried my best to not let burst all throughout the week.

At the same time, I had reached out to politicians and Catholic organizations whose contact info was given to me by others, but I never got a response.

By that week’s Wednesday I was ever so closer from a complete breakdown after a mishap with the bus system had us walking miles to a rather expensive apartment appointment that went nowhere either. This was the first of three appointments that went really bad on me and pushed me to a breakdown.

A complete defeat and my near capitulation

Two days later, we had an appointment across town, it was a drizzling cold noon, and the guy spoke Spanish, so I still had some hopes up.

The place was very well located, I’ll say that much, but the building itself was very old, had no elevators, and the place was on the 5th floor. No problem, a home is a home, and like I said, I never get to choose in my life. I went through a lot as a kid, sleeping on a mattress on the floor, to start complaining about housing conditions these days.

The apartment itself was okay-ish. No living room, just a hallway with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. It even had pretty decent fiber internet. Anyways, upon going to the same “what do you do for a living” and “what about your brother” he cut to the chase.

He told me in perfect Spanish (from Spain) what other people at that point had refused to say: That we were “low priority” prospective tenants because of our situation. That said, he’d pass on the information to the owner of the place, but there were others in line, the same story I had been told more than ten times by now.

I started feeling even worse because deep down I know I made a huge mistake in my youth when I flunked college, and I had been paying the price for that since. Had I studied a career properly, who knows, maybe things would have gone differently in my life, I would’ve had the financial means to save my mom at the time, and all that…

My frustration and hopelessness started to spill over to my brother, who was present with me at that appointment. He too started feeling down and withdrawn.

Saturday, February 10, what is by far, the worst day of us here.

It rained all day, but we still had an early morning appointment at another place across town, it was the last one on the list. I woke up defeated, but an appointment is an appointment, even though I already knew what was going to happen.

Because it was raining, and it was a bit rather far from our location, we left the airbnb a bit earlier to make sure we arrived on time, as there was a bit of walking to be done from the bus stop.

We ended up arriving about 15 minutes earlier, which, for some reason, the guy that showed us the place was not fond of even though he was already there. The apartment was rather far away, yes, but it had been recently renovated and boy, it’s the best apartment I had seen so far. I’d love to have grown in a place that looked like it.

The place had two bedrooms with brand new beds and furniture. The second bedroom, however, had no door installed, and the owner of the place wanted to rent it as-is. I said it was no problem. The kitchen was also brand new, and the living room was very modern looking.

The guy only spoke Italian, no English or Spanish, but we still managed to understand him and I’d respond with my broken rudimentary Italian and some Spanish clutch here and there. Not like it mattered because at the end, he repeated the same thing the previous guy had told us in Spanish, except in Italian, and more blunt and harsh.

This demoralized both of us, and we left the place defeated. That was the breaking point for my brother. He started to cry and blame himself for crying, adding that he “did not wanted to see me cry anymore.”

He must have heard or seen me cry over the past days, even though I thought I had concealed that from him.

It was still raining and very cold, but I tried my best to try to calm him down, and offered to take him somewhere nice to eat once the rain was over, except it rained all day and night.

To make matters worse, the bus was delayed by almost an hour and a half for some reason. By the time we arrived he was freezing. I took him to the bathroom, cranked open the shower’s hot water to make steam, and used warm water from the sink to help him wash his face.

We changed clothes and laid on the beds to warm up.

It was my worst defeat in recent years in a long string of defeats. At the end of the day, I wasn’t strong enough to secure a place to rent. I have no career, alone, I’m older by the day, and… yeah, I had lost, I’m sure my family would get a kick from that.

We spent the rest of that day trying to warm ourselves up. It stopped raining sometime during SUnday midnight. We went to get more groceries around noon, and upon arriving, I couldn’t take it anymore and broke down a couple minutes after arriving.

That was it, I had lost, and had perhaps, committed a huge mistake in coming here. Turns out I was not prepared, I was not smart, strong, or resourceful enough to find a place to rent. My brother hugged me and started crying too. I stopped because I did not want to see him cry, so I tried to calm him down.

At that point I reached a conclusion.

I had a little less than two weeks to find a solution. If I had nothing by the next Friday, I would admit my defeat and return to Venezuela on the following Monday, as there was a cheap flight back — with the clear understanding that I would most likely never recover from such a defeat, but my brother wouldn’t be homeless, and he would once again have his bedroom.

I started thinking that if I went along with that I might as well use the remainder of the travel money to get a new bed (my old one broke down before leaving and I had been sleeping on a recliner for two months), try to patch up the old place, and maybe install a water tank to offset the shortages or something.

I’d also focus on finishing Sword, publishing it, starting work on Sins, and all that stuff I put on hold in my quest to get Italian citizenship and travel to Italy.

But that was the week when everything turned around and a burst of hope surged.

Venezuelans in Piemonte

As I said above, I reached out to several groups, one of them was a group of Venezuelans in Piemonte. I got their email from a non-Venezuelan friend that got the address from a friend of his. I had reached out to them explaining our situation, and they were the only ones that had actually responded to me.

The leader of the group had been in touch with me during those days, trying to find a way to help us. Because this is a small world, it turns out a friend of my mom knows someone that not just knew my mom too, but had been helped by this very same group in the past. Even more so, it turns out I knew her son through social media since at least 2017.

Small world.

She had told me that there was a possible apartment for us to rent in a small town near Turin, so I naturally said yes.

Unfortunately, there were two problems: The previous tenant left without returning the keys and left some unpaid bills. Secondly, the place was small, and only allowed for one person to stay.

At that point, I had about five remaining options, and that was one of them. Another one was a Venezuelan friend of a mutual of mine that lives in another city, and she had put me in contact with someone that had rented to people in similar situations like ours, but he never responded to me. The third one was something similar but in a different town, no response either.

Then, finally, The lady from the Venezuelan group put me in touch with another person of the group, who knew someone who could rent a place for us in a small town in the Cuneo province, about an hour from Turin.

Long story short, a meeting was arranged on Friday (the same Friday I had set a personal deadline as) and it went well. The owner of the place agreed to rent to us on certain conditions, such as a small two month contract (renewable), don’t modify the place, etcetera.

I was told that the asking price is rather steep for what it is, but once again, it’s not like I ever get to choose in my life. I paid the two months + 1 month deposit in advance, and here we are.

The only small problem was that the owner wanted us to move on Saturday, February 24, and the Airbnb was up to Feb 23. I talked to the Airbnb owner and she agreed to extend the extra day, had to pay some fees but oh well.

So on Saturday, the lady’s son helped us move to the town, and the two ladies from the Venezuelan group gave us a warm welcome. They helped us up, gave up some sheets, food, and even made lunch for us. I’m extremely grateful for all that.

She told me that once our paperwork is rolling we should look for a better place, something we can furnish and adapt to our needs and likes, and that’s something I plan to do.

This place is an old villa, has only one bedroom, and some decent-ish VDSL internet. So, for now, it’ll suffice. There’s also a problem with the shower but, like I said, I don’t get to choose.

I’m still stressed from this past month, and I’ve barely been able to mentally recover from all it. I’m doing my best to keep up, but I don’t know how to properly explain why I still feel bad, anxious, and stressed.

I didn’t get to visit anything in Turin unfortunately, I wanted to visit some museums, do some sightseeing, but alas, maybe another day.

Right now, the focus is to get our paperwork, get the healthcare stuff, open a local bank account, and slowly, but surely, work our way to something stable, a better life.

I’m fully aware there’s plenty of people whose wishes, prayers, and messages of encouragement have been fundamental in my being able to keep going, I would not had made it this far without them.

Thank you so much, I hope this next month fares better for both of us.

Until the next one,