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  • Writer's pictureCamellia Phillips

A Life in Sicily - Big News

We started this blog because we bought a house in Sicily and fell in love with being there. We loved it so much, we had to share every detail. So we started writing about all the little unexpected moments, the sparks of magic. The wild gardens. The incredible produce at the Monday market. Getting around Sicily by bus and train.

A view over the village of Melilli from above, taken on one of our daily walks.
View over Melilli from daily walk

It was a grand adventure, yes. But as we shared in our reflections after one year of being Sicilian homeowners, we found something else. We found a life we wanted to live.

And thanks to the advice of some wonderful expat friends in Sicily, we don't have to wait for my citizenship to be approved to start fully living that life. We can do it now. So, the big news?

Later this year, we're moving to Sicily full-time!

Are You Ready for Details?

I've lived in New York City for 22 years, and Marco has lived here for 18 years. In that time, we've built lives. A community. A home. And because we're both writers, a lot of bookshelves.

Moving to Sicily full-time means figuring out a way to let go of the physical trappings of life in NYC, while keeping what matters most: relationships with the people we love.

So I hope you're ready to hear about even more life in Sicily—and moving to Sicily!

Logistics, Logistics, Logistics

I'm increasingly realizing that an international move is no small feat. But luckily, we have a generous timeline to figure things out. We have a few details to juggle:

  • When we become full-time residents in Sicily, especially for tax purposes

  • Schengen zone travel limits for me before our residency officially starts, since I'm not yet an EU citizen

  • Packing!

  • Renting out our Brooklyn apartment

  • Visiting my family out on the US west coast, since we hope to take a break from transatlantic travel for a year or two

  • Healthcare coverage and access to medications for me

  • Coordinating on international taxes, mail, and other paperwork

  • Writing deadlines!

Combined, all of this means that we have a very busy 2023 ahead, with lots of travel.

We're already scheduled to be in Sicily for May, June, and July. While there, we want to do some work to get our house ready for next winter. For example, we want to add a wood-burning stove.

Then, after visiting Marco's brother in the UK, we're returning to NYC for August. Then we'll see my family out in Washington State and Colorado for September and October. Finally, we aim to officially become Italian residents at the start of November 2023.

WHEW. I'm overwhelmed but excited even writing it all down!

The Balancing Act of the Present Moment

We decided to make this move at the end of January and started really planning in mid-February. So we're officially a few weeks into the process. The most challenging part so far has been the balancing act of being in two places—two lives—at once, without being fully settled in either.

Our current project is going through our belongings and packing up whatever we want to take—and getting rid of the rest. Because international shipping is VERY expensive, especially right now, our aim is to take as little as possible. That means no furniture. Minimal dishes and kitchen tools (we are taking one vintage Ball jar and our almond milk maker, that's all). We've gone through our clothes, our shoes, our books and games.

An image of a green glass vintage ball jar against a green background
The vintage Ball jar that made the cut

We've donated belongings, sold belongings, put armloads of books on the street (which Brooklynites eagerly grab up), and filled garbage bags with unsalvageable items.

As anyone who's moved understands, going through stuff isn't easy. It stirs up memories, hopes and disappointments. Choosing to let go of items sometimes feels like choosing to let go of a part of yourself. It's hard work. Which is why there's a whole industry built around minimalism and tidying.

But strangely, we've also realized how few belongings we actually need and want. For example, I realized that we had kept plates that we never really liked and didn't use much for 12 YEARS! Because we'd already bought them and we "might need them." Giving those plates away was surprisingly freeing. It was a metaphor for this whole endeavor:

We are lucky enough to have the chance to choose a life we want, but that also means letting go of another life we thought we wanted.

Paper Dolling

In her book, Over the Sicilian Moon, Barbara Palermo describes how she and her husband had to wait five years before they could retire and move to Sicily. Adapted from the "paper dolls" some of us played with as kids, paper dolling is about reminding yourself that there's more than this moment.

Image of a vintage paper doll set, showing the girl and all the paper clothes you can cut out for her to wear.
Paper Dolls

Barbara and her husband Ken used paper dolling to imagine how they would finish the details of the home they'd purchased in Sicily.

Marco and I are using the idea of paper dolling to imagine all the sorts of things we want to be able to do living in Sicily. Of course, there's the day-to-day life that we love. The food, the people, family and neighbors, nature and history everywhere.

Once we're settled, we'll have the energy for more little adventures. As I shared in one of our first posts, because of chronic migraines air travel is very difficult for me. I often get sick for a week or more after longer flights.

Because of my chronic illness, for decades, Marco and I only traveled to see family. So the idea of being able to easily travel and have adventures solely for FUN? It's honestly something we've never really considered an option.

Sometimes, when we're feeling overwhelmed with packing things up, we take a break and imagine all the future adventures we're going to have together. All the places we want to visit. Palermo. Venice. Paris. Barcelona. Hiking in the Alps. Visiting every corner of Sicily. Going literally anywhere in Italy by train!

And then, best of all, returning home to a house and a village in Sicily that we adore. Going home to our life in Sicily.

A view of the village of Melilli from up above, with heavy clouds and a rainbow over the sea in the distance
Rainbow in Melilli

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Jul 15, 2023

It sounds like you are both so happy. You are such an amazing couple. See you in September.


Deena Guptil
Deena Guptil
Mar 27, 2023

I am so excited for you. What a dream come true. Can't wait to hear more about your adventures.

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