— You come from Ivrea. What is that like?
— It is a small town between Turin and the mountains, famous as the headquarters of Olivetti, a firm which went bankrupt long ago, so one might say that the crisis began in my town before it spread across all Italy. It’s hard to build find work and build your future there. On the other hand, nature is very beautiful there, as it is almost everywhere in Italy. Particularly here, in Moscow, I miss the nature and pure air of Italy. I have flown home two or three times. But I love Moscow. It’s never boring, the time flies by. And everyone here is in a hurry, they walk very quickly. And there are lots of people. I like that.
— How do you come to be here, and when did you arrive?
— I came here in May 2013, on account of a girl. I wanted a serious relationship with her. But it didn’t work out, We parted after living together for 7-8 months. Nevertheless, I decided to stay in Moscow. I already had a job by that time.
He came to Moscow in May 2013. After three months, with only a smattering of colloquial Russian, he began teaching Italian. Now he is a truly professional teacher in the Moscow language school BigWig, and also a shop assistant in the Italian goods shop Don Giulio Salumeria.
— What did you do in Italy?
— Oh, I did a lot of things there. I worked as a photographer, a waiter, a journalist and even a dental technician, but I didn’t earn much. It’s very hard to get a good job in Italy. So I realized I would have to leave.
— How did you get on when you first arrived here, in a strange country and not knowing the language?
— At first I lived with my girlfriend’s parents. After we parted, I rented an apartment. I knew Russian by that time, not as well as I do now, but I could get by. Then I moved to another apartment. I am still renting now, and living with another girlfriend. I have been working in a shop for more than a year, Don Giulio Salumeria on Pokrovka. Ant I have been teaching Italian for more than a year.
— Do you have an educational background in teaching?
— I had a literary education. I graduated from college in Ivrea, went to university for a year and then dropped out. I wanted to work, and it was not easy to study. But I learned a lot in college. Latin, for example, which is not an easy language even for an Italian. It has cases, as Russian has, unlike Italian.
At first I took teaching lessons from an Italian. He explained many principles and many of the finer points. In only the fourth month after my arrival in Moscow, with only minimal Russian, I began teaching Italian.
— You speak excellent Russian now. Have you ever tried simultaneous interpreting at negotiations? It pays quite well.
— I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. I still need to become more fluent in Russian.
— How did you learn Russian?
— From a tutor. He is Russian, but has an excellent knowledge of Italian. That helped a lot. I have heard it said that to teach your own language, you must know the language of the country in which you are teaching. I don’t think so, not if, as sometimes happens, you have to explain the grammar or other finer points of the language.
— Was it hard to find pupils?
— I found the first two through the website avito.ru. After that it was the friends of friends and word-of-mouth recommendations. Finding pupils is not a much of a problem, because they really love Italy here. Not only the language, but Italian clothes, cuisine and furniture. And Italians themselves too.
— What are your pupils usually aiming at? Do they need Italian for business?
— No, very rarely. Usually they just like the language. They travel to Italy, they like it there, and they are pleased to be able to make themselves understood in Italian when they are there. Many learn it because they have a girlfriend or boyfriend from Italy.
— What about the BigWig school, where you are teaching now? Did you find it yourself?
— Yes, I did. I took conversation classes, and later, when they had a vacancy, they invited me to teach there.
— Is the school predominantly Italian?
— There are many languages there: apart from English and Italian, there are German, Spanish, French and even Chinese. But I would say it is predominantly English.
— And how did you find your second, parallel job?
— Virtually by chance. Giulio used to hold virtual markets of Italian goods on Facebook once a month. We got to know each other there. And as soon as the Don Giulio Salumeria shop opened, I started working there.
To be honest, I like it both in the shop and in the school. It’s a lot of work, I’d like a bit more rest. But I am managing so far.
— Is the money from the shop alone not enough?
— Shop assistant don’t earn much in Moscow. I would like to start up my own business, or work as a sales manager in a large shop selling Italian goods such as food products and furniture. Now, of course, is not the best time for such plans, what with sanctions and the high rate of the euro against the rouble. But I don’t intend to leave here, and I have high hopes for the future.
— A future in which you will have a little Italian shop in Moscow?
— Why should it be a little one? I’ve nothing against a big one!
— When you arrived in Moscow, did you already know some Italians here?
— Very few. There was one I knew very well, the chef of one of the better-known restaurants. In the beginning, he helped me. For example, I took photographs for him. But it was hard, all the same. In the first months all I could say in Russian was “Privet!” (Hello!) and “Kak dela?” (How are things?)
— Are there places in Moscow where Italians meet and get to know each other?
— Facebook has an “Italians in Moscow” group, but I don’t visit it.
— How many Italians are there in Moscow?
— Not many, only five or six thousand.
— That’s not so few.
— Italians emigrate en masse. There are very many of them in London, in Spain and in the USA. In Moscow there is only a handful by comparison.
— What other Russian cities have you visited?
— Vladimir, Suzdal, Sergiyev Posad and Mozhaysk. They are very beautiful. I would like to visit St. Petersburg, but I haven’t managed it yet.
— Is accommodation more expensive in Moscow than in Italy?
— It would be cheaper in Turin, but Milan is much the same as Moscow in that respect. And in Rome, it could be even more expensive. But food is not very expensive here.
— What about the quality?
— Fruit and vegetables are better in Italy.
— And wine?
— You can’t get a good wine for less than about 500 roubles. You can buy “Pinot Grigio” which has nothing in common with real Pinot Grigio, but in places where it costs about 500 roubles, it is usually like the real thing.
— And is Italian cuisine here like the real thing?
— It varies. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. But the point is that you don’t have the concept of Italian cuisine quite right. Each Italian province has its own cuisine. Pasta, pizza and lasagne are found everywhere, but the other dishes may differ considerably.
— Where do you spend your free time?
— I like walking in the Moscow parks. I go to restaurants, but not Italian ones.
— Do you like Russian cuisine?
— Yes. I like Russian soups and Russian salads – Olivier salad and others.
— Have you taken part in sport?
— I did so a lot in Italy. I used to play football, run and ski in the mountains. The mountains could be seen from my window. In Cervinia you can ski in the summer, because there are high mountains there. It’s a one-hour journey from my home to Cervinia. I miss the mountains. I don’t have time for sport here, but I miss it a lot.
— Did your parents try to persuade you not to leave?
— I was an adult by then, and they understood that I had to make my own decisions. They have visited me in Moscow. They liked it here very much. The city centre is very beautiful.
— How do Russians differ from Italians?
— They have different customs. For example, Italians lunch at one o’clock and dine at eight in the evening, while Russians lunch and dine at any time that comes into their heads. Here, even at midday, girls dress as if they were going to a party. Italian girls are dressed in jeans and football shirts at that hour. If Russians have money, they spend it at once. Italians are afraid of spending money, they save it. Italians are more cautious. The houses and apartments are very different. In Italy, apartments are usually larger in area than here in Moscow.
— In Ivrea, they live in houses rather than flats, don’t they?
— Yes, we have our own house there. It’s different in Turin, but apartments there are usually larger than in Moscow. In cities, the average flat is 60-80 sq.m. In Moscow, 40 sq.m. is considered the norm.
Moscow has everything, it’s a huge city. Turin is quieter, and small by comparison with Moscow. About a million people live there. Milan is more like Moscow, but still nothing like as large. Nevertheless, not everything in Moscow is suitable for incoming foreigners. It’s extremely difficult to begin to live here without help from Russians. It’s hard to find an apartment and a job. Filling in the numerous documents is complicated. If you aren’t married, its difficult to get a residence permit. It’s much simpler in Italy. Virtually all the documents are simpler there. On the other hand, taxes are very high in Italy.
— What doesn’t Italy have that Russia does?
— Well, for example, there are shops here which are open round the clock. That is very convenient! But of course that’s not the main thing. There is much in Russia that unites people with one another. There is nothing like that in Italy. You could say that Italy, as a homeland for Italians, doesn’t exist. We are not patriots, probably because we are a small country. There is more patriotism in Russia. But of course, I don’t yet know Russia well enough to draw conclusions.