Traveling a year in Italy

Rialto Bridge. Venice, Italy
The Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy


If  you’ve had a bucket list dream of traveling a year in Italy as a tourist, slowly moving from north to south, living La Dolce Vita as we have then fugeddaboutit!  The Schengen Visa agreement of which Italy and most of the other EU countries are part of, only allow a tourist to enter and remain in the Schengen zone for up to 90 days within a 181 day period making a year long stay virtually impossible!  Sorry to shatter your dreams but you’d have a better chance by floating up to the Italian shores in a dingy and claiming refugee status!

When I first thought of making our dream a reality and started to research ‘a year in Italy’, I had been surprised that there was no information on traveling a year.  There are lots of stories on the net about a few months here and there, a year as a student or a year working but no one traveling as a simple tourist.  So I thought I’m going to do it and I’m going to write a book about how to do it for others and started to pursue the formal processes.  We thought that since we have some money saved and have a good financial foundation we could prove to have no intention of working or reasons for them to deny us.   We filled out all the forms, setup an interview, even went above and beyond with police checks and detailed financial statements only to find out we still didn’t qualify.

There are a plethora of rules which I’ll write about in another post on the Schengen Visa but being part of the uber wealthy might help your cause.  First we had been told that we were short of savings, that we needed a min. of $60,000 CDN each, cash.  We saved hard for the trip but have no where near that amount, we thought other investment accounts such as RRSP’s, TFSA’s and even access to a large line of credit would qualify to show we didn’t need to work but no such luck.  On top they wanted us to show that we have income while traveling, investments that would generate a minimum of $48,000 each over the year.  Well hello!  So $120,000 cash and then $96,000 in income while not working….fugeddaboutit!

So you’re a rich bastard think’n no problem, I can come up with the cash and have the income from investments.  Well back up your private jet Donald Trump!  On top of the financial there is a problem with frequently moving around, you have to submit your accommodation bookings for the entire year you’re traveling.  This is some extreme planning with no wiggle room, no room should circumstances change and perhaps a financial risk if you have to make deposits or outright pay in advance.  What if you don’t get the extension?  How do you know where you want to travel or how long you’ll want to spend at each stop?  The Schengen agreement states that once submitted your travel plans are not able to be changed, they want to know where you are at any given time.

So going as a tourist for a year is virtually impossible.  If you want to apply as a full-time student, no problem but you’ll have to have booked and paid for a full year of studies in an accredited course at an approved school and be able to submit proof.  If you’re going to stay with Italian family or friends for a full year and they agree to sign a notarized affidavit sponsoring you and you have the finances, no problem.  If you need to go for work reasons and a company sponsors you and jumps through all the hoops, no problem. If you are under age 30 you can apply for a 1-2 year working holiday visa- available to Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders, no problem.  But spending your hard-earned cash for a year-long holiday on accommodations, trains, museums, vino, pasta and gelato, not possible.

Can’t shake your dream, then you’ll have to do what we’re now doing.  We’ll spend 90 days in Italy then leave for Schengen exile of 91 days in a non-participating country like Ireland, United Kingdom, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus or any other non EU country, then we can return for another 90 days. Although we’re disappointed its forcing us to visit countries we might not have had at the top of our list and maybe they’ll turn out to be gems, we’re hoping!




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