Holy cannoli, I’m officially an Italian citizen!

Last Friday my mom called me, voice pitched with excitement. “Check your email! I GOT MY CITIZENSHIP!!!”

And indeed, after three years of navigating the byzantine bureaucracy of Italy, it was official. I too was now a citizen of Italy and (therefore the European Union) via “jure sanguinis,” my blood right to Italian citizenship. My path was via my great-grandfather Annibale, who emigrated at 19 years old through Ellis Island with $11 in his pocket and zero English words in his vocabulary. (More back story here.)

So now I’m a dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy. Uh… Whoa. What does that even mean.

Out on my favorite local ride right after learning about my citizenship.

At the core of my emotions right now is a deep sense of accomplishment, connection to my family’s past, and satisfaction. There’s also a component of relief (no.freaking.way…it worked out!) plus a palpable excitement about the future potential. It was a gift to my entire family—who knows what Chelsea and I, my mom or my brother and his kids will do with an EU citizenship? 

I’m feeling a sense of pride in myself for sorting this out, but mostly for even starting. After all, before launching into this project in 2020, I read many accounts of how frustrating, time consuming, expensive and frustrating (DID I MENTION FRUSTRATING?!) it could be.

It was like stepping into a boxing ring knowing I was going to take a beating for years without any real clarity on why I was doing so. To escape with only a few grazes to my jaw with an EU citizenship in my sweaty paw feels miraculous, like I pulled a fast one on somebody. “Wait, I can just go live in Europe? Really?!”

Even prior to official recognition a few days ago, this process triggered a deeper connection to family history and Italy for me. For the pure enjoyment of it, I’ve learned to speak the language, read novels in Italian, talked with distant family members, and studied the history of Italy. I’ve visited for a week of bike touring in 2015, but otherwise know it only intellectually. I can’t wait to visit my great-grandfather’s tiny village near Naples and sit down with people to learn more about Sant’Agata di Puglia.

Sant’Agata, the cutest hill town ever.

During the quest, Chelsea and I talked frequently about our ambitions for the citizenship. To answer an FAQ that everyone asks, no, we are not immediately selling all our possessions and moving to Europe. We have zero plans to buy a one Euro property in the south of Italy and remodel it in the spirit of my carpenter great-grandfather.

But long-term, Dakota, what’s your plan?! Airstream life, sure, but THEN what…?

How are we going to use my Italian citizenship?

Short answer: we’re unclear what’s next. We’ve never been “5 year plans” kind of people and prefer some serendipity.

However, a friend asked me an insightful question: what’s the low and upper bounds of how we use my citizenship?

Low end: one trip of ~6-12 months to explore different areas of Europe (not just Italy).

Upper end: we do a trip like the above, love love love living in Europe and end up relocating there to spend our days under the Tuscan sun.

My guess about the reality? Somewhere in the middle. With access to living in 28 European countries and all their benefits, that’s a whole lot of potential. From Ireland to Portugal to Cyprus to Finland, the EU encompasses some territory that I’d love to soak up. Places to see, cultures to experience, languages to learn.

I can imagine studying piano in Vienna and drawing in Florence, hiking with Chelsea in the Swiss alps or biking in the Italian Dolomites, then moving to Spain or Sweden or Slovakia or Slovenia for a different flavor. We could spend a lifetime just in the S’s of Europe!

High above Lake Bohinj in Slovenia during a day off from bike touring.

An Open Door

What citizenship represents to me is an unlocked door. My distant cousin clued me into the existence of a key three years ago  and miraculously I was able to track it down. Now all I need to do is open the door and step through.

Lately I’ve felt a few of those open doors, first with buying an Airstream and the nomadic lifestyle that represents. Then I closed up operations for my business shortly after. Now I’m an Italian citizen! Whoa. An eventful four months and so many potential doorways to step through.

Who knows which one I’ll take?

Venice, 2015, during my only trip to Italy.