Italians in London | Italians in London Stefania Ricci
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# 08

Stefania Ricci

Photo and concept by © Rob Venom 2022

I was born in Taranto, Puglia. I left home when I was 18 and went to Rome to pursue university studies in Literature and Art and to practice ballet at a professional level after having spent 10 years of studying in a local gym in Taranto. That was a terrible experience, perhaps I wasn’t ready for such an adventure at the time and the affordability of life was also an issue. So I went back to Puglia, dropped my dancing and artistic career and spent a few years studying and living in Lecce, a truly beautiful and culture-rich little town. I graduated in Development Economics with Statistics and also spent a summer in India as a volounteer working at a project to match children with education funding.


At the time, I developed a passion for languages and international experiences, so I spent a substantial part of my Master Degree in Lecce making the most of available European scolarships. I spent a few months in Malta working for the Ministery of Transport and then in Seville working for an NGO. In Malta I met a determined and likeminded Spanish man who is now my husband and father of my child. After my Master graduation, we both decided to go and live in the UK. I managed to obtain a fully salaried PhD scholarship and so started my academic career at the Manchester Business School. After two years, I received an offer from one of the largest banks in the UK and joined them in the Corporate Banking business. That required us to move to Birmimgham but just for nearly a couple of years. As mine and my husband’s career developed in the financial service sector, we both ended up in the City of London and we definitively love the buzz, intellectual stimulation and the elegance of this career context.


Outside of my main career, I have recently launched a small CV consulting business helping Italians to get their application material in great shape for international career opportunities. I didn’t speak English until I was 20 when I learnt by extreme effort and determination. Then I managed to build a successful career and it was also thanks to the fact that i have aways made an extra-effort to understand the ‘rules of the games’ everywhere i worked. I am now passionate in helping other ambitious Italian reach successful careers outside of Italy. I also mentor graduate students in the UK and employees within my bank to help them develop personally and professionally.


When it is time to relax and unwind, I like travelling, reading novels, learning new cooking recipes and listening to R&B music. I recently attended John Legend’s concert at the O2 and it was a truly wonderful show.
What do you do in your life in London?
My life is a little frenetic. A tipical week day consists of waking up before sunrise to get ready for work and nursery for my child. I love to bring my son his cup of milk when he is still in bed and to have a few moments for ourselves before getting quickly prepared and outside for the day to begin. My husband and I work in the same area, so most of the days we board on the same train. When we are less busy we also manage to spend our lunch break together. One of our favorite place for lunch is, of course, Franco Manca in Broadgate Circle. After work we tend to collect our son from nursery together, that makes him very happy. Once at home, my husband and I take care of domestic chores such as cooking, some cleaning and of course we then spend some family time playing and reading stories with our little one. When our son is finally asleep, we dedicate some time to ourselves.
It is not unusual during a normal week to having to attend social gatherings in the City, which we do but alternatively (one stays which the child, the other goes!). During weekends we have plenty of friends in our area, Greenwich, to have lunch and dinner with. We also host friends and family from Italy and Spain quite often, and when we do so we bring them on touristic tours around London, which make us realise again and again how fascinating this place is.
What is the reason to leave Italy and come to London?
When I left Italy to live in the UK in 2010, my main reason was to go somewhere exciting, international and high profile to start an academic career. In all honesty, I was unimpressed by how the academic life run in Lecce (and Southern Italy more generally) and how poorly willing and capable students are treated. I was also lucky enough to meet great academic personalitites with great minds, and this motivated me to do the best I could with the resources I had.
I planned my move abroad with plenty of anticipation to ensure I left soon after my studies, so I never even applied for a job or a doctoral place in Italy. The tricky bit, as always, was the money. I had a little pot of savings built with occasional work during my studies, so I needed to go away with some guaranteed funding. So, when I was offered a full three-years PhD scholarship at the Manchester Business School I had very little hesitation. My husband, only boyfriend at the time, came along with me and found his first professional job in no time. Then career and life brough us to live in London in 2015 and we wish we had done that sooner, given how vibrant and plentiful this city is.
What were your best and worst experiences in London.
I had so many great experiences here, but probably the one that resonates with me the most happened at the very beginning on my new life in UK, when I still lived in Manchester but visited London quite often to visit friends. Once we went to a small, family run Persian restaurant and had the best lamb meat with fresh veggies and some typical bread. Then we went to an art exposition organised in a closed tube station, and there were drinks, music and artists from around the world. I remember that it was the first time in weeks when I didn’t worry about how mediocre my English was. It was such a wonderful exchange of experiences and it gave me a clearer picture of what London represented : a truly cosmopolitan, free and inclusive place.
On the other hand, I cannot recall any distinctly horrible event a part from things of life such as getting stuck in a boiling tube station or having to queue at A&E to get my son checked after a fall. I would say that the big disadvantage to be in London is not even the weather, which we almost got used to. It is to have a young family without a larger family around to support and share the joy. But we can still travel to enjoy all of that occassionally.
I asked you to choose a place in London that you like or you are tied to, what was your choice and why you made it?
I have chosen a spot in the City of London because this is the area I spend most of my week time in and just love the enviroment.
During your early times in London, did you have any problem?
I spent my early times in the UK in Manchester, and yes, I had my issues especially with the language. My lowest point was bursting into tears at the phone with Talk Talk, trying to set up my internet connection. My understanding of the language was poor and the fact that it was on the phone did not help. I asked so make times the operator to repeat and reformulate the sentences but the guy was getting increasingly fed up. However, my key language issues were resolved in a few months, after which life became so much easier.
What do you think about this project?
I am really curious to hear the stories and see the faces of other Italians like me that have made of London and the UK their home. I think the association of narratives and visuals is the real differentiator, and I perceive this project as being an opportunity to celebrate our ‘Italianity’ and how it stacks up in London as opposed to use this as a way to complain and shed some sad light on what goes wrong in Italy.
How do you think you could support and promote Italian culture? 
At a small scale, my start-up provides Italians with a professional English CV to apply for their dream career with increased chances of getting to the interview stage. This is a way to encourage Italians that want to come here but do not know from where to start, to actually make a move with the right professional tools. More success stories of Italians abroad mean increasing prestige to our culture and innate potential.