A former plumber from Oxford who now gives private English lessons to students in Italy says he’s earning at least twice what he used to in the UK.
Ian Davies, 50, left Britain for Italy in 2019 and is now a self-employed language teacher, earning up to €10,000 (£8,568) per month.
Teachers with English as their first language are highly sought after in the area, and can earn €50 per hour in Italy with no certificate required.
“I moved to Urbino in the Marche region, the hub of Renaissance art, just before Brexit post-travel restrictions came into force, and took up residency at a lovely farmstead owned by a distant relative of mine. I am now reborn,” Mr Davies tells i.
The city, in central Italy, hosts a top international university on classical humanities, so he took advantage of that to become a language teacher, targeting its students.
“I have registered for Italian VAT and pay taxes here, but I can’t believe the luck I had in being given a second chance at a fresh start,” he says. “I earn twice what I earned as a plumber back in the UK. At such an old age, I found my dream job.”
Mr Davies says the beautiful setting, majestic architecture and museums filled with masterpieces are “refreshing his spirit and body”.
The bachelor, who voted Remain, says he decided to leave Oxford due to stress and a frustrating job that didn’t allow him to fully enjoy life.
“The rat race is a killer in the UK. All I did was work, work, work to pay my two-bedroom flat’s £850 monthly mortgage. When the bank told me the interest rate was likely going to rise in the near future, I started making plans to move to Marche.”
Mr Davies was a frequent visitor to Urbino, where since 2000 he had spent entire summers at his relative’s farmhouse, who seldom visits for work reasons. So when the relative told him he was more than happy to share the property permanently with him, Mr Davies grasped the opportunity. He plans to apply for citizenship next year.
“I don’t pay rent, just utility bills and look after the estate, located in the lush green valleys just outside Urbino’s city centre.
“If one day I would need to find another place, I’ll likely rent one. Prices are pretty affordable here.”
He says it wasn’t hard to transform into a teacher of English language, since most of the work entails conversations with students who already have basic proficiency levels. Mr Davies has a GCSE in English and took several creative writing courses back in Oxford before becoming a plumber, encouraged by his mother, a teacher.
“I charge the same as other British teachers around here for private lessons: between 50 and 80 euros [£40-70] per student per hour, depending on what we do. I work every day, up to eight hours of lessons, often with groups of multiple students, which allows me to multiply earnings and save time,” he says. “We exchange views, I correct their sentences and pronunciation. It’s never boring.”
Mr Davies gets around Urbino by bicycle or on foot, saying he’s happy to have got rid of the car. When it rains, he takes the local bus for €1.50 per ride.
Back in the UK, he had to drive across Oxford and surroundings to clients’ homes, paying what he says were exorbitant petrol costs, which he has now eliminated.
“Being a solo plumber in the UK isn’t easy. Without a partner or larger company, I spent most of the day stuck in the car driving from one client to the next. The pay wasn’t as good as it could have been and I started to have back pain issues, which were forcing me to slow down on commissions.”
Mr Davies says that in his 15-year career as a British plumber, he never made more than £35,000 a year. In Urbino, giving private English lessons can earn between €96,000 and €100,000 (£82,000-85,000).
“My mum was a school teacher – she taught creative writing and influenced me with love of literature and language,” he said. “But in the UK I never wanted to follow in her footsteps. The love of the arts and culture flourished inside me when I started holidaying in Urbino.”
He realised there was enormous potential in teaching English to the many students who attended the local university.
“They’re all eager to drop their Italian accents.”