With impressive theatrical credits like, Desdemona in Shakespeare’s, Othello, notable film performances and the lead roles in Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland, Surrey born actress, Anya Vinci chats with Barry Lillie about finding love, a career change and a new life in Venice for our ‘Share Your Italian Story’ series.

Why did you choose Italy?

I have always had a desire to live in Italy at some point in my life, I don’t know if it will be permanent but my Father is Italian and as I’ve been coming to Italy for many years I feel it is my second home.

Which part of Italy have you chosen to call home?

I am in the centre of Venice City, near St. Mark’s square.

 It must be exciting living so close to Piazza San Marco?

I live in a very pretty area and there are some nice bars and restaurants nearby.    

Do the tourists get annoying?

Ha, ha! Only when you are in a rush to get to work.  I don’t think they think people actually live here.  But I must remember that I used to be a tourist and when my friends and family come they are tourists too.

Is there any other Italian city you’d have liked to live?

Maybe Milan or Rome.

But in 2013 you chose Venice, Why?

It’s the place in Italy where I had most friends and my partner was here.

So not only did you find a new life in Italy, you also found love?

His name is Salvatore, we met in a bar after I finished a show and we just talked and talked. I had never found it so easy to talk to a stranger, it was weird. We didn’t exchange numbers and went our separate ways; surprisingly he looked for me on Facebook. We started going out, just as friends, we got on really well and simply enjoyed each other’s company and the rest is history.

You say you met after a show, so you were performing in Venice?

Yes, it was called The Venice Show. I was already touring in Italy as an actress and I found the work through other actresses that I knew who had worked at this particular theatre. I asked them for details and so when I was staying nearby I came to Venice for an audition.

Anya studied performing arts at college and university including many London based weekend workshops and courses before going on the complete her training at the prestigious Mountview Academy in Wood Green North East London.

Anya is a very talented actress and following her graduation she has continued to work, both in theatre and film and in 2008 I was privileged to see her perform during a UK national tour where she undertook over 60 performances in a seven-week period.

I saw you perform during a national tour, however I wasn’t aware that you also worked in Italy?

I have worked in Italy for years as an actor in many plays; most of my work has been here.

In 2012, you performed in both Rome and Naples, playing Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. How did you find this very demanding role with its many heightened moments of emotion?

It was a fantastic, Juliet is such a great role to play. It was adaptation to suit an Italian audience, but Romeo and Juliet is so well known here and the fact that it has such a massive reputation, expectations were high and I had to make sure everything was convincing and true to the story.

And how was the show received?

The Italian audiences seemed to love the show.

As well as finding love you’ve undertaken a temporary career change, tell me about it.

There was a point in my life where I wanted a new challenge, I always knew I wanted to move one day because of my roots and I also met Salvatore, so my decision was to see how it went.  I have been working as an English teacher in various schools in the Veneto area.  I recently got my TEFL qualification and I have just started as a drama teacher with primary and secondary school children at a private school.  I will also be teaching English again at two other associations/schools in October where I will also be teaching adults.

Are there any opportunities in Italy for you pick up your acting career again? 

Not in Venice.  I am thinking of trying to start up my own company and really hope I can do this but we shall see.  I sometimes get auditions in Rome or Milan, but because it’s so far, I can’t get there with just a week’s notice, but I really hope to pick it up again. I intend to, so I am sure somehow I will find a way.

During one of our chats I notice that the small gold pendant that Anya wears around her neck is shaped to resemble the island of Sardinia. She reiterates that her father is Italian and explains that her paternal family are from Sardinia. I ask if she has any plans to visit the island and she told me.

“I would absolutely love to, it saddens me that I have visited so little of the Island where my family are from and where a part of me is from.  It is so beautiful and I know so little about the history I would really love to travel around the island one day for a month or two.

Talking of family, how have they and your friends reacted to your move to Italy?

My family were of course sad to see me go, my father being Italian knows how difficult the Italian culture and formalities can be so he was bit curious to see how I would cope out here. I think my mother was sad to see her best friend and daughter go. I think they were a bit shocked initially, but my parents are never really surprised when I want to challenge myself.

My friends were sad to see me go I think, well mainly my very best friends of course, but they said they were proud of me for having the courage.

Apart from friends and family, are there any things that make you homesick?  Yes, the way things operate in England; the culture I suppose.  Massively I miss the English sense of humour and at times just communicating with an English person. I sometimes miss places, my favourite cities and the English seaside. Sounds weird but it is true.

Have you found it easy to make new friends with the locals? 

Some of the locals are very nice, I mean in the butchers, at the supermarket and in the local shops.  Actually I think I only have two or three Venetian friends all the rest are from other parts of Italy and other parts of the world.  I don’t have a large group of friends here yet, but I am starting to meet new people more and more and the few friends I have got here are amazing, good people.

Being in your twenties, you’re quite young to have taken the brave step to move to Italy, what advice would you give to anyone else thinking of doing the same thing?

Learn the language as soon as possible and don’t be blinded by the fact that Italy is a beautiful country. Don’t be naive enough to think that it’s going to be a little hard, be prepared for how problematic it can be.  I really was very naive and did not know how difficult it would be. 

Italy is said to be one of the hardest countries to live in due to its bureaucracy, but of course it is a fantastic country in many other ways and I would not be trying to crack it if I didn’t want to be here.

So tell me Anya, what do you dislike most about your adopted country? 

The lack of organisation, the formalities and procedures they are just so tedious some times.

And what do you like most about your adopted country? 

Its beauty. I mean, you really can not complain about the beauty, it is stunning.  The places I have been and the sights I have seen have been breath-taking and for this I feel privileged. 

Also the way the people can be, they are very welcoming, warm and inviting.  I also love it because my Nonno and Nonna were born here and importantly the fact that my Daddy was born here.

 And of course I love the food and wine!

Finally, I hope you can answer a question that I personally have always wanted to ask a Venetian resident. How does it feel to live in a city where there are no cars?

 Well, you would think it would be weird but I don’t really notice it.  I also work in Mestre, on the mainland just outside Venice where they have lots of roads so maybe that’s another reason I don’t notice it so much.  However, when I go back to England with its massive roads and hundreds of cars, then I am like – gosh where have I been.  In another world. 

Venice is a world of its own, it is like being in a bubble. Sometimes this is enduring and at other times I just want to run away to a massive busy city.