Cheerful songbirds greet you as you enjoy a rich Italian coffee on your terrace. The sun rises from the direction of the Adriatic Sea—a mere half-hour drive away.
Italy’s Le Marche is a hidden region, its patchwork of rolling hills dotted with stone farmhouses surrounded by sunflowers, olives groves, and grapevines. Here you’ll find the classic Italian lifestyle of good food, great wine, and cultural attractions, all for around $2,000 a month for a couple, including rent. The cuisine is varied and delectable, whether you’re in the hills or on the sea. Here are some of the specialties you should try…
If you dream of life among rolling hills dotted with stone farmhouses and patchwork views of cultivated fields, sunflowers, olives groves, and grapevines, Le Marche is the place. There are no large cities; the biggest is Ancona, the regional capital, with about 100,000 people. Towns here are on a human scale, often small enough to get around on foot, by bike, or scooter. Most are large enough to have shops, restaurants, cultural attractions, and services, yet remain small enough to be personal and engaging.
As I walk across the sunny piazza I think how easy it is to feel at home in Ascoli Piceno. I’m still blurry-eyed when I arrive at the coffee bar, but without my having to say a word, a frothy cappuccino is placed before me, followed by a cornetto filled with a dab of sweet almond paste. The barista, Giuliano, smiles broadly and then chats about the happenings in the neighborhood.
I’m sitting at a pastel green table on one of Italy’s most beautiful piazzas watching people parading to and fro for an evening stroll. Children scamper away from their parents, a group of elderly gents stand in the middle talking politics, and young couples, coiffed and stylish, stroll about greeting friends and meeting for drinks. The waiter arranges a glass of chilled wine and a plate of nibbles in front of me and I sigh contentedly.
With so much to see in Italy, many travelers overlook the country’s beautiful gardens and lose out on a special experience as a result. For these are no ordinary, peaceful patches of green; they are often reflections of artistic expression with exotic designs and formal layouts. The best-known gardens are the elegant, noble estates of Villa d’Este near Rome, the Royal Palace of Caserta close to Naples, and the Boboli Gardens in Florence, but there are other—secret—gardens to explore…
Arlene Gibbs was working on a movie in production when she realized she needed a life change. When the production company she worked for closed shortly afterwards she decided it was time to leave Hollywood. “Everything in L.A. was about ‘The Business’,” she said. “Everyone I interacted with at work…at the cafes…even at the gym…was involved in the movie industry.”
Arlene Gibbs was on-set in Toronto, working on a movie in production, when she realized she needed a life change. The two months she spent on location was the longest period she had been away from Los Angeles since she began working there 10 years previously. “Everything in L.A. was about ‘The Business’,” she says. “Everyone I interacted with at work…at the cafes…even at the gym was involved in the movie industry.”
You have visions of rolling hills dotted with stone farmhouses, sunny piazzas and la dolce vita. A new life in Italy is alluring. That’s why I moved here eight years ago. But before you can start enjoying those sidewalk cafés and open-air markets, there are a few bureaucratic hurdles you’ll need to jump to live legally in Italy.
We arrived at our rented villa just in time to see the sun slipping down toward the liquid-blue horizon. Perched on the terrace, we sipped rosé wine bought in a winery down the road and watched as nature splashed a rosy hue across the western sky. Fishermen returning with their catch left a silvery wake in the waning light. One hour in Cilento and we were smitten.
Head back to the Middle Ages as the splendid city of Ascoli Piceno transforms itself back into the bustling medieval city it once was for La Quintana. It’s a high-energy jousting match that rivals the excitement of Siena’s more famous Palio. Near the Adriatic coast, about an hour south of Ancona, Ascoli Piceno has been celebrating this festival every August since the 1300s. Locals in resplendent costumes fill the stunning historic center with colorful banners. Events include flag-throwing competitions, accompanied by drums and trumpets.
Italians have been throwing good parties since before the Romans perfected the opulent banquet. Every village, town, and city district finds its own reason to celebrate, and with a few millennia of culture, history, and legends to draw on, there are plenty of nation-wide events, too. To help you decide which ones you should really experience, we’ve put together a list of the five most unusual ones from around the country.
Bill and Carol Sansone are the envy of their friends. Acting on their passion for Italy they have gone back year after year to explore regions up and down the peninsula. Since 2005 they’ve taken six different destinations for a “test drive” in search of a future retirement home. “We’ve rented in Tuscany, Umbria, northern Lazio, Lake Como and Torino, settling into life in each locale, opting to walk or take public transit rather than drive…
You’ve made plans, set tentative dates…you’re almost ready to take off on your three- or six-month European tour…the next step is a roof over your head. But the short-term rentals offered online can be sickeningly expensive. Fully furnished and ready to go they may be, but with prices often multiples of those you’ll find on the ground, there are better ways to look.
France is nice, I guess. Lavender fields and a vast wine country surely hold a certain appeal. But it’s Italy that captures the heart and feels like home. My cousin bought a house in a lovely little village in southern France, but when she comes to Basilicata, Italy she feels a pang of regret. How could she not, with so much home-spun seduction enveloping anyone who sets foot in the region?
Because the area has lost residents in the past half-century, there are lots of properties available, but you have to make an effort to find them. Most towns don’t have real estate agents. We found our little 300-year-old casa in the village of Trivigno thanks to the village’s former mayor. We paid just $32,000 for the habitable house with three separate stone-hewn cantinas, used to store firewood and wine.
I don’t blame them. Basilicata is possibly the least-known region in Italy. Located at the ankle of the boot, it cuddles up to Puglia, Calabria, and Campania and is the most sparsely-populated part of the country.
When I tell people that I bought a house in Italy, the usual response is, “How fantastic!” When I tell them it’s located in Basilicata, they get a blank look and ask, “Where?”
There’s a lot more to Italy’s underworld than old re-runs of The Godfather. This country is rich in a real underworld: caverns, grottoes and underground cities. Here are three of my favorite places for subterranean history and natural splendor.
Rome is packed with art, but while most visitors queue to visit the Borghese Gallery or the Vatican museums, there are spectacular collections you can have all to yourself. The grand palaces of Rome’s noble families were built—and decorated—during the Renaissance.
When American Diana Strinati Baur and her husband, Michael Baur, started dreaming of living in Italy and owning a bed and breakfast, postcard-perfect images of la dolce vita and easy-going hospitality filled their heads and fueled their plans. “Fantasy is important,” says Diana. “Unless there is fantasy there will never be a reality. But there’s a time to let the fantasy go. It’s important to reckon with reality when doing a project like ours.”
When American Diana Strinati Baur and her husband, Michael Baur, started dreaming of living in Italy and owning a bed and breakfast, the postcard-perfect images of la dolce vita and easy-going hospitality filled their heads and fueled their plans. The end result has brought them greater pleasure and more opportunities than they ever imagined.
Forget Florence and pass on Rome…when it comes to food in Italy go straight to the source. The country’s thousand-year-old culinary traditions are best appreciated in the regions, and here, going north to south, are four of the peninsula’s best spots. Founded by the Romans over 2,000 years ago, the riverside town of Bassano del Grappa is a warren of narrow cobbled streets. This is the place to sip the strong, clear, grape-derived brandy called grappa. It’s a sophisticated, fragrant moonshine distilled from the left-over skins, seeds, and pulp of wine grapes.
The rocky promontory that juts out into the Mediterranean south of Naples is dotted with cliff-clutching towns and rimmed by a nerve-wracking road with jaw-dropping views of impossibly-beautiful pastel villages and sapphire seas.
Making the decision to transplant ourselves to Italy was easy. Making the move to Italy itself was painless. Making ourselves at home was smooth and immediate. Making a living…well, that’s another beast. I’m not going to lie to you—working in Italy can be difficult. But it’s more than worth it.
Making the decision to transplant ourselves to Italy was easy. Making the move itself was painless. Making ourselves at home was smooth and immediate. Making a living…well, that’s another beast. I’m not going to lie to you—working in Italy can be difﬁcult. But it’s more than worth it.