La Dolce Vita Means “The Sweet Life...” and Life Gets no Sweeter Than in Sunny Italy
Italy has a staggering amount to offer travelers...and residents. Romantic cities. Timeless hill towns. Snowy mountains, idyllic islands, and a rivetingly beautiful coastline. Plus, outside the major cities, homes start at a mere $50,000—or less.
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- Population: 61,482,297
- Capital City: Rome
- Climate: Predominantly Mediterranean; Alpine in far north; hot, dry in south
- Time Zone: GMT+1
- Language: Italian
- Country Code: 39
- Location: Southern Europe, a peninsula extending into the central Mediterranean Sea
Moments after my daughter and I arrived at Santa Lucia train station in Venice, we were headed down the Grand Canal. After soaking up all that beauty, she turned to me and said, “You know how you imagine a place and then you get there and it’s smaller than you expected it to be?
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.
The Israeli city of Tel Aviv begins its three-day Taste of the City festival on May 1. Fine-dining establishments serve free portions and chefs line the streets offering local delicacies like malabi—a creamy pudding flavored with rose water. Saint Lucia Jazz is the most anticipated musical event in the Caribbean calendar and runs from the start of the month until May 12.
If you’re in love with classic Europe and its history, romance and culture, take heart: Spain, Italy and France aren’t only for the vacationer who saves for months just to visit. Each one of these three countries has numerous small towns and villages that lie under the radar—places with enticingly affordable properties to rent or buy
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.
Most people have to work for a living. And only a fortunate few get out of bed each day excited to go to the office. It’s sad how many Americans are unhappy with their job. In fact, I used to be one of them. Then everything changed in one day. Thanks to America’s Great Recession, I was called into HR and terminated. Immediately. “Stop what you’re doing and pack your things,” I was told.
About a year ago, we sold our home and began a new chapter in our lives in northern Italy. We rented an elegant two-bedroom apartment one block from our favorite lake, Maggiore, for just under $1,000 per month. Verbania, Italy, where we live, is home to about 31,000 people. It sits on the western shore at the southern end of the long lake, which snakes up into Switzerland. An esplanade skirts the lakefront, with cafes and bars galore.
Each summer, my husband and I perch ourselves on the house’s upper terrace and gaze out at the valley below. Shimmering there in the heat is Florence. It thrills us that beneath the haze lies a trove of Renaissance treasures: Michelangelo’s David… Brunelleschi’s magnificent dome… Botticelli’s Venus, standing tall and tranquil on her scalloped sea shell. In just 20 minutes we can be down there…
As the day begins and the sun turns the snow-capped peaks of the Alps to gold, my husband Dave and I take a leisurely stroll. With our little dog Magic, we walk along the lake front to our favorite café, where for $4 we enjoy steaming cappuccinos and fresh buttery croissants. Our dog is welcome everywhere here, in cafés and restaurants, on buses, ferries, and trains.
Forty years ago, long before Under the Tuscan Sun was a twinkle in Frances Mayes’ eye, my parents-in-law bought a 14th-century stone house on a woodsy Tuscan hillside just outside the city of Florence. The foundation of the house dates back to the Roman period and the jagged bits of stone wall found on the lower terrace, underlining a stretch of silver-hued olive trees, is Etruscan.
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.”
In Tuscany, it can seem nigh on impossible to find a worthy sightseeing destination where you’re not elbow-to-elbow with fellow travelers. That’s part of what makes Certaldo such a treat. The masses often whizz by this stunning hilltop town in Chianti in their rush to visit nearby Siena or San Gimignano.
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.
In the part of Tuscany, Italy, known as the Val de Cecina, (“Valley of The Sea”), an hour’s drive southeast of Florence, there’s a privately owned Villa where I’ve taken some of my best and most saleable photographs of Tuscany. The early spring light held me captive there, for five days, one April a few years back.
Wondering if you can afford to retire in Italy? Well, you can. Although the popular areas of Rome, Florence, and Milan are admittedly expensive, not all regions are as unaffordable as you might expect. In rural areas and small towns, plenty of homes are available for less than $100,000. Often a lot less…
Italy: The Owner’s Manual will provide you with all the information you will need to turn your dreams of moving overseas into reality.
The ancient Romans painstakingly carved out some 250,000 miles of road across Europe, every inch of which led to their home city. So the phrase, “All roads lead to Rome” was actually true. These days, though, you’ll probably arrive in the “Eternal City” via the airport.
Right now, doom and gloom in Europe runs deep. But there is a story not being told…one of opportunity borne of this crisis. A story of places where you could own your own piece of the Old World…for less than half the price of a budget family sedan. In Greece and beyond—prices are falling like a rock. And for anybody who ever mused about a European retreat, that’s the silver lining.
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.
“Ever since I was young I’ve always loved ancient Italian history and ruins. In fact, I was so drawn to Italian history that I remember seeking out Roman ruins on a trip to England,” says expat Cathy Powell. It’s only fitting, then, that Cathy eventually moved to Tuscania, a small town with deep Etruscan roots in the Lazio region of Italy.
It’s 6:30 a.m. and I’m out the door for my daily run along the winding mountain roads. Cowherds and their cattle pass me; they are on their way to new grazing grounds. The salt-water wind kisses my face as I make my way past ﬁelds of wheat and myrtle. After four years of running these roads, I no longer get strange looks. The locals are used to the crazy Canadian!
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.
If money were no object, what would your dream retirement look like? This fall, we’ll show you where you can easily make that dream your reality…for $800 or less a month. Your own cottage on a quiet beach…an apartment in a city vibrant with concerts and cafés…a mountain villa where the air is crisp…
A round-up of the events you should be chalking down on your callendar. All of these events are expected to sell fast, so book your place early to avoid disappointment.
On the Cover This Month… Loja is one of Ecuador’s finest colonial cities. Its famous gates are modeled on the image portrayed on the city’s 16th century coat of arms. In the gatehouse are four galleries displaying contemporary art. Loja is known as “the Musical and Cultural Capital of Ecuador,” and the town is home […]
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.
Long before you reach the island, you’ll see the smoking cone of its volcano rising from the sea. Off the north coast of Sicily, the permanent cloud is a giveaway that you’re nearing Stromboli, one of the seven Aeolian Islands.
Ashley and Jason Bartner were beginning a new phase in their lives. The couple had planned to settle down and buy a home in New York, but during their honeymoon, exploring cozy cafés, cobblestone avenues, and seasonal fruit markets, they fell in love with Italy.
Together-forever partners. Passing fancies. Torrid affairs. Love comes in many guises— and Italy was made for amore. Yet although Florence is a love song to art and culture, it doesn’t ﬁt my idea of a romantic summer getaway.
The couple’s 300-year-old Italian farmhouse is now open for business. ©Melissa Ruttanai
As newlyweds, Ashley and Jason Bartner were beginning a new phase in their lives. Jason was a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Ashley was an aspiring actress. But when they stepped off the plane for their honeymoon in Italy, they had no idea how different life was about to become.
If a small Italian farmhouse with a vineyard sounds sweet, then look to the Abruzzo (pictured), a region of southern central Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea.
If you like spending time in the garden… love to eat healthy, organic food… and enjoy traveling, there’s a way to combine these passions—and do it all for free. WWOOF—an acronym for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms—offers you a way to travel the world for next to nothing. (Normally, you pay only to get there.) At the organization’s website, Wwoof.org, you can search the database of organic farms around the world to see who’s looking for someone to help out. You can volunteer at an organic farm next to the Podacarpus National Park in Vilcabamba, Ecuador or on an apple orchard and organic bakery in Mendoza, Argentina.
Scoring a country on its climate is difficult, because everyone has their own ideas on what sort of weather they enjoy most. But it was Italy’s ability to cater to all tastes that saw it surge to the top of the Index in this category. The weather in Italy is quite different from the stereotypical Mediterranean climate with many of its inland northern regions enjoying weather more on par with…
I’m in northern Tuscany’s Lunigiana, the “Land of 100 Castles”. Originally built in the late 12th century, Fosdinovo is one of its best. Crowning a hilltop, it’s a square, fortress-like structure with inner garden courtyards and gorgeous tapestries. Incredibly gruesome stories, too.
In October, the real attraction in Le Marche, Italy is white truffles. If you’ve never tasted a truffle, you may not see the point. After all, as the fruiting body of an underground mushroom it doesn’t sound that nice. But don’t be fooled, these “diamonds of the kitchen” are highly prized. In 2007, a single white truffle weighing 1.5 kilos fetched the record price of $330,000.
Ask any Italian about Tuscany, Lombardy, or the Veneto and they can rattle off a list of the attractions of these well-known regions. But bring up Le Marche, scrunched between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea, and they may fall silent. It’s a mystery why. Less than three hours’ drive from Rome, Le Marche features sandy beaches and great seafood on its Adriatic Coast, rolling hills topped with medieval fortified towns and villages to the west, along with snow-capped peaks in the south. You’ll find a musical heritage, too…composer Rossini was born here.
The only sounds are waves lapping against the hull and the occasional ﬂ ap of a sail as it captures the gentle breeze. Gliding through the turquoise waters of the Aegean aboard our yacht Destiny, we’re leaving the Greek island of Milos and heading west into the southern Ionian Sea. Our next destination is Elafonisos, one of the largest inhabited islands in the Peloponnese, known for its sandy beaches.
I’m sitting in the sun outside Concetta’s bar, sampling the local nectar. It may sound suspiciously like relaxation, but don’t be fooled. This is work—I’m researching longevity. This could be the key to rewinding my biological clock (yours too). Intense purplish-red, Cannonau certainly tastes healthy. And it’s only $2.10 a glass.
Columbus landed in the Dominican Republic in 1492—the same year he “discovered” some of the other Caribbean islands. Like those other islands, the Dominican Republic is ringed by white sand beaches and coconut palms. Unspoiled towns boast stone churches and candy-colored home facades.