Undiscovered Italy: Less than $2,000 a Month

In the morning, I like to take in the view from my balcony: To the south, I have the majestic, snow-capped peaks of the central Apennines, to the east, a turquoise stretch of the Adriatic Sea. And in between, olive groves, green meadows and picturesque hilltop towns.

I feel lucky to live in Abruzzo, a central Italian region where traditional life remains alive and well. I choose to live here not only because of the region’s natural beauty and low-cost living, but also because it offers no shortage of things to do and see in my spare time.

I may go hiking in one of Abruzzo’s national parks, hoping to spot a chamois (mountain antelope) or deer; another day I may stroll through an ancient mountain hamlet, greeting old ladies who sit outside their stone houses, beaming friendly smiles at passers-by. On summer days, I like going for a swim and lazing on the pebbly beaches that dot Abruzzo’s coastline.

There are formidable castles to explore, mountain views to swoon over, wineries to visit and hearty traditional dishes to devour. Rural restaurants serve gargantuan portions of handmade pasta, grilled local lamb and other delicious specialties the region is famous for.

In my local bar, complete with centuries-old vaulted ceilings, a fragrant cup of espresso costs $1.20 and a generous glass of vermouth, accompanied by a plate of small pizza bites and light snacks, comes in at $3.70.

For fresh seasonal produce at rock-bottom prices, I go to weekly local markets. On my last market spree, I bought almost two kilos of Sicilian oranges, two kilos of apples, a large bag of spinach, a bunch of celery and 10 artichokes—all for under $15.

Combined with the vendors’ friendly banter, stunning mountains as a backdrop and glorious sunshine, my weekly grocery shopping is not a chore anymore; it’s a happy social event.

I buy freshly pressed, organic, extra-virgin olive oil directly from a small producer, sheep’s-milk cheese from a farmer nearby and stone-ground, high quality flour from a mill a short drive from my home.

An excellent meal in a local restaurant, with fresh, homemade ingredients and a great bottle of wine, will cost approximately $60 for two people.

Rental prices range from $400 per month for a house in the mountains to $930 a month for an apartment in a seaside town. A couple can live comfortably in the region on less than $2,000 a month. And that budget includes a good supply of excellent local wine and great meals in restaurants a few times a week.

Real estate prices are also very reasonable. If you want to wake up to the sound of seagulls and splendid sea views, a 140-square-metre, three-bedroom, beautifully restored house in the seaside town of Vasto could be right up your alley. With vaulted ceilings, wooden floors and a large balcony, the house is in the historic centre, near many great restaurants, pizzerias and bars. It’s priced at just $263,713.

Summer can be hot here, reaching 30 C to 32 C. If you prefer cooler temperatures, many affordable options are available in the hills and mountains. You can buy a piece of history in the small town of Penne, where a restored 111-square-metre, three-bedroom apartment in a 17th-century palace costs only $149,500. It has a fireplace, bread oven and access to a pretty, communal garden.

A final perk to life here is how well-connected this region is. Now and then, when I start missing a big-city buzz or need a dose of high-brow art and culture, I jump on a bus—which costs $40 for a round-trip ticket—and two hours later arrive in Rome. Or I hop on a fast train to Milan, which takes four-and-a-half hours and costs $105 round-trip.

Image: ©iStock.com/Freeartist 

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