“Looking from our balcony I see the valley with the green mountains that touch the clouds in spring and summer. Our village below has stood through time and the fields above our house are filled with Alpine wildflowers of every color,” says Lisa Chiodo, who, together with her husband Sam and their two children, Carina and Luca, now lives in Piedmont, Italy.
In 2013, Lisa and Sam came to the tiny medieval hamlet of Borgata Malpertus, nestled at the foot of the Italian Alps, in search of a simple and affordable life. They fell in love with the landscape and relaxed pace of life and decided to settle down there.
“We were on a very tight budget and bought what I think was probably the cheapest house in Piedmont for $15,000,” says Sam. “The house is 300 to 400 years old, on three floors and about 2,100 square feet. It was run down, so our friends let us use their holiday house while we renovated it, in exchange for us giving it a coat of paint.”
Lisa and Sam used to own a maintenance business doing up houses and selling them, so they did a lot of the work on their new home themselves. “Main costs were putting in double glazed doors and windows and repainting,” says Sam. “We have spent about $16,000 so far, the house is comfortable but not finished.”
Borgata Malpertus, just over an hour’s drive from the region’s capital of Turin, is a rural escape seemingly untouched by the passing of time. “There are elderly people in our village who cut up wood the way they did all their lives. It is living history,” says Lisa. “People have cows and goats and are farmers. It’s not a touristy place at all.”
Lisa runs a blog, Renovating Italy, where she writes about the Chiodo family life in rural Piedmont and their progress with the house restoration. She set up a Facebook group too, also called Renovating Italy, where the members share tips and stories about buying homes in Italy and restoring them.
For the first two years, Sam and Lisa had no income and lived off their savings but recently they finished renovating a loft apartment in their house and now rent it out to a steady stream of guests who want to experience rural living in Piedmont. It is listed on Airbnb and rents for $65 per night.
The cost of living in rural Piedmont is a fraction of what they used to spend back in Australia. “You couldn’t be more budget than we are,” says Sam “We pay about $160 every two months for electricity. In winter, we use a wood burning stove and there is plenty of wood around. In addition, we spend $270 a year on gas bottles for cooking.”
The Chiodo family like to treat themselves now and then to delicious homemade meals at one of the local restaurants, paying under $11 per person for a three-course meal. For special occasions, they go to L’Alpina to feast on hearty Alpine dishes where the prices are $20 to $35 per person.
There is a small friendly expat community, which is slowly growing as more and more expats fall in love with this tranquil, beautiful corner of Italy. Sam and Lisa say they never feel isolated. The roads are good and Turin international airport is only an hour from Borgata Malpertus.
“Once you move to Italy a lot of your friends find their way over. We have had more visitors here than we did back home,” says Sam.
“I don’t see us ever going back,” says Lisa. “We love it here. Keeping watch on us all are the Alps above, timeless, majestic. They gently remind us to slow down and enjoy the simple life each day.”
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