Lauren and Kurt Newcomer had enjoyed vacations in Italy for many years. They loved the Bel Paese so much, that buying a vacation home there seemed like the next logical step.
After seeing a TV programme about Abruzzo, they traveled to explore this little-known region in central Italy and it was love at first sight.
After a few visits to the region, they discovered Guardiagrele—a lively market town, not far from the Adriatic coast. Often called “the terrace of Abruzzo,” the historic hilltop town has spectacular vistas of the majestic mountains and the verdant valleys dotted with olive groves and vineyards.
“The first time we went there it was a busy market day. The atmosphere was wonderful and the town looked beautiful. It was exactly what we were looking for,” says Lauren. “Once we found the location, we started thinking what kind of lifestyle we wanted. Did we want to be in the town, on the outskirts, or on farmland in the country? It sounded beautiful to have a house with land and olive trees but who was going to look after it when we are not there?”
It took them a year-and-a-half to decide what they wanted and to find the right house. A local real estate agent showed them different options, but the couple kept revisiting one particular house in the old part of town. They hesitated for a while because it was smaller than what they had in mind. “At the end, that was the one we chose because we loved the idea of being in the town, only a short walk from the market, the shops, and restaurants.” In 2010, Lauren and Kurt paid €45,000 ($56,000) for the 80-square-metres house. “Everything went smoothly. We hired a local attorney, who spoke fluent English and helped us through the process of buying.”
The couple spent a further €110,000 ($137,600) in renovations, completely remodeling their new Italian home. “We turned the kitchen (that was located upstairs) into a second loft bedroom with a bathroom. We put in all new plumbing and electrics, new radiators, air conditioning, and a rooftop terrace,” says Lauren. “From our rooftop terrace, we can see all the way to the sea, and on the other side, the mountains, as well as the local old church of San Francesco.”
Lauren and Kurt visit Abruzzo three-to-four times a year and stay for a month exploring the region, making new friends, and gorging on delicious traditional food. “There is so much to see in the region: the sea, national parks, ruins, castles, churches, wineries, and olive oil mills. And of course, the food in Abruzzo is the best in Italy.” Lauren says that the meat, pasta dishes, and pecorino ewe’s milk cheese are exquisite but they are especially partial to local seafood. “The seafood is fabulous and is always fresh. The coast is only 15 miles from our house, so we go there two-to-three times a week when we are in Abruzzo.”
La dolce vita doesn’t break the bank, says Lauren. “The cost of living is much lower than what we pay in the U.S. It is much cheaper for us to stay in Abruzzo than in the States.”
In the future, the couple is planning to spend more time in their Italian home. “We like that Abruzzo is not very touristy. It is as beautiful as Tuscany, even more so, and yet it is not crowded. In our town of Guardiagrele, there is a great community spirit and the locals have welcomed us with open hearts.”
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