Picture yourself retired in Italy…spending your mornings with Italian coffee, fresh-baked bread, bright-colored melons, and a spread of soft mozzarella cheeses, tomatoes so red that you can’t keep your eyes off them, and dark, rich jams—all locally made, of course.
And, of course, all this delicious local fare—easy to come by here in Italy—is set against a beautiful, classical Italian backdrop of cobblestone streets, colorful houses, vibrant fresh markets, and happy tourists and fashionable locals strolling the shop-laden streets or sitting on patios with coffee, a gelato, or a classic Spritz cocktail, depending on the time of day and time of year.
It may surprise you to learn that this scene—a perfect Italian fairytale of cobblestones and cannoli—comes not from the romantic south, but instead from the robust, beautiful north, in the town of Modena—one of my personal favorites.
Here in Modena, you can find a two-bedroom apartment, located on the seventh floor of a building with an elevator…featuring wood floors and a renovated interior listed from as little as €53,000 (about $57,600). The condo fees are low, too, just €60 per month (about $65.)
And that’s not the cheapest place in town. Fixer-uppers and small studios list for as low as €33,000 (about $35,800).
If you prefer a villa to an apartment, you can find a 1,500-square-foot villa with two parking spaces, a private garden, an alarm system, and an electric gate newly built. Just 10 minutes outside the city, the property lists for €252,000 (about $273,900).
If you’re a foodie, you may have already heard of Modena. It’s where true balsamic vinegar—the thick, tangy kind aged for decades in wooden barrels and served reverently on salads, meats, and even ice cream—was born and is still made today. It’s also just a couple dozen miles from Parma—the home of the famous parmigiano (parmesan) cheese and Parma ham—and Bologna, the birthplace of Bolognese sauce (ragu).
It’s also home to a relatively famous covered market where you’ll find piles of local and regional goods and happy crowds of Italians bargaining, swapping gossip, and searching for the perfect tomato. And right in the center of all those cobblestone alleyways, you’ll also find a gastronomic restaurant called Osteria Francescana, which continually ranks among not only the top 50 restaurants in Italy, but the top 50 in the world.
Thus, the Modenese—and those lucky expats who join them in their city—eat very well indeed. And while they’re eating well, they’ve also got pretty much everything else you could want for a happy, safe, and comfortable retirement.
For one thing, Italy’s extensive train system runs right through town and you could be in Milan, Venice, Florence, or even Rome in less than three hours. The beach (in Ravenna) is just two hours away. And the nearest airport is just half an hour away in Bologna.
Modena also has well regarded healthcare facilities, plenty of shopping, and a climate with distinct seasons—hot in summer and colder and wetter in winter with occasional snow. Plus, for history and car buffs, the city boasts a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the Ferrari and Maserati factories, with their collection of vintage cars.
As for living costs…Northern Italy is a bit more expensive than the south, but it’s still affordable. A train ticket from Milan to Parma is just €21 ($23). A delicious lunch of pasta with wine is around €12 ($13). And a nice cold gelato is just a few euro.
With real estate from under $60,000, a life in Italy is something you could have without breaking the bank. Either part-time, or as a full-time retirement spot.
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