Rich in sunshine, vineyards, culture and cobblestones, Umbria in central Italy is where I chose to base myself a couple of winters ago.
Umbria borders the tourist’s favorite, Tuscany, but it’s just as laidback and soaked in that ”wine-with-lunch” Italian culture. It’s the perfect place for long walks down cobbled lanes and through mist-shrouded parks, shopping for stylish Italian clothes, sipping hot cappuccinos while people-watching from cafe windows, and getting to know the diverse, international group of people living and studying in the area.
And you can find good-value real estate…like studio apartments with beautiful park views from less than $50,000.
I based myself in the provincial capital of Perugia—a place known for its language schools and international student community—and found a short-term, fully-furnished apartment rental about 15 minutes from the city center with a sweeping view of the countryside—complete with rolling hills, brick church bell towers, and terracotta rooftops stretching into the distance—for just over $1,000 a month.
I was thrilled with the price and the quality, but also quickly discovered that in Umbria it’s easy to go much, much cheaper—especially if you’re buying rather than renting.
If you’re on the lookout for a fixer-upper here, I found a two-story home of almost 600 square feet home priced at just €11,000 (about $12,600)…just six miles outside the city.
Livable apartments also start at incredibly low prices. One top-floor studio in a building with an elevator that I came across was listed for just €21,000 (about $24,000), and an 800-square-foot, two-bedroom studio with park views and recently renovated interiors on the market for €40,000 (just under $46,000).
If you prefer villas to apartments and acreage to simple gardens, then you’ll find plenty on offer here for more money. I found a three-story home recently renovated on two floors (and with a third floor awaiting renovation) with a balcony and garage and 400+ square meters of land, on offer for €190,000 (about $217,500). Properties needing full renovation start at half that price.
If you’re living in this Italian hill country, visiting Florence is a must (less than two hours from Perugia), with its reputation for loveliness, Rome, with its historic significance, and many other charming cities and towns. And the good news is that transportation is also very reasonable.
My own train ticket from Milan to Umbria cost less than $100 and a quick search on TrenItalia’s website shows tickets from Perugia to Florence, Rome, the popular walled hill town of Orvieto, or mystical Assisi, are all under €15 ($17) each way.
My own explorations took me to each of those places: Florence for long walks through quintessential Italian neighborhoods, Rome for food tours and fresh markets and later scooter tours and history lessons, Orvieto for days spent lingering over coffee with a seemingly endless view over the countryside, and Assisi—my personal favorite Umbrian town—to explore the former nunnery that has now become a gift shop full of local foods and to hike down the hill from town for a distant view of its famous church wreathed in morning fog.
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