Italy Has 20 Regions, Below Expats Write About Where They Live, Ultimate Guide!
Like many who have travelled in Italy, we had a secret dream to one day live in Italy. Unexpectedly, that dream became a possibility and so the search for the perfect location began. Having travelled to many of the major cities, we knew we wanted something more peaceful. We had fallen in love with the northern mountains, but knew the weather would be too cold in the winter. Who doesn’t love Tuscany? But properties there were out of our price range. The south of Italy would be too hot, so it was a dilemma. Then one day, we saw an article about Abruzzo and the die was cast. A trip to view houses sealed the deal. Our estate agent, Fabrizio guided us through the most magnificent landscapes, rugged mountains, verdant hills and valleys, forests and lakes, coastlines with miles of empty, sandy beaches, hilltop towns and villages and Pescara, a busy cosmopolitan city. Our choice was a house half way up a mountain, with views of the Corno Grande, the highest peak in the Apennine Mountain, The Adriatic Sea and the lust valleys below. House prices in Abruzzo were considerably cheaper than in other more well know areas, so we were able to achieve everything on our wish list. Abruzzo is authentically Italian. English is not widely spoken but the local people are patient and helpful with our faltering Italian. Our neighbours have been incredibly helpful during our transition into our new life. My husband has had so much help in tending our small vineyard and olive grove. Home-made wine and olive oil have been a delight. Another neighbour, fluent in English and Italian was invaluable when applying for residency, changing driving licences and joining the healthcare system. At every stage we have felt welcome from the local people. Covid delayed the exploration of our region but now we are out and about, we are stunned with the beauty of our area. Every trip out is peppered with “wow, look at that”, “That’s amazing”, “we are so lucky to live here”. Abruzzo is the greenest region of Europe, with three national parks on the doorstep. The diversity of wildlife is amazing with bears roaming the parks, wolves howling in the valleys and wild boar wandering through the hills. Conservation and protection of the ecosystems is a high priority in Abruzzo. Local festivals and events happen constantly through the year, from Sulmona’s spring tradition of parades and events, to Cocullo’s festival of the snakes, and the big events in August to celebrate mid-summer holidays for the Italians. The changing seasons provide constantly evolving landscapes. Snow on the high mountains glitter in blue skies for half the year. Spring brings a plethora of colour in the forests and valleys as the natural vegetation blooms into life. Summer and autumn provide the harvest of grapes, olives and a glut of fruit, vegetables and nuts. Winter temperature are generally mild, except for a few weeks of snow. Spring and autumn weather is delightful and summer is hot and dry. Would I change anything? Yes, I should have moved here ten years earlier.
Basilicata, Southern Italy
This is a brief outline of my experience of living in Basilicata. I am certain that there are others living in Basilicata who have had different experiences.
My husband and I are English. We lived in the outskirts of London and were working 6 days a week just to make ends meet.
We became aware of Basilicata (previously known as Lucane) in 2015 when a friend who happens to be Italian invited us to visit the Village in Southern Italy where he was born. My husband and I had already fallen in love with Italy from previous visits. Before we had only ever visited the tourist parts of Italy, and we thought it would be an experience to visit an unknown area of Italy. We therefore found ourselves visiting a little village named San Mauro Forte in Basilicata. We had never heard of this Region before but we immediately fell in love with the beautiful views of the countryside and mountains.
We only stayed for 4 days initially but we fell in love not only with the Village but also with the people, who were very welcoming. We visited again the following year and decided to buy a holiday home here in San Mauro Forte.
In our view San Mauro Forte is quite central in Basilicata in that it is only a 30-45minute drive to Matera (the European Capital of Culture in 2019) where the Passion of Christ and the latest 007 movies were filmed. It is also home to the Sassi area, which is a complex of cave dwellings carved into the mountainside and has numerous museums that are well worth a visit. At night the area is lit up and is spectacular to see.
It also takes about the same amount of time to reach the Capital of Basilicata which is Potenza. Potenza is apparently one of the highest regional capitals in Italy, and in my view, is more commercialised than Matera. Just a little further on from Potenza is Salerno, with Naples only being about another hour to 1.5 hours on from there.
In the other direction it takes about a 45 minute to an hour drive from San Mauro Forte to Metaponto, Policoro or Nova Siri, all of which have the most beautiful beaches. They all overlook the Ionian Sea. Metaponto has a sandy beach and is home to the ruins of Metapontum. Policoro has a pebbly beach but offers a lot more by way of water activities such as kayaking, surf board paddling, sailing. Policoro is only a short distance to the ruins of the ancient city of Eraclea and is the home of the National Archaeological Museum of Siritide.
Basilicata is home to the Parco Regionale di Gallipoli-Cognato and of the Little Dolomites Lucane, which is a mountainous regional park spanning thousands of acres. It is very inviting in the heat of the summer. It is ideal for country walks and has an adventure park which offers activities such as mountain biking and climbing frames for the children.
Also in Basilicata are the more well-known tourist sites of Maratea (the statute of Christ the Redeemer), Castelmezzano (Path of the Seven Stones) and Pietrapertosa (Angel Flight – zip wire between Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano). There are many more beautiful sites to visit in Basilicata – far too many for me to mention here.
There are 3 airports which are between 1.5 to 2.5 hours away from Basilicata – Bari in Puglia, Brindisi also in Puglia, and Naples.
I would say that to live or stay in one of the rural villages in Basilicata you will need to have your own transport. Although there are buses and trains, they are not frequent. This is fine if you are content to spend the whole day at the beach or shopping.
If however you were to live or stay in one of the more centralised Towns then the transport links are great – I believe it takes less than 2 hours to Naples or 4.5 hours to Rome by train from Potenza.
In 2018 we decided to retire early and came to live permanently in San Mauro Forte. Since living here we have become more acutely aware of the differences between North Italy and South Italy, and in particular the bureaucracy. It took us 3 trips to Matera to exchange our English driving licences for Italian ones. It took nearly 2-years to obtain our Tessera Sanitaria (health cards) – the latter was however in the midst of the covid pandemic.
I would highly recommend that anyone wanting to live in Basilicata to learn the Italian language. We did not do so before moving to Italy permanently and have found it difficult finding a school which is easy to get to, to be able to take lessons. If living or staying in one of the more populated Towns in Basilicata you will always find someone who speaks English. Not so much in the more rural villages.
I understand that the work situation in Basilicata is not great. I believe that less than 50% of the population in this region are currently in work. It may be easier to obtain work if living in one of the main Towns or Tourist areas in Basilicata,
particularly as the internet connections are, I believe, better than in the more remote villages. Here in San Mauro Forte, we had fibre installed in the Village in late 2020. Many of the occupants are however still waiting for it to be connected to their homes.
Food is also another consideration. Do not expect to be able to get English or American food in the shops in Basilicata. Although of course there is always the option of on-line shopping and having any particular item couriered. In my experience the food is very much seasonal here.
Healthcare – this is not something that I have yet had to call upon apart from the odd prescription here and there. I understand however that the hospitals in Potenza and Matera (which are the hospitals local to me) are good, although there are long waiting times. There is also a shortage of English-speaking Doctors in Basilicata, which is much the same for Lawyers.
If you want to immerse yourself in a typical Italian lifestyle then in my view Basilicata is the place for you, whether for a holiday or to live.
Campania da vivere e da scoprire! (Campania to live and discover!) Campania, Italia. Home of my maternal ancestors. Home to the city known worldwide as the birthplace of pizza, “La Bella Napoli” ( beautiful Naples) of course! There is a reason that Goethe said “Vedi Napoli e poi mouri “( See Naples and then die.) Campania, let’s just say you either love it or you hate it and that can change depending on the day! Today, like most days I choose to love it! The mountains, the sea, fresh air, rolling hills, art, museums, history, the food, and the pizza! Wait, did I mention pizza? But seriously, Campania is home to the ruins of Pompeii, il Vesuvio ( Mount Vesuvius), The National Archeological Museum, The Royal Palace of Caserta, Underground villages, Castles, and so much more! Besides art, history and ancient ruins there are also small lesser known things to see and experience such as Caserta Vecchia, a medieval borgo ( a small medieval village), beautiful beaches, Nature Preserves, and nearby islands to explore ( Capri, Ischia and Procida). I haven’t even begun to tell you about” La costiera amalfitana” ( The Amalfi Coast) with its beautiful, breathtaking views, including the “Path of the Gods”, and “The Lemon trail”, with fresh juicy lemons that are the size of your head! ( Who even knew that color yellow even existed?) It’s no wonder that people flock to Campania for their holidays! That being said, Campania is also a fabulous place to live. The beauty of this region is that you can choose the city life, or the country life! Let me tell you a bit about everyday life in Campania. If you have a car, then country life is way more liveable. I say this because not every town or village has a train. However, most towns and villages have buses that run back and forth to big cities ( Naples and even Rome) however they may not be at times that work for you. For example my town has a bus that runs to Naples but it only leaves at 6:40 a.m. or 4 p.m. with no way to return the same evening. Many of the buses are running on school schedules. This may mean there are less or no buses running on Sunday and limited hours during the week and on Saturdays. If you can find one that works for you, they are inexpensive and generally show up as promised. It pays to do some research before planning your excursion so you won’t be stranded. This is the price to pay to live in a beautiful place that is off the tourist path. However, the fact that you had to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch the only bus out on a Saturday morning will be quickly forgotten, ( and forgiven) as soon as you have your first sip of coffee for the day. Or even better your first bite of a sfogliatella ( or any other popular pastry in Campania) ,your first plate of pasta, or your first bite of fresh pizza. All of these things will be served to you with old fashioned hospitality! If you want your food even more farm to table fresh you can eat at an agriturismo. You can even make a weekend getway of it. The prices in Campania are generally affordable, especially during the off season. Campania like the rest of Italy is home to “Sacre”. These are festivals celebrating various Saints, Holidays, or even local foods or products. There are lemon, chestnut, cheese, and of course even pizza festivals! But, you don’t need to wait for a festival to celebrate, you can go to any local restuarant or bar and get an “aperitivo” most any night of the week and have a drink and celebrate “La dolce vita!” ( the sweet life). The portions of food served at most places in Campania for an aperitivo are nothing less than abundant! You’ll swear someone’s Italian nonna is behind the counter making sure you are stuffed to the gills, and that’s before your dinner! I can sometimes hear my italian grandmothers yelling at me “Mangia!” Perchè stai a dieta! Sei magra!” (Eat , why are you on a diet, you’re skinny!). It’s not only in restuarants that this happens. Sometimes the supermarket workers want you to “assagiare”, try and taste new foods. This can also happen at the weekly open air market, where you soon become known as the foreigner ( I’m known as America, or Brooklyn, even though I am from nearby Staten Island!) Warning!You may soon notice the number on the scale increase but don’t worry Campania has so many trails you will walk it off in no time! So, from ancient history, amazing food, beaches, pizza to the sun and sea , You too can have this experience everyday in Campania! Campania is also a great place to live to learn Italian. After mastering Italian, you can also after time learn many local dialects, and of course the beautiful language of Naples, Napoletano!! You’ll be cooking and speaking all of the languages of Campania in no time! One thing is for sure, you can’t beat the culture and atosphere in Campania. You may feel like it’s a challenge at first but it’s all worth it!
Emilia Romagna is a fantastic region for all, from its historical and cultural monuments up to the entertaining beaches of the famous Romagnola Coast.
You don’t believe it? Let me explain why!
In Emilia Romagna you can admire small Medieval and Renaissance treasures which are spread throughout the entire region, not to mention its beautiful coasts which are amongst the world’s most well-known in Europe for night life. But it doesn’t end here. In this splendid region you can explore centuries old – forests, national parks with crystal clear lakes, and you can also appreciate unique historical traditions, religious tours and the most ancient University in the world.
Emilia Or Romagna?
Emilia (Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna e Ferrara) and Romagna (Ravenna, Forlì-Cesena, Rimini) have different architectural styles, dialects and, most of all, cultural and culinary traditions.
As we have already said, you can never get bored in Emila Romagna. You can find places and sights that are capable of satisfying everyone, from the youngest to the oldest.
Let’s start from Bologna: it is known as the “Dotta” (The Learned) because the first University in the world was founded here during medieval times (the prestigious Alma Mater where I have studied and my career as an Italian language teacher was born). It is also called the “Grassa” (The Chubby) because of the good food, and the “Rossa” (The Red), for the typical color of the bricks of its towers and palaces.
It was also once called the “Turrita” (The Towered City) because it had hundreds of towers. Now, there are 20 towers left plus two called “Asinella and Garisenda.” Together with the University, they have become the symbols of the city.
If you think you do not have enough knowledge of art, you will find all you need at the National Art Gallery and at the Mambo (Modern Art Museum in Bologna) where you can admire great works of art.
If you are thinking of spending the evening in Bologna, remember that this city never sleeps. After a lavish supper at one of the many typical traditional restaurants that fill the Bologna streets, you only have to choose how to spend the evening: Bologna will be able to satisfy your entertainment, whether you decide to go to an elegant bar in the old part of town, or to the young University zone in Via Zamboni, or even to the noisy street of Pratello.
A Cultural Overview: What Makes Emilia Romagna So Unique?
Emilia Romagna is a region in northern Italy that is known for its unique culture. The region is named after the Emilian people, who are the predominant population in the area. The key cultural elements of Emilia Romagna include its po River, balsamic vinegar, and northerly location.
The po River forms the border between Emilia Romagna and Lombardy and provides a natural boundary for the two regions. The river has been an important part of the region’s culture and history. Balsamic vinegar was first made in the area around Modena, which is located on the banks of the po River. Today, balsamic vinegar is produced throughout Emilia Romagna, as well as in other parts of Italy.
The northerly location of Emilia Romagna has also had a significant impact on its culture
What Can You Eat In Emilia Romagna?
Well, once again, you have a lot to choose from; typical products of this region are well-known throughout the world. Just think of the exquisite Parmigiano Reggiano or the delicious Parma Ham.
But, if you decide to go on a tour to taste these typical specialties and you are going through Bologna, you must certainly try some of the following dishes: the Tortellini, typically filled pasta which can be in soup or simply with cream, or Tagliatelle with meat sauce which are rigorously made by hand by the “zdora” (the lady of the house).
Still in Bologna, we suggest you taste another specialty: The Lasagna, which must unavoidably have at least 7 layers.
If you are thinking of a trip to the seaside, we suggest you try The Piadina, which is thin flat bread which you can fill with whatever you prefer. An honorable mention must be made to raw ham, squacquerone cheese and arugula or ham and mozzarella cheese. These are the most popular.
But don’t worry! The specialties and delicious foods of Emilia Romagna are numerous and we are certain that you will enjoy discovering them by yourself!
This is all! If you are thinking of organizing a trip to Emilia Romagna, just follow these simple and short indications and you will be 100% satisfied!
It really is a dream come true to be living in this amazing region I now call home. My name is Ann and my husband and I retired to live here in Terracina, a resort town with a coast line of 15 Km, along the Tyrrhenian Sea, in the province of Latina, in the region of Lazio in Central Italy.
Let me share some of the delights with you:
Surrounded by mountainous views with pretty coastal towns and remote, secluded medieval villages dotted around the varied terrain, the region of Lazio has so much to offer. San Felice Circeo, Sperlonga, Gaeta, Anangi, Sermoneta, Nemi and Greccio are only a few of the pretty villages and medieval towns, some of which I have visited and know quite well, and all with a different reason to visit.
Sperlonga is just beautiful and must be one of the prettiest little towns in Italy. How lucky are we that it’s only 20 minutes by car from Terracina or a short train ride from Rome. It’s a combination of a village and a seaside resort with the village perched on a rocky hill overlooking the Mediterranean sea and at it’s base a beautiful sandy beach with crystal clear waters.
Wander around the little white washed houses, through the narrow alleyways and courtyards with seating areas to capture those stunning views. You will come across boutiques selling all sorts of local goods and plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants. Our friend introduced us to Sperlonga many years ago and we always take our friends and family here when they visit…..its first on the list!
Sermonata is not far from Rome and has to be one of the most interesting villages in the Lazio region. Surrounded by its high walls and completely perched around the Castle Caetani you can walk through the tiny maze of winding streets and historical buildings which date back to the Middle Ages, to the thirteenth century in fact. There are many wonderful traditional restaurants and bars and you could easily spend a whole day as there really is so much to see.
Rome the capital city of the region and of Italy is on our doorstep, so to speak. An hour by train and we are in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. We never tire of going there and the joy of finding something new is always exciting, and there are lots to see and do. The sheer pleasure of the Trevi fountain at night, walking up to the very top of the Spanish steps for the most amazing vista and taking a pew in the little church at the very top to sit quietly and reflect, is truly heart warming.
My favourite gallery is in the Borghese Gardens where you can take a tour and view the masterpiece of Bernini’s marble sculpture ‘the Rape of Proserpina’…..to see it is to believe it.
Lazio has borders with Umbria, Tuscany and Marche to the north, Abruzzo and Molise to the east, Campania to the south and the Tyrrhenian Sea to the west. Because of it’s central location and amazing transport & train links with Trenitalia and Italo, this makes for easy and fairly inexpensive travelling to any of the other beautiful locations in Italy, and we do. This is what Italy is all about……it’s a feast for the eyes
From the ports of Rome, Terracina or Formia you can take a ferry to the Pontine islands in the archipelago off the western coast of Lazio. Ponza is the largest island in the group and we have been there several times over the years, sometimes only for a day trip with friends or family but really we prefer to stay over for at least one night. The coastline is jagged with a mosaic of multicoloured rocky cliffs, shores dramatically peppered with caves and grottoes, hidden bays and little beaches, the most famous being Chiaia di Luna. These sites are truly breathtaking even more so when the ferry rolls slowly into port, then the view of the buildings and hotels of Ponza town, prettily whitewashed and trimmed in the classic Mediterranean colours of pink and blue come into view! Everyone has their camera ready for great photo opportunities. There is a laid back vibe on the island, lots of boutique style shops and many bars and restaurants with amazing seafood and spectacular views. You can sail your boat to the nearby islands, hire a boat for the day or the afternoon to sail around the island, snorkel and scuba dive or take the small ferry to the pebbly fun beach of Frontone. This island is a hidden gem and is special to my heart!
Lazio is home to Monte Cassino, the famous monastery with an ornate Cathedral and elegant Renaissance cloister, perched high on a hill overlooking the town of Cassino. History tells us that the 4 battles for the eventual capture of Monte Cassino during World War 11 in 1944 came at a high price. The Allies suffered heavy and severe casualties, with many thousands wounded and dead in the Monte Cassino Italian campaign. The Abbey was demolished and the town of Cassino was devastated during the battles however they have been beautifully restored. There is a museum, War Graves, Memorials and the cemeteries can be viewed from the Monastery. We were a party of 8 when we visited and at that time were lucky enough to hear the beautiful voices of the Choir of Monks singing and chanting. It was a special day and an amazing experience.
The climate of Lazio is normally pretty stable with long hot summers and cool winter months. Terracina itself has a micro climate, surrounded by hills all around the city which stretches along the cool coastal waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Here it can be tranquil for so many months of the year but the italian people appreciate the beauty of this city and head for the beautiful blu flag beaches of Terracina, as a holiday destination in the summer months. The city is in fact modern and vibrant with a busy harbour for the local fishermen and the ferry services. The Centro Storico (the old town) is steeped in Roman history with a beautiful Cathedral and recently an amphitheatre has been discovered where excavation of the site continues.
A visit to the Tempio Di Giove, (the ruins of the ancient Temple of Jupiter) is definitely worth it.
The temple sits high on the hill overlooking Terracina and offers breath taking views as you walk slowly up.
In fact we haven’t really come across many actual expats in Terracina since we have come to live however we do have friends of different nationalities who have purchased derelict buildings and land on the surrounding hilly areas some years ago and over time they have restored and re modernised these properties and are now the proud owners of truly amazing and beautiful homes.
I’m sure you have heard of the Italian Bureaucracy and red tape and it can be very scary. We have found that if you learn a little of the italian language and be open to the welcoming people of the area in which you live you will make friends…..or you may already have made friends in Italy. This will stand you in good stead as someone might know someone who’s help they can ask in order to help you. It’s happened to us several times and we like to say “ tuo molto gentile” with flowers and a bottle of prosecco. We have found that the Italian people, on the most part, are generous and very caring. Talking is their passion and they love to tell long animated stories full of laughter. It’s fun to be in their company but thankfully some of our friends are bilingual and are always willing to help with translations.
So life is good….life here is very good and I would be very sad if I ever had to leave my home here in Terracina in the region of Lazio, in Bella Italia!
For me, the beauty of Le Marche lies in its position wedged between the lush green Apennines and the turquoise Adriatic. It is a varied region with historical stone hill villages with tremendous views, the spectacular Sibilini range with short distances to the sea and dramatic the coastline. Our peaceful home lies on the outskirts of a village called Loro Piceno and a convenient hour drive from the Marche capitol Ancona. Flying into Falconara Airport is always an exciting proposition as we can never decide where to stop off before heading home. Will it be lunch, shopping in the classy boutiques of Senigalia with a quick relax on the beach? Or a more tranquil beach excursion to Sirolo and the Conero riviera, with its white pebble beaches flanked by creamy coloured cliffs and pine forest… and lunch, of course…
Driving past the many vineyards and a sea of sunflower fields, a stunning sight between the months of June and September, feels like a scene from the ‘Gladiator’ movie in the scorching heat. Cyprus trees and olive groves scatter the hillsides. Heading off the motorway we pass Macerata, an architecturally fascinating university town with large buzzing squares, surrounded by picturesque country side, famous for its open-air Opera house, reputed better and larger than the one in Verona.
Nearly home, but we can never resist stopping at our oasis, the Abbey of Fiastra, one of the finest preserved Cistercian abbeys in Italy. Set in an expansive nature reserve with a museum, monastery and beautiful walks amongst the mulberry trees, a quick gelato or in the evenings, a flavoursome meal of delicious homemade pizzas washed down with a fruity local vino rosso. As you can tell, food is a constant theme..
Passing Saputi vineyard is another delight, growing organic wines set on a 28-hectare estate. With regular wine-tasting events held for locals and tourists there’s always something available to delight the palate. The territory is composed of hills and mountains to one side and runs to the shores of the Adriatic coast on the other, making it a perfect stop off for hikers and cycling enthusiasts too.
Nearly home! Really….
We wave at The Archaeological Park of Urbs Salvia as we drive along the via Adriatica . It was once a 40-hectare Roman city; still clearly visible are the remains of a theatre, reservoir, temple, city walls and up to five metres high in some points, is the Amphitheatre, built by Lucio Flavio Silva Nonio Basso, at the end of the 1st century. Such was his fame, the great actor Peter O’Toole played him in a US TV production which went on to earn him an Emmy for the role!
If you have never come across the local drink a ‘vino cotto’, a sweet cooked wine, the many summer festivals in the region are the perfect opportunity to sample the diverse food and drink delicacies the region has to offer. Buon appetito!
Apulia- Renee Lawrence
Apulia, commonly referred to as ‘the heel of the Italian boot’ lays on the most eastern point of Italy, with the Adriatic Sea to the East and the Ionian Sea in the South. It is an area that it often overlooked for more popular tourist regions and in fact, still feels untouched in many ways. It has a typical Mediterranean climate with hot summers, little rain, and mild winters. Summers are pleasant by the sea, with only a couple of weeks of excessive heat, but an average of 28 degrees. Winters have a lot of sunny days and there is only a dusting of snow for a couple of days of the season. With a generous coastline, Puglia is home to some of the most desirable beaches in the region.
There are two main airports to fly in to Puglia (Bari and Brindisi) and a rail line that runs up the Adriatic coast making it easy to arrive to the coastal towns of Puglia to the southern tip of Lecce. Getting to the interior of Puglia is much trickier- the lack of infrastructure is frighteningly evident. It is a vast region with lots of small towns and a variety of beaches, mostly far apart from each other, making having your own car an absolute must.
You can trust that you’ll eat well in the stiletto heel of Italy. Led by local produce, it is the birthplace of may unique Italian foods and this is reflected in its simple, fresh cuisine. Famous are the tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, figs, citrus, melons, all ripening under that southern sun, and the region is a major producer of oil (providing around 40% of the country’s olive oil). Add in orecchiette, burrata and an abundance of fresh seafood- a foodie’s dream! Fruit and vegetable prices at local markets are incredibly reasonable and on certain days of the week each town has their street market where you can buy a wide range of household items, clothing and local produce at excellent low-cost prices.
The surprise for many is that the overall cost of living is low in Puglia. Real estate can be affordable, with homes to buy starting at around just €50,000. Of course, larger houses, country villas, seaside homes and homes with land come with higher price tags, but deals can be found. If you are prepared to do a renovations project it is possible to buy a small trullo or villa securing the perfect location at a lower cost, but you will find yourself in new territory in Puglia, with limited time, a language barrier and no way of assessing a contractor’s credentials.
Dining out is relatively inexpensive. An aperitif in an outside café or trendy bar will set you back just 3 or 4 euros with local produce (usually olives and taralli), while a cappuccino will cost you around €1.20. A pizza dinner for two could set you back €15 but there are also higher end restaurants specialising in local seafood which can be pricier. In essence, Puglia can be as affordable as you want it to be.
Unless you are retired, or have a job teaching English (in a school or privately), work is seasonal and not as easy to find when comparing to more Northern regions in Italy- a reason that many young, southern Italians migrate to the North. In Summer, casual beach/bar related jobs on the coast are popular, and September through November are harvesting months so it is possible to find opportunities helping with harvests. From November onwards there are even fewer jobs unless you are closer to the main towns.
There are hundreds of attractive towns and cities to live, but here are a couple of the highlights.
Lecce is the cultural capital of Puglia that some people say is “The Florence of the South” with loads of monuments, churches, palaces and museums. Full of baroque embellishments, a vibrant city with everything you could possibly need- it’s impossible not to love Lecce, and impossible not to try the famous sweet “pasticciotto”.
The Valle d’Itria is a low hilly landscape southwest of Bari. Full of olive trees and vineyards, with many towns in between you can find Ostuni and Martina Franca, tranquil towns to immerse yourself in the southern countryside, but only a short car ride to the sea. Here you will see the landscape speckled with trulli, traditional homes with conical roofs unique to this area. You’ll see them everywhere but especially around Alberobello.
The southern Italians are known for being very hospitable, so it is easy to make friends and quickly feel at home. Some Italians speak English, but not all and definitely not in the smaller towns, so it helps to learn the language so you can more easily communicate with your new friends.
Puglia retains its emphasis on traditions and their way of life. Vivacious, outgoing and laidback, if you can make your way around the frustrating infrastructure and can find yourself a job to keep you busy, there are endless facets to love about Puglia. The people here know how to live; it must be the sunshine, the food and the wine that makes them so friendly!
If you’re only passing through Emilia Romagna, you must absolutely visit the magnificent city of Ravenna.
It has a glorious past and a present to be rediscovered.
We are talking about a city that has been the capital of an Empire for three times and has hosted Unesco eight times. Obviously, if you spend a day in Ravenna you must visit the The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo where you can admire magnificent mosaics or the building of San Francesco. Last but not least, the Dantesco Museum pertaining the tomb of the Poet.
The Adriatic Coast
Lastly, the most favourite destination for young people: The Coast.
First and foremost, Rimini. The city where the first Italian seaside resort was born. Together with Riccione, they are the heart of the Romagnolo seaside tourism.
Here, you can relax on the beach and have all types of comforts at your disposal. In this way, you can appreciate the strong point of the Romagnola Coast: its night life.
With cocktails overlooking the sea, bars on the beach and exclusive discotheques, fun is guaranteed; a true Romagnolo cannot miss an appointment for a cocktail at the number 71 beach club in Riccione where you can sip excellent drinks and organize your evening with friends at the most famous discotheque, Villa della Rose.
One very early Wednesday morning in September 2020 I arrived in Florence from London. I took the tram to the station and after waving goodbye to the handsome tram driver, who had kindly and patiently waited for me at the airport while I struggled with the ticket machine, I proceeded to pull my large case through the old streets from the station to the Oltarno district, where I had booked a room for one month. It was a light-filled room with a view overlooking the Piazza Pitti and the Palazzo and my plan to stay for only 4 weeks, ground myself, plan, explore this famous city that I had never visited before and then leave for the country to deepen my Tuscan adventure. I am a photographer, so the idea I arrived with was to photograph the artisans, and artists of the region. Tuscany is a place of dreams I felt, I had witnessed it through photographs and movies, the rolling hills and morning hazes which to me were an invitation to dream. So, on that September morning my Tuscan adventure began. It was still hot, the beginning of the end of the summer but after the year that we had all had, it felt almost like a soft and hopeful new beginning, certainly for me. Tourists, many less than normal, had arrived, and looked very much like they were enjoying the city, water mists cooled hot diners on the crowded piazzas and there was a feeling of waking from a dream or perhaps falling into one. I walked around just taking it all in and had my daily view of the sunset from the Ponte Vecchio, only 5 minutes from home. I quickly gravitated towards the Uffizi and made friends with an artist there who became my first Florentine friend and a lovely sense of freedom began to unfold. Of course, the presence of the tourists, even though less than normal, was still a lot but it was the art that gave the highest vibration of the city. The architecture and the history every day offered a new vision to take it deeper and all that alongside the buds of the new art coming to life. The ancient sculptures, the Madonnas framed on street corners, the graffiti and the stencil art all offering their voices, sitting side by side. It was an enriching experience and one that I would spend many weeks trying to absorb and still do. So, I started to settle and was given the honour of being invited to join my Florentine friend and his friends for lunches at their local trattoria in Centro. This was good for my italian as well as for my sense of community and was an important step. The adventure was underway, and I started to feel at home. The month passed and I extended my time in the Oltrarno to a second month as I wasn’t ready to leave, an adventure was unfolding. Then, towards the end of October the news came that the region and most of Italy was going back into lockdown. I sat on The Loggia of the Palazzo Guadagni, which had become my happy place, where I had grounded myself on those first days in the city, watching the sunset. The next day the cafes and bars were closed by 5pm, then soon afterwards they would close all day and there I was locked down in Florence. I remained there for the next 3 months watching Florence from my room, an empty Piazza and birds flying over the Palazzo to the comforting sound of the bells 6 times every day from the Duomo. I found that it was the most perfect way to hear the bells, just far enough away. So, my 4 weeks in Florence became 6 months and during this time I walked around empty streets, photographing Florence as we may never see it again. Vasari’s Corridor sat empty in the afternoon sun and outside the Palazzo Vecchio, Hercules looked over a deserted piazza. There were armed soldiers guarding all the palazzos and they smiled when I walked by. I spent my birthday and Christmas alone but I didn’t feel very alone at all, it felt like the city held me and was somehow saying ‘its ok, don’t worry, you can stay, we will still give you nice sunsets and you won’t need to queue at the supermarket.’ It was true, I didn’t worry or queue at the supermarket and on Christmas day the sunset came as it did most days and the lights of the Christmas tree sparkled with an even deeper sense of magic in that moment. Come the spring, I was finally able to travel out of the city and left Florence on a train heading south, witnessing the beauty of Tuscany passing by one rolling hill after another. I was travelling to Calabria to begin a project about the traditions of Italy, staying there for a few months, but was soon back in Tuscany to start the restoration work on an old 18th century villa right in the heart of the Chianti region that I had decided would be home. There I had found a sense of an old story awaiting to hold me whilst at the same time offering an invitation to tell my own story and be part of theirs, so without a thought it became home. The dream of Tuscany is very real and the way you see it in the photographs and movies is very much the reality, these views are not filtered it just happens this way. Asides from the visual beauty, Tuscany is also like a precious invitation from an old friend. When you visit, even if only for a few days or a week, you may be invited to stay longer and many, like me, will do just that. You can leave any time, but it will never leave you.