I was offered a free villa in Hollywood, but I said no thank you, I prefer to live in Italy — Ennio Morricone
This is our tiny flat in Italy. Stone and tile and wood in a 70 square meter structure that comprised the western wall of the city some 1000 years ago, with a lower level rumored to be Roman – a cantina, perhaps, for cold storage of wine and produce. When we are here, we rattle around together in this one bedroom, one bath, combined kitchen-dining-laundry room, with the strange but lovely lower level. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough.
At home in the States, we want more. We acquire, sometimes without even knowing why. In Italy, we are content with a few decent things and the rest from IKEA or the second-hand store. We have no TV or radio so we read at night after the passeggiata and dinner, if we are not out with friends. Or we go to sleep early and feel rested and not nearly as cranky as we do when we are back home. (Full disclosure: we do have internet!)
We are not naïve. We know there are problems in Italy. The children mostly leave towns like ours (and those much smaller) to go to the big cities – or even abroad – in search of meaningful work. The cash economy (read: under the table transactions and bribes), while being cracked down upon, still persists. There are high taxes but, like other places in Europe, residents actually get something for their money: health care, college, and retirement benefits.
Both Tim and I have had reason to avail ourselves of the local doctor and pharmacy here and, I can tell you, it’s vastly preferable to what we have to go through in our American system. Quick service, well-priced prescriptions, and no need for a note from my dead mother to prove who I am. They don’t even need my height and weight and a run-down of what over-the-counter vitamins I’m taking, because – let’s face it – none of that is relevant!
There are few or no good jobs in Italy at the moment, but neither are there abundant job opportunities in the States for many folks. In the U.S., whole industries have been gutted in the middle part of the country; expensive advanced degrees are required for many fields; and most students come out with a Bachelor’s degree and tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in unforgivable student loan debt. Most millennials I know have to juggle two or three or even four jobs to make a viable living and are still enduring roommates well into their thirties. The concept of buying a house is foreign to them. Marriage and children are delayed. It’s a whole different world than the one I grew up in and I feel terrible for them.
It goes without saying that the government in both places is largely corrupt, and we know that. Still, I guess what we can’t understand (either by language or cultural experience) won’t hurt us directly, as long as we don’t live here full time. So, all in all, we prefer the place with the great food, the saner pace, and a population that is not suspicious or stressed out all the time. Plus, they don’t seem to have any gun violence nearby; in fact, most people say they leave their doors unlocked here, there’s so little crime. Our Italian friends are terrified for us every time they hear about another mass shooting. They think we live in the Wild West. I’m beginning to think they’re right.
These are strange days, living this transatlantic lifestyle. When we’re in Italy, we often miss important events going on in the States. When we are back in Massachusetts, we miss Italy terribly. It’s a neither here-nor-there existence at the moment, but hopefully that will change.
We’d like to spend more time in our tiny flat – maybe 4 or 5 months a year. We’d like to live more like locals here and stay without feeling like we have to leave right away. We have good friends here already; I am looking forward to writing more here, and I know Tim is already making a list of the causes he wants to take on. Time is the enemy, of course.
For now we go back to our tiny flat for a total of three weeks every year; the rest of the time we are in Italy, we are taking small groups of travelers around to our favorite places. We’ve been to Rome, Assisi, Venice, Vicenza, Le Marche, Matera, Trani, and countless spots in Abruzzo. We never tire of it. We live for the reactions: the first time a traveler sees the Trevi Fountain, climbs up to Roccacalascio, eats a fig right off a tree, makes her own pasta, tastes real gelato for the first time . . . it’s magic. We want to make more of it.
But we always come back to our tiny flat: the place with the amazing vaulted ceilings that is walking distance to the park and the best restaurants in town. If you want a self-catering experience, our tiny flat is for rent over AirBnB, and we’d love to share it with you.
If you’d like to take one of our small group tours (designed for people who don’t like tours), we have two coming up in 2018: one to Rome and Abruzzo in glorious May, and one to LeMarche and Abruzzo in time for the harvest in October.You can find information about both of them here.
We hope to see you here one way or the other!