I was crossing Italy on an organized trip when I first saw Lake Trasimeno: it was 2007 and I had just started a job teaching textile design at the University of Wellington [en Nouvelle-Zélande]. I wanted to make the most of the long summer holidays to visit places I had never been.
We stopped for lunch by the lake and I didn’t feel like leaving, everything was sublime and I immediately thought I’d love to live here. The site is surrounded by hills and absolutely calm. I knew this was my dream place.
“I developed an addiction to Rightmove, a real estate listing site, and a few months later I returned to Umbria with a real estate agent to buy a property.”
It was pouring with rain and I did not want this visit. I was disappointed with the house, it was very ugly from the outside. Yet as soon as I walked through the door, I fell head over heels in love with the place. The place had been completely renovated, but all the old charm had been kept: beams, terracotta floors, stone window sills, and the house was located in the heart of a pretty village. I paid 135,000 euros for it and it’s still my favorite place in the world.
“I had this crazy idea of founding a textile design school in Italy”.
With each visit, I left completely pumped by the beauty of the region, by its energy and dynamism, by the colours, textures and this permanent creative breath. I was single at the time and driving by Stroud [au Royaume-Uni] every summer, all alone in my little C1, to stay in my second home.
Moving to Italy forever remained a dream, I couldn’t believe it either. Yet when my parents died of cancer, eight days apart, just before Christmas 2014, I realized how short life was. What was then still my fiancé and I resigned and decided to settle down in Charente, France.
It was really a crazy idea as we dreamed of living in Italy and were learning Italian. Yet my desire to set up a small business running sewing and embroidery classes was easier in France: large estates are cheaper, and it’s a traditional holiday destination for the British. We have therefore decided to postpone our installation in Italy.
In 2022, frustrated with having only been able to go to Italy twice, and always postponing our Italian dream, we decided to move permanently. We still have the holiday home I bought in 2017, as well as another one less than fifteen minutes away where I organize my creative hobbies.
In a way, living in France allowed us to test our dream against reality: we were more aware of all the logistics of an expatriation and the meaning of our priorities.
Living here is exactly how we dreamed it: the people are welcoming, the scenery beautiful, the food and wine excellent. In England I attended evening courses in Italian for two years, so even if I don’t have a perfect command of the language, I manage (my husband, John, still has some progress to make…).
However, it is also very nice to have a group of English speaking neighbors nearby, which really helps us integrate. Let’s imagine exactly the opposite: that expatriating is really putting miles between you and your compatriots, to be truly immersed. However, expatriation is not always easy, and therefore meeting people who have lived here for decades is a really great advantage.
Go there several times before buying
Don’t choose a region without having visited it in winter and summer.
Bureaucracy is real
Moving abroad is an ordeal, and TV shows on the subject never mention the ton of paperwork you’ll have to absorb.
Be business savvy
If you plan to start your own business, don’t hesitate to do some prospecting and market research, it will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Create your network
Especially if you’re moving to a more secluded location, don’t underestimate the importance of the neighborhood. When you live in the countryside, it’s hard to integrate without making good friends.