The Mediterranean’s Best Destinations
It’s December… For those of you in the U.S. and Northern Europe, that means the long, cold winter nights are here and you’ll find yourself leaving for work in the dark and returning home in the dark. If ever there was a time to consider a move to the Mediterranean it is now.
Full disclosure, I’m sitting in sunny Panama at this very moment. However, being as I’m from the U.K., I’ve always had an affinity for my friendly neighbors to the Southeast. Let me tell you why…
For a start, it doesn’t cost as much to live in the Mediterranean as you might think. The property prices in this list are all competitive and some are verging on bargain. If you’re a “snowbird,” there is great potential for renting out the property for part of the year to earn some extra income. The Mediterranean is quite popular with Europeans on holiday.
It’s not just your wallet that could benefit if you choose to live in the Mediterranean. The food is incredible and the diet is often regarded as the healthiest in the world. It has been proven to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke and also to slow down the ageing process. Not only that, but it improves the appearance of your skin and reduces the onset of other age related illnesses. In fact, some of the destinations in this part of the world are being recognized as best places to retire. If you decide to live in the Mediterranean you are in effect adding years onto your life.
Malta, or as it’s officially known as The Republic of Malta is a small group of islands in the Mediterranean. Located south of Italy it has been a key strategic military position for as long as there have been wars, i.e. forever. During WW2 Malta was a submarine base for the allies. Due to its proximity to Italy it was subjected to heavy bombing as it was in easy range of Italian bombers. The people of Malta were hit with to an almost incomprehensible 6,557,231 kilograms of bombs. They stoically resisted and earned the county a George Cross medal. This is now featured on the Maltese flag.
The cost of living in Malta is lower than major cities in the U.S. and also cheaper than the big European cities. You can find reasonably priced fresh produce available here while supermarkets also stock all your imported favorites. Eating out and public transport are inexpensive. Due to the small size of the island owning a car is not necessary here. It is also not recommended as gas prices are high.
House prices are have been increasing but are not expensive by major city standards especially outside of the usual ex-pat areas. Utilities are very reasonable. The national language is Maltese but English is widely spoken.
Malta has free public schooling and some of the best healthcare in the world. The prices for healthcare will keep your bank balance healthy, you can expect to pay around 15 Euros for a trip to the doctor.
The weather in Malta is very agreeable with over 300 days of sunshine each year. The Island is one of the world’s best diving locations with a lack of dangerous fish and excellent shipwrecks to explore.
If you are unsure whether or not to commit to moving here you consider this local proverb. Il-borza tal-bezziegh la timtela w lanqas tifriegh. Translated as the wallet of the timid man neither increases nor decreases it is a reminder that the person who is afraid to take risks in life will get nowhere.
Crete is, according to legend, the birthplace of Greek God Zeus and the land of the feared Minotaur. It has a history dating back to at least 7000 BC and is considered to be the birthplace of western civilization.
Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine claimed that the air in Crete contains special healing powers. He used to prescribe visits to the island as treatment for his sick patients. Despite all this it is reassuring to know that health care in Crete is excellent, the equal of any of Europe’s major countries. Unlike other major European countries you will need health insurance. You will also find most doctors are fluent in English.
The cost of daily living in Crete is compares favorably to the majority of big U.S. cities. You can save money and eat healthily by purchasing fresh produce all year. Eating out is also cheaper than in the U.S. so you don’t have to worry about becoming a hermit. As you might expect on an island imported goods cost more and prices in tourist areas are also higher. Bills are less than in Europe although car insurance and petrol are steep. Seeing as how you are already breathing the life giving air and eating a healthy diet, you might want to take the final step of giving up your car. Public transport here is cheap and reliable.
While the Mediterranean is clear almost everywhere, perhaps nowhere is it clearer than in Crete where it you can see downwards through the water up to 40 meters. The waters are safe and Crete has some of the best beaches in Europe.
The terrain in Crete is mixed, there are beaches and mountains as well as Lakes Rivers. The climate in Crete is warm in the winter with the lowest average temperature still over 20 degrees.
Forget about the gangster images portrayed in the movies. Sicily is statistically the safest place to visit in Italy. Sicily is an island South of Italy with a reputation for having a strong national identity. Sicilian people see themselves as Sicilian rather than Italian.
Petrol prices in Italy are some of the most expensive around and one of the advantages of living in Sicily is that you can manage without a car. Insurance costs for cars are expensive but given the standard of driving here being without a car can be considered a blessing.
Sicily has both buses and trains which are reasonably priced and efficient. There is a national healthcare system here which you will be eligible for once you register with the regional government. The average life expectancy here is over 80. The only drawback to Sicily is the educational system. Comparatively few children go to University, indeed many don’t bother with high school. That’s not to say the teachers or schools are bad just that the culture here is not necessarily geared towards academic excellence.
If you buy a property here you will get access to a permit to stay or long term visa fairly easily.
Eating out is generally affordable and once again if you enjoy fresh seasonal produce then you will find that your food bill is not too expensive. In 2015 Sicily was named the street food capital of Europe by Forbes in 2015 and has its own Pizza, the sfincione.
House prices are affordable and you can find yourself with a 2-3 bedroom property with a sea view for somewhere around $200,000.
Sicily has a long and intriguing history and has been under Roman, Vandal and Ostrogoth rule at one time or another. Palermo is amongst the most conquered cities in the world. Like Italy, there is a rich culture and history everywhere here. Somehow, Sicily seems to have compacted and refined this within its comparatively small borders. Italy’s largest opera house is based in Sicily and has some of the best acoustics in the world. It is also claim that Sicily has better Greek ruins than Greece.
Languedoc Region, France
Located in the south of France (colloquially referred to as the “Occitanie”) Languedoc was originally a province of France with its own capital city, Toulouse. Languedoc ranges from the Rhone valley to the Pyrenees and has 110 miles of varied Mediterranean coastline. Languedoc has Mediterranean climate unique to France. Driving down from northern France you pass through hundreds miles of gentle green scenery. Then the terrain gets a little hillier and almost out of nowhere you find yourself in a dry, rocky Mediterranean landscape littered with gnarled shrubs and occasional vegetation. There is also acre upon acre of vineyard. The different soil types, in addition to the climate, make the area ideal for growing wine and Languedoc is estimated to have produced 1 in 10 wines in the world during the 20th century.
The cost of buying a property varies widely here with the most expensive prices for houses on the coast and prices generally decreasing as you move inland. The cost of living in here is cheaper than the U.S. or most major European cities and you can eat very well for a good price.
The public transport is good in the region. You can easily travel from city to city by either bus or train although if you choose to live in a more isolated location you will probably need a car. Luckily insurance costs in France are very low and there is no car tax to pay. Be warned! The French do not treat their cars like the rest of the world and most of the cars you see here are adorned with dents and scratches. For the French it is not a major issue to dent someone’s car and drive off without exchanging insurance details.
The public healthcare in France is very good and you should register for your Carte Vitale as soon as possible which will entitle you to free healthcare (funded by social security payments) and about 70% off at the pharmacy if you have a prescription.
The climate is dry and warm with hot summers and mild winters.
This is an historic region with a great deal of culture and things to see. Cathar ruins are dotted about the countryside including some spectacular castles. You can also see some impressive Roman architecture including the Pont du Gard aqueduct that crosses the River Gardon.
Better known for its winter sports, Slovenia also has very appealing summers and some of the best beaches on the Med. Located to the west of Italy, Slovenia has over 45 km of coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Although 45 km is not a vast amount of area, the beauty of the towns and coastline here more than make up for it. Piran, on the Mediterranean is one of the most scenic towns in Europe but there are charming seaside resorts dotted up and down the coast.
The cost of living in Slovenia is low and on a modest budget you can live very nicely. Buying a house is cheap by U.S. standards and many of the houses have modern interiors. This is not always the case in the Mediterranean.
As well as the beaches Slovenia is a go-to destination for many other activities. White water rafting, skiing, hiking and caves to explore. The country has one of the most impressive lakes in the world. Especially beautiful is the vivid blue Lake Bled. The lake is heated from thermal springs and has a tiny island with a Church in the middle of it.
The Slovenian climate is continental, the summers are warm and average temperatures are 21 degrees in July. The winters here do get cold though with and you can expect to snow in the winter. If you are an active person Slovenia enables you to make the most of the beach and hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter.
The healthcare system in Slovenia is of a high standard and funded by the public through taxes. The public transport is generally good however it doesn’t cover the more remote areas. If you want to go into the countryside to the Caves you will need a car. The public schools in Slovenia are decent. There are also plenty of private schools giving you a good choice of education options in Slovenia.
Croatia has over 500 km of Mediterranean coastline. Split, in Dalmatia has the best of this coastline and what’s more it sits between the sea and the hulking Mosor Mountain Range. Founded by the Romans, the city retains much of the architecture from those times. The Peristil square remains the public square of the city to this day.
Split was the place where the last Roman Emperor, Julius Nepos, was killed. Split is a place with a long and diverse history which is little known by those outside the country. If you move here that is sure to change, there are eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites within 2 hours of Split. Pula Arena is a Roman amphitheater with underground museum close to the sea. It is one of only 3 remaining amphitheaters in the world.
House prices in Split are affordable but you have to get permission from the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs before you can buy. Prices have been on the rise in recent years and this shows no sign of slowing down. The cost of living in Croatia is now higher than many of its neighboring Eastern European countries. Compared with Western Europe and the U.S. the prices here are still very cheap.
Croatia is the home of the Dalmatian dog, named after the county Dalmatia. The area is one of the most beautiful in Croatia, something the locals are aware and naturally very proud of.
Health care and dental care compare with anywhere in Eastern Europe. Public transport is good and many residents choose to use buses for their daily commutes despite also owning cars.
The climate of Split is cold and snowy in the winter. Spring and autumn are mild and the sea is warm enough for swimming. The summer is hot with average temperatures around 25 degrees.
Although its cuisine doesn’t have the international reputation of some of the other countries on this list Croatian food is excellent and there are number of good places to eat. Local markets produce lots of good produce and the seafood is plentiful and cheap.
Often overlooked when it comes to Spanish cities, Valencia is going through a revival and its stock is set to soar in the coming years.
Valencia is one of the oldest cities in Spain and dates back to Roman times. After Roman rule the city was held by the moors until 1238 when the city was taken by the Christians. Much of the architecture dates from the cities golden period in the 14th and 15th centuries, influences from the Moors and Romans still remains. More recently Modernism was popular in the city and there are a number of Modernist inspired buildings here as well. Valencia sits on the Mediterranean and is 1 hour 30 min from Madrid and 3 hours 30 from Barcelona.
As a general rule property prices here are less than half of what you would expect to pay in Barcelona. For a long time people would look to Barcelona as a place to visit and invest. However the cities current political crisis and anger at Airbnb rentals pricing locals out of the market is making Valencia an attractive option. Not only that but companies are also leaving Barcelona and relocating to Valencia.
Winters in Valencia are very mild and temperatures average 17 degrees in the day and down to 8 degrees at night. The summers are long and hot, generally lasting about 8 months.
Healthcare and dental care are among the best in the world and once you are a Spanish citizen you will be entitled to free healthcare.
Public Transport is good, buses and the modern EMT Metro system will get you around Valencia and there the trains will easily get you to cities further afield. One drawback is that the public transport closes at 10:30.
Valencia has some of the best beaches in Spain and its beaches have received many prestigious blue flag awards for their high standards.