The main reason for setting up a new life overseas is to find a better standard of life than you had before. There are a few ways of doing this. Moving from a polluted, noisy city into the clean air and quiet surroundings of the countryside is one way. Another is to move somewhere cheaper. Extra cash in hand means more options, so moving somewhere cheaper is an easy way to start living better.
Most people don’t think of Italy as cheap, somewhere where your money will go further. Words like “bargain” and “value for money” are unlikely to spring to mind when Italy is mentioned. It’s true that Italy has a number of expensive cities and areas, not to mention the most expensive designers in world.
The likes of Florence, Rome, Venice, and Milan are internationally renowned destinations. Hardly surprising when you consider they have a history dating back thousands of years and a seemingly endless supply of noteworthy architecture and attractions. The prices here reflect their international status and prestige.
While these destinations come with a price tag to match their status, that doesn’t tell the whole story… They also come with throngs of tourists who can make everyday life trying, especially in the peak season. The streets are riddled with tourist stores and tacky souvenir shops. On a practical level, towns full of tourists can make it harder to integrate into local life.
The solution in Italy is to move to a smaller town or to the countryside. By retiring to the countryside you avoid the crowds and the prices. Living just 40 minutes outside a major city can provide you with a much lower cost of living while still being close enough to enjoy easy access to city attractions.
Real estate in the countryside is far cheaper than in town. While this might not seem like groundbreaking news, the discounts to be had in the Italian countryside are impressive. The kind of idyllic towns and villages westerners often dream of are being abandoned by Italians in search of work. Various initiatives combined with lack of demand mean it is possible to pick up properties in some places for as little as 5,000 euros.
The cost of day-to-day living will be less outside of big cities and tourist traps. Italy has over 20 million acres of farmland, which produce a huge array of fruit and vegetables. This local produce is cheap, and the basis for the country’s celebrated cuisine. These seasonal goods are healthy, delicious, and will leave both your bank balance and your waistline in a better place.
The Abruzzo region lies to the east of Rome, in what is known as Southern Italy but might more accurately be called central Italy. Abruzzo’s eastern border is a long stretch of Adriatic coastline, and the western part is made up of mountains.
Abruzzo has a strong public transport network and benefits from regular trains and buses to Rome, the nation’s capital city and home to an international airport. Abruzzo has another airport in Pescara offering cheap flights across Europe.
The landscape is often compared to Tuscany with medieval villages and towns dotted atop rolling hills. However the price tags are a million miles away from Tuscany, enabling a comparable life at a fraction of the cost. This is, for many, the big attraction of living in Abruzzo.
The other is the outdoor lifestyle on offer. Around one-third of Abruzzo is designated national park or nature reserve. This has helped to maintain a lot of the natural flora and fauna and made Abruzzo a popular destination for hikers, birdwatchers, and other outdoors-minded folk. Abruzzo is considered to be Italy’s wildest countryside, especially when you head up into the foothills and mountains.
The Abruzzo region has a wide array of living options making it appealing to a range of people. Italy’s most overlooked region for so long, there is a growing buzz around Abruzzo, with expats increasingly looking to take advantage of the convenience and authentic Italian experience on offer.
If you couldn’t find Puglia on the map, don’t worry—you’re not alone. Situated in the heel of Italy’s boot, Puglia is home to the cities of Lecce and Bari.
Puglia is also home to some of the oldest traces of civilization in Italy, with some towns believed to date back 3,000 years. The area has been influenced by the Arab, Balkan, and especially Greek culture and architecture, as well as Roman.
Puglia has two airports: Bari and Brindisi. Both are international airports although Bari offers the greater number of flights. The region is well served by a bus network and there is some train coverage.
Bari is the hub of the region’s public transport and the place to make most connections. However, traveling by public transport on a Sunday is not recommended as the services are infrequent.
Puglia is a popular region with Italian vacationers and during July and August gets very busy. If you own property here you can make money by renting it out during these months. This still gives you June and September to enjoy the good weather.
Living here through the winter has its advantages. One is that the food is cheaper and in the case of the seafood, fresher. With the tourists gone, prices are also lower.
Puglia is an agricultural stronghold and produces more olive oil than anywhere else in Italy. It also produces wine, tomatoes, wheat, and is one of Italy’s main sheep-farming regions.
Organic fruits are increasingly being grown in the region and many of the farms offer tours. Living in Puglia would suit people who like seaside living and nice weather but don’t want to be surrounded by expats.
If Puglia is the heel in Italy’s boot, then Basilicata is the instep. Despite having miles of white-sand beach, Basilicata has remained largely ignored by tourists. Basilicata has coast on both the Tyrrhenian Sea and on the Ionian Sea, but away from the shore, the region is mostly mountainous.
The main city is Matera, also known as the Subterranean City. Matera has a UNESCO World Heritage network of caves at its center, its unique selling point. If you think the city looks familiar, it has been used in a number of films as a biblical setting.
Basilicata is mostly mountainous and vast stretches of the area are covered by dense woodland and others by vineyards. The landscape is ideal for outdoor living, with natural parks offering hiking, climbing, and cycling.
More adventurous types can enjoy zip-lining, windsurfing, sailing, and windsurfing in the region. Basilicata is a major wine-producing area, and you can take wine tours and buy the local vintages in most towns and villages.
Public transport in Basilicata is unreliable. If you choose to live here, you’ll need to budget for your own car. While the vehicles are not expensive, the price of gas in Italy is no joke. That said, there are trains between the big cities.
The toe of Italy’s boot, summers in Calabria are fantastically hot. The mercury often rises above 100°F.
Winters are on the other end of the scale and can be freezing for weeks on end. If you live in the mountains, you’ll get plenty of snow each winter—ideal for skiing or snowboarding.
Calabria is free from hordes of tourists, and even Italians seldom vacation here. This has allowed Calabria to preserve the traditional Italian way of living. Expect most shops and businesses to close for a few hours in the afternoon and for there to be almost no English spoken.
The pace of life is slow and gentle and many of the small towns and villages retain a strong sense of community.
Calabria has hundreds of miles of coast, including plenty of excellent beaches. Drive along the winding roads that overlook the clear blue seas for long enough, and you’ll find a quiet beach, even in the height of summer.
Public transport in the region isn’t the greatest, so you’ll want to own a car. Lamezia Terme is the local airport, which flies to destinations across Europe and into some of Africa and the Middle East. The international airport at Bari is also close and flies to even more destinations.
The Molise region in southern Italy has a small stretch of Adriatic coastline and a lot of mountainous and hilly terrain in the center. The north of the region borders the nature reserves of Abruzzo. In fact, Molise was, for a long time, unified with Abruzzo, but since 1970 has been an independent region.
Molise has two excellent ski resorts offer reliable snow in winter and a variety of slopes. Hiking is another popular activity with great views and lots of trails to explore.
The region has around 40 kms of coastline with beaches as good as anywhere you’ll find along the country’s Adriatic Coast. The region’s parks are home to a variety of wildlife such as bears, deer, badgers, and foxes.
Molise is famous for its poor cellphone coverage, so is not a great destination for digital nomads. If you’re looking for an off-the-grid lifestyle or a chance to get back in touch with simpler pleasures, it’s ideal.
Property prices in Molise are low, and the views are often spectacular over the rugged countryside. Notable architecture includes the Larino Cathedral and the Palazzo Ducale, which was originally a Norman castle. Larino also boasts a Roman amphitheater dating back to 1 AD.
The Le Marche region (pronounced mar-kay) is made up of five different provinces, Pesaro e Urbino, Ancona, Macerata, Fermo, and Ascoli Piceno. It is situated in the northeast of Italy.
You’re not likely to find many expats in Le Marche, but you will find great food and plenty of sunshine. The people may keep tourists at arm’s length, but if you’re looking to live somewhere long-term, will welcome you into their community.
The region has lots of smaller hill towns as well as couple of larger cities such as Ancona, Urbino, and Ascoli Piceno. Fashionistas will delight in the regions factory outlets from many of the top designers. The region is famous for its leather, too.
Le Marche has been called “the new Tuscany,” however both tourist numbers and prices fall way below those of the more famous region. You’ll find towns with cobbled streets, free from cheap tourist stalls and crowds of people. There are coastal towns like Senigallia, with its art deco pier and historic town center.
The easiest way to fly into Le Marche is via Bologna Airport, a fairly busy international airport. Ancona airport is also an option with some international flights.
The public transport network is decent, and you can get around the region easily via the buses and trains. For those who want to combine exploring with exercise, there are bike share companies, meaning you can take advantage of the region’s scenic cycling routes.
Piedmont in the northwest of Italy is where Italy meets France. This has led to some wonderful fusions, particularly the complex menus and delicious foods. These date back to the times when royalty would live in the region and their demands for extravagant food influenced the chefs of the day.
Piedmont is situated at the foot of the Alps and also shares a border with Switzerland. After Sicily, it’s Italy’s largest region. The Alps have many great ski resorts and make an impressive backdrop for a lot of the region.
Piedmont is one of Italy’s finest wine-growing regions and produces the famous Barolo as well as Barbaresco and Barbera. With regard to food, the region is famous for eggy pastas
The city of Turin, which is the major city of the region, is home to Fiat motors and the football team Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo’s current team. Turin has cultural diversions on offer, including cinemas showing English-language films (these will have “VO” somewhere on the promotional poster).
There are a number of local festivals and fairs held throughout the year in Piedmont. The highlights include a donkey race in August and a festival involving medieval games, held in May.