Finding the Perfect Place to Live


I want to find the perfect place to live in Italy. Where should I go?

Everyone is looking for the perfect town to live in Italy. The perfect views. The most culture and heritage. The best food and people. Where, they ask, do I find this place?

And then they receive on forums and social media an endless supply of recommendations based on where the responder lives. But isn’t the idea to create your own adventure, rather to relive someone else’s?

Which town therefore IS the perfect one? The correct answer is: Almost all of them. 

Unfortunately, if you search for your place in Italy based on the postcard image you have in your mind, or the – lets all make the new foreigners our best friends – scene you saw in romantic movies, you are almost certainly going to end up with decisions paralysis. So worried that you will make the wrong decision, that you end up making no decision. You experience in any given place is not dependent on whether it fits you, but your willingness to fit into it.

How then to decide??

It seems daunting, but there is a process you can follow to help you decide. Start with an honest evaluation of what you are capable of.

  • Evaluate your capacity for change and your adaptability. Moving to a foreign country is going to be not only complicated, but very stressful. Most likely everything is different. Most likely you don’t speak the language, or only a a beginning level. You don’t know how all the bureaucratic steps work. Are you sure you want to add a lifestyle change on top of everything else?
    • You may dream of restoring that ruin in the country and having fruit trees and olive trees. Are you a really a country person?That renovation is going to take a long time and probably cost more than you thought it would. Italian contractors are known to work on a different schedule than what Americans and Brits are used to. Perhaps you dreamed of land and trees. Both will be more work than you realize if you are not a farmer.
    • The same can go for really large cities. You may have fallen in love with such and such years ago, but living in a crowded urban center is much different than a vacation. Those darn tourists are all over the place and the offices that you need to visit to register for things are very very busy. Will your budget allow you to get the housing you want? On the plus side however, you will find lots and lots of variety in food, entertainment and activities. Just enter into it with your eyes open.
    • On the other side are the really small towns. Picture postcard hill towns. The housing is much much cheaper. A lot of this is because most of the young people have moved off to larger cites for jobs. Those that are left tend to all either be related to each other, or have all known each other since grade school. They are wonderful and kind, but becoming more than the local foreign acquaintance can take a number of years. Services will be limited, and not having a car can be really limiting. Still, as long as the town has several thousand people you will have a decent supermarket, usually a weekly market and shops for most all the normal basic needs. You will find yourself pushed to integrate because you will see the same people all the time and hopefully, this will push you to really put in the work on your language skills.
    • Italy has a large number of medium sized cities. Places with 20 to 80K people. I personally consider this something of a sweet spot. You can still find very affordable housing and a wide variety of services. Unless there is some other reason, like perhaps being a seaside town, they are never overrun with tourists. They will have nice neighborhoods where everyone strolls with their children. Often you can walk to all the shops you need, but they will usually have a large commercial center within a short drive. At this level you will start to see more ethnic and speciality restaurant variety.
  • Are you REALLY going to learn the language, it is tempting to stay in an English speaking bubble. Learning a new language is hard, so be honest. It will take a firm commitment and if you are not going to spend the money for lessons, it will be very difficult to advance beyond the basic level needed to get by. Language is the key to quality of life, including making friends. Being able to have a conversation is the key to making friends. Italians are known to be very kind and patient. They don’t care if you’re not perfect, but they will eventually drift away if you never get beyond the deer in the headlights stage. Putting in the work is a way of showing your respect and desire to integrate. Believe me, I know how hard it is and i’ve been at that spot where you sit in your car rehearsing what you are going to say before you go in that shop, and then you go in they refuse to follow your carefully planned script!! My wife and I have been here just over five years and are just now feeling like we are not totally lost in a conversation that is all in Italian.
  • What do you like to do? The larger the city, the more activities. If you are wanting lots of festas, concerts, or sports then medium or better, or small or even rural with easy access to good roads. Pick the cites where you will find the activities, and then draw a circle with your desired driving radius to see whats options are there. You can use Google street view to explore the area. Are you into outdoor activities? Then you will either want to be either near those areas where they are offered, or close to a good highway that will take you there quickly. Do searching on your activitytype and find where they are. Ski slopes, or hiking and nature groups. There is lots to do, but this is a mountainous country and it can take a long time to get to places unless you are on a good road to them.
  • Final Thoughts. There is no perfect town. Your experience in any given place is entirely up to you. Your desire to participate and become part of the normal flow of life is key. You are likely always going be considered a foreigner living in Italy, but your willingness to embrace your life in Italy will determine the level that embrace is returned. It is said that Italians can be slow to offer true friendship, but when they do, it is firm and forever.



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