I was traveling through Italy on an organized trip when I saw Lake Trasimeno for the first time – it was 2007, and I had just started a job as a textile design teacher at the University of Wellington [en Nouvelle-Zélande]. I wanted to make the most of the long summer vacation to visit places I had never been.
We stopped for lunch on the lake and I had no desire to leave – everything was sublime and I immediately thought I would love to live here. The site is surrounded by hills, and absolutely calm. I knew this was the place of my dreams.
“I developed an addiction to Rightmove, a real estate ad site, and a few months later I was back in Umbria with a real estate agent to buy a property.”
It was raining cats and dogs and I didn’t 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 madly in love with the place. The place had been completely renovated, but all the cachet of the old had been preserved: beams, terracotta floor tiles, stone window sills, and the house was in the heart of a charming little hamlet. I paid 135,000 euros for it, and it’s still my favorite place in the world.
“I had this crazy idea of setting up a textile design school in Italy.”
At each visit, I left completely pumped up by the beauty of the region, its energy and its dynamism, the colors, the textures and this permanent creative breath. I was single at the time and driving from Stroud [au Royaume-Uni] every summer, all alone in my little C1, to stay in my second home.
Moving to Italy for good remained a dream – even I couldn’t believe it. Yet when my parents died of cancer – eight days apart – just before Christmas 2014, I realized how short life was. The one who was still my fiancé at the time and I resigned and decided to settle in Charente, France.
It was really a crazy idea, since we dreamed of living in Italy and we were learning Italian. Yet my desire to create a small business organizing sewing and embroidery courses was easier in France: the large estates are cheaper, and it is a traditional holiday destination for the British. We have therefore decided to postpone our installation in Italy.
In 2022, frustrated to have only been able to go to Italy twice, and to always put off our Italian dream, we decided to move there for good. We still have the holiday home I bought in 2017, and also another less than fifteen minutes away, where I organize my creative hobbies.
In a way, living in France allowed us to put our dream to the test of reality: we were more aware of all the logistics of an expatriation and of the sense of our priorities.
Living here is exactly as we dreamed it would be – the people are welcoming, the scenery beautiful, the food and wine excellent. In England, I had taken Italian evening classes for two years, so even if I don’t have a perfect command of the language, I can manage (my husband, John, still has some progress to make…).
However, it’s also very nice to have a group of English-speaking neighbors nearby, who really help us to integrate. We imagine quite the opposite – that expatriating is precisely putting miles between you and your compatriots, in order to be truly immersed. However, an expatriation is not always easy, and therefore knowing people who have lived here for decades is really a big advantage.
Go there several times before buying
Do not choose a region without having visited it in winter and summer.
Red tape is real
Moving abroad is an ordeal, and the TV shows on the subject never mention the ton of paperwork you will have to absorb.
Be business savvy
If you’re planning on setting up your business, don’t hesitate to do a bit of prospecting and market research, it will save you a lot of time in the long run.
Create your own network
Especially if you’re moving to a more secluded location, don’t underestimate the importance of neighborhood. When you live in the countryside, it’s hard to fit in without making good friends.