Welcome to our expat interview series!

Are you concerned about moving to central Italy after the earthquakes? Well, we’ve reached out to Rachael and Tom, a couple from  Michigan (US) who bought a house in a lovely medieval village surrounded by nature and rising in the very green heart of Nera Valley, Umbria, which is Montefranco. It is just 50 Km far from Norcia!

Listen to what they’ve told us.

Tell us, why Italy?

“Our dream was to visit Italy and we started taking a few years of Italian lessons at a local restaurant Paesano in Ann Arbor in the United States to learn conversational Italian language. So we could be able to travel to Italy.

We loved everything about Italy during our first visit in 2011. The following 3-4 years, we took the time to research the buying process, logistics, currency exchange, type of home and associated costs, parking, safety, and cost. While we found many homes in Sicily that fit our budget initially, we realized that traveling there would be especially challenging since there were no direct flights at that time. As time went on, our budget increased and we also started to look within an hour of Rome so that we wouldn’t have too far to drive after arriving to the airport.”

View over the town of Montefranco and its surrounding landscape

How did you find this property?

“We started our search for a house on the Internet while at home in the States. Gate-away.com was a site that I would frequently look at to get an understanding of what the market was in each area and consider how much house I could afford for my budget.

We realized that Umbria was very affordable for our needs and being centrally located, travel within Italy does not take long and allows us to see many areas within a few hours of a ride by car or by train.

Once we found something very interesting to us we arranged a first visit to a property. The house was charming with great views, but it was lacking something. Needless to say, we didn’t feel right about buying it. While searching for a home we were staying at a B&B in Torreorsina (Umbria). It was located in an old Palazzo next to a castello. It was then I decided exactly what kind of home I wanted. I wanted something old but restored. So we started looking at a home like this till we found the one we proudly own today in Montefranco.”

What’s the hardest thing about moving to Italy?

“I think the hardest thing about moving to Italy is the process of establishing a home. Obtaining a codice fiscale, going through background checks, trusting the process, opening a bank account, wondering if the officials understood my broken Italian, and hoping someone was looking out for our best interest. Everything else is minor in comparison.”

What’s the best thing about living in Umbria?

“The best thing about living in Umbria is that it is centrally located in the country. Going to Rome or Florence for a day trip is easy. The black truffles are abundant, the wine is fantastic, and there is minimal tourism. Also, anywhere you drive, the views are simply amazing. We enjoy time with locals and we have learned so much from them.

We now spend 2-3 months here and will hopefully split our time between the U.S. and Italy. We have found it a very inexpensive country to live in and we never run out of places to go and people to meet. We have been very fortunate to have made so many great friends in our town and the surrounding area.”

Montefranco is very close to the epicentre of the earthquake that recently hit Norcia in central Italy. Did you feel the shakes?

“No, we did not feel the shakes because we were there in between the earthquakes. My neighbors were really nervous, but they assured me that everyone was safe. My neighbors upstairs are the only ones that have keys to our home and they assured me that everything was okay. While the earthquakes make me nervous, I am reassured by the thought that my home is 800 years old.”

If you could give one piece of advice to people looking to move abroad but that are now scared of relocating to Italy because of the earthquakes, what would it be?

“For those looking for a home in areas of earthquakes, I suppose that it can be of great concern. But we have earthquakes in the United States, too. Still, people move to these areas.

Everywhere you go, there will always be a chance for natural disasters. I would say, don’t let it deter you from living your dream. We do not have insurance on our home in Italy like we do in America. Even if it is possible to buy insurance, how much is it worth it!? We were told that insurance really wasn’t necessary. I do worry about earthquakes but only in the sense that I pray everyone is safe. Based on our experiences in Italy so far, I think my husband and I would still have bought our home despite the history of earthquakes in the area. Umbria is just that special of a place to live.”

If we had just one day in Umbria what should we not miss?

“Assisi! Though it thrives on tourism, it is enriched with Italian culture by way of cathedrals, food, ceramics and sweets. We find ourselves going there just for lunch and every time we are amazed by how beautiful and clean the ancient city is. And dinner at “Peppe Scappa” in Piediluco. That trattoria is like my dining room. We eat there a lot!”

Any suggestions for those thinking of buying a home in Italy and relocating?

“What an experience, and I highly recommend it. It is the best of the Italian culture without the high cost compared to the bigger cities.

Be open minded. Look to assimilate instead of bringing your own culture. You already stand out, but if you ask questions and look to experience the culture the way it was intended, you will have a much more rewarding experience.

So take the plunge, you will not regret your decision!