Residing in Italy is a dream for many expats, especially when it comes to such picturesque places as Tuscany. Its incomparable art, culture, gastronomy is enticing, although many find it to be incredibly cost prohibitive. A few years back, Umbria was dubbed ‘the next Tuscany’, and you can guess what happened – it did indeed explode with people wanting to get in cheap. So where is the next Umbria? Although it’s definitely not to be considered an ‘off-the-radar’ place, Le Marche, Italy, located one region to the east of Umbria, stretches for 100 miles along the Adriatic coast and offers vineyards and snowcapped mountains at prices considerably (at least for now) less than Tuscany. The undulating hills of its interior are rich farming terrain, and only sparsely peppered with quaint market towns and one-street villages. What more could anyone ask for?
“Nature lovers will get more pristine beauty for their money in Le Marche than anywhere else in central Italy,” writes John Moretti in Living Abroad in Italy.For those who think of Italy as the land of only pasta and pizza, Le Marche boasts some of the best fish dishes in the country. For those who are drawn to Italy for its art, the walled city of Urbino boasts Renaissance architecture that some consider to be among the best in Italy—without the mass amounts of tourists that Rome or other larger cities have to deal with.
John Williams, 62, originally a chiropractor from the US, moved to Le Marche two decades ago and now lives on a three-acre country home in Senigallia, right off the beach, with his wife and two teenage children. There they spend their days tending a grove of centuries-old olive trees, from which they make their own oil. “I came intending to visit for six months and stayed,” Williams says. “I wouldn’t think of living anywhere else.” Not including the cost of housing, a minimum annual income of $20,000 is feasible to live comfortably off of, he reports, though higher incomes are more realistic and offer more opportunities. “What I like best is having beautiful beaches and mountains within 45 minutes of each other,” Williams says. “There’s such a variety of choices, it’s like a permanent vacation.”
So what are some of the main factors that expats should take into consideration? First is climate. The climate is in general sunny, with warm and dry summers. Winters are cooler with some sporadic rain. For those who want snow, snowcapped mountains are always just a bit away. For now, the expat scene is fairly small, but consistently growing, made up of an entirely international mix. Rentals can start at around $700 or $800 a month in rural villages, and from $1800 on up towards the coast. Coastal houses, to buy, can begin at $350,000, but inland the prices can drop to almost half that. Health care is generally good, with the main hospital being in Ancona, which is within an hour no matter where you are in the Le Marche region. Access to international airports requires a short regional flight from Ancona to Milan or Rome. For leisure, how doesopen-air opera festivals, Renaissance painting and architecture, wine tasting, nature reserves, beachcombing, and skiing in the Sibillini Mountains sound? Just south of Ancona, the Conero peninsula is a dramatic, craggy coast that seems out of place on Le Marche’s gentle Riviera, but there one can hike the cliff top paths or ride them by mountain bike. Some expats bypass the activity and literally just get sucked into Le Marche for the food. Think homemade pasta with aged ewe’s milk cheese, stuffed olives (breaded and deep fried), truffles, washed down by some local red wine, followed up by vino cotto, a potent, and cheaper, sherry-like riff on the Tuscan vin santo.
So if the slow life of rural Italy beckons you, Le Marche is definitely a growing expat destination that offers nearly everything that Tuscany does (plus the Adriatic Sea), all at a lower price.
Have you been to Italy? Could you live there? What are the pros and the cons for you of life in Italy? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts!