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Thu, 05/14/2015 - 03:17

Hi Lois,If you can manage it, you might consider renting a place for a year or so and dedicate some time to getting to know different areas of Italy before you commit to buying. In the long run, if you decide you definitely want to retire here permanently, then obviously buying has its advantages.As my friend Alexandra noted, in cities like Florence and Rome you are sure to build a satisfying social life and support network, make friends and connections. Moreover you’ll have easy access to endless cultural events, museums and other attractions, libraries, medical facilities, etc. However, I would add that life in those cities will of course be loud, smoggy, and at times very hectic. Depending on where you live, you might never have a peaceful night’s sleep, and routine errands like picking up groceries can be a challenge. In summer you’ll be surrounded by swarms of people, which is great for some, but others don’t like this at all. Like any city then, Italian cities offer much in the way of entertainment and culture, great places to eat out, and so on, yet life in them can be frenzied and frustrating.Life in country villages in Italy can be altogether sleepy, laid-back, and sometimes too intimate (as in everyone knows everyone’s business!), but in a small town—not a village and not a city, but a mid-sized town not so attractive to tourists—you can have the best of everything, such as proximity to a good hospital and clinic, library, a handful of good restaurants, a market day, and bus and/or train service. And quiet evenings and clean air, if these are important to you. So a lot depends on what kind of lifestyle you are hoping for. And it goes without saying that your rent/mortgage budget will go much farther in a small, lesser-known town.Will you have a car? If yes, in the city a car can be both a burden and a necessity. In the country, a car would be essential. Many smaller towns are well connected with bus services, but they tend to end service by 8pm. Considering that you’ll be living alone, having a small reliable car so you can be independent, do shopping as you need to, etc, would be wise, I think. Parking/storage would not be an issue in a more rural area, but in the city a car can become quite difficult (though not impossible) to manage.Regarding location—and this is my personal opinion after having lived in small towns in Tuscany for 14 years; I lived in Florence for only one year—Tuscany is overrated. Yes it’s beautiful and full of interesting, lovely places, but that can be said for any Italian Region. Property here is much more expensive than even in bordering regions and, frankly, Tuscans are a reserved, hard-to-know people (generally, of course). This speaks to another point Alexandra made, about getting to know people. I do not think, honestly, you’d have that issue in the Romagna for instance, or up north in Piedmont, and so on. Whenever I leave Tuscany to spend time in other regions this is one of the first things I’m struck by: how open and friendly the people of other regions are compared to Tuscans. That said, here in the very small town I live in, in northeast Tuscany, I’ve been able to make friendly connections and can now say I feel part of this community. It did take some time, though.Lastly, for what it’s worth, I feel far safer in my village than I ever did living alone in Florence! I would not recommend getting a completely isolated place far into the hills, for instance, because in such a location you’d naturally not always feel safe, being on your own. But in a small town, you get to know your closest neighbors, and people look out for one another in a way that’s harder to come by in big cities, in my experience. Something to consider.In short, explore some areas, maybe check out some well-connected, mid-sized towns with access to facilities, and consider what you want out of your budget. Best of luck! Amy