Italy’s overlooked retirement gems: Tuscany, Puglia, and Umbria
Many retirees wrongly assume that Italy, with its rich history and culture, is outside their budget. A new report from the editors of Internationalliving.com reveals lesser-known, wallet-friendly gems in Tuscany, Umbria, and Puglia.
Italy is undeniably romantic. From the days of the Grand Tour, when the first tourists stood in the shadow of the Colosseum, this storied nation has attracted expats.
And, as many of them have found out, it’s not all about the big draws like Venice, Rome, and Florence. There is another Italy. One full of idyllic hill towns, medieval villages, wildflower meadows, and gurgling streams.
“Whether you’re looking to retire to Europe, relocate, or simply plan an extended adventure, Italy should be a front runner on the list of possibilities,” says International Living Executive Editor, Jennifer Stevens. “When you step off the beaten track, Italy is far more affordable than people assume. It’s possible to live a very comfortable life on a modest budget. And with the U.S. dollar strong right now, your greenbacks are set to stretch further.”
Visitors find good value, rich Italian culture, and fewer crowds in the Italian regions of Tuscany, Umbria, and Puglia.
Few can resist the charms of Tuscany. Rolling hills with neat rows of vineyards and centuries-old olive groves, medieval towns brimming with history, mouth-watering traditional food and wines.
The number of international visitors to this picturesque Italian region has now surpassed 90 million a year, and keeps growing. However, they all tend to go to the same places, like Florence, but Tuscany is awash with hidden gems the tourist crowds miss.
The city of Arezzo, 50 miles south of Florence, has everything you need: good shopping, excellent restaurants, lots of historical sites, and a beautiful park at the top of the town.
The Piazza Grande is the heart of the medieval city. This sloping square is surrounded by magnificent buildings, including the apse of the church of Santa Maria della Pieve and the Palazzo del Tribunale, with its beautiful semicircular staircase.
In addition to this, the Renaissance Masterpiece Palazzo della Fraternità has a bell gable and clock dated to 1522. The wonderful clock, made by Felice da Fissato, is still the original timepiece. It marks not only the hours, but also the days, the phases of the moon, and movements of the sun…and it still works.
There are plenty of homes for sale for less than €200,000 ($231,710) in the old town center, but look outside the historic center and the prices go down while the square footage goes up. There are dozens of apartments for rent at extremely reasonable prices, too—between €380 ($440) and €550 ($640)—with many coming fully furnished.
Umbria, the region that lies between Rome and Florence at Italy’s geographic center, has an endless supply of utterly charming towns and picture-postcard landscapes.
Except for its lack of a coastline, Umbria offers everything that Tuscany does, but at a much more affordable price point. All told, retirees could have a pretty charming life in Umbria with a budget of €1,350 (around $1,560) a month.
The well-kept town of Todi is one of those appealing places that is big enough to have everything you need, but small enough to maintain a sense of community.
Great food, great wine, and Rome just 70 miles away—there always seems to be something going on in lively Todi: antiques fairs, festivals of music, dance, and film. At the center of town is a piazza so perfect it almost looks as though it was made for a movie set.
“I’m not going to lie to you: It’s steep,” says IL Italy Correspondent, Valerie Fortney Schneider of the hilltop town. “That said, I love Todi’s overall atmosphere; it’s got a warm aura to it and it gets my vote as the overall friendliest town.”
Sitting above the Tiber River valley, Todi has maintained its agricultural economy. The valley is cultivated with grains, the hills with vines and olives. Thick Fiorentina steaks, game meats, and battalions of chickens slow-roasting over open fires are some of the mouth-watering delicacies to be savored here.
Puglia, the heel of Italy’s “boot,” is a place of dazzling sunshine, sophisticated towns, and friendly people with a touch of natural theatrics in their veins. It’s also rather overlooked, which means you can live well here for about €1,375 ($1,600) a month, including rent of as little as €317 ($369).
This sun-kissed region still gets far less attention than more popular parts of Italy so prices are correspondingly lower.
This region of Italy truly embodies the famous “Mediterranean diet” to the fullest. It is Italy’s top olive oil producer, with a third of the country’s oil coming from here. Grapes thrive here, too—about 30% of Italy’s vino comes from Puglia. You’re going to eat and drink well here.
With so much coastline, Puglia has plenty of seafront towns. Otranto, south of Lecce on the Adriatic, is one such town, filled with great restaurants. The area’s swimming coves and beaches are among the best in Italy. The seafront walkways and balconies are perfect for taking in the vast views and startlingly blue water.
Oranto is full of surprises—you cross a bridge to reach the old town, which is dominated by its massive castle and the plain facade of the cathedral doesn’t prepare you for the riotous mosaic floors inside; they’re truly astounding.
Learn more about retiring in Italy, here: Affordable Italy: 3 Best Retirement Regions