First Person: real life in Italy
Each month we introduce you to someone who has made the dream of picking up and moving to the Bel Paese a reality.
In their own words they share the good parts, the bad parts and the just plain absurd moments of day-to-day life in Italy.
ID Card: David Thorpe. I am English and work as a telecoms engineer in
Nottingham. At the moment I live in Nottingham, UK. However for one week in four I live in Scalea, Calabria. I am also the webmaster of www.scalea.info, a site in English aimed at helping people visit or move here. I live with my fiancee Melanie. I am 24 and she is 23. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
How (or why) did you get here from there?
For years I have dreamed of owning my own place and
living in Italy. My girlfriend Melanie gave her full support and liked the
idea. When I told people what I wanted to do most of them probably thought
‘they’ll never do it, just dreaming!’ And to be honest they were correct.
Until one day I woke up and just knew it was the right thing to do. I sat
down and trawled through the internet looking for property, areas, prices,
what to do etc… I worked out that I could raise just ?25,000 (about
So with that my search was narrowed down to just a few places — no
Tuscany for me! I knew that I wanted a place near the sea that was easy
to maintain and didn’t need much work doing to it. That when I discovered
Scalea in Calabria, There were lots of different properties in my budget all
near the sea. But for that price it was only natural to wonder ‘so what’s
wrong with Scalea’. When we visited Scalea for the first time we were amazed
with the town, it was an ideal place because all the shops stay open over
winter. The weather in Calabria is fantastic where the winters are not
really winters (like a British early October!) The scenery is beautiful,
looking one way you see snow capped mountains and the other way you see
bright blue sea. We looked around several properties and found the one we
liked and the rest is history!
What role did language skills play in your experience?
Anybody who says you don’t need to speak any Italian to live in Italy is so
wrong. Where I am in Calabria there isn’t one person who speaks English so
Italian is an absolute necessity. However learning Italian is challenging
and fun at the same time, I went to night school once a week to learn basic
Italian, after that I have learnt the rest by being there. This is the best
way to learn in my opinion.
Your biggest challenge:
Paying bills in Italy is a nightmare! Especially ICI (council tax). I am fed
up of queuing at the post office just to be sent elsewhere to queue to be
sent elsewhere(and it goes on).
What did you do to feel at home or adapt here?
De-clutter! Italian homes (in a newer building) are very cluttered indeed.
So a few trips to IKEA were needed and lots of clutter was thrown away
(there was even a Wild West style holster for the igniter thing that lights
the gas oven!). Also get some nice sunglasses, my fianc?e had to get
a very nice leather handbag!
What do you still have to get used to/learn?
When to change from saying buon giorno to buona sera (there never seems to be
a set time of day; somewhere around 15.00), also paying for a coffee after
I’ve finished it and not before (they are more trusting in Italy).
Compare an aspect (or aspects) of your home town (or other place you’ve
lived) to current town.
Cost of living: Nottingham — through the roof, Scalea — cheap (?1000 a year)
Petrol: Italy slightly cheaper
Job opportunities: Nottingham — Lots of jobs for anyone willing to work,
Scalea — None!
Weather: I don’t really need to answer this one!
Crime: Nottingham — Shootings galore, Scalea — you can leave your front door
A preconceived notion about Italians/Italy that is not true:
People tend to think all Italians like and eat pasta for every meal, when in
fact there are many other things here (meat, pizza, fish etc…)
A preconceived notion about Italians/Italy that is true:
Very family oriented. Family & community are everything.
Your response to the following question: “I really want to live here, but I don’t speak Italian or have a job. What do you think?”
Slow down mate; take things one at a time. You have to pin point the exact
things you want and then go for it. A lot of planning is involved. And start
by learning Italian.
How would you sum up your Italian experience in a word (and why)?
Surreal – sometimes I cannot believe I have my own place in paradise, just
the small things like picking an orange off one of my trees seems so
Italy’s best kept secret (music, culture, food, way to get round things)
The South (Calabria in particular) – I have traveled all over Italy and the
Calabria has it all, there is more than enough culture to go around. The
weather is great, the food is spicy, the sea is warm, and the people are
friendly and down to earth. Property is so cheap here. The cost of living is
less in the south. Also the scenery is very rugged and very contrasting, you
can go skiing in the winter and sunbathe for 75% of the year. The
road links are good and also the rail links are good.
David, finding your story was very timely. My fiance and I are seriously planning to head to Italy, and reading about the South and your comments about language is helpful – thanks mate.
Enjoyed your blog very much. I am an American, born in Genoa, but taken to the States at 12. Language is no problem as I am very proud of my Italian heritage. I plan to retire in a couple of years and ask if you can tell me some of the property values near the Ocean or point me in the right direction. Also, is it necessary to own a car? And how close is the nearest full size airport?
David, I read with interest your notes – my husband & I will be travelling to your area this summer – my grandparents were born in Cosenza and I want to visit their birth place – my husband speaks Italian – his grandfather was from Naples – I am really interested in buying something or looking while there – I will follow your blog and keep in touch – I am Louise Suttom from Erie, PA orginally from Southen California – we have lived in Belgium and moved around the US 22 times – hope to hear from you soon! Louise
I’m Sara and I come from Scalea although I live in Rome. It’s a big pleasure to get to know that many people like it and wish to live there. Maybe I’ll have the chance to meet you and your fiancè there…
I totally agree with your description, it’s such a wonderful place ( between the mountains and the sea)…it’s only a shame there’s no job 🙁 and all the most qualified people are obliged to leave it.
I’ll get this chance to answer to Anna K. about the airport since the nearer one is Napoli but I suggest Roma Fco. It only takes 4 hours by train to Scalea and it’s safest. Scalea will also have soon an airport itself although it will be a private one. I hope to hearing from you. Cheers,
it’s so nice to hear that you at times live in italy… I know how beautiful my country is and everything you have mention it is absolutely true!! it’s so good to notice that not everyone on earth stereotype italians in the same way, there are actually exceptions like you! have you been to puglia yet? it not far from calabria, go and have a look at it.. you will definetly enjoy! by the way some american girl made a comment at the top, asking you what sort of prices are the house on the ocean???!!! italy does not have houses on the ocean,but plenty on the sea!!!
p.s about buongiorno e buona sera, use it as you wish, but it is usually when the sun set that is buona sera!
ama la mia nazione come se fosse la tua… come io faccio con la tua inghilterra! buona fortuna
I am in the process of buying a house just outside of Tropea which I am sure you know is only down the road from Scalea, I have signed the preliminery contract and it will be finalised in 6 weeks time.
I am so excited, the thought of having a house right next to the sea in such a beautiful area, I still cant believe its true.
I am frantically trying to learn Italian and finding it great fun but extremly challenging, I am a long way off being able to converse, but hopefully will have enough to get by initially.
Can you tell me how furniture prices compare with the uk as I have to buy everything?
I am also having to refit and retile the bathroom from scratch and have no idea on prices of labour etc, can you give me any sort of indication of what to expect?
Can you tell me if there is an Ikea any where near Tropea?
Lots of questions I know! I hope you may be able to answer one or two of them for me, I would be very grateful.
Hi I am currently looking in Scalea for an apartment 2 bedroom and I am finding all the coments and info great, cheers Peter
I just thought i’d update the blog wth our current situation.
We have been living in Scalea permanently for a year. We now run a successful business helping foreigners buy in the Scalea area, it is full of ups and downs but the lifestyle is great and we both love it.
Melanie my wife is 8 months pregnant and we will be having our new daughter in Calabria. The doctors are great and we have had nothing but a great experience with the health system.
It took us 7 months to get residency and the system was very slow indeed, getting the permesso di soggiorno was the worst part. The Questura(main police station) in Paola was a nightmare!!
Anyway I thought i would answer the questions one by one:
Q:”Enjoyed your blog very much. I am an American, born in Genoa, but taken to the States at 12. Language is no problem as I am very proud of my Italian heritage. I plan to retire in a couple of years and ask if you can tell me some of the property values near the Ocean or point me in the right direction. Also, is it necessary to own a car? And how close is the nearest full size airport?”
A: The town of Scalea has property anything from €20,000 for a one bedroom apartment in a complex 500m from the beach up to €1 Million places which vary in size and position. The nearest internation airport is Lamezia Terme which has flights to London Stansted. For property look at http://www.scalea-property.com
Q:”Can you tell me how furniture prices compare with the uk as I have to buy everything?
I am also having to refit and retile the bathroom from scratch and have no idea on prices of labour etc, can you give me any sort of indication of what to expect?
Can you tell me if there is an Ikea any where near Tropea?”
A: Furniture prices tend to be around the same, at first they seem more expensive but here the prces include delivery and installation, after taking this into account the prices are actually quite good. A Bathroom will cost around €6000 to be completely refitted in the Scalea area, maybe Tropea will be a bit more expensive. IKEA is in Naples which is around a 4.30 hour drive from Tropea.
I hope this information is helpful, please feel free to ask any more questions.
A Presto, David
Hi David, My husband and I have been going around and around about moving to Puglia Italy. We now live in Columbus, Ohio. I am full blood Italian so I could get citizenship pretty easy, I think. Is that right. We also have a son and daughter that we would be leaving behind, but they are married and have there own family. I was wondering if you could give me an idea of cost of living. Gasoline for car, property tax, food, medicine. This is very important to us. I would really appreciate it. Thanks for your time. Paula Snyder
Good write up, informative and to the point.
Just wanted to ask about a different reality to living in the messogiorno! I noticed authority figuers (Police..etc) tend to have a small problem with outsiders, they feels we are rubbing them of thier peace of mind, adding to the congestion and preventing the locals from actually affording to live thier own country. We must ourselves what can be done to ease that tention? is it us or them or acombination of both. Are we insensitive? Please give me you openion. God bless
I really enjoyed your blog too but is there absolutely no work there? Not even ESL teaching positions? I have heard that it is difficult for non EU members to find work but im in the process of attaining my dual citizenship. While Scalea sounds beautiful i would be happy to find work nearly anywhere in Calabria. Hope you or someone else can help me with this enquiry.
HI DAVIS, LOVE YOUR BLOG. i WAS REALLY GLAD TO FIND SOMEONE LIVING THERE. i WILL BE RETIRING IN 3 YEARS. I WANT TO LIVE IN ITALY. I WILL BE OVER IN EARLY 2008, TO CHECK THINGS OUT. I WAS LOOKING TO TROPEA, HOPING TO FIND SOMETHING IN THE $30.000..AMERICAN DOLLARS. I WILL BE LIVING A LONE. BUT I WILL LOOK AT OTHER AREA’S NOW. SO YOU THINK I CAN FIND ANYTHING IN TROPEA AROUND THAT PRICE? DO YOU HANDLE PROPERTY’S IN THAT AREA? THANK YOU, SHER
Hi I have just found this website. I have just been to Calabria for 2nd time and want to get a holiday home there. I have stayed around Capo Vaticano and looked around the Tropea area. Have looked on other side of peninsula but do not like as much. I have seen somewhere in Zambrone Marina with fabulous views on a lovely condominium but not very roomy. Can anyone tell me how Scalea compares with this area.
ciao and gracia Laura
I am travelling to Calabria on 2nd September to look at property to buy as a holiday home for my family but will try to let it out when not using. I will be retiring soon and hope to use the apartment for approx 3 months every year. Can you please be kind enough to answer the following questions
1 Which is the best airport to use when travelling form the U.K
2 What are the letting cost and can you recomend an agency?
3 What is the area of Petrosa in Scalea like?
I have a limited budget and can’t afford to get it wrong.
I really enjoyed reading the comments.
My husband and I have put a deposit on a 1 bedroom apartment in Zambrone . Just loved that area around Tropea,did visit the east coast but we werent so impressed.Our apartment is small only 43 sq m but i’m counting the 18 sq m terrace as another room outside living and dining room and we have a 35 sq m garden. Cost? about£65000 more expensive than I’d thought but the Tropea area is definitely lovely.
Hi David, my husband and I are in the process of buying an apartment at the moment in Petrosa, Scalea that we are hoping to rent out peak season and use for ourselves, friends and family for the rest of the year. We love the town, the people have been so friendly and very patient with my poor italian (We are currently studying it part time at college).Do you know if Ikea in Naples would deliver to Scalea? Thanks v much.
Hi David, have just stumbled upon your blog, and wondered whether I could pick your brains. I also live in Notts (Clifton), and I have a small place in Calabria, a little village called Papanice (where I was born) about 8 miles inland of Crotone. As you are aware, the nearest commercial airport is Lamezia, but to fly there means departing from Stanstead. I was wondering if you had ever driven to your destination, and if so, if you could furnish me with some details, as I have never yet used this method.
My husband and I bought an apartment in Scalea five years ago and would thoroughly recommend it. We paid 30,000 euros for a 2 bed apartment on a complex ( the exchange rate was MUCH better then!) We do not speak Italian other than the pleasantries – although we have tried on many ocassions to take lessons (but pressures of work mean that we can never keep them up).
We never have a problem communicating with the locals and in fact have had dinner with other residents in our block – neither of whom spoke English…but we got by and have made some lovely friends. I’m not saying that you definitely do not need to speak Italian (I really really want to learn one day) but I am of the opinion that you most definitely can get by with the very basics.
We are a couple in our early 40s with a teenage daughter and we all adore Scalea and the wonderfully hospititible people. The best move we ever made was buying our apartment. DO IT all of you!!!
Take Care and hope to see you in Scalea one day – Angie
My wife and myself are going to retire in calabria and would like your advice please.We have italian friends who live in san sebastiano and have a holiday home in praia a mare, where we have spent many a summer holiday and love this area so much we have decided to live there, our property in england is up for sale and this will determine when we can move. We did start looking for properties the last time we were there and look on the internet on a regular basis so we are aware of the value for money in calabria. We have seen properties in scalea on the internet but my italian friend is trying to put us off scalea because he is not fond of this area. We like the kind of properties and prices in scalea and wonder if you could let us know if scalea is a nice place , what can we expect at various times of the year. How do you think we will be received by the locals etc ?
Are there any other areas perhaps further south that we could look at ?.
We do not speak very much italian but get by. Do you think it would be a good idea to rent a property in the first place and get to know if we like the area ?
My husband and I are purchasing an apartment in Scalea currently.
We have become friends with
Tony H. ; after visiting Scalea a few times, falling in love and spending four days previewing properties with Tony. I believe that you and Tony worked together when you lived permanently in Scalea?
Anyway, I loved reading your blog, and am hopeful that our dream and property purchase will be fulfilled soon.
By the way, Tony and Michelle will be visiting our home in New York City in a few weeks!
I think I would rather be in Scalea right now as we have 24 inches of snow here!!
I disagree. You don’t really mean what you’re writing, David? This is the worst place on earth. OK, the weather. good from june to october. horrendous in winter. people down to earth? rude and primitive i’d say. good luck to y’all. email@example.com
Hi there. We have a place we own in Scalea, we have gone there every summer for 10 years. We now want to find a bigger place within the next 10 years in order to move there permanently when we retires. Even if we have been vacating there for 10 years we do not know anybody exept our house care taker, and I would like to get in touch with people of all age I could write mail to and get to know throughout the next year. Any tip on how to do that?
Hi David, I live in Australia and went to Cosenza a few months ago to meet my fathers brother and several other relatives for the first time at 56 years old..I was just so amazed at the way of life there and am thinking of doing what you did. Can I contact you to discuss further ? Either by Skype or messenger?
I am currently looking for property in Calabria..Can you reccomend the right areas to look please?
My husband and I first looked at San Nicola Arcella near Scalea then traveled down to Zambrone and Capo Vaticano, Tropea. We fell in love with this area! We are in process of buying a small 2 bedroom villa overlooking the sea in Zambrone. $145,000 euros! Nowhere in the US can this be had! We have been to Italy 3 times, Tuscany, Como, Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast. The south of Italy is looked down upon by Northern Italians but its slow pace and small quaint towns are what people from very populated areas are looking for in retirement. In January 2019 a new tax bill was signed that gives a 6 year tax break for anyone who lives there at least 6 months, 1 day. You do need to apply for long term visa. The people in Calabria are always very helpful and friendly even if they don’t speak English. With Google translate you can get by if you don’t speak the language. For living here long term, you should really learn the language and probably need to have someone who does speak English to help you set up utilities. Fortunately, our realtor in the area does speak English and oversees any work we would want done on our house. The real estate company also has a rental program we can utilize. Our long term plan is to retire here and live here 3-6 months per year. Then back to US and traveling the rest of the year.
David are you still here in Scalea? I am getting to do the same thing. But having lots of problems with the real estate system. No Mls here. To sre 5 properties I may have to visit 5 realtors. Can you help?
Hello David , love reading your blog and all the comments . I just bought a beautiful 3 bedroom 2 bath Villa overlooking old town and the sea . Everything you said is so true iI am in the process of learning Italian . Me and my girlfriend are planing to stay the month of October ever year to start . We would love to meet up sometime for dinner and drinks , we do not know the town so we’ll yet because evertime we are there we work in the villa ( the place was supposed to be furnished as I seen it but when we arrived the seller had stripped it bare even taking light fixtures,curtain rods and bath bars ) but we persevered and it is fantastic . I am calabrese but live in Pittsburgh Pa America . I am a very proud Italian and very family oriented . Looking forward to hearing from you .
Thank you for taking the time to honestly describe your experience…learning to speak Italian is an essential for truly enjoying a quality of life.
Great Blog. We are Canadians looking for a vacation home for our retirement. We are hoping for an area that is safe, has culture and is a bit touristy so we have the option to rent it out for vacations. Some of the areas we are looking at are Scalea, Pizzo, Amantea, Praia de Mare, Tropea, San Nicola Arcella and Diamante. Can you suggest an area? And is it possible to buy a decent place in a safe neighbourhood for between 47,000 to 80,000 Euros?
Hi id really love to buy a property in this region, however ive seen earthquakes are very common here. Are tey extremely dangerous?
Hi David, I have just come across your blog. All useful stuff. I am a 69 year old British woman who is just buying a little house up in Santa Domenica Talao. I am coming out for a few days next week. Would it be possible to meet you – I’m still unsure about where and when to pay my taxes – but I’m sure my agent can help. I would love to find out what Scalea has to offer.
All of these entries are very helpful. I am looking for a 2 bedroom condo that can be locked up and left for a couple of months or Airbnbed. A walk into Scales, or to the beach. Nothing particular fancy
Simple is good. A veranda, or patio , or rooftop with a view would be ideal. Location, location, location. And under 50,000 Euros. Your site is helpful and I’ve seen allot of properties on line for sale, but not sure they are legit. Sincerely, michael
Hi David Thorpe,
How are things. In Scalea? Are you still living the dream? I only ask as I’m in Italy now. I flew in two days ago, 6 days ahead of my wife and two friends. I’m in Napoli for now, though currently on a bus visiting a friend in Bari. On Monday we travel down to Scalea as we have the same dream as yourself. I’ve a few properties lined up to look at. I’m really hoping it has worked out for you to give me some confidence.