David Thorpe (Scalea, Calabria)

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 on info@scalea.info

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.