Here’s the “Backstory”:
In April of 2005 my husband Bob and I embarked on our great adventure. We sold our home in Phoenix, Arizona and put into storage what remained of our belongings after selling, giving away and tossing what we considered unnecessary, with the goal of simplifying our lives. Bob had retired from the Tempe Fire Department in 1999 after 25 years and for the next 5 years taught photography at Westwood High School in nearby Mesa, Arizona. When he announced he was ready to retire again I jumped at the chance to join him and resigned from my job as senior graphic designer after working in that field for over 20 years. Bob wanted to devote himself to his photography and I longed to develop my watercolor style further and to paint every day.
In recent years we had watched too many of our friends and relatives close to our ages succumb to cancer or heart attacks cutting short their lives before they could enjoy retirement or see their children grow to maturity. We dreamed of retiring and traveling while we were still relatively young and healthy. Life was too short we decided, to put off our dreams. The time had come to make it happen.
We wanted to live in a foreign country and view the world from another perspective. We wanted to live a simpler life, not filled with stuff, but full of experiences: learning to speak a second language and exploring new places. After vacationing in Europe a few times, Italy won our hearts. Our two or three week vacations never seemed enough time and we always came away wanting more. My grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Sicily and the Naples area at the turn of the 19th century and I longed to search out those roots, walk where they walked, feel connected to my ancestry in a very real way.
I should also tell you that we are not wealthy. We have a modest pension from Bob’s years with the fire department and a very small nest egg. I will have a small pension but that won’t kick in for a few years, when we will both be eligible to receive Social Security. We knew we would have to live within a tight budget but after researching quite a bit, talking to expatriates, (www.expatsinitaly.com) and looking at the cost of living in Italy, we decided it was doable.
I had started taking Italian language classes a few years earlier, before our 2003 trip to Tuscany and Umbria. We both enrolled in classes and studied in earnest for over a year prior to leaving Phoenix. If I could do anything differently I would start sooner and study harder. Maybe get a private tutor and try to be more fluent before packing up and moving. But we also planned to take classes at the Università per Stranieri, the foreign language school in Perugia and hoped that by having to use what we learned, we would improve. Immersion in the culture made a difference but we also struggled for understanding and would recommend to anyone thinking of doing what we did, to work harder sooner.
We spent a good year preparing all the necessary paperwork and applying for a long-stay “elective residency” visa from the Italian consulate. We worked really hard to make this happen but it was absolutely worth it, start to finish.
To read about our adventures and see our photos and watercolors, we invite you to peruse the archives at the right side of this page. Thanks for stopping by!
Rosemary & Bob