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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: Do I need to be wealthy to live in Italy?

Updated: Mar 20, 2023

How we moved to Italy. Can middle-class guys like us live in Italy?

PART 30: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps we took.

We live in Puglia in the Summer and Fall and then back again in the winter.

Step 1: My first reaction to my partner's proposal to live in Italy was that we couldn't afford it. Because of work and other obligations, we would need to live in California for half the year and Italy for the other half. But we are middle-class guys with student loans, a mortgage, and more expenses than I want to list.

So it would be impossible to live in Italy full-time or part-time.

Or would it be?

Step 2: I was intrigued by a life in Italy since I had already lived there for eight years in college. But we are not rich; I'm just a high school teacher. How could we pull it off?

We then took some steps to see if it was possible.

Step 3: Budgeting. First, I made a spreadsheet. Little by little, I kept an eye on my expenses and tracked them on the spreadsheet. This effort took me a few months, but it was also enlightening. I had no idea, for example, that I was spending so much on Amazon!

Step 4: Calculating expenses in the US. Second, I looked at my spending to see if I could lower my bills. Some of the ways we came up with included: setting a target to get our cars paid off, setting monthly Amazon spending limits, and using my credit card only for necessities.

Step 5: Calculating expenses in Italy. We realized that we had to carefully calculate expenses in Italy to see if we could pull this off. We discovered that the cost of living in big Italian cities is much higher than in smaller towns. For example, rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the center of Rome is comparable to what I paid in Los Angeles. In comparison, a friend, who lived about a half hour outside of Rome in Sermoneta, rented a beautiful place for 450 euros a month.

We looked in different areas of Italy and decided on Puglia, primarily because of friendship (see previous blog post). We found that the cost of living, including rent or purchasing housing, is much lower in Puglia than in other areas. But even in Puglia, the cost of housing can vary greatly, depending on whether one lives in a city like Lecce, an ex-pat magnet like Alberobello, or a small town off the tourist radar like Galatone.

Step 6: Homework. We did our homework and spoke to our local friends who live in Puglia to figure out what to budget for rent. Then we had to figure out what to do about a car (see blog post on the Car Conundrum), and we also had to calculate our twice-yearly flights from California to Italy. For the daily expenses (energy, gas, food, etc.), we decided to roll the dice and calculate these expenses after being in Italy for our first three months.

Insights: What are our conclusions? We found that living in California and Italy is within our middle-class budget if we make wise choices on both sides of the Atlantic. Keep our expenses in California within our monthly budget; in Italy, we live in an area that we can afford but still has everything this beautiful country has to offer.

Puglia is the perfect solution for us.

Living in Italy and California isn't just for the wealthy. It is possible for us "middle classers" if we want it enough.

Watch for my book coming around March 15: "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy."

More next time.

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