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  • Writer's pictureMark Tedesco

Our Italian Adventure: Living in the historical center, or not?

PART 82: It might be interesting to share how we pulled off living in Italy for part of the year. I will post some steps and what we are learning along the way.


We love every minute of it, and what was once a dream is our life!


We live in Tuscany in the Fall, then back again in the Spring, and in California for the rest of the time (in a previous blog, I explained why we live in Italy only part of the year).



Let's explore the perks and pitfalls of living in the historical center of a town/city in Italy.


Step 1: We lived in Puglia for almost two years, renting an apartment outside the historical center. Then, we recently purchased a home in the historical center of our town in the Monte Amiata area.


What have these two experiences revealed to us so far?


Step 2: The draw of the historical center (centro storico).


The draw of living in the historical center is in the name: because it is historical! Many of us dream of being able to call a 15th-century building one's home. Winding streets, centuries-old historical buildings and the unique atmosphere of living in a historical center draw house hunters like flies to honey, and with good reason.


If one is seeking the unique experience of being part of the flow of history embodied in ancient roads, allies, and stone buildings, the historical center is the place to be.


Step 3: Differences between historical centers.


The historical center in our town in Puglia was one of the more neglected areas. Many empty houses and few businesses created an atmosphere of an overlooked area of the city, which held little attraction to us. But just a few kilometers away was another town, Nardò, with a fantastic and lively historical center; we went there often to sip espresso or explore the churches, cobble streets, and unique buildings.


So, the conditions and life of the historical centers of various towns can differ significantly.


In our town in Tuscany (Arcidosso), the historical center has excellent panoramic views, narrow winding streets, and stone buildings gathered under the town's towering castle. There is no restricted driving (ZTL zones), but most streets are too narrow for a car to pass. Most residents use the area as their second home since the historical center is quiet during the winter.


Yesterday we went to a nearby town here in Tuscany, Santa Fiora. The historical center there is very well maintained, and sections of it are reachable by car, especially the lower part of the historical section. Here again, many houses seemed to be shuddered for the winter.


We visited other historical centers off-season, especially in bigger towns with more of a year-round life and full-time residents.


Step 4: The challenges of living in the historical center.


When deciding to live or not live in this historical center of a town, one should consider all aspects, positive and negative. Some of the challenges we have encountered so far:


  • Parking

Although there is no restricted driving in our historical center, the streets are too narrow for a car to pass, so we have to find parking outside the entrance. We knew this coming into the situation, so the situation didn't catch us by surprise. We always find parking in front of one of the gates to the historical part, and then it is about a five-minute walk to the house. If we lived deeper inside the historical center, the walk from car to house would be more challenging.

  • Groceries and supplies

Not being able to park in front of or near one's house requires one to carry groceries, bottled water, and bags of pellets (we have a pellet heater) from the car to the house. We have learned to go to the store often to get supplies to carry lighter loads up the path to our house rather than waiting for house necessities to pile up. Carrying big bags of pellets up is never fun, but we are fit, and so far, that is fine. We have been told that pellets and groceries can be delivered to the house for a fee, but we have yet to feel the need to do that.

  • Gas/electricity

In some historical centers, including ours, there are no gas lines. We have a gas stove on a propane tank under the sink, and everything else runs on electricity. The consequence of this is that our electricity is constantly shutting off. For example, the eclectic switch flips if we turn on the oven while running hot water or turn on a space heater. Unlike Puglia, where we had gas lines to the house, the hot water heater and stove ran off the gas, so we never ran over our allotted 3 Kilowatts.

Reliance on electricity alone and constantly losing power because of overuse was something we didn't expect. Our next steps are to switch to lower-consuming appliances, address the heating issue in the house with low energy requirements, and apply for more kilowatts to meet our immediate needs.

  • Restrictions on outside work

There are more restrictions on modifying a building, especially externally, in the historical center than in other parts of town. Creating a new window, changing an entrance door, or installing solar heating may be more heavily regulated in this historical center; such changes, in fact, may not be possible at all. A good realtor is an excellent source of information in this area.

  • Garbage collection

In Puglia, our trash was collected on our doorstep: Organico one day, paper the next, and mixed garbage afterward. Each day of the week was designated as a specific pick-up day. Our historical center has no house trash pick up, but one must deposit the different types of trash in large bins nearby. This can be a hassle for some, but we actually prefer it. Rather than having trash pile up as we wait for the specific pick-up day, we just put it in the designated dumpster while driving to the gym in the morning. This may seem to be a hassle for some, but it works better for us.


Step 5: Which is right for me?



It is impossible to say whether living in the historical center is suitable for someone or not. It depends on what type of experience one wants in Italy, whether one can carry supplies back and forth, what kind of house one wants, and a million other particular questions unique to each person seeking to establish a life in Italy.


Step 6: What we have learned.


We decided that the historical center is the place for us because we have all the conveniences we are accustomed to in California. Still, in Italy, we want a different experience. So far, lugging supplies up and down is not a big deal; we have to make sure that every trip to our car counts and that we always bring something each way. We are finding solutions to the lack of access to natural gas, lower energy solutions to heating, and lower consumption appliances. In this way, we are coming to adjust to and appreciate living within walls that breathe history.


More next time.


Now on sale for $2.99: My book is "Stories from Puglia: Two Californians in Southern Italy." Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CRKMKPWF?ref_=cm_sw_r_cp_ud_dp_X2WRQ3PTG2ZDD7AVF6GH


Amazon Italy- my book "Lei mi ha sedotto. Una storia d'amore con Roma": https://amzn.eu/d/13nuZCL.






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Guest
Apr 02
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

We definitely made the correct decision to purchase in “centro storico.” We find it easier to meet and get to know people. The local shop owners and our neighbors see us daily. We are a part of the fabric of the village.

We have our favorite bars and shops but make it a priority to patronize all of them at least once while in residence.

I get a kick when I overhear someone refer to us as “i nostri americani” (our Americans.)

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Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
Apr 07
Replying to

Love that comment: “I nostri americani”!

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Tony McEwing
Tony McEwing
Mar 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Awesome tips for anyone planning to invest time in Italy long-term!

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Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
Mar 25
Replying to

Thanks Tony!

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ldemelis
Mar 17

It's fascinating to me how different regions and different towns have made different accommodations to modern life. We live in the Centro of Ascoli Piceno, in the Marche. We love it because most of our everyday needs are within walking distance. We do have a car, and a private parking space (like gold) - we use the car for trips and for monthly visits to the big box store for heavier items like laundry detergent. We have hot water heating, with radiators. It's an older house, with high ceilings, big windows and no insulation, but the radiators keep it warm enough (19C/67F) that we don't need space heaters. Like you, we started with a 3 KW electricity allotment, whi…

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Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
Mar 25
Replying to

Wow, that is so interesting. I would be interested to hear about your life in the Marche. I had a friend there and used to visit until he moved to another area of Italy. I have found memories of that hilly region.

We have gotten tired of hanging laundry all over the house to dry when it is rainy season, so we decided to just buy a dryer and be done with it! Thanks for your comment.

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Jerry Finster
Jerry Finster
Mar 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Love all of your stories about your new life in Italy!! Hugs

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Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
Mar 25
Replying to

Thanks Jerry! House renovation in Tuscany is tough, since we are living in the middle of it, but the experience is a great adventure. Hugs to you

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Guest
Mar 17
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Since I'm planning on spending 6 mos in italy broken up by 3 in uk next year, i was really happy with your post. Living, even for a short time, with all that history around you has to be wonderful!

Kathy Rivers

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Mark Tedesco
Mark Tedesco
Mar 25
Replying to

Thanks Kathy! Yes, we are making it work for us, managing commitments in California and living in Italy twice a year. it is possible to have a bigger life! Thx.

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