A Roman goddess inspired this couple to leave Seattle and retire to Italy, where you can live on $ 3,000 a month.


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It was a goddess who inspired Sunny Bertollini to move to Italy. The 50-year-old herbalist and her husband, Mark Hinshaw, a 72-year-old retired architect, had come to Italy on vacation for years. On one trip, they visited an ancient temple to Salus, a Roman goddess of health and well-being, and Bertollini, who says she has “always been a pagan,” was overwhelmed by the experience. “I touched the ancient frescoes and I had what I would call an epiphany. … It became quite clear that this is the direction my life would take. … It was a magnetic draw, ”she says.

Then Bertollini (you can’t miss her, dressed in her almost entirely white wardrobe) and Hinshaw, who was already contemplating retirement, sold their apartment in the heart of Seattle and moved to the town of Santa Vittoria in Matenano in Le Marche, a East-central region of Italy, in 2017. “It’s Tuscany without the tourists,” says Bertollini, who is half Italian, about the region, which lies between the Adriatic Sea and more popular tourist destinations like Tuscany and Umbria. Le Marche “is one of Italy’s best kept secrets,” notes the area’s Lonely Planet. “With a series of charming hilltop villages and scenery ranging from the snow-capped peaks of the Apennines to dreamy beaches and otherworldly caves, it is the perfect place to experience Italy without the crowds.” The publication also notes that this “relatively tourist-free” region offers “deeply traditional food, blessed with the bounty of mountains, farmland and the sea” and a variety of seasonal cuisine and truly distinctive wines. ”

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Shore of the Adriatic Sea in Ancona. iStock

Here’s what Hinshaw and Bertollini’s lives are like in Santa Vittorina, from costs to health care and visa issues and what they miss the most about the US: Costs: The couple report expenses of about $ 2,400 a month mortgage or rent, because they directly bought their house in Santa Vittorina). Bertollini says he spends about $ 50 a week on groceries; $ 55 a month on home Internet; $ 55 a month in gas for the couple’s car; about $ 22 to $ 66 in electricity, depending on the season; and about $ 20 a month for each cell phone service. Other expenses include about $ 160 per month for health care (see below) and about $ 70 per month for auto insurance. Travel can be expensive, with plane tickets back to the United States sometimes $ 1,000 or more; Hinshaw and Bertollini also travel around Italy and nearby countries and pay for train and bus tickets when they do, they say. One big difference the couple noticed is that gas heating in the colder months is much more expensive than it was for them in the US at about $ 275 a month. (For its part, International Living estimates that you can live on less than $ 2,000 a month in Le Marche.)

A view from a window in the couple’s house. Sunny Bertollini

Healthcare: “Healthcare has been phenomenal,” says Hinshaw, who recently needed an angiogram, and as MarketWatch reported earlier this year, the Italian healthcare system gets excellent ratings from outside sources. But the couple observes that there tends to be a difference in the quality of care depending on where you live; others say the same, and The Guardian notes that there are “regional differences in the standard of some state hospitals, and facilities in northern Italy are considered better than those in the south.” The couple say they pay about $ 1,900 a year for insurance as non-European Union residents. Residency: It’s not easy for Americans to get residency here, says Hinshaw: “I think a lot of Americans who fall in love with Italy are so used to moving between states and they think, ‘Well, just pack and move,'” he said. He says. “Well not exactly. It takes years of preparation and many types of documents and presentations. It is a focused process that can go sideways.” Here are details on how to obtain residency in Italy as an American.

Mark Hinshaw in a cafe. Sunny Bertollini

Daily life: America, it is not. “The rhythm is different,” says Bertollini. “Mark and I have a rule, we call it the Rule of Three Things. You can safely do the former and probably the latter. If you manage to do the third thing, you’re in luck. “Part of this is people in town stopping to say hello and catch up, she says,” It’s all about relationships with everyone else. … This is in largely a community. ” Italians, he points out, do not live by the Rule of Three Things. Instead, they say, ‘Anything you can do today could be done tomorrow.’ Americans tend to have huge to-do lists, but if you’re trying to rush an Italian, they just say “Piano, piano,” which roughly translates to “Easy, does it.”

Grapes from a nearby vineyard. Sunny Bertollini

Cons: The couple say it took them a year or so to adjust to life here as things can be slow and bureaucratic. And while they live in an area with “good food,” they also miss dim sum and barbecue and takeout when they want it, says Hinshaw. Bertollini notes that she has expanded her cooking repertoire to include several new kitchens since moving here. Language: “I thought I knew some Italian before I got here,” Hinshaw jokes, but the dialect they live in is different from what his formal lessons taught him. But, he says, it is a great advantage to learn a language quickly to be surrounded by people who speak it all the time. “I’m finally understanding whole concepts, not just words,” he says. “It’s really fun now.” Bottom line: Although moving here has been an adjustment from their fast-paced work life in America, they say they love it. “My favorite thing is the quiet,” says Bertollini. “I catch a frenzied energy in the US … There are stressors here, but there is a measure of reassurance that I can’t find in the US.”