La bella Italia! Its incomparable culture, art, and food; its glittering cities Venice, Rome, and Florence; its ageless mountain villages; its cypresses and cathedrals. Tuscany in the spring!
Problem is, Tuscany is now prohibitively expensive in all seasons. So the solution, say savvy expats, is to settle in an area less publicized and pricey. Just a few years ago Umbria was dubbed "the next Tuscany." Guess what happened?
So where's the "next Umbria"? We located it one region east: Le Marche (pronounced "lay markay"), bordering the Adriatic, is a lovely land of vineyards, snow-capped mountains, and splendid beaches (which you won't find in Umbria). "Nature lovers will get more pristine beauty for their money in Le Marche than anywhere else in central Italy," writes John Moretti in Living Abroad in Italy. It also prides itself on some of the best fish dishes in the country—and is trendy enough to have snagged Dustin Hoffman as a tourism spokesman. Whereas Le Marche can't match the fabled art treasures of Rome or Florence, the walled city of Urbino boasts Renaissance architecture considered among the most impressive in Italy—minus the crush of tourists.
John Williams, 62, a chiropractor from Pennsylvania, moved here 23 years ago and now lives on a three-acre country home in the village of Senigallia, just off the beach, with his wife and two teenage children. There they tend a grove of centuries-old olive trees, from which they make their own oil. "I came intending to visit for six months and stayed," he says. "I wouldn’t think of living anywhere else." Excluding the cost of housing, a minimum annual income of $20,000 is feasible, he reports, though higher incomes are more realistic. "What I like best is having beautiful beaches and mountains within 45 minutes of each other," Williams says. "There’s such a variety of choices, it’s like a permanent vacation."
Mostly sunny; summers—warm and dry; winters—cool with some rain.
Relatively few; an international mix.
A comfortable life can be had on $20,000 to $25,000 a year. Dinner out: $40 for two.
Depending on location, rentals start at $600 a month in rural villages, $1,500 and up on the coast. Prices of coastal houses begin at $300,000 (inland, half that).
Generally good. The top local hospital is in Ancona, the capital of the region, which is within an hour’s drive of all the main towns in Le Marche.
Open-air opera festivals, Renaissance painting and architecture, wine tasting, nature reserves, beachcombing—even skiing (in the Sibillini Mountains).
Fair. Regional flight from Ancona to Milan or Rome, then a transatlantic trek.