WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT SAN VENANZO?
Recently one of our realtors told us they'd received a comment about our house and wanted to pass it along to us. The comment, from a person who's looking for a house in Umbria, said they liked our house and everything we'd done to it, but that San Venanzo was not a town they'd like to live in. My first reaction was "What??!!?" I guess most people are proud of their towns, especially if it's a town you've specifically picked out, and we’re no exception.
We're pretty proud of our adopted Umbrian town of San Venanzo, as regular readers of this blog probably know. I write about the festas and the dances and the kindness of our neighbors. I post photos and videos in the hopes that the real feel of San Venanzo will be evident, but apparently its charms are lost on some!
No, San Venanzo isn't the cutest village in Umbria. We don't have cobbled streets and stone houses, but what we do have is real community spirit, a sense of tradition, and a great place to live. I think everyone who lives here is genuinely proud of San Venanzo, and as an outsider, I think they have a right to be. Maybe now is a good time for me to write about San Venanzo and what it has to offer.
First of all San Venanzo has location. It's a hilltown, meaning that there's always a breeze in the summer. If you don't realize how important this is, try being down in the valley during July and August! Air conditioning is a rare and expensive luxury here in Italy, so having a breeze can make the difference between being comfortable and being sweaty! Being a hilltown also means that we have panoramic views and plenty of open spaces surrounding the city.
The goods and services offered in a town also make a big difference. Getting in the car every time you want a loaf or bread or need to mail a letter loses its charm very quickly, but that's something you don't have to worry about here in San Venanzo. We have grocery stores, butcher shops, hairdressers, doctors, dentists, a bakery, gas station, pharmacy and the Post Office, where you can of course, also do your banking. One grocery store also sells appliances, should you need them. There's a seamstress in town and a laundry, oh, and the all important flower shop.
In the summer the town pool is a popular oasis. It's a large pool with spacious grounds, and you could easily spend the day here in the sun or the shade. Right next door to the pool is the all-important soccer field where matches are regularly held. During the winter Teresa conducts exercise classes for two different fitness levels, so it's easy to stay in shape year round.
The recently renovated park located behind our house certainly expanded the green spaces in town, and once the main park surrounding the comune (city hall) was re-opened last fall, the fun really started anew. Several festas were held in the communal park this summer, compete with food, music and dancing. The town gathered in the large hall to watch the soccer finals last year, and this hall serves as our gathering place once the weather turns colder. If you're a music lover these festas offer a variety of music styles, and if you're a musician yourself, you might consider joining the town band - a sure way to meet your new neighbors and make friends!
Speaking of friend and neighbors, one of the reasons we chose San Venanzo was because of the Italian friends and neighbors we'd have. We knew we wouldn't be surrounded by other English-speaking expats, stuck in some Disney-fied version of Italy. In many ways San Venanzo is probably like it has been for many years, just a small farming community, filled with people who've lived here for years, whose families have lived here for years. I hate to use the phrase "the real Italy", but the point I'm trying to make is that San Venanzo hasn't turned into some tourist destination or expat enclave. Life here continues just as it always has, filled with tradition.
Location is also a factor when you consider where you need to go. Just ten minutes down the hill is Marsciano, the 'big' town in our area. There you'll find not only a regional medical office with specialists, but also a hospital. There are several large grocery chains in Marsciano, as well as a Home Depot-type store, large electronics store and a variety of all the goods and services you'd expect. Marsciano is also home to our favorite gelateria, Stefania's, and the soon-to-be reopening pizzeria, Nestor’s.
Living in a more 'famous', more touristed town means higher prices, not just for property, but also for goods and services. After all, if you have enough money to buy a house in a more expensive town, you'll have enough money to pay more for groceries and supplies, right? Also, come tourist season, which basically runs from Easter through October, finding a spot for your morning coffee might be more difficult, or even finding a place to park. As lovely as Assisi or Todi or (fill in the blank with your favorite town) is, can you imagine what's it's like for the locals when the tour buses dump their passengers for the day? We like being in San Venanzo where life is always calm, and the only lines we ever see are those at the PostalBank the first of each month when the retirees line up to cash their pension checks. We know that we can easily drive to any of those tourist hot spots, yet at the end of the day we can return to the quiet of San Venanzo.
Getting back to San Venanzo itself, what makes it so special? For us as 'stranieri' (foreigners) the friendliness and acceptance from everyone we've met has been unbelievable. Sometimes small towns can be rather close-minded, keeping outsiders at a distance, but that hasn't been our experience at all. After five years I know it can't just be the novelty of having foreigners in town - these people really like us! Our neighbor Armando is always ready to offer advice on whatever home or garden project we have in mind, and Adamo has given us free use of his garden so I can grow some tomatoes and basil in the summer. Vittoria often pushes Art's money back when he tries to pay for his coffee, and everyone makes sure we know about whatever festa, dinner or dance is coming up.
Yes, we might be a bit prejudiced, but honestly, I can't think of a more welcoming, friendly place to live than San Venanzo, and to those people who dismiss it without knowing it, well, that's certainly their loss.
Labels: San Venanzo