Saturday, December 13, 2008


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.



At 12/13/2008 04:20:00 AM , Anonymous Judith in Umbria said...

Living Italy is very different to Italia storica. It's my choice, too. Thing is, I can walk 40 feet and find a Roman remnant, so...

At 12/13/2008 05:53:00 AM , Anonymous Martha said...

We like Monte San Savino as much as Barb likes San Venanzo. Except we live 5 miles outside of town and have to drive everywhere. When we have to move in 1 year and 9 months we will be looking for a place in a town just so we can have more 'town' experiences everyday and more contact with people. I think any small active town would be a great place to live. Barb, go to Kingfish and think of me. Martha

At 12/13/2008 06:01:00 AM , Blogger Gil said...

After reading this I get a feeling you are pulling the house off the market.

At 12/13/2008 08:06:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conflicted on your notes - if everything is so great why are you looking to sell up and move back to the States?

At 12/13/2008 08:15:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

I forget that there are alwasy new people reading! Yes, we love San Venanzo, Umbria and Italy, but after 5 years and poor exchange rates it's just time to move on! Those with wanderlust will understand! We're ready for the next challenge and the next chapter in our lives, which will hopefully include more travel!

At 12/13/2008 08:29:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

No Gil, the house is still for sale. Even tho the dollar has recovered much, we'd still like to get 1 for 1, and to be able to travel more, so selling is still in our future.

I always thought I was one of those people who'd find "the" perfect house and live there the rest of my life, but somehow I've changed over the years. Now moving, even tho we love the house, love the area, doesn't bother me.... I'm just ready for the next adventure.

Martha, I'm sure Kingfish will be on our list!

At 12/23/2008 04:13:00 PM , Blogger Richard Scott said...


I have found this blog to be informative and charming! I think the whole point of moving to Italy is to immerse yourself in the local culture, learn a new language, and meet wonderful new friends. I love your house and the town (and photos) are spectacular. When it comes time for me to move, I will certainly check out San Venanzo! I, too, have been told by many friends that the locals are wonderful and to avoid the expats who have that "Disney-fied" version of what it's really like to live overseas. I want to experieince it all, so this is why reading your blog is so important, especially how to get and actually settle down in Italy!

Keep up the good work. I look forward to your posts as much as I do my next read! By the way, I've discovered Richard Yates! Brilliant!



At 12/23/2008 04:14:00 PM , Blogger Richard Scott said...


Have you thought of where you'd like to move?


At 12/23/2008 06:35:00 PM , Blogger Barbara said...

Our plans are to move back to the states, back to Louisville where most of our family lives. It's a central location with a reasonable cost of living, and we hope to be able to travel more, using Louisville as our base. Travel has always been our passion, and Italy was an unexpected adventure - now it's time for the next adventure.

At 12/24/2008 05:17:00 PM , Blogger Richard Scott said...


I wish you and Art much luck! But I know what you mean! I am one who is looking for the next adventure, planning for it, and hopefully, will be happy with the results! However, I've moved several times in the past, so moving again is not that big of a deal!

Happy holidays!



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