Link to: Part One
Italy. Until a few months ago, we had never been there. After Tim’s retirement from the Fire Department in June of 2016, his wish was to celebrate together as a family by taking a trip to Italy. As for annual vacations, we were typically tent campers or couch surfers. The fanciest family vacation we had taken to date was to Waikiki and that was when both kids were still in elementary school. School and summer job juggling left us with the Summer of 2017 for our family trip to commemorate both Tim’s retirement and the realization that our little family of four was about to be spread across the country. Getting together for even a dinner was going to be difficult for several years. We saved and saved for this trip and with advanced planning, were able to go to Italy for two weeks and wrap up our trip with a few days in Santorini, Greece.
We were able to visit Venice, Florence and Rome for a few days each and hit all the hot tourist spots. And I do mean hot. We were in Rome during July of 2017, the hottest in recorded history. So yeah, by the time we got to Greece all we could do was eat and lay in the sun. Perfect, actually.
After our all-time-greatest family vacation, we came back to San Diego just in time to get both kids organized and into their respective dorms on each coast. For our eldest, it would be his first time living away from home, as he had attended two years of community college in town and would now live on campus in Northern California. It also meant that for the first time since becoming parents, we were back on OUR own. The nest was empty. We no longer needed the big (rental) house and fresh off our fabulous trip to Europe, we were ready to really see the world. As mentioned, we had planned on relocating to the wine country of California, but the Napa Fires essentially gave us the nudge we needed to really step out and try becoming global citizens. The search was on!
Since we were doing this move to Italy on short notice, we decided to first go for only a few months. Make sure it’s something we really want to do before going all-in. Fortunately for us, our next door neighbors had lived in Greve, Chianti for a year. They were encouraging and happy to share tips, websites and the essential guidebooks. Simultaneously, a friend of ours had announced his plan to become an expat and retire with his partner to Portugal. This might be doable!
Our family trip though Italy was amazing but it was also pretty brief and during peak tourist season. The temperature was high and the crowds extremely large. Everywhere we visited was lovely, we wanted to see more. We did not get a chance to visit Italy’s famous lake region, the beautiful Amalfi coastline or spend much time in Tuscany, outside of Florence. We realized that it would be easy to fill our days exploring the regions of Italy we had not yet visited if we were to find a centrally located apartment near the rail lines. After weaning down lists of gorgeous villages, we settled on the ancient walled city of Lucca, in Tuscany. Shortly thereafter we found a fabulous loft inside the ancient walls a short walk to everything. The rent per month for a furnished loft is a fraction of what our rent would be in California. The time we spend on this extended stay in Lucca will help us determine if, when and where we will return to Italy on a more permanent basis. The countdown is on, we leave in less than six weeks!