Sometimes in life, you gotta dive into the deep to find home. And, “surprise!”
(at least, it is for us), we are ready for the plunge!
Four times, that’s how many rotations we have streaked around the globe in mileage during the last 44 months since plunging into nomadic life. We’ve traveled non-stop, sampling the waters from Cuba to Ireland, Myanmar to Morocco, living in 23 different countries in the process. Every destination – each unique and fascinating in their own way – has felt like “trying on” a new way of living.
Along the way, we’ve:
- Dug into rural life working on a farm in northern Croatia;
- Served as temporary-poodle-parents in a posh central London flat;
- Adopted, what we call, the zoo-crew-with-view (3 dogs, 1 bird, 1 amazing villa), housesitting near the beach on Costa del Sol, Spain.
- Become part of the local fabric in a small mountain village in Trentino, Italy.
- Somehow, even functioned as inn-keepers for a guest house in the mountains of Bulgaria.
When we first began this journey, we made a pact: we would live like nomads for as long as that perpetual movement felt right. A summer, maybe a year. How could we know? We still owned a house in the U.S. and could return anytime. Within a few weeks, we began to grasp this lifestyle’s long-term potential and soon sold that house (banking proceeds in a mutual fund where it could grow as we traveled). We also sold or gifted most of our belongings; and, most importantly, we opened our minds and hearts wide to the possibilities.
Still, as enthusiastic and open as we were, I don’t think either of us imagined we would be in motion all these years and miles later. Though, our thoughts did flow to another possibility. What happens if we find a place we don’t want to leave? What happens if we find a place that feels like home?
I guess, we’re about to find out the answer to those questions. Today, we begin a new chapter – and are so excited to share it with you – as we take a dive into deep waters.
You Bought a House…in Italy? Are You Crazy?
Let’s get those questions and answers out of the way. In short: Yes. And, maybe.
Buying a house (or, more accurately: top floor flat, in a 500-year-old building, in the center of a lovely Tuscan town) has taken us by surprise, even as we stumble through the process. “Are we really doing this?” one of us has asked at least twice every 60 seconds over the last few weeks.
And, today, we put ink to paper (Round #1 of ink; Rogito still to come), in answer to that question (in a ridiculously joyful signing meeting, thanks to all parties involved: including home seller, her agent, our inspector, and most importantly, our amazing agent, see that image below).
All afternoon, I’ve been thinking about how this new chapter began. A few months ago as we loaded backpacks to move on somewhere– honestly, I don’t even remember where – Matt seemed unusually irritated. It was clear he was struggling. I asked what was going on. “I’m ready to feel more grounded,” he said. “What about you? Are you ready to be still for awhile?” He was worried that I would never be ready to stop moving.
I had felt that fear for a while. I could sense perpetual motion was wearing on him, while, at the same time, I seemed to be hitting a stride. At that moment, he was right: I didn’t want to slow down. Still, we both believe steadfastly in the concept of “planting seeds” – that’s how we ended up on the journey in the first place, after all – so, we began engaging in “what-if” conversations.
“If we could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?” he asked. Individually, we began creating lists, then comparing. It didn’t take long; both lists were short and highly specific.
Our sweet spot was clear: Lucca. Italy.
Our love affair with Italy began in 2002, when we traveled to Tuscany for the first time. Since that trip, we’ve returned with ever-increasing frequency and duration, traveling all over the country. From art and wine to cycling culture, Italy feeds our strongest passions. Most important of all, though, is the sweet connection we feel with people we’ve met here and their graceful and welcoming way of life.
Lucca appealed to us from the first visit about eight years ago. The population is relatively small, approximately 7,500 people live within the historic medieval walls, but the town’s energy is expansive. Contemporary art and music events fill streets with life. Runners, walkers and cyclists create an open-air park atop city walls at every hour of day. A mix of locally-born Lucchese, international residents and tourists rub elbows in cosmopolitan cafes and galleries. No city we’ve seen loves a cultural event quite like Lucca (and, you know how I love a cultural event!). Lucca felt like home from the time our feet landed on the train platform.
–> In a classically surreal ripple of foreshadowing, I have written fairly extensively about Lucca in the past, including this aptly-titled article for this website in 2014:
Lucca, Italy. Could This Tuscan Town Be Our “Some-Day-Home”? Click here to read.
I also wrote a “What to Do with a Weekend in Lucca, Italy” type piece for Paste Travel magazine.
Weekend Layover: Lucca, Italy. Click here to read.
With questions about where this new dream could lead, we agreed to visit Lucca for one month in October to research and dip our toes in local life. While purchasing a home was an intriguing idea, it certainly didn’t feel like a “must.” After all, we could easily rent an apartment for a few months, even a year or two. For now, we told ourselves, we were simply in discovery-mode.
Still, we decided to meet with a few real estate agents – which is the way things are done in Italy, you must “date” around to see everything in town. And, view everything in town, we did. Events begin to snowball, as often do. Soon, we were climbing stairs to every fourth and fifth floor apartment within the town walls. We saw everything remotely in our budget range, from empty shells requiring total renovation, vivid imagination and potentially endless funding to designer spaces restored to someone’s taste, just not ours.
We contemplated how a one-of-a-kind home within a medieval tower, with multi-storied rooms stacked on top of each other, could fit our lifestyle. We told ourselves “just walk away” from a NYC-sized shoe box apartment with a to-die-for terrace that was stupidly tempting. We dreamed about possibilities with a fascist-era show-stopper. Yet, not a single place met our criteria or felt like “our” home.
Each agent’s voice began to join in chorus. “What you want is impossible,” they sang. “You must raise your budget or compromise.” We weren’t willing to do either, but, still, we were enjoying the behind-the-scenes tour of the real Lucca, getting an education in Tuscan architecture and design, and dialing in neighborhoods in the process.
We were also meeting people and developing friendships. Our social scene was beginning to form. I found a yoga studio and Matt eased into the cycling scene. We discovered a neighborhood trattoria that felt like a home kitchen. As we immersed deeper, the property search started to become more serious. I remember feeling disappointed, then surprised by that reaction, each time we saw another “not for us” apartment.
Then, the end of October came and we hadn’t found anything powerful enough to force a decision. We were set to keep moving. Then, something weird happened.
I began to struggle.
“I’m ready to feel more grounded,” I said to Matt. The thought of leaving Lucca brought me to tears. “Can we stay and keep looking?” I had needed my own time to get there – we all know, I won’t be rushed – but, amazingly, somehow we had arrived in the same place. Seeds were ready to sprout.
So, we made the decision to stay longer and heat up the apartment search. One afternoon, I received a message from one of our favorite agents (and, fortuitously the first one we met). A sense of excitement came through in Lorrain’s message that was different than with the dozen or so other apartments she had shown us.
After viewing 29 apartments, this one – #28 – was ours, we all felt it when we walked through the door. Spacious rooms, high ceilings, fantastic terrace with mountain views, classic Lucchese tile floors. And, would you believe, it’s under budget?! “Hallelujah,” our little chorus sings. (There will be much more to come on the apartment and renovation process, once we take possession in March).
Are Your Traveling Days Finished?
I think you know us better than that. In fact, one of the many reasons we love Lucca is the central location. We can be at the beach on the Tuscan coast in less than 20 minutes and Florence in an hour and a half, both by train. We can reach our beloved Trento and Vattaro or Milan, Rome, Amalfi and Naples with a few hours more.
Equally exciting is Pisa International Airport’s proximity. We can reach the airport by train or bus within an hour and it’s a hub for low cost carriers like Ryan Air, meaning we can explore Europe and beyond with ease.
We aim for this new chapter to be packed full of exploration, adventures and house-sitting assignments, complimented by an awfully sweet bonus: a home base we love, which also happens to be a smart investment.
Final closing is 3 January, so keep your fingers crossed for us. And, then there’s the renovation process! We plan to take our time, engage local contractors and let all-things-Tuscany be our inspiration for design.
So, that’s our plan, man. Thank you (and, grazie!) for following our journey.
The adventure continues as a new chapter begins. Now, here’s the most important question:
Who is coming to visit us in Lucca, Italy?