I’m an Italian girl from the Marche, living now in New York. As an expat I often get homesick. I’m not only missing people I love, but also the places were I used to live for so many years. I love my new life, but in my mind I relive the wonders of my land.
Meeting Martine and David Albon, owners of the Roccolo Holiday Cottage in Ascoli Piceno (Italy), was like sharing the same experience with friends. I was very curious to know how and why a family that comes from a prosperous country like the UK, has decided to leave everything and to try to live abroad.
I’ll tell you their experience…
1) Where are you both originally from and when/where did you move to Le Marche? Did you move with family?
- We are Martine, David and George Albon. We moved to Le Marche from the United Kingdom in 2012. We are all English but David grew up in Kenya. George was seven when we moved here.
2) What inspired you to move to Italy and particularly…why Le Marche region to set up your own B&B?
- Martine has family and friend links to the area and on previous holidays David fell in love with the landscape here too. We always knew we wanted to move away from the UK and in 2012 an opportunity presented itself, so we took it. Ascoli Piceno is perfect for us as it is close to the mountains and the sea and has pretty good schooling for George! Our ideal holidays were always where we could be active in the mountains and relax by the sea so we felt that offering holiday accommodation which gave the best of both worlds was ideal. There are very few places which give this flexibility.
3) How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
- We had been holidaying in Italy for many years before moving here and so were familiar with much of the daily life here. Martine spoke Italian already which helped very much at the beginning. It was much harder for David and George who spoke no Italian then. George speaks very good Italian three years on and is doing well at school. It is still hard for David, mainly because we work at home and so he doesn’t get to practice his language very much! Things do work differently here and it does take some time to work out how to do the simplest things but we settled quite quickly. I think it was easier for us because of George, if you have a small child at school you have to adapt quickly and make friends. I think it must be much harder for those who retire here and have no natural link to the community.
4) How does the Italian culture differ from home? Which aspect of Italian life was most difficult to get used to?
- Life is more spontaneous here. In UK plans were made weeks in advance and life was much busier. Here people wait to see what the weather will be like and what they feel like before making too many plans. Here a friend may phone to say ” the weather is lovely, lets go for a walk by the sea this afternoon” . In UK they would have been booked up for weeks in advance and would not be able to take advantage of a beautiful afternoon to go for a walk by the sea. We really like this!
5) What are the locals like? Do you mix mainly with other expats?
- There are not so many expats in the south of Le Marche so we don’t have a wide network of expat friends. We do know a few people further north but it is too far to visit too often! We moved here with our seven year old son and so we have met many local people through school. As in UK, the parents of his friends have also become our friends. As we love the mountains, we also joined the Local section of the Club Alpino Italiano and have made friends there too. The Ascolani are very proud of their town and culture and rightly so. Most people are very happy to share information on the local area and advise us on all sorts of things and we have been made to feel very welcome both by people in the town and by our neighbours here on the mountain, one of whom spends much time teaching us all he knows about the local agriculture. We have learnt all we know about the care and harvesting of our many chestnut trees from him.
6) Is there anything you miss about living in UK?
- Cheddar cheese!
7) What do you enjoy most about living in le Marche and the Italian lifestyle?
- The food, the sunshine, the spontaneity of the people.
8) What’s your favorite Italian food (or even better: from Le Marche)?
- Pizza- we have our own wood burning oven which a friend has taught us to use properly. Pasta- Ascolana is good with tomato, capers, olives,onion, tuna but also truffle and mushroom sauces with the black truffle being grown locally. The best has to be the Olive Ascolana- our local pasta shop (La Madia, Ascoli Piceno) makes the traditional meat version and also a tuna one and a vegetarian one, they are the best in the Marche! The Rosso Piceno wines are pretty amazing too!
9) With your B&B you guest people from different areas and countries interested in discovering Le Marche. What are their feelings about our region?
- So far we have hosted guests from America, UK, Holland, Germany, the Czech Republic and Italy. All have loved it here, both the beauty and variety of landscapes and the peace that is found here at Il Roccolo. Ascoli Piceno is obviously a favourite to visit but many have also visited various vineyards and those with children particularly like the safe, clean sandy beaches.
10) In our blog we try to incentivate people from all the world to find out more about Le Marche and its local tradition. What do you love the most about Le Marche and what’s the biggest difference if compared to other Italian regions?
- We like the fact that people here take time for their friends and family and that they are more spontaneous than the British and also the more northern Italians. This is also true in their work lives so that they always take the time to talk to you in restaurants for example and are happy to take time to help people who visit. Summer is much busier than winter with various festivals happening in villages and towns. The Quintana in Ascoli Piceno and Templaria in Castignano being two very good examples. We love all the different types of markets that travel around too.
11) How difficult was getting a work visa/permit?
- Not really applicable as we are from the EU.
12) Did you experience many difficulties in setting up your business?
- Not so far
13) How does the Italian work culture differ from your country?
- Home life is still more important here than work. Italians work really hard and are very conscientious generally but their home lives and family are still really important and so they make sure that they have time for their families as well as work. This is one of the main reasons we decided to move here.
14) How does cost of living compare to home?
- Just as expensive as UK. Some everyday items are cheaper and eating out is definitely cheaper but electricity and gas are SO expensive that I really cannot say that it is cheaper here. And there are taxes on Everything!
15) What negatives, if any, are there to living in Italy?
- Electricity and gas prices…we have tried to make our business ecological and have solar electricity and water and heating powered by wood from our land but we still pay more in bills here than we ever did in UK!
16) What are your top tips to any future expats or people considering moving to Italy from abroad?
- Learn as much of the language as you can before you move, it makes it much easier to make friends and links in the community.
17) In retrospective is there anything you would change?
- We live at 600m above Ascoli Piceno. The temperature is lovely in the summer when we have guests in our cottage but in the winter it can be quite hard! We may have chosen to live a little lower down if we could have done it again!
18) Why should people visit and discover Le Marche?
- Variety. There is something for everyone here. Beautiful weather and landscape. Mountains, sea with sandy beaches, good food, olive oil and top level wines, historical hilltop (and valley) towns, artisan produce, many sporting activites, summer festivals. People who are friendly and genuinely happy to welcome you to their home area.
19) You are also writing a blog. Can you tell us a bit about it and when/why did you start your blog?
- We started a blog when we first arrived to let our friends and family know how we were getting on. It evolved to tell potential guests about life here in the Marche with the hope of attracting more people to visit. Last year we then decided that the format of facebook was easier to use in terms of showing photos and so we started a facebook page specifically to show potential guests our rental cottage, the grounds it is set in and the area that they might visit from here.
20) Can you please give us the links to visit your website and Facebook page?
- Here you go:
- http://www.roccoloascoli.com and
VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO MARTINE, DAVID AND GEORGE TO HAVCE SHARE WITH US YOUR WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE!