My Italian Home: ‘I’d just found my little piece of paradise in Umbria, and now I’m longing to return’

My Italian Home: 'I'd just found my little piece of paradise in Umbria, and now I'm longing to return'
The elegant apartment building overlooking the piazza in Umbertide, Umbria. All photos courtesy of Christie Hardwick.
Florida-based reader Christie Hardwick tells The Local how she found her dream apartment in Umbria - completely by chance - and is now longing to return to her new Italian home after having to postpone plans due to quarantine.

One of my favorite things about this tiny apartment when I first saw it was the blue wooden shutters on all the windows. The apartment had been renovated by previous owners, who took it from a place in disrepair to a finished, elegant space.

The archways marking the entry to the living room, dining room and bedrooms, the wide brick of the ceiling and the rustic brick of the floor all tied together to make a sweet cocoon. I felt at home immediately.

But we had no intention of buying an apartment in Italy. As a matter of fact, my wife and I had sold our second home and declared we’d never own another!

We had been in Italy for five months already back in 2019 when we came to the town of Umbertide, in Umbria, to visit the market that we frequented twice a week for fresh food and supplies.

I was in Italy for most of 2019 to celebrate my 60th year. We had been coming to Italy together for 15 years, staying in the same farmhouse 15 minutes from the town, and we had another month before our visas ran out.

On this particular day, our friends were having coffee in the piazza in the centro storico. We sat down, with our bags bulging with cabbage, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, faro and rustic bread, to share an espresso.

After our coffees arrived our friends casually mentioned the apartment and of course we wanted to see it. It was just above where we were sitting in the same building as the coffee shop, Bar Mary, which we frequented every week. We loved supporting Irine and Mary, the sisters who owned and operated it.

The building was over 400 years old, but in great condition. Walking up the stone stairs, we were surprised when we counted 67 to the top where the apartment was – and I already surmised that this would be good to keep us in shape.

We walked through the apartment, complimenting our friends on their decor and design choices. It had everything you’d need. A living room area, a dining area, a kitchen, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We sat on the couch and chatted about their life in Umbertide.

Once we were in our car on the way back to the farm house, Jane erupted, “the place is adorable but no way are we buying another house!”

I smiled without protesting, quietly plotting how to get her from that position to mine. I already loved and wanted the place..

The renovated farmhouse where we were staying sat on top of rolling hills overlooking the Niccone Valley and olive groves. The sunsets were spectacular, the grounds beautiful, and the hiking trails plentiful.

We loved it and had been back at least eight different times for up to six weeks at a time. This time we were staying for two months.

One thing I began to notice is that even though we spent the first part of the year in Italian Language school, we were rarely practicing because we were isolated there. I realized that I wanted to be in the village because I wanted to learn the language by using it every day.

Eventually, this argument, and my passion – and willingness to handle the entire transaction – convinced my lovely mate. We got to stay in what we named our Piccolo Paradiso for two weeks before needing to return to the states.

Waking up to the views of the town square or the view of the river and rooftops was delightful. While we were looking forward to returning to our home in St. Petersburg, Florida, and visiting our children in Chicago and San Jose, California we were happy that our little place in Umbertide would be waiting for us.

Our first visit back since October wasdue  to be mid-April. But now that is the expected time for the coronavirus outbreak to peak in Italy. We are shattered for the whole country and all those suffering, and we were so sad not to visit our new home and our friends.

We had friends there before we bought our little slice of heaven. We were regulars at Ristorante Calagrana and the proprietors Albi and Eli are like family now. We met our neighbor Chiara and can’t wait to get back and deepen our friendship, along with our other expat neighbors Nancy, Luther, Joseph and Paul.

I especially can’t wait to get back to the Italian language. It is a dream to be fully capable in this lyrical language before my demise.

But for now, #iorestoacasa where I am.

 

Christie Hardwick is a spiritual teacher, wellness and prosperity coach, performing artist, leadership guru, and the author of The progressive wedding book. Read more about her work here.


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  1. Love your story and look forward to hearing more when you return. I hope to someday soon spend a couple of months in Italy learning the beautiful language.

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