So you want to buy a house in Italy, the country of la dolce vita, great food and wine, effortless style and chic, a country that knows how to enjoy life. Fine … but which Italy?
The first thing anyone planning on purchasing Italian property needs to understand is that this is very much a country of the regions … and that’s down to its unique history. Differences in local accents aside, Americans and Britons have become used to a certain homogeneity in our cultures — travel from Alaska to Arizona and people broadly eat the same food, have the same customs and speak the same language.
Not so in the Bel Paese. First bear in mind that Italy has only been a united country since 1861 — the story of the Italian peninsula in the millennium and a half between the fall of Rome and the Risorgimento wasn’t that of a nation, more one of endless wars between empire-building city states, and of devastating foreign invasions. ‘So what?’ you say. ‘I’m buying a villa in Italy in the 21st century… what does history mean to me?’
Well it means a great deal, with regions (even cities) clinging tenaciously to local customs and prejudices — including mistrust of their neighbours. At its best this creates the exciting diversity of Italian life: the food/customs/festivals/language in Molise are going to be utterly distinct from those in Veneto; this is a rich and diverse culture. At worst it can lead to local bigotry: the antipathy of some northern Italians to those from the south is well documented, it can tip over into outright racism. All this makes it all the more important to decide where you want to buy your home in Italy. Comfortable, organised (if arguably rather bourgeois) Milan? Or spirited, Mediterranean, yet possibly rather chaotic Campania … you buy your Italian home and you take your choice.
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