Retiring in Italy? Let the Hazels Inspire You
Since 2020, International Living Magazine has reported a huge increase in people expressing interest in retiring abroad, particularly Europe. If you’re part of that trend, let me introduce you to two good friends of mine who have done more than just think about retiring to Italy.
Craig and Cindi Hazel are all in with what retired Procter & Gamble executive Alan Spector calls “practicing retirement.” They’re still working. But like many consultants who’ve gotten used to working mostly online in recent years, they realize they can do it anywhere.
So they figured, why wait until they’re officially “retired” to live out their dream of living in Italy?
If you’re wondering the same thing about retiring abroad, especially if you’re interested in Italy, read on. Let Craig and Cindi’s story educate and inspire you.
Retiring in Italy: Craig and Cindi Hazel’s Story
Craig and Cindi are both business advisors and can work from any continent they like. They’re empty nesters now that their two daughters are out on their own. Still, it was hard to think about being so far away from them.
“To them, it’s really far. It is harder to call every day to catch up because of the time difference, and they wouldn’t be able to just drop by over the weekend to get some hugs,” Cindi said.
“But,” she added, “planning trips to Europe is easier with our home being so centrally located and close to trains and airports. It’s only a plane ride away.”
Besides, everyone agreed their daughters were going to love visiting (especially if they added a pool)! And Craig and Cindi had adored Italy too much for too long to let the idea go.
Craig’s parents took him there when he was a child, and he fell in love with the country. Years later, he introduced Cindi to the Tuscany region on their honeymoon. They’d returned to celebrate their 10th, 20th, and 25th anniversaries.
The beauty of the region, a mild, comfortable climate, the amazing food and wine, and warm and welcoming people who work to live rather than the other way around—this was where they wanted to be!
House Hunting in Umbria
As much as Craig and Cindi loved Tuscany, they found it pretty touristy. They wanted the real Italy. Fewer tourists. A slower pace of life. Affordable living.
So, they found a real estate agent who would help them focus their house hunting on the Umbria region, neighboring Tuscany to the southeast, in central Italy.
It was a slow process for several reasons.
There is no Italian equivalent to the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), the databases real estate professionals use here in the U.S. Agents there simply connect buyers and sellers based on their knowledge of the area and word of mouth—at an Italian pace.
The process is further slowed by bureaucracy. Foreigners interested in purchasing a house in Italy have to jump through several hoops, such as obtaining a codice fiscale (identification code required to make any major purchase in Italy), opening an Italian bank account, etc.
Also, the Hazels had a change of heart about the type of home they wanted to buy. The romance of Umbria’s centuries-old homes was alluring at first. But they tend to be too small, with cracks from settling, small windows, and permitting challenges to add on.
Plenty of modern homes were also on offer. But many were either too remote or had other eccentricities that didn’t quite fit their romantic notion of living in Umbria at all.
“There was one house that had nine levels, but three floors. The super weird layout was the result of add-ons and a bizarre configuration,” Cindi said.
“Most of the homes that looked the best on the website at reasonable prices ended up being very remote, or in one case, right next to a busy highway,” Craig said.
But eventually, their patience paid off.
A New Home in Deruta
Three months later, they found the one. It was just outside a delightful hill town full of local charm called Deruta. It was 3,500 square feet with expansive windows, opening to a gorgeous vista: three acres of olive trees, rolling countryside, and distant mountains beyond.
And they figured the asking price was about half what they would pay for a comparable house back in Sonoma County. So, was there a catch?
Not much of one, really. The house, built in 1995, was priced so low because the developer died before it was finished. His children had wanted to put
it on the market but values declined. They waited for a significant increase that never came and finally decided to sell anyway.
From the Hazels’ perspective, it was an amazing find. The house was basically 95 percent finished. Given the asking price, it was well within their budget to hire a designer to finish it.
Like house hunting, closing happened at that Italian pace the Hazels were now quite familiar with. It had taken three months to find it. Another three months later, they had purchased their new Umbrian home!
Until they’re officially registered as residents, the Hazels are only permitted to live there for 90 days at a time,
followed by 90 days back in the States. They relish the precious time they have there on each trip.
They enjoy making olive oil from the 150 olive trees on the property, producing about 226 liters per harvest that they share with friends and family. The sellers, who live nearby and have become friends, taught them the process and helped them get started with equipment.
“Having olive trees was definitely a selling point for me,” Cindi said. “The previous owners shared with us that they have been making oil for years, with high-quality and high yields. How cool to make olive oil from your own trees?”
They love to walk to town for local cuisine, shops, and festivals. They’re learning Italian but have already made friends with neighbors despite the language barrier. October has been their favorite time to visit.
“The weather in 2022 was perfect all month in October, with almost every day being between 70 and 80 degrees without much humidity,” Craig said.
“Plus it is absolutely stunning at harvest time, with the leaves turning,” Cindi added.
Their California-based health insurance covers them on both continents. But when it comes to the actual cost, healthcare in Italy is far more affordable. It’s another break on the cost of living, like so many other essentials. (The one exception being gasoline & propane, which are pricey).
When the Hazels are back stateside, neighbors keep an eye on the property. Security cameras provide some additional peace of mind when they’re away. The property waits quietly for the Hazels to eagerly return the following season.
Thinking of Retiring in Italy or Anywhere Abroad? Lifeguard Wealth Can Help
Craig and Cindi are good friends to whom I’m thankful for sharing their story. When clients come to me with an interest in retiring in Italy or anywhere abroad, I now have another delightful story to share about the challenges and joys of pursuing a lifestyle like this.
Are you interested in following in the Hazels’ footsteps? Or do you have more general questions about when to retire and how to prepare?
If so, let’s schedule a consultation. As an experienced fiduciary advisor and Registered Life Planner, I can help you create and execute a plan to achieve more than a fulfilling retirement. I want to help you live your best life no matter where you are along the journey.
We’re not getting any younger, so let’s not wait to make a plan for living life to the fullest. Let’s take our inspiration from Craig and Cindi and do it now!