Joanne Simon Verster

When Capetonians Joanne and Chris Verster decided to emigrate, they made a list of countries they liked. Italy kept coming up. The couple went to have a look, bought two properties, and today they are helping to create a South African community in Abruzzo. This is JOANNE SIMON VERSTER’S story

Having been born in Zimbabwe, I had the heartsore experience of having to leave when the political situation soured. I led a nomadic lifestyle, moving to several countries, always in search of ‘home’, an illusive concept. I’ve realised ‘home’ is where you feel comfortable, familiar and safe.

Plenty to discover on the Adriatic Sea on the East Coast of Italy

I owned galleries in Harare and Victoria Falls, and also made a living renovating and remodelling restaurants in the Sun International group, and private homes.  Chris was a Cape Town property developer.  As the political situation in SA started deteriorating, we decided to relocate and Italy was first on our list. We booked a two-month trip to Abruzzo to discover what this vast region on the East coast with many blue flag beaches, had to offer.

Gorgeous countryside in Abruzzo

We flew to Rome and drove to Abruzzo, even though there is a small local airport in Pescara. Here, we found two neighbouring properties, for a really good price – homes here start from €40.000 – so we bought both. We decided to live in the one ourselves and rent the other out

The Ortona Castle in the district

We returned to Cape Town to pack up our household and dog Gino, and six months later, we arrived with our container. When we first arrived, I wondered what I’d let myself in for. There so much renovating to be done. I had no friends and I could not speak the lingo. I felt terrified. Had we made the right decision?

Six years on, I know we did!

Village life in Abruzzo

Settling in Abruzzo, we found the warmth and kindness of our local neighbours humbling. The area – containing Europe’s greenest and largest national park – is underpopulated, cathartic in today’s crazy society. The climate has four distinct seasons and the panoramic vistas are superb.  We have wild boar, buck, and a tame fox on our property. These creatures hold me to my roots.

View of the mountains from our home in Abruzzo

Our Italian is struggling along, but we can make ourselves understood. The pace in Abruzzo is laid back and time takes on a different meaning here.  Festas (parties) continue throughout the year, with each local village showing off its culinary skills and regional wines.

Roses in the garden

There is skiing in winter, rafting, markets, pre-Roman historical buildings, wineries, authentic Italian shops, and an endless selection of excellent restaurants and natural attractions to visit.

This is the villa we rent out to people either seeking a sun-soaked holiday or wishing to buy a property in the area

Our villa rental is popular with summer tourists and we recently branched out to assist people with home purchasing in the region, as we know how dauting it can be, especially in the beginning, to fathom the system and find the right professionals for each step of the way.

Lovely views from the patio

The people we recommend are mostly English speakers, and all are professionals vetted by us.  We offer off-season rates at our villa to allow guests the time and opportunity to look at selected properties if they’re wanting to buy. We have been delighted with the response we’ve had from clients as they settle into their Abruzzan lifestyle.


Caroline Hurry
Winner of a Tourism Authority of Thailand Award for International Media Reporting, Caroline Hurry has written for Independent Newspapers, The Citizen, Sunday Times, Business Traveller, Journeys, and Habitat, among others. Married to a Dane, she divides her time between Copenhagen and Johannesburg. A self-described word herder, dog wrangler, and cat slave, she loves visiting new countries and sitting in the lap of luxury