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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Thinking of buying in Abruzzo? Visit our website www.abruzzosmartbuy.com
- Visit www.villadistelle.com to see our villa for rent