A visit to their Abruzzese relatives inspired a Canadian couple to move to Abruzzo where they started a new life and a successful business.
We started coming to Abruzzo in 2006 after reconnecting with my wife Lisa’s relatives in San Sebastiano dei Marsi, a tiny mountain village in the province of L’Aquila. The people were warm and welcoming, the mountains were spectacular, the Adriatic Sea was only a short drive away, the food was delicious, and the wine was rich and plentiful.
For the next few years, we came for the village festival followed by a week renting a place somewhere else in Abruzzo. Each trip, it got harder and harder to leave.
Slow pace of life
We soon realized that as beautiful as the region is, as warm as the people are, and as good as the wine is, what we were really falling in love with was Abruzzo’s culture. In Abruzzo, there is a slower pace where relationships come before work. It is a place where people care more about what music you like than what you do for a living. A place where a discussion about what kind of sauce goes best with which shape of pasta can last for several glasses of wine. A place where the measurement of a good day is not in what you accomplished, but in how relaxed you were at the beach.
Each time, we would return from Abruzzo’s gentle lifestyle to our hectic lives in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa and feel the stress levels rise. We would be out the door early, me to my uninspiring cubical at the municipal government and Lisa to her job as a federal criminal prosecutor. Our nightly conversations often drifted back to Abruzzo and to its relaxing pace. Sure, the economy was not great and many people were out of work, but it did not seem to matter. They took care of each other. They did not sweat it.
Our careers were stressful but manageable, and well paid. We had a good thing going in Canada. Nice house, no kids, a couple of dogs, recreation property on a river, a few vacations per year. We thought we could maybe even buy a small property in San Sebastiano dei Marsi to have a home base in Abruzzo. Maybe we could retire there. We could have stayed in Ottawa and coasted into our mid-lives quite nicely. But the more we thought about it, the more we both realized that our wants to live a more Abruzzese lifestyle became needs to find a way to live Abruzzese lives permanently.
Finally, in 2015, we moved to Abruzzo full-time to oversee the renovation on the historic villa that we bought on the outskirts of Torre de’ Passeri, a town in the foothills of the Pescara River valley. In May 2016, we welcomed the first guests to our all-inclusive tour company that focuses on Abruzzese culture, history, food, wine, and lifestyle. Our guests, mostly Canadians, Americans, and a few Brits, loved Abruzzo too, and our first four years were successful. This year was booked solid, too, until Covid-19 appeared, but we expect things to return to normal later this year or next year.
I am not going to say it has all been a breeze. The flipside of the relaxed lifestyle is the sclerotic bureaucracy, projects that limp along at a snail’s pace, and a lack of caring about getting things done that still sometimes shocks my North American “get-it-done” sensibilities. Still, for us, the benefits of living in Abruzzo beat the drawbacks by a big margin.
In Canada, we used to jump out of bed worried about work, now we wake up wondering how we can make things nicer for our guests each day. Instead of board rooms and court rooms, we have business meetings at the beach or at the local cafe. We live in a cosy rented apartment in town but from November until late March, we close the villa to guests and move in ourselves, filling our days with rest and relaxation and nights by the fire listening to music or watching movies. On our daily walks through town, we are greeted by name by almost everyone we meet. Our big decision each day is what to eat, and, yes, sometimes there is a debate over which pasta to pair with which sauce.
We fell in love with Abruzzo and its relaxed lifestyle. We found a way to live it, and moving here was the best decision we ever made.
By Jake Rupert
Jake and his wife Lisa run Amazing Abruzzo Tours.