Ashley & Jason Bartner live in the beautiful Le Marche region of Italy. They run a small guest house cum cookery school that combines searching for the best seasonal local ingredients, hands-on cooking classes, and the conviviality of the table to help guests connect with the people through their food, culture, and terra. They blog about their experiences at latavolamarche.blogspot.com and publish details of their business at www.latavolamarche.com.
Read more about the country in the Expat Arrivals Italy country guide or read more Expat Experiences in Italy
About Ashley and Jason
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: USA - I was born and raised on the west coast in Seattle, WA and Jason in Danville, CA. Before moving to Italy we lived in New York City for eight years.
Q: Where in Italy are you now living?
A: Piobbico (Le Marche) Italy
Q: How long you have you lived here?
A: Two years
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: Yes - husband
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: To change our life completely, we were ready for a change: we opened an agriturismo (farm, inn) and cooking school
Q: What do you enjoy most about living in Italy, how’s the quality of life?
A: Quality over quantity - that is exactly why we moved - we wanted to make a change for quality. #1 we feel that we are part of the community. We love Italy’s passion for life, love and good food! We have adopted the slow food philosophy with slow living. We now grow our own food (neither of us ever lived on a farm before - we were city kids), cure our own salami, make our own liquors, etc. Here we stop and chat with friends and neighbours over caffe - as the work can be done later.
Q: Any negatives about Italy? What do you miss most about home?
A: There are only a few things we miss besides our family - high speed internet, American football and ethnic food (Mexican, sushi, etc.)
Q: Is La Marche safe?
A: We leave the keys in the car - enough said!
Q: What’s the cost of living in Italy compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living in respect to food, clothing, medicine and day to day living is much lower. However we live in the countryside and came from NYC - if we lived in Rome I wouldn’t say food is cheap but it is still more affordable than New York. Energy in all forms - from heating your house to putting petrol in your car to keeping the lights on - is much more expensive.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: We LOVE the locals and have been accepted into the community! The village we live in is very small with only two other expat families (from the Netherlands) - so in a village of 2,000 there are only eight of us that speak English. We all mix together very well.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Yes! It was as if there had been a town meeting alerting all the locals of our arrival. I think we are a bit of novelty as well since there are no other Americans in our area - thus everyone wants to meet “i giovane Americani” (the young Americans). The people of our area are incredible friendly and warm - welcoming to newcomers and patient with us when we would stumble through the language.
About working in France
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: We get a lot of questions about this as Italy is famous for its red-tape! The visa process was the most difficult aspect - collecting all the paperwork, fingerprints, documents for starting a business, then translating documents and of course having them all Apostiled (internationally recognised). It seemed like there were so many ‘catch-22’s’ at times it was overwhelming. However we were incredibly lucky because we found ourselves a ‘shark.’ A smart, witty, English speaking Italian Commercialist (accountant, business manager, all around Saviour and now dear friend) - Fabio Centurioni. He helped us navigate through the Italian bureaucracy. Since he is Italian, he knows how to work the system - he went so far as to call the Italian Consulate General in New York ensuring our proper self-employed work Visa.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in La Marche, is there plenty of work?
A: It is very seasonal - tourism and agriculture.
Q: How does the work culture in Italy differ from home?
A: Work does not consume your entire life. We feel that the Italians and Europeans generally
Family and children in France
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to Italy?
A: Not at all - he loves it just as much as I do.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Italy?
A: Our guests ask us this all the time - Fantastic! With all the debate in the States about we feel very lucky to be in a country with socialised healthcare. We have had doctors appointments, emergency room visits and even a guest had surgery with all raving positive reviews - from the quality of care and the facilities to even the hospital food!
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals living in Italy?
A: Learn the language so you can communicate - this is so important and shockingly not everyone does this. Assimilate with the rest of the people - Italians are very social people - you must participate in the community. Enjoy it!. It’s not always easy but keep your chin up, stay positive and have a sense of humor - remember if moving to Italy was easy, everyone would do it! Be open to the change and accept it all - the good and the bad. You can’t constantly compare it to life in your home country.
~ Interviewed February 2010