Italian life in a small hamlet in Piemonte
Anna Lebedeva for International Living Magazine
Looking from our balcony I can see the valley with it’s green mountains that touch the clouds in spring and summer. Our village below has stood through time and the fields above our house are filled with Alpine wildflowers of every colour,” says Lisa Chiodo, who, together with her husband Sam and their two children, Carina and Luca, now live in Piedmont, Italy.
In 2013, Lisa and Sam came to the tiny medieval hamlet of Malpertus, nestled at the foot of the Italian Alps, in search of a simple and affordable life.
They fell in love with the landscape and relaxed pace of life and decided to settle down there. “We were on a very tight budget and bought what I think was probably the cheapest house in Piedmont for $20,000,” says Sam. “The house is 300 to 400 years old, on three floors and about 200 square meters. It was run down, so our friends let us use their holiday house for free in exchange for us giving it a coat of paint.”
In Brisbane, Lisa and Sam had a maintenance business doing up houses and selling them, so they did a lot of the work on their new home themselves which helped them to save money. “Main costs were putting in double glazed doors and windows and repainting. We have spent about $22,000 so far, the house is comfortable but not finished.”
Their life in Italy couldn’t be more different from the one they had in Brisbane. “We lived one street from the beach in tropical Queensland, here we are in the mountains, it snows in winter a lot and Sam loves the snow,” says Lisa.
It is not only the climate that sets them worlds apart from their previous life.
There are only nine people living in Borgata Malpertus and 500 people in the village of Bobbio Pellice, two kilometres away, so everyone knows each other. “It is much better for our children. It is safe here and they have more freedom. Everyone looks out for each other in the village,” says Lisa.
Borgata Malpertus, just over an hour’s drive from the region’s capital of Turin, is very rural and seems untouched by passing time. “There are elderly people in our village who cut up wood the way they did all their lives. It is living history,” says Lisa. “People have cows and goats and are farmers. It is not a touristy place at all.”
Lisa runs a blog, Renovating Italy, where she writes about the Chiodo family life in rural Piedmont and their progress with the house restoration.
Sam says that they have acquired many new Italian habits. “Lisa talks with her hands now, like a real Italian! I was very goal orientated back in Australia. Here it is just “ah, well, we’ll do it tomorrow. You have to go with the flow.”
The cost of living in rural Piedmont is a fraction of what they used to spend back in Australia. “You couldn’t be more budget than we are! We pay about $220 every two months for electricity. In winter, we use a wood burning stove and there is plenty of wood around. In addition, we spend $370 a year on gas bottles for cooking,” says Sam. They spend less than $150 every two weeks on some basic groceries that supplement the fresh produce from their garden.
“We grow our own vegetables, fruit, and rear rabbits and chickens. In Australia, there is a culture of buying pre-made food. Here we cook everything, make salami, pickles and jams. It is a different way of living,” says Sam.
Two butchers, grocery stores and a lively local market are all within only a few minutes’ drive, in Bobbio Pellice.
The Chiodo family like to treat themselves now and then to delicious homemade meals at one of the local restaurants, paying under $I5 per person for a three-course meal. For special occasions, they go to L’Alpina to feast on hearty Alpine dishes where the prices are $30 to $45 per person.
For the first two years, Sam and Lisa had no income and lived off their savings but recently they finished renovating a Loft Apartment in their house and now rent it out to a steady stream of guests who want to experience rural living in Piedmont.
You can also find the Loft Apartment listed on Airbnb or book direct with Lisa and Sam through the website.
In their spare time, the Chiodo family hop in their camper van and head to explore the nearby towns of Torre Pellice, Alba, Pinerolo, Fenestrelle as well as Briancon, which is over the border in France, a short drive away. “We like going to the river near our house in summer for a swim, picnic and barbecue. On weekends, we often have people coming over to the house.”
Making friends has been easy as the locals welcomed “the crazy Australians who bought the cheapest house in Piedmont” with open hearts. “We love the people here. The first day we arrived at the house, a little old local lady Anita, in her 80s, came in with a big iron rack so we could put it in the fire and make ourselves lunch.
Through the week we had everyone in the village and from the village nearby coming in to say hello and see what we were doing,” recalls Lisa. There is also a small friendly expat community, which is slowly growing as more and more expats fall in love with this tranquil, beautiful corner of Italy.
Sam and Lisa say they never feel isolated. The roads are good and Turin international airport is only an hour from Borgata Malpertus. “Once you move to Italy a lot of your friends find their way over.
We have had more visitors here than we did in Australia,” says Sam. “I don’t see us ever going back to Australia. We love it here. Keeping watch on us all are the Alps above, timeless, majestic. They gently remind us to slow down and enjoy the simple life each day,” says Lisa. ■
6 | INTERNATIONAL LIVING MAGAZINE DECEMBER 2016
Hope you enjoyed the article and learning a little more about our life in Italy. We’d love to hear your thoughts below and any questions you may have.
and the gang x