This family bought a cheap house in Italy because the US is too expensive
Oct 6, 2023, 9:44 AM
(CNN) — The rising cost of living in America has been hitting households hard in recent years, with many struggling to make ends meet.
One US family has become so frustrated by the situation that they’ve decided to pack up their lives and move to a town in the deep south of Italy.
Chris and Jennifer Tidroski from Prescott, Arizona have joined the growing number of US citizens who’ve bought a neglected home in an underpopulated Italian village for a song in search of a slower-paced life.
Cost of living impact
In 2021, the Tidroskis purchased a house in the historical district of the village of Latronico in Southern Italian region Basilicata for 26,000 euros (around $27,274) and have since spent an extra 50,000 euros ($52,450) on renovating it.
“Our goal is to relocate in the next year or so as soon as the house is ready and we get our visa, together with our seven-year-old daughter Lidia. We want a brighter future,” Chris Tidroski, a 49-year-old former osteopath who now teaches bowling, tells CNN.
The couple say that the cost of living in the US has become too high, especially when it comes to healthcare.
Having both worked in the sector they say they’ve seen costs spiral over the past decade, and aren’t hopeful that things will improve.
Chris explains that the political polarization in the US has been a contributing factor in their decision to relocate to Italy.
“We don’t like the political landscape in the States: it’s laughingly ridiculous,” he says. “There’s a shift too far in both directions, no middle ground anymore. We can’t relate.”
Being able to reconnect with his Italian heritage was also a trigger for change for Chris, whose great-grandfather migrated to the US at the end of the 1800s from a village near Latronico.
The Tidroskis decided to travel to Latronico to take a look at the available empty dwellings in 2021, after reading about its housing scheme – local authorities launched an online platform, Your House in Latronico, to help owners meet buyers – in order to lure expats to the picturesque hilltop town.
“We picked Latronico, because of the advertisement. It had never occurred to us to buy a house overseas, but I loved the idea of the program and the prices were surprisingly low,” says Jennifer, 37, who is also an osteopath.
After viewing some properties in the town, they opted for a two-bedroom home, measuring 125-square-meters, which came with a patch of land, and can be accessed by car via the old district.
The sale process had no unfortunate surprises and went very smoothly, says Chris, who flew to Italy to sign the paperwork later that year.
Since purchasing their Italian home, the couple have upgraded the floors, and given the kitchen, dining room, bathrooms and bedrooms a facelift.
They’ve also installed new roof tiles a heater, air conditioning, updated the plumbing and repainted the exterior walls shiny yellow.
The Tidroskis explain that the renovation work has taken longer than they expected, mainly due to a shortage of builders in Italy.
Over the past three years, Italian households have been receiving government-approved tax credits of up to 110% for green upgrades, triggering a “renovation frenzy” across the country.
“We were told we just had to wait in the queue, which was a bit frustrating,” says Chris.
Although the costs were slightly more than they estimated, the Tidroskis say they couldn’t have afforded a similar house in the US.
While the couple have decided not to try to get a license practice to work as osteopaths, as it’s a “very hard pass to get into the Italian board of physicians,” Jennifer plans to set up a practice of alternative medicine, for which no license is required.
She’ll be the first practitioner of “non-Western energy medicine” in Latronico, for which no Italian board exam is required.
Latronico, currently lacks any kind of osteopath, according to deputy mayor Vincenzo Castellano, so Jennifer’s practice will likely be well-received by elderly locals.
“I have not been able to spend as much time in Latronico as I would like, but I’m in love with the architecture and small town feel,” says Jennifer.
“Watching people walking to the bakery and the butcher, stopping for espresso, and talking to each other in the street, is not something I see in my US community.”
The Tidroskis recently sold their home in Arizona and are temporarily living in a condo while they prepare to move to Latronico.
But the process has been far from simple. They say the main obstacle they’ve faced, aside from the language barrier, was the visa process.
They’ve been experiencing difficulties getting an elective residency visa (ERV,) a long-stay permit designed for non-EU citizens, which requires those applying as a couple to have a “passive” income of 38,000 euros (around $39,850) annually.
“This ERV is so difficult to obtain, as we don’t meet income targets, we looked into other options but none are feasible,” says Chris.
“For instance, if you donate some 2 million euros to Italy’s artistic heritage it would make the cut.”
He’s recently embarked on a search to prove his Basilicata origins, with the help of Castellano, in order to apply for Italian citizenship by descent.
Chris has been collecting key documents on his ancestors, following a paper trail to find the birth certificates of his great-great grandfather from regional register offices, in order to tie these to him through the birth certificate of his mother. While his mother was Italian, Chris’ father was Polish-Lithuanian.
In the past, there were no register offices in deep Italy, so older birth certificates are usually found in parishes, monasteries and convents.
“Luckily Castellano knows several places where I can get access to all this information,” he says.
“The more my ancestry line dates back, higher are the chances of claiming my roots.”
He admits that he wishes he’d done more research into this process of obtaining residency in Italy earlier on.
While Americans with homes in Italy who don’t meet the visa requirements tend to go back and forth to the US to meet the 90-day stay rule, the family hopes to live in Latronico permanently.
“My advice to people who’d like to relocate to Italy is to make sure you have worked out how getting citizenship and visa work, that’s what may hold you up,” says Chris.
“Before buying the house, have a plan, look into various options to avoid head-splitting issues.”
He warns potential international buyers to make sure that they know exactly where they stand before embarking on a property hunt in Italy.
“Buying a house does not grant you the right to residency,” he says. “Without a visa, you can’t stay in Italy more than 90 out of 180 days, period.”
Despite the setbacks they’ve faced, the couple say they’ve been completely won over by Latronico and are looking forward to officially starting their lives in the town, however long that may take.
“We love the pace of living here… the afternoon siesta, the fresher, healthy veggies and fruits, and the delicious butcher shop close to our house,” says Chris.
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