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Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in Places and itineraries, Uncategorized | 37 comments

Abruzzo is the World’s Best Place to Retire…or maybe not (only)

Abruzzo is the World’s Best Place to Retire…or maybe not (only)


Apparently, Abruzzo has just made the list of the World’s Best Places to retire – there are just 21 of them in this list by the Huffington Post, although in no particular order. In fact, if you haven’t personally experienced all of them, it would make little sense to choose Belize or Panama or the Philippines or  the humble charms of Abruzzo…I think the list is more of a nice collection of postcards.

world best places to retire abruzzo

At a first glance, many of these places share the same characteristics: mild climate, uncontaminated nature, a mix of landscapes, low cost of living and a decent healthcare system (I guess this is more of a concern when you get to retirement age). I would say Abruzzo ticks all these boxes and few more (cue delicious food!).

I would like to know where the Abruzzo image the HuffPo chose comes from and which location it depicts- my guess is that the image comes from Barrea or some other small town around this pretty, green lake enclosed by mountains in the L’Aquila province, near the Cinquemiglia plateau.

world' best places to retire abruzzo old people

Elderly people in Abruzzo tend to live long and wel…I took these pictures in Bucchianico (Chieti province). In the lower right corner is of course my own Nonno at his favourite flower shop!

I have mixed feelings about the appearance of Abruzzo in the list of the World’s Best Place to Retire in a major international publication such as the HuffPo. On one hand, I am happy that more and more foreign people will get to know (and love) our region- which is very much the goal of the project. During the recent Blogaway “Let’s Blog Abruzzo” event, I was blown away by the passion with which people from the U.K., U.S. and further away have embrace the Abruzzo way of life, and can only be grateful for that. Sammy Dunham of LifeinAbruzzo is a wonderful example of someone who came from abroad and now understands and narrates Abruzzo even better that the locals!

On the other hand, though, looking at this Worl’s Best places for retirement list, I feel a sense of rejection. It would sadden me if Abruzzo came to be seen exclusively as a place for old people to retire, a sort of “golden sunset” paradise with closed enclaves for retirees from other countries- maybe with American supermarkets, like it happens in Spain with areas popular with British tourists.

find british brands in spain

This ad was in the Ryanair magazine…Ok, we all miss our “national food” a bit when abroad, but this is a bit too much for me. Also, most of this stuff is bad for you no matter where it comes from.

This type of situation, with people living in a place but with  little interest in the local culture, food and history, is not what I wish for my Abruzzo (or Belize, or Chile, or any other place for that matter). I’d really like to see young and old people, from Abruzzo and from elsewhere, thriving side by side.  With youth unemployment steadily at double digits since many years and many people my age moving to Northern Italy or abroad, this may seem more of a dream, but I still want to believe it’s possible.

I am sure that many people, local, italians and foreigners who love Abruzzo would like to see it a list of “The World’s Best Places to Live” (not just retire). What do you think? Let me know in the comments! 



  1. That is a huge compliment for a meek commentary with lots of helping hands thank you!

    Serena, I so agree, for all these places to survive they require a fine blend of generations living side by side who perhaps arent ‘local’ but who wish to integrate and want the best for the region rather than try and make it into a ‘Little Britain’ or US, and that is already happening even in Abruzzo in a couple of honey-trap towns.

    It requires services that really work so that companies feel confident in expanding in areas like this and where local ones are able to grow no matter how far up a mountain side they are. Being self employed as a part-time resident I know how hard and laborious it is work online with a weather temperamental & slow above land cabled adsl line.

    Pietracamela in Abruzzo is a good example of a beautiful large village that feels nothing more than a ghost town most of the year with hardly any locals, the majority of properties are owned not even by foreigners but Romans who come for weekends during the ski season and which sit shuttered the rest of the year. As far as I know there is just 1 child in the village, local services there will die as will the full-time community continues to diminish.

    Weve been sent comments a few times with ‘locals’ proclaiming that it is stranieri who are driving prices up so that nobody can afford to buy in the villages anymore. I have to disagree, many of the local children I know don’t want to remain here when the facilities and services and options are not the same as offered elsewhere in other places in wealthier Italy and elsewhere in Europe. I hope that Abruzzo’s little towns don’t become the same as Pietracamela or these honeytrap towns but for that, Italy and these other countries need a budget to invest in some sort of re-population scheme and which of them have the money for that?

    • Hi Sam, thanks a lot for your thoughtful comment. I must say I agree with you- especially concerning the terrible state of infrastructures and the impact this has on the prospects of people (young and old) of remaining in remote parts of the region. This starts with the internet connection and goes on and on… :(
      Pietracamela is an example, and the Castrovalva case we saw at Let’s Blog Abruzzo in another one. Agree again, I don’t think Italy has a country will have have money (or ability) to implement a re-population plan on a grand scale…I just hope better Internet connection and growing digital education will enable more young people to work remotely and come up with new jobs.

  2. We recently launched a new retirement site Retirement
    and Good Living, a new retirement site with information about travel,retirement locations, exercise, health, hobbies, volunteering and more.

    Many of the visitors to our site are interested in various vacation and retirement locations. We were wondering if you would be interested in guest posting on our site about life in Abruzzo. In exchange for posts
    we provide attribution in the form of a bio link that can contain any background information you would like to provide (including your photo, website address, email contact, business/publications info, etc.).

    Please let me know if you are interested.



    • My wife and I are interested inretiring in two years.

  3. So happy to see the picture of this piazza in Bucchianico! It’s the town where my paternal grandfather (Luigi Saraullo) was born. I’ve visited family there several times over the years…just lovely! Do you live in Bucchianico?

    Infatti, tutti i quattro nonni sono nati in Abruzzo, una a Francavilla, a great beach town! Spero di tornare presto.

    • Hi Carol, sorry for the late reply! Yes I like Bucchianico too, a lovely little village. I live not far away, on the coast in Silvia Marina.
      A friend manages a Museum of Olive Oil in Bucchianico, go visit it next time you’re there, it’s fascinating. Hope to see you soon back to Abruzzo! :)

  4. I also have mixed feelings about this article – well done Serena for flagging this up. Firstly because I think I read a similar article recently somewhere else and I got a sense of lazy journalism déjà-vu. I am very much in love with my beautiful Abruzzo but then I live, work and raise a family in the heart of an urban area; albeit a picturesque , medieval, urban area surrounded by mountains. So I’m not target market. What I do know is that many retirees seem to make a 180 degree turn from full-time working to permanent holiday, from urban to rural, from an English speaking environment to exclusively Italian (or even dialect), from busy, social lives to a fairly isolated existence. Often these people find that the change has been too extreme and ultimately they aren’t happy. Retirement isn’t all about tending your tomatoes and enjoying a sundowner – although I agree that Abruzzo is possibly the best place in the world for these two simple pleasures. Having a small, easy-to-care-for second home, at which you can spend several months a year is the best compromise. Upping sticks without a period of transition can lead to heart break. As you said, what we need here is young blood, whether new or existing, to inject some energy into our region. We will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if Abruzzo is seen as the region where life ambles by at a snail’s pace.

    • Such a good analysis, Katy – thanks for your comment. I agree with you, many retirees expats seem to underestimate the impact of such a big change. On the other hand, Abruzzo does need the resources brought my tourists and new residents (permanent of for a few months a year); but of course, the presence of young generations in Abruzzo will be vital to capitalise on these streams of resources. I am no poster girl for it as I live in London now, but luckily I see more and more people my age coming back…I hope it can become a trend.

    • Seems like an awesome place.

  5. you should know that this article is published by professional scammers in the hope of separating people from cash and should not be promoted in anyway, they are a husband and wife team with him concentrating on providing dubious pension investment advice and taking the money.. who is going to panama to get it back ,,, they use the blogging system to get more noticed .. her name is kathleen peddicord by the way .. hope you will remove this article once you check

    • Hi John, thanks for your comment. I am sorry to hear that there may be a dubious investment scheme behind the article referenced in the post, but honestly I don’t think my humble post could be in any way “promoting” an Huffington Post article as they are so much bigger. For me, it was just a prop for a general reflection about the perception of Abruzzo abroad, and the issues we are facing as a region with lack of economic growth and opportunities for the youth. Thanks for flagging though, I will avoid recommending the article further.

  6. Another one here with mixed feelings! I feel the reason our friends and neighbours welcome my family whenever we’re in Abruzzo is because to them we are new life. I love writing and Abruzzo, but part of the reason for my blog is to show others that Abruzzo is for young couples and/or families with young children, not just somewhere full of elderly Italians and retired ex-pats (not that anything wrong with either). The region needs just the right amount of tourism and, in my opinion, more people with young children moving there.

    • Absolutely agree with you Louisa! can I ask whereabouts in Abruzzo have you been? :)

  7. Hi, sorry, I meant to reply to this sooner. We have a place in Roccamontepiano. We know Serramonacesca, Mannopello, Lettomannopello, Bucchianico, Fara Filorium Petri, Pretoro, Pescara, Guardiagrele, Sulmona, Caramanico Terme, Roccacaramanico, Vasto and Francavilla so far. : )

    • ALl beautiful places! Most Abruzzese people born and bred wouldn’t know all of them ;) Hope you continue enjoying our region and perhaps to meet one day…

  8. Ciao Serena,
    I’ve just returned from my latest visit to Abruzzo and I’m so happy to discover your web site. It’s a wonderful project.

    This is such a thoughtful post. I spent many summers in Abruzzo ~ in Silvi Marina, in fact, where my family used to own a home. As a girl I never thought much about the fate of the little mountain towns that we passed on our way from Rome to Silvi ~ this was before the autostrada, and you had to take the strade statali to get to Silvi. I was just interested in getting to the beach! Now, of course, I have a completely different perspective. Over the last number of years, I’ve been taking my family back to Abruzzo and taking the time to visit the towns and villages and teach my kids about the region they “come from” (my mother is from Chieti). We stayed in Anversa and went up to Castrovalva, to Scanno and elsewhere around the Maiella and Gran Sasso. I had an interesting conversation with the guy who owns the biscotteria in Scanno about this very issue ~ how to bring life back to the mountain towns. He is all for tourism, but says that it won’t fix the problem, that what these towns need are people young and old living their lives there, just as you say. He has two young sons and is now teaching them his trade (or art, if you will).

    I am somewhat heartened and encouraged by people like him, who are committed to staying in these places ~ and by young people like your friend Francesca. I went to Francesca’s Cantina d’Arte in Bucchianico ~ it was a wonderful experience. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that I hope will ultimately make the difference.

    On another note, I can’t believe how much Silvi has changed over the decades. The town used to end at Expo 2000. And Citta’ Sant’Angelo was “in collina.” Now both towns are side by side and the area has been completely developed. I guess this is where the growth in Abruzzo has been happening?

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts.


    • Ciao Domenica, sorry it took me so long to come back to you…thanks for your kind words and for sharing your Abruzzo story. DO you know I am from Silvi Marina? It has changed a lot and not necessarily for the better, but it is still a great place for food and relax. It is true, the area of town where my family home is was called “la Sicilia” becuse it was far out, but now it’s in the centre – that’s how quickly Silvi has grown.
      Hope to meet you some time soon :) Serena

  9. who does not know the beautiful village of Pescocostanzo (AQ) does not know the Abruzzo

  10. I so agree with this article. I have been looking at Abruzzo as a region to move to not to retire to, although I am approaching retirement age. At 62 I still work full time earning lots in IT and my main hobby is racing cars. Abruzzo seems a wonderful place to live although my retirement needs are likely to be fast broadband, excellent mobile phone signal, and the odd motor racing tracks within 50 miles! I am now a single woman so will be looking to become an active part of a community. I have been looking at Tuscany too, but retiring there seems to have become a bit of a cliche. I live in Wales in the UK which has a similar problem of people retiring there – we too have beautiful (if sometimes cold and wet) scenery and we have many people with holiday homes who don’t integrate or embrace the Welsh culture. If I can find all I need in Abruzzo, I will be joining you in 2014. And bringing my small computer company with me looking for local IT experts to employ (if there is good broadband!)

    • Abruzzo sounds like a place I would like to go to and possibly move to for retirement. I have a small house painting company and would like to continue my business there but I don’t know if there is a demand for that sort of business in the Mountain region of Abruzzo. May be if you go there or find out more about the region you could correspond with me. It would be great to know someone their when I go as I am single and 59 years old.

    • I am very sorry I didn’t get to this before, life and work got in the way and I very much abandoned the blog. Sounds like you have an exciting life, Liz! Well fast broadband is not really a thing in Abruzzo, although it may be better in cities such as Pescara…It is not too hard to integrate with local culture I’d say if you make some effort to learn Italian, because well, most people just don’t speak English. Good luck!

    • Hi Liz,

      Just read your post and I could highly recommended Abruzzo as a retirement and a working region to live. I’m currently residing here and have been for six months, it’s beautiful diverse and rich in culture and things to do.

      The people so far have been extremely accommodating and Have always taken a great interest in foreigners. I will say one thing though… English Language isn’t widely spoken here so if you have the mustard to give Italian a shot you will be fine!

      Broadband is more than adequate depending on where you are. In the main towns and surround areas you more than likely to be having a 30mb connection. I am in the country surrounded by fields and scenery so I opted for Satalite broadband which was fairly cost effective and I have a 25mb connection. I work a graphic designer and lease with clients in London and it has held up just fine for video calls and conferences. Sending large design files hasn’t been a problem either.

      Feel free to get in-touch with me via email or phone, would be great to have a natter!

      T: +44 (0) 7813 838017

      Kind regards,
      James Rivera-Velez

  11. Hi Liz. I too am single and have been contemplating visiting Abruzzo. I am 58 and live in Iowa, US. I know a little about IT but not an expert. It would be nice to correspond with you in the future.

  12. Our entire family (my wife and i; three adult children, two spouses, and five young grandchildren ) is interested in migrating from the US to Abruzzo. A simple, family oriented life in a friendly, secure environment is the goal. We are all professionals and well educated. Can you suggest some towns? Schools, good food, wine, and beautiful space are important. We are all Catholic, so proximity to Church is important. Thanks! !

    • I am very sorry I didn’t get to this before, life got in the way and I very much abandoned the blog. I hope you have found more info in the meantime? I would say, proximity to a Church is pretty much everywhere in Italy, but maybe you should look at which ones have more of a thriving community – by and large, I think small towns in the hills/mountains may be more quaint and safe, but the downside would be a bit of isolation…say compared to the coast cities. Schools are the same everywhere I’d say, but it depends on the age of the children – not every town has “scuola superiore” (high school) so they may need to move somewhere else. Do you guys speak Italian?

  13. Really nice to read great comments about Abruzzo. Two and a half years ago my wife and I bought a small house in a hill town not far from the sea initially as a holiday home. Now in our 50′s we decided to emigrate from England to Abruzzo and have been living, not retiring, here for just six weeks. For the last few yesrs we have had a deep realistic love of our town and area. Hopefully the following is useful advice:
    1/. Throw away all those ‘living and working in Italy’
    . ‘cut and paste’ books…yes they do all read the same once decoded. Garbage. . like ” 3 months to get Residenza and ID cards “, it took us (in our Comune) just 5 weeks.
    “You must have Residenza and ID to buy
    an Italian registered car”. ..err no, the car sales dealer did it all for us on a Codice Fiscali (tax code) and utility bills plus a letter from the Comune saying we are paying property tax.
    2/. Handle ALL Italian estate agents with a very very long stick including those with a UK ‘front end’. They are only meant to charge about 4% commission to the Buyer and Seller. Just watch them ask you for more than that brought over fron the UK in brown envelopes. It has happened to us twice. They even counted it in the office of the Notary.
    3/. Never ever sign any Contracts with Builders (especially UK ones) or a Geometra (Surveyor). We English/Americans think we are ensuring they do the job….wrong…they will do no work or very bad work and then screw you to hell and back if you try to stop the contract because their work is ‘not fit for purpose’. No Anglo legal system here.

    3/. Get any house purchase documentation translated by an Independent translator who can be in the Notary meeting with you. Do not use the Translator attached to the Agent. We were lucky…just lucky..ours helped us ‘under the radar’ of her boss.
    If you are at all worried about the Notary process you can always hire an Avvocato to represent you in the meeting. In buying a very small house we were charged €700.

    4/. Starting a business (or bringing one over (like me). Get a good Commercialista (Solicitor-Accountant) they will give you advice and they can also organise the Codice Fiscali for you. Not sure how to find one ? Go to the Comune office and ask for the Ufficio Commerciale. It might only consist of one person but they should know of a Commercialista in town.Always go to the Comune office before most small towns everything closes in the afternoon.

    5/. The best thing we did was to make friends (Australian-Italian and American-Italian) in town and learnt of a small part time builder the locals all use. .the second was to live in the Centro Historico..not in an ex-pat area in the countryside. Our Italian friends in town have helped us with everything because we live right in there with them.

    6/. Don’t wear or buy a white Panama hat…otherwise people like me will have escape to the Molise. Anyway, all the Italians around here have their own word for ‘plonker’. Go to Chiantishire (Tuscany to our US cousins).

    Come here to live, work (even part time), be part of the local community, learn Italian (even a little and badly), … not come here to do the ex-pat, gin and tonic drunken stupor y
    thing…its a pure waste..

    I am not a re-location professional I am just voicing our experience.

    Good luck !

    • Great post, Clive. Which villages are best for a 40 year old, single, gay man?

      I would appreciate any advice from gay westerners living in Abruzzo.

      • I am very sorry I didn’t get to this before, life got in the way and I very much abandoned the blog. Rafaele, to be honest I don’t think Abruzzo is especially gay friendly, as most of Central-Southern Italy…I am not proud to say so, but our culture is very much shaped by Catholic tradition and homophobia is a thing. That said, this does not mean you can’t find perfectly lovely people who would not bat an eyelid, but I would say it is more an exception than a rule.

        • is this still the case in Abruzzo even after the gay marriage passed? I understand that homophobia is the case in many places in Italy or even in New York or London but That said, I have friends in the south of italy and the gay scene is pretty big and welcoming. The thing is not to be openly-in-your-face-gay over there.

    • Hi Clive, I am very sorry I didn’t get to this before, life got in the way and I very much abandoned the blog. Great info you are posting here and I hope other people found it useful I must say though, my Dad is a Geometra (Surveyor) and he’s not such a fraud ;) In fact, he has in the past helped a few British people with their relocation and they were all pretty happy.
      Definitely with you though on the point of not act like you’re in “Chiantishire”…Abruzzo is definitely NOT the white Panama hat type of place :)
      Hope you’re still enjoying life there.

  14. Hi, I my wife and three children plan to spend one year in Abruzzo region. Which place anyone could reccomend with good internet connection and school for my 7 year old son? any feedback would be appreciated.

  15. Sorry I have not replied to some of the posted comments. Had a little health scare. However I found a 59 page Abruzzo Region health document, on-line, in English, detailing a whole mass of health services. On that subject, we know someone here who has had open-heart surgery in Abruzzo and there good Oncology services here too.
    There was an earlier question about gay friendly villages from Rafaele. Actually I think that basically it is about just how friendly the place is anyway to people generally. They can differ greatly and actually our town of Scerni (CH) is pretty good. Everyone here has been friendly to us, those who aren’t happy souls are that way to fellow Italians too.So, I would say thaf if you are gay..bless you (I mean that literally) not worry…they will leave you to live what ever life you want behind closed doors…gay or straight. Sure…if you hold hands or kiss in public…they will definitely gossip. As a Catholic I can tell you that there will not be a burning cross nailed on your door!! They live as it should be lived…and if you smile and are friendly and care about people you will be absolutely fine.
    We were asked for a lift in our car by one of those much fabled ‘ladies in black’, she was 80 plus and quite non-ambulant ….but she had to get to the post office. She wouldn’t have worried if we were gay or straight… She just needed help. That’s my point.
    Now, I must apologise if I was a bit hard on the Geometra profession but, you know, the good ones (and, yes, there are some) need to regulate out all the bad ones that take a % from builders they recommend to their clients. My suggestion is that the Abruzzo regional government should have a public registar for both the Geometra and Agent professions. I really mean ‘public’ …on the Internet in at least four western European languages. (a little hidden worry in there about some of Mr Putin’s ‘cash buyer’ friends). There should be a Code Of Conduct and on-line reporting procedures that potentially could result in the offending professional being struck of the Register. Yes, I know there is some sort of licensing system but it is in Italian, not on-line and hardly transparent with no visible complaints system to other Europeans. If you can get past the ‘Wild West’ that is the world of house buying here (good Cowboys, bad Cowboys) you will never ever regret it.
    I feel spiritually free here and physically free. It really is about… life is for living. I have my business based here but I work to pay the bills. We certainly do not in any way live to work. Leave all that behind in the UK, USA..wherever.
    By the way, a little foot note, there is a sort of ‘University of the 3rd Age’ going on around here with a comprehensive range of activities’ . It has taken us 8 months to start discovering these things. Sorry….I could ramble on for hours about this ‘Heaven on Earth’.

    • Hi Clive,

      I’ve just discovered this site. I’m looking to return to Europe – presently in Thailand – and the Abruzzo is on my radar.

      I’ve just turned 62 and want to have an activity for many years to come.

      I’ve restored old stone houses in France and Spain and run them as BnBs, so I’m experienced in both building and hospitality.

      I speak French, Spanish, and some Portuguese, so Italian won’t be an obstacle.

      My plan is to have a property where I could let part as Air BnB type accommodation.

      This leads to my question. Are you able to recommend an estate agent? If so, I wonder if you could drop me a line at – hope you can help :)

      Best wishes,


  16. Hello. Recently, an article in the Dallas Morning News titled “Retirement / Living Abroad, Paradise found?” caught my eye. Abruzzo, Italy was listed at number 5 as one of the top five spots beckon retirees to live abroad. Lord willing I would like to retire completely at the age of 62. Between now and then, my spouse and I would like to visit Abruzzo and see for ourselves. Can you give me any information on year round weather, renting a vehicle during our visit, hotel or motel prices for a two weeks, and any other info you would consider helpful. Your help would be greatly appreciated.

  17. Just came across your thoughts on Abruzzo and couldn’t agree more. My parents are from villages close to Sulmona (I know, there are many) and so I ventured from Canada to learn more about our roots and to meet relatives. I fell in love instantly with the region and have been returning almost yearly. In a few years I retire and am hoping to spend half my year ongoingly in this gem. Like you, I desperately hope that the flavour of Abruzzo is not tainted: that its culture, food, traditions, language and dialects, along with its landscape, architecture, and beaches do not become sullied by those who don’t want to meld but would rather “vacation” with their conveniences and comforts surrounding them. Abruzzo is my second home, a home rich in an earthy glorious lifestyle I hope to enjoy more regularly soon!

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