Enjoying a Dream Life for Less on Italy’s Famed Amalfi Coast
In 2006, I took my first trip to Italy, visiting the renowned city of Florence. At the time, I was an aspiring New York City event planner. However, eager to explore Italy, I decided to accept a position with a tour operator that assists American university students on their travels. I departed New York thinking I would stay for only 85 days and then return home. Little did I know that the trip would change my life forever.
After this experience, I was completely enamored with the country. I applied for dual citizenship, which I qualified for through my grandmother, and moved back to Florence. Initially, I split my time between working at a restaurant and tour company. Fast forward to 2020 and I own an Italian travel agency. This allows me to divide my time equally between New York and Italy.
Of the approximately six months a year I remain in Italy, I spend two to three months in my base on the Amalfi Coast and the remaining time traveling throughout the country conducting research for my company. Although my love of Italy began in Florence, I chose to live in the south because of the stunning Mediterranean views, the warmth of the people, and the laidback pace of daily life. I also find the cost of living to be lower.
The greater affordability in the south of Italy is in part a reflection of the simplicity of daily life here. For me, this simplicity is one of the core reasons I chose to spend half my time in Italy. Some of the others are:
The food: In New York, I am always searching for organic and fresh produce. Here organic is not a branding gimmick; it’s a way of life. Near my home, I have a vegetable market that is restocked daily with local produce, a bakery that produces bread and pastries every morning, and a butcher’s, cheese shop, and fish market. The offerings in all these stores are not only fresh but also affordable. My daily cup of freshly brewed coffee, for instance, costs just over $1.
Staying active: I chose to base myself in an area where I could easily access public transport or walk to most locations. I am also surrounded by hiking trails and outdoor activities. Steps away from my apartment I have the mountains and the sea. These natural treasures allow me to exercise daily, which keeps my mind and body healthy.
Festivals and events: Italy is known for its celebrations. From regional festivities honoring local saints to national holidays and events, you will regularly see fireworks, parades, and traditional gatherings (pre-COVID-19). I love that people here understand the importance of passing down customs. Even during this unprecedented time, many villages have kept celebrations going in ways that are socially distanced and safe. It’s inspiring and motivating to see communities come together like this.
The August holiday: During the month of August, many companies in Italy close. These closures can last anywhere from one week to 30 days and are based around the Aug. 15 holiday, Ferragosto.
Italians take this break seriously. Friends and families spend most of their days at their summer home or out in the fresh air enjoying lunch and the beautiful weather, allowing them to recharge completely. One aspect I appreciate most about Italians is their mentality, especially with regards to taking time off. They tend not to focus on how much work they will face when they return, but rather all that they achieved before the break. It’s a healthy attitude…one we should all seek to emulate.
My split lifestyle allows me to maintain a foothold in New York while still enjoying a traditional life in Italy. Being in Italy for half the year not only makes my life more affordable, but has proved hugely beneficial to my well-being and personal growth. Looking back, I view that first trip to Italy as the best decision I ever made.
By Cassandra Santoro