We purchased our motor home December 2016, though I’m willing to wager that the reasoning behind our purchase is unique. He has become our passion, although it had never crossed our minds that we would fall in love with travelling in this manner. Along with two dogs and the occasional cat.
We have lived in Le Marche, Central Italy since 2007. It’s a lesser known region than for example, Tuscany, but it’s no less beautiful. We are equidistant between the Sibillini Mountains and the Adriatic Coast, so it’s win-win all year round. We live in a tiny little casa which we bought from a tiny old Italian woman called Ida. She was 96 when we met her and had lived here for fifty years. She obviously loved the place as much as we came to. It’s not what you think. We don’t have a fancy kitchen or bathroom. We live on the first floor – the animals used to reside beneath us. And no, we don’t have a swimming pool. Firstly, because our land slopes down to the woods. Secondly, it would be too expensive to build and to run. And thirdly, because we have a little communal pool just down the road, open during the hottest months of July and August. We live a basic life, growing our own vegetables, learning the feisty language, navigating our way through the Italian bureaucracy and being grateful for the excellent healthcare. We love our simple life, we’d rid ourselves of the shackles of a life filled with debt and lived to our means for the first time.
However, our little safe haven of nine years was violently tested on the 24 August 2016. It was the middle of the traditional Italian holiday, Ferragosta, when many Italians escape from the cities to their family owned homes in the country. Two large earthquakes struck in the early hours of the morning forcing ourselves and our temporary neighbours outside. It was the most frightening time we ever had the misfortune to experience. But we were two of the lucky ones, around 300 people died, the majority in the village of Amatrice.
Whilst we tried to settle back into our daily routine the continued tremors tested our sanity. Then three more struck in October, the fiercest on the 30th, just when the clocks had turned back and we were enjoying the extra hour in bed. Unprecedented. Thousands of people were displaced, sleeping in sports halls with very little space or privacy and not knowing if they’d be able to return to their homes. As we travelled about on our daily business we noticed the appearance of motor homes, caravans and even tents positioned outside houses, because people felt safer outside. Our house suffered some minor damage, we were fortunate. But close friends were not so lucky. They lost their home and their business. Despite our ‘safe’ house, built into rock and one of the oldest properties in the small hamlet where we live, we felt displaced. Emotionally displaced. We’d fallen out of love with the very place that had made our life what it was.
Our very loose plans of one day hiring a motor home for a holiday turned into a more pressing need and we booked a house sitter to look after our myriad animals and travelled to the UK for two weeks in December. We had exhausted all avenues of buying one here, they were in short supply, obviously due to demand and the cost had risen sharply. Luckily our house sitter originated from California, well known for its seismic activity and therefore not an issue.
Many of our friends and family wished us to come ‘home’ and we understood their concern. We were home, albeit less sure of our physical and mental security. A motor home seemed to be the answer and we’d have something to use for pleasure. Time spent looking at potential options before we left for the UK proved to be a bonus and we prioritised four or five vans to view as suiting our needs. The friendly motor home community was invaluable in helping us work through a major decision that deserved more time. We didn’t hesitate after our first viewing and 24 hours after touching down in the UK we had bought a 2009 Chausson Welcome. The only deciding factors were; it was left hand drive and had a fixed bed.
By Christmas Eve we had returned home, having spent our first two nights in the van, motorway ‘camping’ and getting used to driving a vehicle considerably bigger than our car.
Since then we have spent three nights in the van parked at home, as during heavy snowfall in January 2017, two more earthquakes struck during the day. We had just dug out the van, scooping over a metre height of snow all around it to get access. Call it serendipity but already our decision had shown its worth.
Many friends here have houses that are inhabitable, hundreds of locals are unable to return to their homes or businesses. Le Marche depends on tourism to bolster its economy and it still produces 70% of the beautiful Italian leather shoes you buy.
So, if you’re travelling to Italy, please make a point of visiting Le Marche, enjoying the wonderful food and meeting the Marchigani people who are proving their resilience.
For us? We’ve travelled to Gibraltar, France and Spain and spent time in the UK, in Ireland and Scotland. Often we travel with our Springer Spaniels, Nell and Scooby and have even taken our quake kitten, Pootie, which we rescued from Amatrice. This major purchase couldn’t have been made without the generosity of my late Dad, Bob, and I know he will travels with us in spirit.
It has taken time to trust the odd rumble of a lorry on the main road, or the rush of wind through the trees and the regular tremors which happen on a regular basis. And we have learnt to love again.
Home is now something we take with us in our hearts, not bricks and mortar.