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The pandemic-imposed no-travel period has prompted an American couple to rethink their lives and retire to sunny southern Italy.
Seventysomethings Glenda and Randy Tuminello retired from Spokane, Washington, in December 2022 to Polignano a Mare, a dazzling whitewashed town perched on a cliff in the Puglia region, known for its stunning beaches and turquoise waters.
They say the outbreak of the pandemic has forced them to reconsider their long-term life projects and look for a tax-friendly place where they can make the most of their Italian dream.
“We had originally planned (before Covid-19) to spend a year in Italy, to celebrate retirement. “But then Covid hit, and during those two years of not traveling, we started rethinking our original plans,” says Glenda Tominello, a former math teacher. High school senior and home designer, told CNN Travel.
“We decided to sell our house, our car and all our redundant possessions and make Italy our forever home. We chose the beautiful Polignano a Mare, which offered a flat tax rate of 7% – introduced by the government to attract foreign retirees.
Other plus points were the wonderful historic center of the city, the friendly residents, the seaside location with wonderful and unique views – as well as the very affordable lifestyle.
“We don’t need a car here. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from the train station that can take us anywhere we want to go in Italy, as well as any European country we want to visit,” she says.
The couple has made new friends, including other American residents, and love Polignano’s festive atmosphere with the celebrations and music always going on in the picturesque squares.
“Locals bring their lawn chairs at night to the park area on the banks of the Adriatic Sea to sit, talk, visit and laugh into the late hours of the night. It’s so beautiful, so upbeat, so family-oriented. We never feel anything but safe here – (no There is no threat of danger while walking through the beautiful streets at night.”
The Tuminellos moved to a beautiful house in the center of Polignano.
Randy Tumminello, a former architectural consulting principal, had another lineage lure: His grandparents immigrated to the United States from the Sicilian fishing village of Cefalu in the early 1900s, settling in Louisiana.
My roots were a big factor in choosing Italy. It’s like coming home, and we feel more at home here than we did in the States. Then again, my wife is Italian at heart and loves everything Italian.
The couple looked at different regions in southern Italy that offer a flat 7% tax on new retired immigrants, before choosing Puglia.
The house they are renting, located in the historic center of Polignano, costs $1,200 a month. They saw the ad online and it was love at first sight. The house was perfect – down to the smallest detail. It was partially furnished, including cutlery.
“We were going to buy it at first, but now with the economic uncertainty, it was better to rent it,” Randy Tumminello says. “The decision was made at the right time as rents are now skyrocketing, and the homes for sale are expensive as there are only a few of them and most are considered B&Bs.”
The rented house came semi-furnished.
The two-bedroom house has an office, a spacious dining room, a balcony, a front porch with a small garden and another covered deck area where the Tuminellos enjoy their morning coffee.
It is a typical white stone house set in a picturesque winding alley, with an arched gate entrance, vaulted ceilings, terracotta floors and thick walls dotted with jutting rocks.
Randy Tumminello says their “overriding desire” to move to Polignano a Mare came from their preference for Italian culture over American culture.
“The material aspect is not as prevalent in Polignano as it is in the United States, and there is a greater sense of community – of family and friends,” he says.
Although they left behind children and grandchildren at home, the couple says their new life is comfortable and lacks nothing. All they have to do is make sure they have a good time every day – as if they were on vacation. Going out to dinner and taking an evening walk along the promenade overlooking the Adriatic Sea are some of their favorite activities.
Despite living on the coast, the couple are not beachgoers. Despite spending nearly a year in Polignano, they have yet to go to the town’s small beach, which is surrounded by cliffs like a fjord, nor have they enjoyed a gentle swim in the transparent sea – which the Tominello family prefers to enjoy from afar.
Michal Ludwiczak/iStockPhoto/Getty Images
Polignano is a famous beautiful seaside town.
But the charm of southern Italy comes with challenges – like when they had to fix their air conditioning one hot summer day.
The unexpected high temperatures in southern Italy are too much even for Louisiana natives. Last summer, the heat prevented them from moving and carrying out their daily plans – and they had to go out early in the morning when the weather was still bearable.
And they’re missing some American foods, like barbecue sauce, peanut butter, and lemon curd — although they found a place in Polignano where they can get some American seasoning.
The language barrier is also a problem. Glenda Tumminello believes they need to learn Italian to show respect to the locals. As it is, when they go to the grocery store to buy pecorino cheese, they are always afraid that they are not ordering the right amount, which ultimately leads to them getting too much or too little. They also get lost in translation at the yogurt shop.
One positive thing the Tominello family has noticed is the amazing driving skills of the Southern Italians who always “stop on a dime.”
Glenda Tumminello says moving to Italy was simply “one of those no-brainers that you’d better pounce on while you can!”
This is because the couple was supported throughout the entire relocation process and by Finding La Dolce Vita, an Italy-based company that helps potential expatriates.
“There is a lot of work that goes into legal preparations in Italy if you actually want to live there,” says Glenda Tumminello.
The couple applied for an optional residence visa, which requires a passive income of €38,000 ($40,700) per couple. There were a lot of hoops to jump through.
“It took nearly a year to complete all the required background paperwork. We wanted to do it right the first time,” she says.