Tuesday, June 05, 2007

This is Our Story

This is the story of how two fifty-somethings retired, sold our home, put all our belongings in storage, applied for and were granted the proper Visa and went to live in Italy.

We’re not rich. We did it on a firefighter’s pension. We lived cheaply and simply. We didn’t buy and restore a great old villa in the hills of Tuscany. We rented furnished apartments in four different regions. We weren’t fluent in Italian but we studied hard and were able to communicate and make friends.

We weren’t just lucky. We worked hard to make it happen. We had a dream and we pursued it. This is our story. Complete with our photographs and watercolors of the places we lived and visited and the things we did and how we did it.

To jump into the stories, click on one of the archives to the right side of this page. You are welcome to start at the beginning and work your way through or pick a date and see where we were!

Here’s a brief index to help you navigate a bit:

January 2005: Planning and Dreaming
March to April 2005: Our “Farewell Tour of America”
April to December 2005: Perugia, Umbria, Tuscany and central Italy
December 2005 to June 2006: Marina di Ragusa and the island of Sicily
June to November 2006: Verona and northern Italy
November 2006 to April 2007: Vietri sul Mare, Amalfi Coast & the south

Our Travel Art is for Sale

We do hope you will take the time to visit our website, but in the meantime, to view some of the watercolors, on this blog, search "watercolors" on the top left corner of this page and scroll. As with the paintings, Bob's photos are sprinkled throughout the pages of this blog, or search "images".

Below are some examples of our “Live Cheap & Make Art“ travel art - the watercolors, photographs & prints from our adventures. Most of the images posted throughout this blog are available for purchase - Bob's photos and my watercolors – either as originals or as archival, limited edition Giclée prints in different sizes. Some paintings have already been sold! Send us your email address in a comment if you have questions on how to buy anything you see here. We will also be taking part in art shows and festivals in coastal Delaware this year and hope to expand that in the future. For a list of upcoming events, visit our website Live Cheap and Make Art Studios. As with our dream of living in Italy, we are putting one foot in front of the other & going where they lead. Thanks for coming along!

Rosemary's Watercolors & Giclée Prints

Ristorante Fontanella di Porta Sole, Via delle Prome, Perugia

Via Carmelo, Acate, Sicily

Bob's Digital Photographic Prints

Little Saint, Good Friday, Enna, Sicily

The Screamer, Scicli, Sicily

Thanks for visiting!

Rosemary & Bob Connelly
Milford, Delaware
June 2007 (updated February 2008)

If you'd like to read about our life and travels in America visit our new blog at: www.livecheapmakeartUSA.blogspot.com

Our Backstory 6.05.07

Here’s the “Backstory”:

In April of 2005 my husband Bob and I embarked on our great adventure. We sold our home in Phoenix, Arizona and put into storage what remained of our belongings after selling, giving away and tossing what we considered unnecessary, with the goal of simplifying our lives. Bob had retired from the Tempe Fire Department in 1999 after 25 years and for the next 5 years taught photography at Westwood High School in nearby Mesa, Arizona. When he announced he was ready to retire again I jumped at the chance to join him and resigned from my job as senior graphic designer after working in that field for over 20 years. Bob wanted to devote himself to his photography and I longed to develop my watercolor style further and to paint every day.

In recent years we had watched too many of our friends and relatives close to our ages succumb to cancer or heart attacks cutting short their lives before they could enjoy retirement or see their children grow to maturity. We dreamed of retiring and traveling while we were still relatively young and healthy. Life was too short we decided, to put off our dreams. The time had come to make it happen.

We wanted to live in a foreign country and view the world from another perspective. We wanted to live a simpler life, not filled with stuff, but full of experiences: learning to speak a second language and exploring new places. After vacationing in Europe a few times, Italy won our hearts. Our two or three week vacations never seemed enough time and we always came away wanting more. My grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Sicily and the Naples area at the turn of the 19th century and I longed to search out those roots, walk where they walked, feel connected to my ancestry in a very real way.

I should also tell you that we are not wealthy. We have a modest pension from Bob’s years with the fire department and a very small nest egg. I will have a small pension but that won’t kick in for a few years, when we will both be eligible to receive Social Security. We knew we would have to live within a tight budget but after researching quite a bit, talking to expatriates, (www.expatsinitaly.com) and looking at the cost of living in Italy, we decided it was doable.

I had started taking Italian language classes a few years earlier, before our 2003 trip to Tuscany and Umbria. We both enrolled in classes and studied in earnest for over a year prior to leaving Phoenix. If I could do anything differently I would start sooner and study harder. Maybe get a private tutor and try to be more fluent before packing up and moving. But we also planned to take classes at the Università per Stranieri, the foreign language school in Perugia and hoped that by having to use what we learned, we would improve. Immersion in the culture made a difference but we also struggled for understanding and would recommend to anyone thinking of doing what we did, to work harder sooner.

We spent a good year preparing all the necessary paperwork and applying for a long-stay “elective residency” visa from the Italian consulate. We worked really hard to make this happen but it was absolutely worth it, start to finish.

To read about our adventures and see our photos and watercolors, we invite you to peruse the archives at the right side of this page. Thanks for stopping by!

Rosemary & Bob