With only four suitcases and some retirement money in their pockets, a couple from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, searched for a new home more than 4,000 miles away in the countryside of Italy.
John Sares Jr. is a retired 67-year-old musician and restaurant owner who now lives in Assisi, Italy, with his wife. He regrets nothing about leaving America.
Sares’ former life in America and new life these last seven years in Italy have allowed him to recognize the differences between the two countries.
Sares stresses in particular the difference in healthcare costs between the two countries. One might think that because healthcare in Italy is free, it may be less efficient, but Sares insists that is not the case. He said he spent nearly $1,500 per year on prescriptions in Boston.
“It costs us about $120 a month. The exact same prescription, the same product. And that pharmacy right there,” he says as he points at the farmacia, “13 Euro. [I] can’t afford not to move here,” he adds.
Another difference is the cost of living. A monthly mortgage payment for Sares in Cape Cod ran over $2,000. The three- bedroom, two-full bath apartment where he and his wife now live in Assisi is just over $600 a month.
The apartment came fully furnished, including convenient items such as silverware and televisions. And the view from both balconies in this medieval town in Umbria beats his Cape Cod house.
While the couple’s decision was somewhat financially based, they also took into account the social aspects of living on the European continent while being retired.
Sares loves that he can travel Europe quickly and inexpensively from Italy in comparison to traveling from America. For example, flights out of the closest airport, Perugia, are available to London for 12 Euros.
The life expectancy of Assisi’s residents is much longer than those of Americans. According to Statistica, as of 2020, the region of Umbria has the longest predicted life expectancy of the entire Italian peninsula.
The city is known to be the home of many older residents, as Sares claimed he is the “kid” of the town at age 67.
“And the people live here to be 1,000 years. I swear there’s one guy I know, I think he was one of the waiters at the Last Supper,” Sares chuckled.
Assisi’s close knit community has allowed Sares and his wife to acclimate to Italy in a way they could not in the United States. There is a population of ex-pats (American citizens who have moved to a new country). The couple formed a relationship with the other expats and frequently gathers for meals, concerts, conversation, and drinks.
These relationships have allowed Sares the opportunity to show off his musical talents at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi every Sunday for service.
Sares said that the city is very safe and has little to no crime. He never locks his car door and keeps his wallet in his back pocket, which is an invitation for pickpockets in large cities like Boston and Rome.
The town itself is very slow-paced. Store owners close shop for a few hours to take lunch with friends or nap. “Oh, every day I take a nap. Oh, yeah. I put on the sports channel and sleep,” said Sares.
Sares feels as though there is something in the air of Assisi that makes life brighter. “Just smile. I can’t help but smile, smile a lot.”