Kel Galloway has been renovating a palazzo and enjoying a simpler life with her husband in the town of Stimigliano.
1. When did the idea of moving to Italy first arrive for you?
I started thinking about it way back in 1998 when I got a copy of Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer’s Tuscan Cookbook for Mother’s Day, but I always assumed it would be really expensive to live here.
2. When did the idea turn into the actual decision to move
I was looking at properties for sale in France out of curiosity one day back in 2014 but nothing impressed me, and then I happened to find a villa in Italy for sale amongst them and couldn’t believe how cheap it was... in Italy. So I started looking at a few more properties for sale in Italy and right away I knew. I started planning to move in earnest from then on and I enrolled in a bachelor of languages majoring in Italian in 2015.
3. How long did it take to then move here once the decision was made?
Initially my whole family was planning on coming across, and we made an offer to buy a place in early 2016, but then my son separated with his partner and what ended up being a 2 1/2 year custody battle began over their daughter, and things obviously got far more complicated after that. We ended up canceling the purchase of the place we’d found, and I didn’t do anything more concrete about it for a couple of years.
In 2018 I found and fell in love with an amazing 16th century palazzo in a little seaside Calabrian town and spent two months living in the town to get a feel for it; but, after the sale of my house back in Australia fell through, the palazzo ended up getting taken off the market, and I didn’t want to do anything else about moving until I’d sold my house in Australia.
I finally sold my house in December, 2019, and, after months of delays in settlement due to covid, it eventually settled in late June, 2020. I arrived in Rome on July 27th, 2020, and two weeks later, on my first day out of quarantine, I visited Palazzo Menichelli in the little Lazio town of Stimigliano, and the next day I signed the contract to buy it. I moved in barely a month later, on September 15th.
4. Can you paint a picture of how you felt about finally living here in Italy?
I cried a lot; I’d cry whenever I looked at Palazzo Menichelli, I’d cry when I watched a sunrise or a sunset, I’d cry when I looked across a valley or down an ancient street, and I’d cry when one of our Italian neighbors did some ridiculously kind gesture that nobody had ever done before. I still cry a lot.
5. What do you do here in Italy, do you work/have your own business?
For the past two years I’ve been renovating Palazzo Menichelli in preparation to open three of the bedrooms as B&B accommodation and the main ground floor cellar as a home restaurant, and in the meantime I’ve been living off the occasional sale of some of my old store stock from an online designerwear resale store I ran part time for many years back in Australia.
6. What were your top two greatest challenges when you first moved here? How did you get over them?
The language has always been my biggest battle. I’m so glad I studied it for all those years, because it would have been so much harder building a life here without that; but although I get by ok with written stuff, my Italian ‘ear’ is still not great, and I often struggle to understand what the locals are saying to me.
The other thing I’ve struggled with a lot has been learning to relinquish my sense of being able to ‘control’ everything. Back in Australia I was self employed most of my life and I lived a very self sufficient and self reliant life. But here I’m a foreign language speaking expat; part of a relatively small minority group, and so many things are done so differently here to what they were back in Australia. So relinquishing that sense of self control and accepting that I’m going to be flying blind a lot of the time was very hard for me to learn.
7. What is something that has surprised you the most about what you love about living in Italy?
That I’m quite so darn happy living on a relatively small income and spending a whole lot of my time hanging around at home and doing not particularly much at all.
8. Is there anything that you would do differently here, if you had your time over?
Honestly, not really; there’ve been some tough learning curves here and there along the way, but they’ve all taught me a lot, and I love that and wouldn’t have it any other way.
9. What is the strangest thing about Italian culture that you thought you would never get used to but now couldn't live without?
An expat friend said to me soon after I arrived that here in Italy we plan four or five things for the day, but then we’re grateful if, in the end, we get one or two of them done. And at the time I thought she was crazy. I’ve always been very ambitious and driven, and have prided myself on getting maximum mileage out of every day. Now, two years in since I moved here, I plan four or five things for the day, but then I’m grateful if, in the end, I get one or two of them done... and here, in this life in this country, I wouldn’t want it any other way.
10. Give us a run-through of your favourite Italian day.
I get up in the morning around 8am, some 2-3 hours later than I got up in the morning for the preceding 56 years, and spend the next few hours responding to messages and getting work done around the palazzo; and then I head up onto the rooftop terrace with my husband and our two greyhounds around midday, and that’s it... we just spend the rest of the day chatting, laughing, listening to music, watching the ever changing and ever wonderful view, drinking the wonderful tasting and embarrassingly cheap local wine, and, ideally, eventually cooking dinner on our rooftop brazier/bbq, before watching the sunset and finally wandering downstairs to bed