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Jill Pennington, Emilia Romagna region

My name is Jill Pennington, I am 44 and have been living in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy for 8 years. I was born in Holmfirth West Yorkshire.

My husband and I decided after renovating a house in the UK that we would like to try out a renovation project abroad and we thought as our children were so young 5, 8 and 10 that it would be a good opportunity for them to experience a new culture.
We contacted a few estate agents in different areas of Italy and spent a week viewing properties; we came back over to Italy 3 times before we found the right place. The right place for us was a derelict farm (2 houses) in the middle of a field.

We had help and support from the estate agent so the buying process was fairly smooth.Although the hiring and firing of builders was not so easy, we did eventually get one of our houses ready to live in and after living in rented accommodation for the first six months we moved into our own place in January 2005 with the intention to extend the second house into a family home and rent out the smaller cottage as a holiday let.

Where we live is very rural and rustic and so far is still fairly undiscovered by the tourists, there are only a handful of Brits living here but probably around 15 British families who have holiday homes. I manage property for some who rent their houses out, as well as cleaning I do decorating and D:I:Y jobs, meet and greet the clients and solve any problems they may have while they are visiting Italy.

When our family arrived here were welcomed from day one by the locals and made friends with neighbours straight away. We soon became part of the community. The children integrated very easily which was a relief. All three attended the same school initially so they supported each other, though with only 38 children in the school it was more like becoming part of a large family rather than joining a school, the bus driver knew everyone by name and came right to the front door to collect them.

I love living here because it is beautiful, quiet, calm unspoilt countryside, fantastic views and a good balance of weather. I love the winters just as much as the summers. Lighting the wood fired oven and getting all cosy when there is a metre of snow outside is just as much a pleasure as spending long summer evenings sat under a tree with a glass of wine and a good book.

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I don’t really miss anything from my UK life apart from people, fortunately quite a few come over to visit and I go back about once a year to catch up with people. And yes I have been known to fill my pockets with Cadburys chocolate at the airport on the way back.

This region is the food capital of Italy so we are spoilt, Parma ham, parmesan cheese, balsamic vinegar to mention just a few that originate from here. As it’s not very touristy here the restaurants are very good value for money, a three course lunch with wine and coffee can be had for €15 in some places.

For anyone considering a move abroad I would say always try to learn the language for a year before you make the move and when you live here don’t treat it like a holiday. Set yourself a monthly budget and stick to it as it is very easy to spoil your children when the sun’s shining!

I kept a track of my monthly spending in the UK for a few months before I left then did the same over here to see how it compared.
My circumstances changed quite drastically when my husband left us and returned to the UK so my financial situation has been very hard but I never considered returning to the UK as my children and I have always been very happy here.

The second house never got built but I dismantled the derelict section myself in the hope that one day it will get finished. I keep busy with various projects and am now running a small farm with a number of very naughty animals!

I have written a book about our experiences here ‘The diary of a single parent abroad’ currently no1 on Amazons best seller list for Italian travel – it is available to download on Amazon – www.amazon.co.uk/diary-single-parent-abroad-ebook/dp/B00871I0XS It will also be available in paperback mid July 2012.

Photos can be viewed on my web-site www.jilli-pen.co.uk

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