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Living the Dream in Italy (a special offer for FOODalogue readers)

April 30, 2009 by Joan Nova in Potpourri | 12 Comments

Have you ever dreamt of chucking it all and living in Italy? …creating a vacation rental where you could entertain guests from all over the world? …harvesting olives and producing your own olive oil? …writing a book while sipping cappuccino (or vino) from your terrace in the Umbrian countryside? Or would you just like to live like an Italian for a week or so? If so, this post is for you!

But, first, let me introduce you to Joan (a former Coca-Cola executive) and her husband, Roger Arndt, (a retired Delta captain). They are living the dream. During a 3-week trip to Italy in 2001, Joan and Roger got bitten by the Italian ‘amore’ bug and the rest is history. 

…or, rather, a humorous memoir called “Italian Lessons” which Joan penned about their adventure. It wasn’t always the sugary substance dreams are made of — no, sometimes, there were nightmares. They had to sell and dispose of much of their belongings in Atlanta (that was the easy part compared to what they faced in Italy). There they had to find the right property, open bank accounts, get driver’s licenses, hire contractors, meet the neighbors, the merchants, etc. and negotiate with everyone…all in Italian! Yes, there were times that tried their patience. But never their sense of humor. The trials and tribulations of uprooting life as they knew it in the suburbs of Atlanta and taking on the project of a lifetime is a fascinating and, oft times, humorous read that will leave you wishing you were in their shoes (especially now that the frustrations are behind and they are sitting back and enjoying the fruits of their labors).

What they created from the 12th century colonial convent they found a few years ago is really the stuff dreams are made of. It has been totally renovated to exacting modern standards. A separate air-conditioned residence, called a self-catering vacation rental villa, houses 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, living room and a large and fully-equipped kitchen. Rental of the villa offers access to an oversized pool, tennis and bocce courts, BBQ, laundry facilities, fax/PC, DVD/VCR, satellite TV and many other contemporary amenities. And did I mention a terrace, garden and up-close view of the olive groves? And, best of all, they want to share it!

Since life and everything that follows starts with our mothers, so, too, does my friendship with the Arndts. You see, our mothers became friends when they both moved to the same development in Boca Raton. When Joan wrote her book, her mother gave a copy to mine. Mine knew right away this would be something her daughter, Joan (yes we’re both Joan), would be interested in so she gave me an autographed copy for my birthday earlier this year. I read it, felt an immediate connection to the author though I’d never met her and only met her mother a few times. After all, it was my dream too. So I wrote and introduced myself. They liked what I’d done at FOODalogue. I liked what they’d done at LeVigne. I knew after the reading the book that it was not like other international rentals where there is always a level of uncertainty. Here, one could be 100% comfortable that everything would up to standards and furthermore the Arndts are American-born and speak English, Spanish and (now) Italian so communication would not be problem.

The Special Offer to FOODalogue Readers

Joan and Roger are offering a 10% discount to published rates if you book and mention FOODalogue. To paraphrase “The Godfather”…
that’s an offer you can’t refuse!

Additional photos, rates, and property details including floor plans are available on their website, LeVigne. Joan and Roger are like long-lost friends, only you haven’t met them yet :). They love company and will be as involved (or uninvolved) in your adventure as you wish and offer by prior arrangement: airport transportation, pre-arrival shopping, an arrival dinner, discount shopping and introduction to local artisans, a cooking demonstration and dining experience by an Umbrian cook at the property. They can also help with arranging day trips. LeVigne is 6 miles from Perugia, 10 miles from Assissi, 76 miles to Siena, 98 miles to San Gmignano. Florence is 105 miles and Rome 112.

Arrivederci, amici. Send me a postcard!

Note: “Italian Lessons” is available on Amazon. (See sidebar link.)
NOTE: Some recipes found on FOODalogue are offered without ingredient quantities. They're meant as a guide to food pairings and techniques to be experimented with … in your own kitchen … to your own spice and taste levels … to your preferred portion sizes … and to however many people you’re cooking for. A perfect meal has multiple levels of flavor and textures, bright colors and tastes, and healthy(ish) choices. It's all about enjoyment. Enjoy the process, the presentation and the just rewards...eating!


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  1. Núria says:

    Woooooweeeeee! What a fantastic house Joan!
    I wish I could rent it myself, but this is time of “vacas flacas”. However, if I know about anybody planning a trip to Italy I’ll convince them to take a look at your blog :D

  2. Peter M says:

    A very nice property indeed and to those thinking, “what’s 10%”…any discount with a high Euro is of help.

  3. Karen says:

    Wow… beautiful!

  4. girlichef says:

    Um, if you remember…this fits my “dream” almost to a T! Amazing deal and I wish I could take advantage of it! You never know, though…something could come up :) Thanks for telling us about it!

  5. Peter G says:

    Thanks for letting us know about this Joan! It looks amazing…one day!

  6. Ivy says:

    Wow, wish we had the money for such vacation.

  7. Carole says:

    Now this is what dreams are made of ~ Since reading “A Year In Provence” I have had this fantasy. Juana, this is what I had in mind when i suggested you try to organize a get-together with your foodies – this is mana from heaven, right up your alley, as they say. I cannot wait to see your responses.

  8. Gabi says:

    This is too nice to behold! I need to close me eyes and remind myself to come back on Earth – retirement is so far, money is so little so I think I’ll just keep dreaming!

    Unless there’s an uncle somewhere with a will – hehehehe

    Lovely post Joan!


  9. we are never full says:

    well, i would totally take joan up on this. also, umbria is the place to be. tuscany is amazing (hell, i got married there!) but umbria is where it’s at w/ less tourists. man, i wish i had disposable income.

  10. angela@spinachtiger says:

    If only we could go. We LOVE Italy. We came back and then took I Italian lessons. Right now husband is putting a business together. TIming is not right, but one day. I’ll keep your blog in mind.

  11. giz says:

    Just call me Shirley Valentine – I don’t think I would ever leave. What a fabulous story about the courage most of us couldn’t even dream of.

  12. Bellini Valli says:

    Sounds utterly amazing Joan, the trip dreams are made of:D

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