An Affordable Retirement Spot in Italy

This often overlooked Tuscan city could be a charming and low-cost retirement spot.

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Your budget might not allow for retirement in Venice or Florence. But other places in Italy, and even elsewhere in Tuscany, could be a far more affordable retirement option than you might imagine. The secret is to avoid the tourist destinations.

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For example, if you’re dreaming of retirement beneath the Tuscan sun, take a look at Pisa. Everyone comes to see the tower, but Pisa has more to offer. The city has riverfront homes, candy-striped basilica, and is a showcase of a bygone age of wealth. At one time, Pisa merchants competed successfully with those of Venice. Eventually, the city fell to Florence.

Today, Pisa is a one-hour stop for tour buses. However, beyond the very localized tourist zone, this ancient city hides an appealing, classically Old World lifestyle. The old town is charming, and there's enough here to keep your interest and to support a fully appointed life on the Continent. You're also just minutes from the sea.

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Whereas Venice, Rome, and Florence are given over entirely to tourists for part of each year, Pisa remains quiet year-round. Busloads of travelers come and go from the tower each day while the rest of the city goes about its business. Because few people seem to recognize any reason to stay the night in Pisa, hotel rates are a relative bargain. We visited recently and stayed in the hotel voted Best in Pisa for 2011, in the heart of the old town, for less than half the cost of an out-of-the-way hotel we stayed at in Zurich earlier in the trip.

Apartments in Pisa rent for as little as 400 or 500 euro per month, and you could buy a one-bedroom of your own for as little as 100,000 euro. A couple could enjoy a rich and full retirement in Pisa on a budget of $2,000 per month.

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Tuscany’s jewel, Florence, in contrast, would be a dramatically more expensive choice. And while Pisa is cozy, Florence is aloof. Even if you could afford Florence, I’d suggest you’d do better to base yourself in Pisa and visit Michelangelo's home town. It's an hour’s drive away via autostrade.

Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.