Life in the Italian Borgo
The Borgo, or Borghi (plural) is the word for a small village or town in Italy, usually perched at the top of a hill or mountain with a Medieval historical centre (centro storico) encased within an old city wall, while a newer area with more modern buildings surround the borghi’s outskirts. The centro strorico is home to narrow cobbled streets lined with restored honey coloured stone-brick houses with shutters and terracotta roofs, old-world piazza’s, and a handful of shops, cafes and restaurants. See our article on Petritoli, Italy, for a classic Italian Borgo.
Life in the Italian Borgo
Life in the Borgo is a mixture of old world charm meets modern living – with individual shops such as a macelleria (butchers), forno (bakers), farmacia (chemist) and often a small supermarket, tabacchi (tobacconist with newspapers and lotto tickets available), and a handful of bars, restaurants and cafes. Ancient cobbled streets, stairways lined with potted plants blooming with flowers, and stone brick houses blend seamlessly with modern day cars, vespas and trucks (how they navigate the winding roads that lead up to the Borgo and the low arches of the city walls is beyond me!)
Each borgo has at least one piazza, usually perfectly placed to offer uninterrupted views of the surrounding valleys and mountains, and these are areas to glimpse Italian village life – a meeting place for people to sit, chat and drink coffee by day, and the ideal spot to host events, festas and gatherings at night.
Festas in the Borgo
Speaking of festas (festivals) – the towns of Le Marche host a multitude of celebratory gatherings throughout the summer (and some during winter too), and keeping up with all of them is some feat! There are festas for just about every food you can imagine, patron saints, wine, beer and some completely random celebrations that are clearly just an excuse for a party! Our town, Force, hosts its annual ‘Antici Sapori’ festa each August, and this event is typical of many of the festivals of the region. Food stalls line Force’s cobbled streets where local people with any connection to the town come out to support the event, where a great time is guaranteed with entertainment including costumed acrobats, jugglers, singers, live bands, and a fantastic fireworks display.
The festas are lavish and last three or four days, normally over a weekend where Saturday night is the busiest and best time to experience celebrations in the Borgo. We go to as many festas as we can during the summer, but it’s impossible to support them all as there are literally hundreds of them, ensuring that summer in Le Marche is party after party!
Buying a House in an Italian Borgo
Buying a property in a borgo offers the chance to experience authentic Italian life. Rarely do you hear languages other than Italian spoken, and few people even speak English, giving a home owner the perfect opportunity to practice Italian and improve listening skills. Local people were extremely welcoming towards us when we moved in and many have become great friends, we are rarely without a dinner or coffee invitation and often see people we know when walking through our town or shopping at the supermarket. In fact, even popping out to the shops can take longer than expected!
There are many borghi in Le Marche within 30 minutes drive from the coast, ensuring that the home owner doesn’t have to go far to spend the day at the beach, and this also improves rental appeal for owners wishing to list their property on a holiday rental website such as Air BnB.
Aside from the above benefits, another great reason to buy a house in an Italian borgo is because prices can be far more favourable than buying elsewhere. Families may end up with multiple homes in the borgo when relatives pass away and are keen to sell these on at low prices, meaning that properties in need of restoration can be bought cheaply.
When we bought and restored our house in one of Le Marche’s borghi, we could not believe our luck. At 180 square metres spread over three floors, with a balcony that overlooks a beautiful valley, we knew we had to have it. We had the added advantage that David speaks Italian so was able to negotiate the sale, and wanting to immerse ourselves into Italian life we could think of no better way. I was able to start practicing the language, and neighbours were only too pleased to help me out. In fact, everyone in our town at one point or another, came over to our house to see how the renovations were going. Some brought fruits and vegetables, some donated wine to us, and our neighbours next door gave us two chandeliers! The sense of community we experience in our hilltop borgo is fantastic, and these days there is nowhere else we would rather be.
Take a tour in pictures of one of our favourite Italian borghi – Petritoli.
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