Retired in Florence

Susan, Age 72

Four years ago, my husband, and my miniature goldendoodle dog, Luca, got on the Queen Mary and sailed to a new country, and a new life Italy. It was the reverse trip that my grandparents made over 100 years ago. Sailing past the Statue of Liberty was an emotional farewell to a country I had loved and was prepared to leave.
We made the decision to retire in Italy after I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I am now more than 7 seven years cancer free, put the diagnosis was an impetus to face the facts of my own mortality.
My husband and I have no children, although we do have 2 nieces that we love very much. We are both former Human Resources executives from Silicon Valley. I continue to do executive coaching over Skype, while my husband is very happy and fulfilled being retired.
We initially came to a small town, about 14,000 people, in Umbria. We were charmed by the country side and people whom we found open, and curious about us. This past year we also have rented an apartment in Florence so we now split our time between the two places.
I find Italy to be a much less youth focused culture than that of California. Older people here are integrated into the families, and are treated with respect and care.
Living in Italy is not all Under the Tuscan Sun kind of experience. It is not for everyone, but for me, I love this country, its food and wine and above all, its people. I seem far less conscious of my age here than when I am in the US. Here my identity is first as the American, then a woman, then on someone who doesn’t cook and way down the list is someone who is over 70.

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13 Responses to Retired in Florence

  1. Jod Lourie says:

    are you prepared to live in a neo-fascist country that Italy seems to be heading for….

    • Susan Pohl says:

      I don’t see it that way. Italy varies by region, and I would not describe Tuscany as neo-facist, although developed countries to seem to be leaning right.

  2. Theresa LaSalle says:


    Jod ….really? Is that your take away from Susan’s lovely email?

    Susan I think what you are doing is great. You have inspired me…as I’m going through a tough time right now on many levels. I love your being defined as someone who doesn’t cook. I would love any advice you can offer as I would like to rent an apartment in Italy…preferably Florence or Bari. How does one begin to look for a rental. If you choose to respond My email is or here. I’m excited for you. Be good to yourself. Theresa

  3. Kathy says:

    You’re living our dream! But for me, a huge stumbling block would be language (how do you say “I’m having a heart attack” in Italian! : ] ) So I would like to know if you and/or you husband had the ability to speak, read or write Italian prior to moving there? Thanks and I’ve been to Florence and parts of Italy and cannot imagine a lovelier place to live! As for politics, I wonder if the earlier commenter has information on a perfect place politically – I’ve not heard of it yet, myself….

    • Theresa LaSalle says:

      I agree with Kathy….for sure right now with the man in the White is anything but utopia here…far from it ….quite a mean administration ..and dangerously dumb.

      Again…would love to hear more from Susan regarding the practicalities of living in Florence and to Kathy’s question re: Italian language.

      • Susan Pohl says:

        Hi everyone,
        Language is an issues for people. My husband does not have a “knack” for language, as I do not have a “knack” for directions. Over the time we have been here he has gotten much better, and now understands most things. He still struggles in speaking. I have an easier time with language and we both continue to study. Most Americans I know are not fluent but continue to study it.
        A big issue for people is being away from friends and family. Grandchildren are a big call for people to return to the US. We don’t have children, so don’t have that pull. There is not much about the US I miss now, and in fact when I am in the US, I miss Italy. So much is about attitude. I guess you could say I have a good attitude about Italy!

  4. Julia poulos says:

    Living in an apartment in Firenze has been on my bucket list for years. I will be 70 in a few months. I admire ur dramatic move. I don’t know how 2 go about looking 4 an an apt in Florence without getting ripped off. If u r willingly 2 give any advice I would greatly appreciate it. My husband and I now live in the only walkable town in NJ.; Princeton. It has a lot 2 offer but frankly I’m sick of the rising cost of living. The income inequality is worst than ever in the US. If only for a season I’d like 2 indulge in the Art of Firenze. Perhaps take a course or seminar. We don’seminar on the Renaissance. Thank You

    • Susan Pohl says:

      Hi Julia,
      I think using an agency is a good idea for your apartment search. I know that people have had good luck with “Tuscan Feeling”. Maybe you could get an apartment that you rent short term and then look for long term once you are here. As far as classes, I would recommend The British Institute. People are very happy with their art classes there and I was quite happy with my Italian class. Good luck.

  5. Kathy says:

    Susan – would love to know about what I mentioned in earlier reply – did you or your husband have knowledge of Italian language prior to moving? How has the language situation affected your daily life? Would really love to know! Thanks!

    • Susan Pohl says:

      Hi Kathy,
      Sorry I didn’t respond before. This is a new format for me, but here I am.
      Yes we had studied Italian before, and no I can’t say we “spoke Italian”. We have improved in the 4 years we have lived here. We continue to study and will study Itlalian forever. It is our joy and challenge. Many people, particularly young ones, speak English, but it is fun for us to engage with people in Italian.

      • Kathy says:

        Thanks! Well, I guess we better start learning!
        I also wonder if you purchased your main residence or rent. And who do you socialize with (I worry about being somewhat isolated or lonely without friends/family)? Have you made friends with local folks or are there English speaking expats you can interact with? Thanks so much for the input!

        • Susan says:

          We have done both, rented and purchased. As far as friends, the majority of my friends are Americans but I have also made friends with Italians here in Florence as well as in Umbria. It’s a challenge, but the same advise of friends making as if you moved to a new place in the US. Good luck

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