“What about Italy? What if we opened some sort of tourist business in Abruzzo? That could work.”
As the words left my wife Lisa Grassi-Blais lips, my future crystalized instantly. “Italy. Of course,” I thought. “That’s it.”
You see, my wife doesn’t just talk about things. She decides what she wants to do and does it. And by the end of December 2011, after we’d had enough of our professional careers (municipal bureaucrat for me, federal drug prosecutor for her), we were ready for a change of pace. We just didn’t know what that change was going to be.
I had been thinking about opening a tourist business on one of the Caribbean or Central American countries we’d visited over the years, and we had decided to buy a small vacation property in the Abruzzo region of Italy to be close to her relatives there. So when she suggested a tourism business in the rugged, beautiful and diverse region just east of Rome that is filled with picturesque hilltop towns, wild mountains, and beautiful coast line, I knew that if there was a chance in hell that we could make it work, it was just a matter of time before I would be living there.
It just made so much sense. It's relatively undiscovered but close to Rome. Real estate was relatively reasonable compared to other more popular parts of the country. I knew I could market the region, its attraction, its people, its food and drink, and its relaxed off-the-beaten-track vibe. The timing was right too.
In late 2011, Lisa had been recruited to run for President of the Association of Justice Counsel, a union that represents 2,700 Canadian federal lawyers. She knew it would be a challenging, stressful job, but it was only a two-year term, which seemed about the amount of time it would take to get a business up and running in Italy. She was a shoo-in for the job, and it also would allow her to get out of the daily courtroom grind of a federal drug prosecutor.
So on the spot, in our kitchen in Ottawa, Canada, as we did the dishes, we decided on a three-pronged, two-year approach to determining our future:
1. By day, Lisa would be a union leader doing her best to represent her members, and I would be the most diligent municipal bureaucrat guy I could possibly be;
2. By night, on weekends and on vacations, we would research and plan our dream to escape from the North American go-go, rat race to a better and hopefully less stressful life in Abruzzo, Italy; and
3. At the end of two years, we would decide if this was really going to happen.
If everything worked right, we figured by spring 2014 when Lisa’s term as President of her union ended, we would be making the decision. Two years sounded like a reasonable amount of time to research everything we needed to, make a decision and get a business up and running.
That was almost four years ago, and there have been many ups and downs and twists and turns since then, but I’m happy to say that the dream is intact.
As you read this, we are overseeing the last major construction projects at Villa d’Abruzzo and we are taking reservations for vacations starting in May 2016.
In fact, we have a start-up sale on until Jan. 1, 2016. So if you ever wanted to discover the real Italy and get an authentic feel for Italian culture, contact us. As an added bonus, you’ll get to see for yourself how our adventure has turned out.
Next Blog: Testing the Plan