My husband Steve and I, although not from Los Angeles had been living there before we moved to Rome in 1999 to start our business, The Beehive, a hybrid upscale hostel/budget hotel. A year later in 2000 we also started Cross-Pollinate, our curated network of small independent accommodation owners and their properties which first started in Rome, but now has expanded to 7 other cities throughout Italy and Europe.
When we got married in 1998 we were honeymooning in Rome and staying at a hotel/hostel he used to work at in the early 90’s. Before getting married we had been contemplating different ideas of things we could do to live internationally and work together. After our time in Rome, we decided that opening a hostel in Rome would be a great idea as the kind of hostel we wanted to open up did not exist. Cross-Pollinate started a year later when we had B&B owners asking us to send them our clients when we were full and guests asking us for recommendations when we had no space. However, since guests were trusting us to send them to a place that was decent – it was important to us that we checked the places out and talked to the owners before agreeing to recommend that property. The places on the Cross-Pollinate site are a mix of different kinds of properties in neighborhoods throughout the city for a variety of budgets, but mostly on the more economical end. They all have their pros and cons, but the important thing for us is that we know once a client makes the reservation that they are assured of a secure place to stay and if there are any problems, we are happy to mediate.
We took a 2 year sabbatical to Bali in Indonesia (2009-2011) and our children attended a phenomenal eco-school called Green School. During the end of the second year our housing plans fell through to extend our stay and so we decided it was time for us to move back to Italy. We knew that in coming back to Italy we would not be in the mindset nor in the financial position to continue living in Rome so we opted for a calmer, less hectic and less expensive place to live that was well-connected to Rome. We had spent time in Orvieto over the years as our go-to place for Sunday lunches and had always liked it so that’s where we live now. Its not our dream place, but it works for now and our daughters have a lot of freedom of movement here that they would never have had in Rome. The cost of their after school activities are also a lot less expensive here than in Rome which with 3 children is a definitely plus.
I love many things about Italy. The first is that it feels like home to me. It has a welcoming environment that I don’t find in every country I go to. The fact that we were able to do what we did – start a business from nothing – is not something I take lightly and I am grateful every day for the business that we have despite its ups and downs, positive and negatives. I like the community here – both Italian and non – and have made some lovely friendships here that I truly treasure. I am happy that my children have been born and grown up here, are bilingual and have an international background and a European sensibility. I enjoy the pedestrian life, the quality of the food and the sense of safety that I feel – I have never felt unsafe here.
But there have also been frustrations. Lots of frustrations especially owning and running a business and really too numerous to mention. Italy is not friendly to small businesses and that’s a shame as there is a strong entrepreneurial spirit here that often gets squashed or worse yet, people leave the country and go elsewhere to start or continue their businesses. It’s very difficult to grow your business because of the many ridiculous regulations that are out there. This has been one of our biggest frustrations. There are lots of little frustrations in daily life especially in a big city like Rome, but I just don’t even really give them much thought anymore. When they happen, I’ll be irritated for a moment, but then I move on.
Italy has been very good to us and I’m happy to be here. We do have an adventurous spirit though so I’m hoping we can live in another country again for another year or two before our daughters leave the nest, but Italy will always be home.