It’s not always about chasing the idyllic dream of living La Dolce Vita in a rural, sleepy village where time has stood still.
For some, it’s part of a career change: a radical career advancement that comes with a more relaxed lifestyle.
“Due to the shortage of doctors in the village hospital, a partnership has been signed between the University of Rosario in Argentina and our town hall to fill the vacancies and soon we will have new Argentine doctors who are fluent in Italian,” Mussomeli Mayor Giuseppe told Catania CNN.
The partnership started as a promotional tool to attract foreign investment for Mussomeli’s urban renewal, Catania says, and now it’s doing more than just dealing with a medical emergency.
“These new doctors are also interested in contributing to the ongoing revitalization projects to breathe new life into our depopulated village, including the purchase and redesign of abandoned houses in the historic center, which has been our greatest achievement.”
In recent years, Mussomeli has sold over 300 cheap properties from €5,000 and 150 one-euro houses, attracting foreign professionals and smart workers. Many new buyers are from Argentina, where Mussomeli families immigrated in the 1900s.
‘Take it easy and slow down’
Recently, some Italian-Argentinian doctors visited Mussomeli to meet with authorities, school children and future colleagues – and to get a feel for the atmosphere of the city.
For Rosario-based ER surgeon Leonardo Roldan, moving to Sicily has two goals.
“I’m still quite young, 49, so it’s more than just a career change in my career: it’s a decision to live a different life, the exact opposite of what I live in Argentina, and taking my family with me. “
Roldan, who previously lived in northern Italy, says he never fully realized just how beautiful Sicily was until he discovered Mussomeli, which also helped him overcome certain prejudices about the Deep South that he picked up while living in the north would have.
“Mussomeli is a total departure from my everyday reality. It’s a different world: quiet, peaceful, where the locals live a simple lifestyle. I’ve come to realize that at some point in our lives we should all slow down and take it easy , Take more time to enjoy things of quality.”
For him, Mussomeli is a chance to live a slower life and use his free time to enjoy what he loves most: jogging the unspoilt village hills with grazing sheep and exploring the wonders of Sicily. He compares it to giving up fast food for slow food
Roldan wants to move from Argentina with his whole family and dog and has already appraised some properties.
“City Hall has done a great job with the cheap housing program and eventually, when I settle in, I might buy one and remodel it as an unhurried life project,” he says.
Initially he wants to move into a country house with a garden on the outskirts of Mussomeli, but if his one-year contract is extended he would happily embark on a one-euro or cheap home remodeling adventure.
“I don’t want to turn it into an investment, boutique or commercial activity. It will be a place I can call home for the future.”
The move to Mussomeli will also allow Roldan to reconnect with his Italian roots, as four of his great-grandparents emigrated to Argentina from Italy.
Diego Colabianchi is looking forward to his Sicilian adventure.
Argentina went through an economic crisis, which is also a factor in the decision to move, says Italian-Argentinian pediatrician Diego Colabianchi from Rosario. His wife, a gynecologist, is also likely to join the medical profession in Mussomeli.
“I studied in Italy, we love and miss life in Italy. Recruitment is an opportunity to step back and I am excited at the prospect of a life change. I’ve never been to Mussomeli, but I really understand I live there myself – the small-scale village world, the tranquility, it just arouses endless curiosity in me.”
Colabianchi says he longs for a new experience in a peaceful setting, surrounded by nature and where being treated to great, authentic Sicilian cuisine is just another plus.
“At that point in my life I couldn’t even imagine living in Rome, too chaotic. But Mussomeli is perfect, not too small, somewhere between a village and a town.
“I love the unusual location, high up in the mountains, the exact opposite of Rosario’s plain where I live now. Also, Mussomeli is close to the beaches, there are hills, olive groves, vineyards and farmers produce great wool.”
The idea of buying up a run-down property and renovating it to revitalize the old neighborhood appeals to him. But Colabianchi wants to take it one step at a time.
“The first year in Mussomeli I will spend adjusting to my new surroundings, but my dream is to stay there and settle down forever, so at a certain point it’s a one euro house or an abandoned one buying a cheap house in better condition is indeed an option”.
‘Full of life’
For gastroenterologist Edgardo Trape from Buenos Aires, working as a doctor in Mussomeli is a double challenge.
“I want to start doing other things and seeing other things. I want a professional jolt above all and when I visited Mussomeli I felt this energy coursing through the village. It’s full of life.”
Trape says working in Sicily will also allow him to be closer to his children in Europe and reconnect fully with his Sicilian heritage.
“Three of my grandparents are from the city of Caltanissetta, and Mussomeli is from the same province, so it can’t be a coincidence.”
Unlike his Rosario peers, Trape has some concerns that Mussomeli might be a little too tired for him compared to his current life in Buenos Aires, which he says gives him complete satisfaction.
“It’s a small village with a peaceful, subdued atmosphere. Maybe it’s a little too quiet [compared to] what I originally expected, which impressed me on my first visit, but I’m happy and looking forward to this experience.”
And potentially, once he starts working regularly at the hospital and has a longer-term perspective on his Sicilian stay, Trape says he could buy an abandoned house and renovate it.