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ISO chow-ish place to move in Europe

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My husband and I suddenly find ourselves in the luxurious position of being able to consider living abroad for a few years. While Chow-ish-ness won't be the only consideration when picking somewhere, it will be pretty high up there. Right now, we're considering France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. We need somewhere with mild weather (daytime temps in the 50s in winter, 70s/80s in summer, medium humidity) and probably in the hills rather than near a beach. We'd prefer to live in or just outside a small town or perhaps a wine village, and yet be an hour or so via train or freeway from a larger city.

We're thinking the Loire Valley for now, as we've been there and loved it. I know there are a thousand or more choices, but anywhere very special that comes to mind?

And even more so, I don't suppose anybody here actually has a 3 bedroom house in such an area available for long-term rental?

Thanks in advance!

Susan

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  1. Seeing as you want to live in a small community, you can probably narrow your choice of country by which languages you can speak well.

    Getting the temperature right in both winter and summer might also be a problem - for example, whilst you will get mild winters in southern Spain, summer temps. will be high.

    1. I've never eaten better than when I lived in Tuscany for 6 months, but temps in January hit about freezing. Otherwise it fits your criteria well. I'd also look into Greece if I were you. I spent a week in Athens and Naxos ; the food was incredible and the islands were stunning. Also lower cost of living than Italy.

      1. My vote goes to Isle sur la Sorgue in the Vaucluse in Provence. You have the best market and some of the best dining in Provence; you're between Nice and Avignon and not far from either; it's still a short drive to the coast; the wines are fantastic; and you're a quick TGV trip to Paris and beyond. Nearby Roussillon (town) is also very nice, but could get lonely at times.

        If I were to do Spain, I think I would live in Barcelona and travel as much as possible.

        1. If it weren't for the weather thing I would recommend somewhere close to Torino, like Asti or even Alba (home of Ferrero; some say the whole town smells like chocolate). Bra is home to the biennial Slow Food cheese festival, and in the alternate years it is the Salon del Gusto in Torino. Every little village in the area has its special festival for its special crop harvest. I remember going to a party for a famous politican's son, which was in a castle about thirty minutes from Torino, and as we drove through the village where the castle was there were signs that said, "[Small Town], World Renowned for Asparagus". World renouned? To this day I can't even recall the name of the town. Torino has a lovely Moscato festival in a piazza downtown in the spring; I remember one balmy night getting extremely tipsy off the wine samples and putting on an impromptu reading of the only English book we could find at the time- a bodice-ripper called "Fire and Ice". Aaaah, those were the days...

          1. I'm sure you'll do some serious, broader sorting (language, culture, general local economy and infrastructure, like roads and phone service and medical care) for such a long stay--after all, the joys of chowishness might eventually wear thin, say, if the local provincial road is always blocked in winter rain. At any rate, I'd heartily second the Vaucluse, or, farther north, the Drome, in France: here, Nyons is a sweet medieval market town in the heart of the Cotes du Rhone. Also in France, the area around Bergerac and Perigueux is lovely--wine, form Bordeaux to Monbazillac, of course, and some nice smaller towns like Issegeac and Montpazon. In Italy, I'd recommend Umbria (Todi), le Marche (Urbino), and places south (the Cilento coast south of Salerno is wonderful) for a slightly more rustic experience. One thing to watch for in central and southern Italy, at least, is ease of access east to west across the mountains--even train service can be frustrating. Bon sejour!