Caserma Carina

Leicestershire couple Dean and Lesley Mc Morran and young daughter Grace left England in January 2006 to start a new life running a country house holiday rental business near the medieval village of Mogliano in the Italian region of Le Marche.

They talk exclusively to BEV about their new life in Italy.

Why Italy?

They made the decision back in January 2003. There were several reasons behind their reason to move to Italy. They had suffered a family bereavement and Dean was increasingly stressed in his job in the insurance business. They wanted to change their lives and work for themselves.

The couple had been to Italy frequently on holiday and loved it. But they were less than impressed with the standard of some accommodation. They felt that, despite having no experience in the tourist industry, they could easily do better than some of the places they had stayed in. And so they discussed buying a house in Italy which had enough space for them to offer holiday rentals to tourists.

Once the decision was made the couple lost no time in making things happen. They viewed over 20 houses in Le Marche in February 2003 before agreeing that their favoured location was around Mogliano. “It had beautiful countryside, wasn’t too isolated and was centrally located in Marche – just 30 minutes from the sea and 40 minutes from the mountains,” explains Dean.

Caserma Carina

The couple did not look for an established business, but a house that they could restore and develop as they wanted it. “We thought it would be cheaper to do it that way,” says Lesley, “but I’m not sure I would do it again like that, given the cost of restoration. I might look for a ready established business.

”Their aim was to have somewhere that would give them their own private living quarters but also offer four apartments for letting. They decided against a B&B as they wanted more freedom. “Once the guests are there and have their keys they are free to do as they like,” says Dean. “Of course we are on hand to offer advice and assistance but we are not tied to providing meals or anything like that. It suits us better.”

“Caserma Carina was almost the last house we looked at, although Dean wasn’t as smitten as I was. He thought it looked like an army barracks,” laughs Lesley. They bought it anyway, but as a reminder of Dean’s first impression they gave it the name Caserma Carina which means ‘pretty barracks’ in Italian!

The couple continued to work in the Midlands while the work was done. From buying the property to moving to Italy took three long years during which time they were also setting up the rental business.

Grants and Advice

“We had a great deal of help from our local Italian Chamber of Commerce,” says Lesley. “They also helped us get two grants, one to buy the furniture, we got 50% for that one, and the other was an EU one to pay some of the interest on the mortgage. We got both of them within six months,” she adds.

“They advised me to put the business in my name as grants were more likely to be given to younger women entrepreneurs. I was 33 at the time and Dean is ten years older than me.”

Their advice for any would be holiday apartment owners? “Contact your local Chamber of Commerce. Ours were unbelievably helpful. Also, unless you speak good Italian, employ a translator.”

“Also don’t use any geometrà or builder linked to the agent. Use the agent to buy the house and then find your own workmen locally. Otherwise things can get tricky.”

Biggest tip? “Learn the language!”

The Right Move?

Almost four years on, the business is well-established and bookings are up 75% on this time last year. The couple have added optional cookery and art courses to their basic rentals and are delighted with the interest this has had.

The family loves their new life in Italy. “It’s wonderful - the relaxed lifestyle, the food and wine, the beautiful countryside and, of course, the people,” says Lesley. But there are a few irritations – “Italian bureaucracy and the tendency to make very heavy weather of things in business,” says Dean.

And do the couple feel it was the right move? “Absolutely,” says Lesley. “We will always love Leicestershire and will continue to make regular trips back to the UK, but it’s Le Marche we call home now.”

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