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“We see photos of celebrities frolicking in places like Bali, Portugal, or Italy and assume that to galivant in style like they do would require their jet-set budget. But the good news is: You can enjoy a high-style life on a modest budget in lots of overseas locales,” says Jennifer Stevens, Executive Editor, International Living.
“Sure, celebrities enjoy their international escapes—like actor George Clooney and his wife Amal who have a place in Lake Como, Italy or Super Bowl star Tom Brady and his wife, model Gisele Bündchen, who own a home near Santa Teresa, on the southern end of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula. But what many people don’t realize is that these hot spots—all beautiful, cultured retreats—have lots of good living to offer the everyday Joe as well, and often for less than it costs to stay home.
International Living’s new report points readers to five spots loved by superstars—in Italy, Bali, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Colombia—where no deep pockets are needed to join the well-to-do in living it up abroad.
The sophisticated Italian lifestyle attracts the rich and famous in droves—including George Clooney and his wife Amal who have a place in Lake Como. Jonny Depp, Sir Richard Branson, and Leonardo DiCaprio all make Italy their home for part of the year, too.
With superstars like these choosing Italy as their home away from home, many retirees wrongly assume that the country, with its rich history and culture, is outside their budget. But in towns like Arezzo, hometown of director Roberto Benigni, life truly is beautiful and affordable. It’s easy to see why Benigni used his hometown as the set of his Oscar-winning film, Life is Beautiful.
“Elegant yet unhurried, the city brings together the best of old and new Tuscany with an easy-going lifestyle and fewer tourists than you’d expect in a culturally-rich and attractive city,” says IL Italy Correspondent, Valerie Schneider.
“It’s hard not to draw parallels to Florence as you walk around Arezzo. The pleasant pastel and stone buildings along cobbled lanes blend many similar Medieval and Renaissance styles as the more famous art city that is just about an hour away. Arezzo also fell under the realm of the Medici’s grand duchy for a time, and shades of Florence abound in its public buildings, aristocratic palaces, churches, and artwork.
“The University of Arezzo lends a sense of youth and vitality to the city. Arezzo also has good rail and bus connections to surrounding cities and smaller towns. It’s equidistant between Florence and Perugia airports, about an hour away by car or rail, and Siena is also an hour away by car or bus, giving Arezzo great options for an active cultural life.
“Museums filled with art by Tuscan and Italian masters, archeology-dedicated museums, and edgy contemporary art galleries are to be found around town, along with churches and public buildings bearing breathtaking works, open for viewing.
“City parks offer green space and the forested foothills of the Apennine Mountains start just outside of the city. Arezzo sits close to the Umbria and Le Marche borders, making it easy to organize day trips around the area. And connections are great for getting farther afield around Italy and Europe, too.
“For all its quality of life and location, the surprise is that Arezzo isn’t more ‘discovered’ and higher priced. Being at the eastern fringe of Tuscany, it has stayed off the radar, providing one of Tuscany’s real gems.”
Here, a Hollywood budget isn’t required to live the good life—a couple could live well on a monthly budget of $1,524.
“David Bowie began his love-affair with Bali way before he honeymooned on the island in 1992, and since then many celebrities have visited,” says IL Bali Correspondent, Josephine Brierley.
“In 2018, Kim Kardashian, John Legend, and Pink, just to name a few, all chose Bali as their vacation destination. Instagram was overflowing with photos of temples, beaches, jungle swings, and massive over-the-top villas. But, it’s easy to stay in Bali and enjoy all of the same sights, experience all of the same beaches, and even indulge in a private villa—for a fraction of what the A-listers pay.
“Private villas perched high on cliff-tops or with ocean-front views are easy to find with a quick search, and you could hire a local driver to tour the popular places from around $45 a day.
“Even better, rent a car and tour the island. Follow the coastal road, pass through the black sandy beaches of Amed, and frolic in the balmy waters of Lovina. Along the way uncover ancient rice field terraces and temples with significant Balinese history.”
The tropical climate of Bali has enticed retirees for many years and it offers a relaxed, simple lifestyle with world-class dining at very affordable prices. Here, retirees can enjoy a comfortable life with a budget of around $1,150 a month, push that to $1,800 and you’ll really be enjoying the high life.
Costa Rica has long been a sought after vacation destination, but it’s also become a popular spot for longer stays. Super Bowl star Tom Brady and his wife, model Gisele Bündchen, are regular visitors to Costa Rica’s Pacific coast.
“There are a number of celebrities who have visited Costa Rica,” says Kathleen Evans, IL Coastal Costa Rica Correspondent. “Tom and Gisele own a place here near Santa Teresa, on the southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula.”
On the far tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, the fishing village of Montezuma is great for those looking for a laidback destination. There’s no major development. And the town center has just a few restaurants, hotels, and shops.
The roads on the way to this part of Costa Rica can be rough, especially in rainy season from May to November, but it’s well worth visiting this Pacific-coast retreat.
Here you can get a sunrise instead of sunset because it’s on the east side of the peninsula. The beach is an easy walk from town, where you’ll find a unique freshwater waterfall right on the sand, with pools for soaking and swimming.
“Since Montezuma is off the beaten path, there are still good real estate rental deals to be found,” says Kathleen. “You can find a two-bedroom place to rent for anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per month.
“Without a car, and living a modest retirement, a couple could live on $1,500 to $1,700 a month.”
The crème de la crème of A-listers are attracted to Portugal—Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Adams, Sting, and Michael Bolton all spend time there. The favorite summer retreat of the former royal family, Sintra, stole Madonna’s heart, and that’s where she owns a place.
Just a 40-minute train journey from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, Sintra’s palaces, mansions, and architectural follies deliver an enchanted setting.
Moorish doorways, crenellated watchtowers, Scottish Baronial turrets, Manueline sea monsters—all of these things can be found only steps from Sintra’s railway station. Some visitors mistake the first turreted fantasy building for the National Palace, but it’s merely the town hall.
Sintra is packed with opportunities to explore—from the gothic-style National Palace in the center of town to the ramparts of the 8th-century Moorish castle. The remarkable Convento dos Capuchos monastery is built into a stony hillside, while Quinta da Regaleira features an elaborate, Harry Potter-esque palace—complete with gargoyles, a chapel, and an expansive park boasting lake, grottoes, and fountains.
Perhaps the town’s standout attraction is the pastel-painted Palace of Pena, a 19th-century Romanticist marvel sitting high atop Sintra’s hill, surrounded by pine forests—the pink turrets, daffodil-yellow tower, and monstrous gargoyles are incredibly striking.
A couple could live well in this arts-rich tourist town on a budget of $3,065 a month, though on less elsewhere in Portugal.
Cartagena is one of Colombia’s most popular tourist destinations, thanks to its interesting history, excellent cuisine, and amazing shopping. Located on the Caribbean coast, 256 miles from the Panama Canal, Cartagena is a major seaport for both commercial shipping and vacationers on cruise ships.
The chances of rubbing shoulders with the glitterati are on the rise here as more and more discover the delights of city—just like Mick Jagger and Justin Bieber have.
The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although it gained its independence from Spain on November 11, 1811, Cartagena still retains much of the original, colonial architecture. As you walk through the old city, you’ll find narrow, cobblestone streets, old churches, museums, and restaurants, and shops housed in colonial buildings, making you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Oozing history and romance, Cartagena’s center is surrounded by a historic city wall, with a Clock Tower (Torre del Reloj) overlooking the main entrance. Sections of the wall have steps that let you walk along the top. Many residents like to stroll there, warmed by ocean breezes, to take in the breath-taking views and listen to the waves crashing on the shore close by.
Shopping is exceptional in Cartagena. Upscale boutiques, local artisanal shops, and sidewalk vendors provide a variety of options for every budget. Emeralds are an especially popular item. Despite the glamour, a couple can live well here on a monthly budget of $1,615 to $2,015, depending on the lifestyle they choose.
Just over an hour’s flight from Cartagena is Colombia´s second largest city, Medellín, where famous American singer and songwriter Nicky Jam resides.
Tucked into a valley surrounded by the Andes Mountains, the City of Flowers enjoys a spring-like climate year-round, which attracts retirees looking for an active, outdoorsy lifestyle with all the benefits of a city.
With over 30 universities, an array of art and history museums, theaters, restaurants, and several sports complexes, Medellín has a cosmopolitan vibe. The Metropolitan Theater presents a varied program of international classical music, jazz music, and dance performances. The Museo de Antioquia, located just off the Parque Berrio Metro stop, is home to a large collection of paintings and sculptures by Medellín native, Fernando Botero.
Living in Medellín is less expensive than many comparable U.S. cities. A couple could live well in Medellín on a budget of $1,400 to $2,000 per month.
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