Ashley Bartner: New Yorkers Open an Award-Winning Cooking School in Italy
Our special guest on The Moving Roadmap podcast, powered by Avvinue, is Ashley Bartner. Ashley & Jason Bartner moved from Brooklyn, NY to Italy in 2007 at 26 years old to start a farm, inn and cooking school in the little known region of Le Marche. The couple has created an award-winning farm to table farmhouse experience as well as offer consulting workshops on moving to Italy to help others achieve their goals of a life in Italy.13 years later they are patiently awaiting their citizenship and loving life in the countryside.
Transcripts are automatically generated and may not be an 100% accurate transcription.
Nicole (Host): Welcome to the moving roadmap podcast powered by Avvinue. My name's Nicole. And I'll be your host for the show. In this episode, we're excited to introduce our guests, Ashley Bartner, Ashley and Jason moved from Brooklyn, New York to Italy in 2007. At the age of 26 to start a farm and inn, cooking school in a little known region of Le Marche..
Since then the couple has created an award winning fable farm to table farmhouse experience while helping others achieve their life goals in Italy. Now,13 years later, they're patiently awaiting their citizenship and loving life and the countryside. What an amazing story, and a welcome to the show, Ashley.
Ashley Bartner : Thank you. Thanks for having me, Nicole.
Nicole (Host): Yeah. absolutely. So amazing, amazing story. I'm so excited to learn more about your journey. So you moved at the age of 26 to Italy, and you just started all of this, a farm and inn, cooking school.
Nicole (Host): When did you, how did you get inspired to do this?
Ashley Bartner : Okay. It's ridiculously romantic.
We came to Italy for the first time on our honeymoon, and this was then April and may of 2005. And we loved it. There was something we were living in Brooklyn and a tiny crack apartment. We'd been in New York for 10 years and we were thinking of moving. Back to the West coast, which is where we were from.
And there was just something about Italy, just like everyone says, it's so cheesy, but it spoke to us. I don't know, neither one of us have Italian blood, but there was something about the, it was really to be honest, the quality of life, but we were lucky enough to have a really small wedding room, a super small wedding.
Jason called a rockin honeymoon and spent about a month here. And you could just see, we understood the difference of not only the quality of life, but cooking with the seasons, living simply a different, You know, contentment and a feeling of community. And it was all of these little things that we felt like we were lacking in our life and we came home and, about a week or so later from her trip, I started researching, I was home.
Jason was a chef in New York and so long hours. And I started just researching the cost of properties in Italy versus California, which we were thinking of moving out to California at the time. And I was shocked to see, Oh my gosh, for basically what we were paying in rent in New York, we could get a farmhouse in Italy and it just, my, we both worked in hospitality and Jason was a chef.
So my mind started really. And he came home. From work that day. And I bombarded him at the door and said, Oprah says, live your wildest dreams. And I think we should move to Italy.
Nicole (Host): I love it.
Listen to Oprah, listen to Oprah
Ashley Bartner : Oprah. And it totally did inspire me. And he said, okay, if we're going to do this. I want it. I don't want to have facet from the first conversation we had. It was, I don't want to be someone who, you know, a couple 10 years down the road, people are like, what'd you going to move to Italy?
And Oh yeah, someday we'll do it. If we're going to do it, let's do it. Now. We don't have kids. We don't have a mortgage. We don't actually have the money to do it either, but we're not going to let that stand in our way and we'll figure it out each step. And, that's kind of the long story short of, kind of, how we got inspired to be out here. And a year and a half from our honeymoon, we were living in our farmhouse, completely legal, had a self employed visa and clawed and struggled our way here.
But we did it.
Nicole (Host): That's awesome. I mean, congrats to that a year and a half. It's so crazy to hear your story because, You know, there's so many people that're going abroad, they travel and then they're in that moment. Oh my goodness. How can I live here? So the same way that you just like to research a ton of things.
That's how I also, me and my husband also from New York, we're like, we want to go abroad and it was after our trip, surprisingly enough to Italy, but we didn't end up in Italy, but that's so crazy to hear that. and so inspiring. So. You said it took a year and a half. So what did you do in that year and a half to prepare and get everything going for you to even buy, you know, your, your farm and get all of your paperwork and everything situated.
How did you, what did you do?
Ashley Bartner : That's a great question. The very first thing we did was turn off the TV. We felt like we were watching the boob tube, you know, we were just wasting time. And obviously this fun before, and this is also so way before there was, Netflix and Amazon, or even streaming where you could watch things in Italian.
So that wasn't even an option. So today I would say. Say, if you're going to make a choice like that, first things first start learning Italian, whether you're planning to start a business or just a new life, they fear or extended vacation, your experience will be completely different and much more fulfilled and richer if you learn the language.
So that was priority. Number one and priority. Number two was to write a business plan and that is so important. And this is something that a lot of people don't do. Or they put it off or they don't know where to start. We were 25. You Google it and you find a template and you just start working through it and it might not be right.
But it is good to put yourself through that process to ask the tough questions. The numbers don't lie. It makes you start yeah to do your research on cost of living. And, it's. There's no simple, easy site to go to where you're gonna get all your information. You've got to just keep researching and digging deeper and flushing out your plan of what you want to do and how you're going to be different and unique.
And, so we, and during that year and a half, at the same time, we had to save up our money. Again, we had just spent. It was all on our honeymoon and wedding and everything went back into savings again, to then start visiting Italy also. because then it was important to know where, where do we, we came for our honeymoon, but what's it like in the middle of winter?
So that was our first decision was to go back that next winter, to see if it's as wonderful as it was in the middle of spring, in on a honeymoon, you know, we came out, I think four times, three or four times before between our honeymoon and then our final trip, for research, thankfully, since we were in New York, we were able to, you know, find cheaper tickets, at that point also, But it meant that by the time we moved out here are that one way ticket to come out to move was all points.
Nicole (Host): So, but, all the signs were leading to Italy.
Ashley Bartner : Exactly. Exactly.
Nicole (Host): So, okay, so definitely your advice or saying, like start learning the language, you wrote a business plan, which props you a business plan can get really nitty gritty and start showing you the numbers that can either scare you or motivate you, or sometimes a mix of both.
and then making that plan to save money. Awesome. So what did you do after that? So after you visited Italy, what were some things you did for your move?
Ashley Bartner : So something that we always suggest to people to do is put a map of Italy up on the wall. Because we were choosing, we started to hone in on la Marches to move to this region, but it's little known it's next door to Tuscany and Umbria.
And everyone kept saying, Oh, you know, go to, it's the next Tuscany. And we thought that's not what we're looking for. We. Our choice was to move to Italy, to learn from the Italians and live as much of an Italian life as we could. Yeah. And it, so to us being in an expat community was not what we were seeking.
I know for some people that's really important to still have that connection. but so getting a map and. Our story to get here or how we chose Italy is romantic, but how we chose la Marches for a business was very much more strategic and it was trying to understand distances from airports and starting to hone in on what would other people, what would you want to do if they came out here.
And if we pick a small region, part of what our business plan is going to be, is we not only promote our business, we have to promote the region first. So, then that started essentially. In that year and a half of moving, not only were we working on the business plan and our visa and gathering all those documents, but then kind of planting the marketing seed for when time would come, we can start having followers.
And this was when blogs. I mean, I remember Jason's grandma, this is 2006. She was like, who is going to read a blog? What's a blog? You know, I don't know. She just kept going. Who's ever going to read that. I was like, I don't know, but I'm going to start it and put it out there.
Nicole (Host): It's so funny.
Ashley Bartner : And just researching, especially if you're going to start a business, you need to become an expert on your area.
And even if you're not able to be in Italy, even start absorbing as much of it as you can, whether it's. like I said, he is just on a map where things are located and familiarizing yourself with towns and transportations too. you know, the history of the area, food, wine, whatever your niche be, start researching it now.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely love that. And it's funny how you mentioned the blog, because now if you look at blogs, there's. Thousands of blogs so much content everywhere. So, that's amazing that you were able to start.
Nicole (Host): Then, to really share more about the region that you moved to. So props to you on that. So, really awesome.
So tell me more about, now what may have been some of the challenging aspects? Because some of our listeners are planning, move abroad, and we want to give them some, you know, more reality check or maybe even just share some of the challenging aspects of relocating. And then of course we want to know, what advice do you have for them?
Ashley Bartner : Okay. So the challenges, I would say first is going to be the bureaucracy and, we were looking for a health employed visa. So, it's a constant catch 22. You can't get this document until you get that one person won't sign until the other does, two different conflicting offices. you have to be willing to essentially put the buck before the horse, or I don't know.
It's, you know, “ready fire aim” is what my boss would say, and because you have to be willing to put it all on the line, depending on what kind of visa you're looking for. You're going to have to have a rental contract signed before you know that you have permission to stay. Or rental or a, or a, purchase, you need to have an address and a contract.
And so some that could be tens of thousands of euros or hundreds of thousands of euros that you have to put down believe in your plan and that you are doing this. No matter what, and then hope you get your visa. So, it can be really difficult because through this whole process also, I think it doesn't matter how old you are socioeconomic, you know, wherever you are in the world.
There's also going to be so many what we kind of joke as haters, friends, family, coworkers, who, might kind of, either the main thing is they're basically jealous that you're getting ready to change your life and do something so exciting and different, which is just change in general and kind of going out of the norm.
But you'd be surprised. I mean, Jason's grandma it's, she sounds like she was terrible, but, she asked us when we told her we were moving. What are we running from? And it was the car. We were like, what? That was, it was so weird. And we thought normalcy, I don't, I don't even know, but it was a weird response to someone who is normally incredibly supportive.
So I think it was more, she just didn't want us to leave. So you could get a lot of kind of condescending or, how's that middle corner. I don't know how you're going to really. you'll get a lot of double talk. It's very frustrating. So stay the course and believe in yourself could because at times, no one else.
Well, and, and yeah, or they'll think you're just looking, you know, if you, especially, if you're trying to start a business or like us, we were young and didn't really have the money and had to figure it out. As we went, we would show family members our business plan and they thought we were trying to solicit them to invest in it.
It was like, no, we just want another set of eyes. Yeah, they'd be like, well, we don't have money for you. Like I know you don't. So it could be, part of it can also be having a flexible timeline. Thankfully for us, we were able to get it all in when we did, if you will. But, It's things like the coronavirus or, you know, things change and plans have to change and flexibility.
So also just because you aren't given your visa the first time you apply doesn't mean you can't come out for your, you know, allotted, three months, if you will, 90 days and then go back and try to reapply again, once you've gotten now more of your documents in order. So it's not, That you're shot down, that there's going to be so many hurdles and deviations.
We like to say that it's a road that you're on this journey and it's an Italian road. And, you know, at this point there would be deviation road closures. At times there's going to be signs missing. There's going to be potholes, but it's still through this gorgeous Italian countryside. So if you can navigate through this, you're able to get here.
It's. It's the hard work that makes it great. If it was easy, everyone would come and there's. So there's going to be challenges for us. It was at the very end we had everything in order. There were numerous challenges. We lost tons of money along the way we thought we were going to buy another house at the last second.
The whole thing fell through, the bank wanted to change, the bank and the owners wanted to change details and we would have entered into a contract that we probably would have had ever been able to pay off. We had to walk away from that of a year of doing research into this one specific property, thousands of euros that we didn't have lost and then start the very next day and say, okay, all right.
If we're going forward, we can't talk about the bunny. We've lost it. It's gone. And. If we're doing it, we're doing it showed me another place tomorrow and someone who's willing to work with us and sure enough, we've been in the, the property that we're in and we ended up getting a long term lease and did not buy the place which has worked out, We kind of joke after all these years, we should have bought it, but we're happy with the situation we have.
But we also had the very last second, the visa office in New York wanted to cancel our appointment. Now we had our contract, we had everything and we came back to New York, ready to go armed. And it was Christmas time and they were full of students from like NYU getting ready to come to Italy, to study abroad and like said were overfilled appointments.
And that was the first time I broke down and cried because I thought, Oh my God, we've done it. All right. We did it. We've done everything. We've got it all by the books. And now we're not going to get our meeting. And luckily we were able to sweet talk them into a meeting, but there's going to be challenges along the way for everyone.
It's going to be a different story, but just know it makes for a good story at the end, you're creating your own book. You know, I guess my advice, some of that would be kind of what I said before, you know, it's the part that makes it great. definitely know that there's times where there's crossroads, whether it's, Well kind of going into a property before should, you know, going into quickly to purchase or sign a contract because you're just so excited.
really do the numbers. They don't lie. It doesn't mean that it's not possible. It just means you gotta change your plan or change something to make it work and do your homework. Also, one other piece of advice in general, especially in Italy. Come it's a great life. it's definitely, you know, you're not going to change Italy.
Italy is going to change you, this is not how we do it back home, because it's going to be that way. But, Oh shoot. I lost my train of thought with that, but no, it's fine. Here's what I was going to say. Here's what I was going to say. There's more, typically just opening a bed and breakfast. There's creativity.
We talked to a lot of people. We do consulting workshops on moving to Italy and 99% of everyone wants to open a bed and breakfast. That's great, but there's 101 million out here either have something that makes yours completely unique or mean to use your strengths in a different way.
Italy needs other innovations, other technology, other kinds of consultants, you know, maybe we were working with a couple who were in renewable energy and we just kept saying, you know, the numbers weren't working for them to do a bed and breakfast. And it wasn't even something they were that passionate about anyway.
And we kept thinking. Dude, become a consultant in renewable energy. We bet you’ll be all over Italy, like I know it might not be as romantic of an idea, but yeah. First of all, it's your strength, you know, so it doesn't always have to be a bed and breakfast be creative.
Nicole (Host): I love that creativity. Number one, for sure.
That's amazing advice. definitely do the numbers, do your homework. And just like you said, you're not going to change Italy. Italy is going to change you, no matter where you go in the world. It's natural at first to always compare, right? It's always a side by side comparison. Oh. You know, in America it's like this or we do things this way, but then it's like, you change, you have to change your mind to really realize you're in a new country. Things are different, embrace the change. And over time it changes you and it really makes you into a better person, right? Like you become more global minded. You become more aware of different cultures, and behaviors. And then you start realizing that. The normal is not normal. Like every, everyone is different.
And, what you expect, or what, what people think of, of a specific culture, like nobody's the same. Everyone is completely unique.
Nicole (Host): So, really loved that advice that you just gave for anyone who's listening that is planning their move abroad. Yeah. It may be a Italian road to paradise and to a new life, but it's one worth taking, So love that. All right.
Ashley Bartner : So, and I would say, I would say one other thing for the advice is once you're here, become a part of the community and whether you're starting a business or coming out to even just have a long term vacation, home, both with the language, learning the language, but it will help make those connections.
And it's part of why you're choosing Italy is to participate in the community and be part of this Italian life. And it's the longer you're here. If you're able to find a mentor, you know, it doesn't have to be a business mentor. We found a mentor of just how to live. Old school, Italian country life. He would come over and sometimes they find you, but, you have to make yourself available and open to it and it will be so rewarding and fulfilling because they'll show you the ins and outs of the culture, how to like randomly.
Showing up to, you know, pluck chickens because that's what we're going to do today, or here's how you plant tomatoes. And then the beautiful part is that relationship grows and they take you into town and vouch for you and say, now they're part of us, part of town. If you charge him a different price, I won't be coming back.
You charge him the same as you charged me. And you know, the. It starts becoming weekly dinners and family functions altogether. So especially when you're so far away from, it's such a different life and you're so far away from your home or your family and friends from the past, if you will, it'll really make this happen.
That's how you've got to do it. And, Kind of open yourself up to connect to people that you might not even expect.
Nicole (Host): Absolutely love that. That's amazing. Parting advice for sure. Just becoming part of the community.
Nicole (Host): So, just to wrap up, thanks so much for sharing everything. I want to ask one last random question.
Where's your favorite city visited so far?
Ashley Bartner : Ooh. Ooh. Favorite city? Well I love okay. Oh gosh, I would, that, that is so, I would probably say two different extremes. maybe somewhere like in Sicily, okay. Maybe. Oh, actually I know, I love Napoli. It is talked about, but it's probably because we lived in New York.
I grew up in Seattle and Rick Steves is a home, you know, from Seattle, off the backbeat and road travel guide book guy. And he would always say he always went on, and gave advice of where to go, but he'd say to skip. Napoli Naples. I have to like to have it, unless you have to have a boat or, you know, something to transfer through there, but we'd love to, because it did remind us of New York and there's this energy to the city.
But be smart, If the road looks a little dark and like a little scary alleyway, don't go down it. But we would see late at night, children dancing in the streets. And, the food is excellent. You speak a little bit of Italian and people come to life and want to chat with you. It's kind of, I don't know. I have enjoyed it immensely.
And then I would also say probably going way up North to the extreme Italy, up to the alpes and, probably like bolt Sorano or Pitino way up North, where you've got this Austrian, German influence. Like you're in a completely different world, you know, borders and the food is so heavy and needy.
And, I like it. they've got hockey, like all these things that we don't see in central Italy and the, you know, the mountains are just spectacular. we've been going up there the past couple of years now to get our Christmas trees and bring them home, which feels so good.
We'll buy them for our neighbors that are Dutch. And so we'll buy like five Christmas trees and we've got this kind of delivery van kind of, truck van and the guys at these places are like, what are you doing? Who buys five trees? I was like, well, we're American. And they said, Oh, now it makes sense. Now, they understand.
Ashley Bartner : Those two would be with Italy, just totally different extremes of the way business has done life, but really two totally different, interesting parts of Italy to explore.
Nicole (Host): Love it. Thanks so much for sharing that. And thanks so much for joining me today and sharing with our listeners about your experience moving abroad.
So as we conclude, where can our listeners find you either on social or a podcast? Where can they find you?
Ashley Bartner : Absolutely. You guys can find me all over the place. We're super social of our businesses, at Latavolamarche And you could stay at our farm and inn, cooking school and just check us out at Latavolamarche.com.
Of course, we're on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook at Lamarche market, or you can follow me and kind, see more of just the behind the scenes, farm life at Ashley Bartner. And if you enjoy podcasts, we've got one too called just simply The Podcast from Italy, on iTunes or wherever you listen. So hope to be able to share some more stories with you guys in the future.
Nicole (Host): Awesome. Thanks so much, Ashley. So we'll also include it in the description as well. So we'll have links so that you can join Ashley on her journey and follow her business, in Italy. So thanks so much, we enjoyed having you on our show.