Chat With Julian De Brito of Wonderful Marche
One day I’m going to run through a sunflower field in Italy with Juliana de Brito! Not just any sunflower field, but one in Le Marche. Why? Because slow living in Le Marche is wonderful. When Juliana speaks about this region, you feel her energy like the summer sun shining above you.
Although Juliana says that she is part Marchigiano, she was, in fact, born in Brazil. Her background is a potpourri of different cultures and experiences. Seven years ago, Juliana, her husband (from Milan) and children had a ‘family meeting.’ They wanted to leave behind their busy lives in Milan and find the perfect place to experience slow living — and real Italy. It took quite a bit of searching, but when they found Le Marche, it was ‘love at first sight.’
Today, her love for this region has been shared through a very popular blog called, “Wonderful Marche”. If you want to see the sunflower field and other beautiful images of Le Marche, just visit Juliana’s website. Besides being a great resource for travelers wishing to explore this region, Wonderful Marche supports local businesses by sharing their unique stories.
If Juliana’s story seems familiar, you may have read a previous interview written back when we started Live in Italy Magazine. Then, Italy was in its first lockdown. Times have since changed and residents are no longer singing from their balconies or hanging signs that say, “andrà tutto bene.” We hope you enjoy reading (and watching the full version on YouTube) about Juliana, learn more about her life in Italy as a foreigner, and how things have changed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Where are you from?
It’s confusing because I am Brazilian, but my background is a mix of Brazil, China, and Portugal and a piece of my heart is Marchigiano. So, can I say that I’m fusion?
What part of Brazil are you from?
I was born in Sao Paolo, but I lived for many years in Rio de Janeiro.
When did you move to Italy and why?
I moved to Italy in 2006 to study and then completed a Master’s in media communication in Milan. I then started working in a company when I decided to stay to have an international experience. So, I can say that this experience became a life choice although I had to leave friends in family.
What inspired you to study in Italy?
It was not my first time in Italy because my father was living here, and I fell in love with the whole country after visiting. Studying and working gave me a real experience about life in Italy.
How many years did you live and work in Milan?
I was a PR and Events Manager for LEGO®. It was a hard decision to leave behind my career and the company, but I will always be a LEGO® fan!
What made you want to leave Milan?
We were happy living in Milan and the big city life, especially from a professional point of view. But we decided to search for our ideal place to live in Italy for our family. Sometimes you don’t have time to stop and think about a personal life project. So, we created a life/family project with milestones and deadlines. We searched for this ideal place, found Le Marche, and moved there in 2017. Real changes are never easy, but I think Le Marche has made us very happy.
Were your children apart of the decision-making process?
Yes, they were part of this decision. Now they are 10 and 7 years old. We decided to move before they became teenagers because then it’s a little more complicated. After two years of living here, we decided to bring my mother-in-law to live with us.
Is your husband Italian?
Yes, he’s from Milan.
What were some of the places that you considered before decided to move to Le Marche?
We stopped to think about our life plan and combine the various needs and desires while exploring many different regions like Abruzzo, Puglia, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast. But when we stopped in Le Marche region, we felt something different. It was like somebody whispering in my ear and telling me, “You got it!”
Was living close to nature and the country a deciding factor?
Yes, we have everything in the Le Marche region. We have green rolling hills, sunflower fields, lavender fields, and medieval cities. We also have the coast and mountains that are only one hour apart.
It seems that Le Marche is unspoiled and not overdeveloped, right?
Yes, it’s off the beaten path and really authentic. You can have the most beautiful things about Italy concentrated in one region like history, art, the coast, and traditions. Also, the people are authentic. If someone wants to discover real life in Italy, Le Marche is the perfect region to explore.
Do you live in a small town?
What are the pros and cons of living in a small town?
In a small town of course, you don’t have the same opportunities that big cities offer. I miss the cultural diversity that make big cities so vibrant, especially from a professional point of view. On the other hand, I don’t miss the traffic and rushing around. Moving to a small city means slowing down and changing your lifestyle.
Now we can easily go to the beach or a medieval village, or simply go hiking within minutes. We are close with locals — not like big cities where you don’t know the name of your neighbor. I think it’s the perfect environment for children.
What is the first language spoken at home?
Italian, but sometimes I speak Portuguese. Sometimes I mix things up and I don’t know what language I’m speaking!
Do your children speak Portuguese?
Yes. They understand everything, but sometimes they reply to me in Italian because they know that I understand what they’re saying. For example, when my mom visits, I see them speaking to her in Portuguese. I do wonder why they speak Portuguese to her and not me.
Does anyone speak Chinese?
Unfortunately, not. It’s a pity. I tried to study it myself and back then it wasn’t as an important a language to know as it is now. It’s the kind of language that you need to always be speaking. You can’t just study it.
When did you begin your blog and how did it come about?
Wonderful Le Marche was born in 2019 after two years of living here. The goal was to talk about all the things that I love about living here. It’s a feeling and not talking just about what to do and where to go.
I like to transfer all these feelings to my posts.
Was it challenging to write in English and why did you choose it?
It was and still is a challenge because it’s not my native language, but I think when you to talk to tourists, it’s an important language. Portuguese was too specific.
Did you learn English when in Milan?
Yes, but I also studied some in Brazil and I lived in California for a few months while on an exchange program. When I’m at home I try to watch films and listen to podcasts in English. I think that language is always something that you need to improve to become comfortable.
Talk about the real estate section of Wonderful Marche?
It came out after a collaboration with a local real estate agency. Now I am collaborating with them to help find a suitable match for international buyers who generally have different expectations and desires. It’s a resource within the blog. You can find a variety of content including properties for sale.
Do you have contacts that can also help people who are not looking for a luxury home find it?
Yes. Of course, we deal with many luxury properties, but we are not limited to it. We’re trying to offer different kinds of homes.
What do you know about the 1 Euro Home Project? Do you think it has hurt or helped the real estate market in Italy?
I think the 1 Euro Home Project is a great idea and it’s helping to revive some rural areas. However, even though the idea of snapping up a 1 Euro house might seem like a wonderful deal, I see several downsides. First, you need to check the specific local conditions like needing to move with your family and not use it as a second home. Maybe you need to have a professional builder available there or spend a certain amount ahead of time. Each village as its own rules.
On the other hand, the restoration costs and the bureaucracy involved with it can be a difficult path especially for foreigners. Most likely, they are not living here and when you need to follow everything, it’s not very simple.
Another point is that right now we have a lot of government incentives and deductions which is great. But now, for instance, we have a commodity crisis, and this makes the process very long and confusing. Also, there’s a lack of available professionals. If you try to find an available architect or construction company, it can be very hard.
I think it’s great, but you need to have a realistic vision.
What are some of things that foreigners really want from Le Marche?
Art, beauty, nature, authenticity. I think every traveler wants to get off the beaten path and find the real place.
It’s hard to find tourist traps here, souvenir shops, or restaurants with touristic menus. You may find restaurants with menus only in Italian and the food will always be wonderful. Le Marche offers many wonderful things.
What advice would you give to someone visiting an area that is not touristic?
Plan your travel first to understand the area before going there and the cultural differences. Here you have so many different aspects from one city to another. The behavior can be completely different. Try to research and understand so you have a better experience when you arrive.
Are locals open to welcoming tourists?
I think that people here are very nice. If you respect their land, they will open their doors even if you don’t find many people who speak English. The positive aspect is that they really want to show you who they are and the places that they think you’d love to see.
You are not going to find a person who is trying to sell you something. They are honest.
Do you find that there are just as many people who love the mountains as there are who love the beach?
Yes. Many foreigners love the rolling hills. Of course, the coast is very nice, but I think it’s the short distance between two very different landscapes that is very attractive. It’s very fascinating.
Also, the food and wine vary between areas.
Is it a good idea to have a car when visiting?
Yes, because it will allow you to explore more. You’ll have more freedom and it’s easier to organize your travel. It’s also beautiful to drive here. There’s plenty of places to stop and take photos.
What is your definition of an expat?
I think being an expat is much more than living outside of your native country. For me, it’s a person who has learned to move through their fears to achieve a dream. If you can make this step, you’ll have a sense of freedom. You are learning to deal with your own fears.
What changes have you seen in your area since the start of the pandemic and when you spoke about people hanging signs from their balconies that said, “andrà tutto bene”?
Since this time in the pandemic, I don’t think people use this phrase anymore! Covid has affected our society in many ways and also the people’s feelings of empathy, trust, and union. Worldwide, the pandemic has had a strong impact on our health and personal life. Companies are suffering. I think that everybody here just wishes to see a significant change in the pandemic and return to a more normal life. Like, the real Italian way of life where socialization is part of the cultural basis. Or, when you can hug and have a lot of friends over for dinner.
La Tavola (The Table)
Eating together is an important moment of socialization. Here it a very important part of the day. You need to stay together.
What are your future plans for the blog?
I work in communications, but sometimes I prepare things for the blog. If I have a customer, I stick to the plans and schedule. In this case, I would like to grow, start telling more stories, and transfer these feelings. I try to do it more naturally. Also, writing an article is easier because I do it for pleasure.
For me, Wonderful Le Marche is like a son!
A heartfelt thanks to Juliana for sharing your story again. Thanks to people like you, Live in Italy Magazine has grown: not only a publication, but as a community of like-minded people who love Italy!