Italy Mag - November 2004

It is the new way of traveling in Italy: renting an apartment in one of the art cities or a villa in one of the wine regions. You can cook, run around the living room naked and be surrounded by Italian beauty and taste. Appealing isn’t it? Well this is also what the Kammer family thought.

Meet Jill and Leon Kammer, their two daughters, Ava and Ruby and dog Tashi (a small, fluffy, crazy Lhassa Apso) who after resettling in different places from Bangkok and New York to the south of France and Australia, found themselves in a 16th century farmhouse perched on top of a hill in Perugia, Umbria.

Continuing Adventure
Leon Kammer was once in the music business in Australia on a show called Kommotion. This was long before MTV, music videos didn’t exist, and Leon started by miming the songs of original artists which was the closest thing to a music video clip. It was the early days of Billy Thorpe, Russel Morris, Johnny Young and the Easybeats – the Bee Gees were just getting started and nobody had even heard the word ‘discothèque’.

Leon had some moderate success that led to a song writing contract in Los Angeles – but nothing big enough to take seriously and “when my hairline started to recede I knew it was time to change course”. As a result the Kammer family left Australia in 1997 for Bangkok to pursue a business opportunity, “and at the end of that year , we simply felt the adventure should not end, and decided on a year in Italy. We’ve been here ever since.”

Rome Sweet Home
They made the decision to move to Perugia in late May but realised immediately that life there was a little too quiet and decided on Rome. Knowing that spending the summer there would have been far too hot, they opted for a fabulous ten-week stay on the remote Sicilian island of Pantelleria before landing in Rome to prepare for their new life. Finding a home, work and schools for the girls was top of the list.

They immediately decided to settle in Trastevere, a beautiful historical area right near the Vatican and managed to book an apartment over the Internet. After paying a 50 percent deposit they turned up to a filthy accommodation that bore no resemblance to the photos. They stayed just 30 days. Somehow they managed to find another apartment which was cleaner and nearer to their intended location for a further 30 days, then again another, until finally they found a gorgeous place in a perfect location. Jill remembers saying to Leon, ‘just do whatever it takes and get this apartment!’ and they lived there for the first three years, quite happily.

Most Italians thought the house perfectly sized and quite beautiful (which it was), but visitors from Australia thought they’d gone mad and wondered how on earth they could manage to live in such a small place without going crazy. The apartment was 60 square meters with one bathroom and two bedrooms. When the girls turned into teenagers they realised that they had finally outgrown their home and searched for a full year for the perfect replacement. They now live in a beautiful 140 square meter apartment right near the Spanish Steps.

Why Rome? ‘Living in Rome you experience an extraordinary amount of beauty each day, whether it’s the architecture, the art, the beautiful Roman people, the food, the incredible blue skies and sun that seems to shine almost everyday. Spending time away from this city can be difficult, after a week away you really do long for that beauty again.’

For the Kammers, life in Rome is quite sensational. As a family they all love it equally, it’s a safe and grounded environment for their children and they can see them growing up without the usual teenage pressures that exist in the UK, USA and Australia. ‘In Italy, children seem to be allowed to grow up more slowly and for that we are grateful’. Their girls initially went to Italian schools until they reached high school and are now at a British school in the centre of Rome.