How I Live My Dream Life In Italy Earning Six-Figures As A Single Mom

Photo: Courtesy of the Author
nikki taylor

In 2001, I moved to London from my hometown of Perth, in Western Australia.

One of my first trips to Europe was to Florence, Italy. I remember being awestruck by the beauty of the city, the architecture, the history, the food, and pretty much everything I encountered. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. 

I was 21 at the time and I felt an intense pull toward this beautiful city, and I remember saying to myself at the time, one day I will live here.

The pull I felt towards Italy was even more unusual since I had no Italian heritage myself. But Italy just felt like home.

During my 12 years living in London, I visited Italy 7 or 8 times and with each visit, my love for the country grew stronger and stronger. 

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Corporate burnout 

Fast forward to 2013, and I was back in Australia, working in the banking industry.

On paper, my life seemed perfect: A six-figure salary in the corporate world, an apartment with a Sydney Harbor Bridge view, and thriving social life, but something was missing.

I knew that I was destined for more.

I wanted to experience a different culture and I knew working 12-hour days in an office environment was not where I wanted to be long-term.

Soon enough, my long workdays were catching up with me and severe stomach pains landed me in St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney for a week, while I was attached to a morphine drip. 

It was my line in the sand moment.

I had no partner, no children, and no ties. It was time to make changes in my life.

I was not leading the healthiest life at the time.

Between the long workdays, after-work socializing, and poor food choices, my body was sending me signs to stop and re-assess where I was going and what I was doing with my life.

After moving away from Australia, I never really settled back into life there and I didn’t want to move back to London, but I had a UK passport, so I had options in Europe.

Italy was my answer.

I remember announcing to a girlfriend over dinner that I was going to move there. The words flew out of my mouth as if it was planned all along, but making the proclamation out loud took me by surprise, and I started to entertain the idea.

I immediately enrolled in an Italian language school in Sydney to start learning the basics and I gave myself 12 months to get my new life in order.

Exactly 12 months to the date after I made my decision to move to Italy, I moved to a town in the far northeast of the country on the Austrian border called Bolzano.

It's like living in a postcard: Picture perfect mountains, beautiful panoramic views, and stunning architecture.

In all my planning of moving to Italy, I didn't give much consideration as to what I was going to do for work. I was offered a position at my previous company that had an office in Milan, but I didn’t want to live in a big city again surrounded by chaos.

One afternoon I was having an aperitivo and saw a job posting written in English for a marketing assistant working for an international luxury real estate agency. I got the job and started working immediately, doing marketing and business development, and guiding English-speaking clients who were looking to purchase Italian real estate.

I remained in Bolzano for 3 years but being an Aussie girl at heart, I missed the beach and sought to find one. 

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My new love, Puglia

My Italian teacher in Sydney was from the region of Puglia and she spoke so highly of the area it intrigued me. She told me about a town called Monopoli and when I made the move, I fell in love from the get-go.

Red earth, olive groves, a sky so blue it looks fake, and gorgeous whitewashed seaside towns with quaint alleyways filled with trattorias, bars, cafes, and boutiques: that's Monopoli. I remember walking through the old town with tears in my eyes because I finally felt at home. 

I don’t know what it is about Puglia, but I have never felt so at peace, so content and so happy living anywhere else in the world as I do here. 

From a teenager right into my early 30s, I suffered from an eating disorder that took over my life and shaped my relationships. Living in Italy where food culture is so prominent, this was tough for me at first.

Gone were the days when I could skip lunch or pick at a salad or a fruit smoothie — mealtimes were an event and a chance to spend time with friends and family.

Living in Italy incredibly healed me of my issues with food, I have a newfound respect for food and for allowing myself to indulge, without guilt.

An idea was born

I noticed in working in real estate, that people had a lot of fear around investing and purchasing property here. There are horror stories all over social media and various ex-pat groups losing their life savings, encountering the wrong types of real estate professionals, and generally having a fear of who to trust.

It dawned on me that there was a huge gap in the market that I could fill so I created a course, the first in the country and industry on buying property in Italy. The course was a hit, selling out time after time — it blew my mind how much of a need this was filling for people.

When the Covid pandemic hit in early 2020, I was pregnant with my second child, and business was looking bleak, as none of my clients — who were and still are predominantly American — were able to travel to view properties in person.

The pandemic spurred me to create “La Dolce Vita On A Shoestring,” a weekly newsletter highlighting the best turnkey properties for sale in Italy.

Each week, my clients got the best properties delivered to their inboxes and soon I was helping people buy properties sight unseen — while being safely guided by myself and my team of experts.

The newsletter evolved into La Dolce Vita Lifestyle Magazine, which is the leading publication for Italian real estate and lifestyle.

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Juggling work/mom life balance

I made the hard decision to separate from my partner, the father of our two children, and go at it alone as a single mom.

 Running a business as a mother of two boys under the age of five can be challenging. I'm lucky enough to have structured my business in a way that I can work in short sharp bursts throughout the day, which not only prevents me from becoming burnt out but also allows me to have time for my kids.

This year has been somewhat of a renaissance of sorts for me in so many ways.

For the first time, I did not have a business mentor guiding me. I was the singular person making choices and calling shots on my own and it has paid off in so many ways. It's been the most profitable, productive, and satisfying year since I started my business three years ago.

I've been so lucky living in Puglia, where I have a strong support network of friends who have become family and I feel so much happiness and gratitude waking up each morning in my beautiful home, in the heart of the Valle d’Itria surrounded by the iconic Trulli houses, vineyards, and olive groves.

Today, my focus is on providing the best future I possibly can for myself and my boys. I want them to look at me as their example of what it means to go after what you want. 

For those who are considering setting up their own business but aren't sure where to start, my advice would be this. What is a topic that you could talk about with friends and family with no hesitation? What is it about that topic that lights you up? Once you find what that is, do your research, find the right groups online or in person, and start asking questions that will align with the people in those groups.

What do these people need to learn from you? How can you be that bridge between them learning the information and implementing what you have got to say? Market research is key.

Before I started my business, I wrote in a Facebook group of people wanting to buy homes in Italy and asked: Who would love to learn a course on buying property in Italy? I had 1,000 people sign up within 24 hours. After I set up the course, it sold out in less than 12 hours and has been sold out ever since. It's all about asking the right questions with the right people. 

Success is there for us — it's just a matter of having the belief that your dreams are possible.

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Nikki Taylor is a 3x Amazon bestselling author and her work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Millionaire magazines, and HGTV’s Mediterranean Life TV program.