Home Stories Multimedia Blogs Contributors About Contact

The Cagli Media Project
Institute for Education
in International Media
Andrew Ciofalo, Director

Italy: A Land of Tolerance

Two Brits Savor Life as Rural Hoteliers
Story by Alex Cirillo

Perched on a hill surrounded by untainted countryside and woodlands, against a picturesque backdrop of some of the highest mountain peaks in the northern Marche region, sit La Casetta and La Pieve. These 18th century buildings located at the core of the 13th century parish of San Cristoforo were renovated by Richard Dixon and Peter Greene, who purchased the property in 1988 and converted it into a successful agriturismo, or rural inn.

Then in their 30s, full of courage and determination, Dixon and Greene left the impersonal city of London, where they had been living together for 10 years, for the small community of Cagli, Italy, where everyone knows each other and friendship is strongly valued.

While in many places a foreign, homosexual couple may face discrimination and have difficulty being accepted in a new community, Dixon, now 50, and Greene, 54, encountered quite the opposite upon moving to Cagli. They were met with endless patience, acceptance, and helpfulness by their new Italian neighbors

San Christoforo Bed & Breakfast

“The fact that Peter and I live together doesn't make a difference at all,” explained Dixon. “Cagli is remarkably tolerant in that sense. They've never raised an issue about it.”

In the almost 20 years he’s been living in Cagli, Dixon could only think of one example of discrimination that he encountered, and it had nothing to do with the couple’s sexuality. He explained that he and Greene were walking through the piazza during the World Cup when England was playing Italy, and one Italian was extremely rude to him. “But of course,” Dixon jested. “My fault for going to the piazza that day.”

Dixon and Greene found it easy to develop relationships with the locals, despite their differences and the language barrier. “In Italy there is the concept of a group of people that has always been together, and they go around together,” Dixon explained. “And we were accepted by people who introduced us into their group of friends, and within a few months of arriving we suddenly found we had a ready-made circle of friends.”

Their Italian friends have helped Dixon and Greene learn Italian with enormous patience. They invited each other to dinner parties, and the Italians were able to assist Dixon and Greene to become fluent Italian speakers without formal lessons.
Dixon and Greene felt that it was vital to take the time to learn the language of their new home. While they have both improved their Italian considerably, Dixon claims to still speak Italian with a “horribly English accent.”

Although Dixon and Greene have become fully integrated into the community, they remain aware of the constant possibility of making cultural mistakes.

“You’re conscious of the fact that you are a foreigner,” Dixon said. “Therefore there are occasions when you realize that you might in England, or in your home country, do something, but then you have to remember that perhaps it’s better to think of yourself as a guest in somebody else’s country, for fear of offending them. There are certain things you can do in your own home that you can’t do in somebody else’s home.”

They don’t, however, consider themselves foreigners anymore. They are involved in many aspects of the community, such as organizing tours of a nearby castle, and are far from being strangers to the locals.

Foreigners have been coming to Cagli to stay at Dixon and Greene’s agriturismo since 1999. The agriturismo consists of two private cottages, La Casetta and La Pieve. La Casetta is a stone cottage that Dixon and Greene rebuilt in 1993 to house up to four guests. La Pieve is a converted chapel that can accommodate two guests.

Agriturismi are similar to bed and breakfasts, but to be considered an agriturismo the owners must grow some of the provisions they offer. Dixon and Greene have a small vineyard on the premises. They pick the grapes and press their own wine every fall.

“It’s been a great experience,” Dixon said of his time in Cagli. “The strange thing about life is that you don’t always know what’s going to happen, and you find yourself with an opportunity and you suddenly find yourself wanting to do something different and it just happens. It’s turned out very well.”

Images from Bed and Breakfast

Photos by Brett Kahn
Video by Cindy Dew
Web Design by Julia Gaspary