Freedom with a guest house in Italy

How much freedom do you really have when you start a guest house in Italy?
My name is Roos Zwager and I have been living and working in Italy for 22 years with my husband Nico. We have had a guesthouse there for 32 years now, consisting of 4 apartments in a rustic farmhouse where we can receive up to 17 people.
We started on this because we wanted more freedom and secretly found it exciting to live in Italy. At the time, of course, we had no idea what challenge we were really starting and how much freedom we would really get.

What does freedom mean to you?

Do you recognize yourself in this and do you also want more freedom? And would you also like a guest house in Italy? Then it is a good idea to first describe for yourself what gives you a feeling of freedom.
Is that a life without an agenda? Do you want to let go of fixed patterns? Or maybe be your own boss? Would you like to be less influenced by colleagues, neighbors or your family and be able to make your own choices? Perhaps you are now in the office and would much rather be outside all day?

Different for everyone

Freedom with a guest house in Italy: I experience that freedom mainly because I can see far away

Every person has different things with which he experiences a feeling of freedom.
My husband experiences freedom when he can spend his day the way he wants to and create things. And I experience that freedom mainly because I live in a remote place where I can see far away and do my own things.
The choice we made to start a guest company in a remote place in Italy is right for both of us. We both experience a kind of happiness every day. Ultimate freedom!

But how will that be for you in the future? Through what or in what circumstances do you experience freedom and do you get a feeling of happiness?

Your desire to emigrate

An important reason to emigrate and to run a guesthouse may be that you want to escape the busy life in the Netherlands. You are in a relationship, you have children, a job, a large circle of friends, you like sports or have other hobbies and you have had the idea for a long time that you have no time for anything. You don't have time for your relationship. You feel guilty towards your children because you are not home much during the week. In your job you walk on your toes because the expectations of your employer are high. Almost every weekend you have appointments with friends and then you only see them 3 times a year. You usually arrive at your sports club panting and you have recently canceled because you are no longer pulling it all. In short, you long for more time. And if you leave all that behind by emigrating, you think you will succeed.

But do you get more time?

Freedom with a guest house in Italy? That can't be right!

In all the 'I Leave' programs where people start a guesthouse, the departers sigh that they finally get time for their children and their relationship! But is that the case in practice? When I see those programs, I only see them working much harder than they did in their regular job in the Netherlands. They don't have a lot of time for their children either. But they are almost always very happy with the choice they have made! How is that possible?


Perhaps the answer is that they simply made a choice. A choice for a life or a place that makes them happy and gives them a sense of freedom.
So you will have to make choices. Whether you stay in the Netherlands or are going to emigrate, if you continue to do everything you do now, you will continue to experience pressure and you will continue to long for more time and more freedom.

Keep in mind that having a guesthouse anywhere is going to take you a lot of time. In the months when there are guests, you will have little free time if you do not make choices. 
And you have to look for those choices you are going to make in the answers you have just given yourself to the question of what gives you a feeling of freedom. 

Freedom through more free time

An example: Your answer is that you feel freedom and peace if you literally had more free time. 

If it is your dream to start a B&B in Italy, you will have to make such choices when running that B&B that it will give you free time. For example, you could only provide a bed and breakfast. Then you have the afternoon and evening for yourself and your family.

The only question is whether you generate enough income to make ends meet. What I see and hear around me is that the income from just the bed with breakfast is often not enough. Then you must either have a different income or offer your guests something else than just a bed and breakfast. These can include services such as courses, retreats, tastings, trips and cooking.
Then your free time will of course be more limited. With cooking you will have to do fresh groceries every day. You can of course also get all your fresh ingredients from your vegetable garden if you create a vegetable garden, but having a vegetable garden also takes a lot of time. And while we're on the subject of time, after such a nice meal, the guests will stay seated for a while, but you have to get out the next morning at 6 am to prepare breakfast. In my opinion, you will not get more free time with a B&B because do not forget the cleaning, laundry and ironing! With frequently changing guests, this has to be spic and span with every guest change!

Freedom through hard work

However, if your answer had been that you experience freedom and tranquility when you can pamper people, give them a nice day or learn something, then the whole picture that I have outlined above will tilt. You do something that makes you happy and gives you energy. You just follow your passion and do where your heart lies. And if you do what makes you happy, it doesn't matter if it takes a lot of time. As a result, you will experience a sense of freedom while working very hard!
Another consequence is that your happiness radiates to your guests. They feel welcome and pampered, will come back to you and tell you that they have now found a nice B&B!

Our choices

We have also made choices. Instead of a B&B, we rent out fully furnished apartments to guests. We do not provide breakfast or other meals. Our guests are completely autonomous and free to do what they want. Exactly what we love too.
The work we have, there are four apartments, is not too bad. Only during a changeover day, which usually falls on Saturday, it is a lot of work. In the event of a change, the apartments must of course be cleaned and the beds made again. Furthermore, there is the laundry and ironing, and then the ironing is most of the work. 

Freedom with a guest house in Italy: If you do what makes you happy, you can get tired and at the same time experience an enormous positive energy.

We also take plenty of time that day to welcome our guests with a drink and a snack and if there are enough guests and the weather is nice, we fire up the pizza oven the day after arrival to bake pizza together with our guests. and of course to eat together! And because we are so fond of our freedom and do not like fixed appointments, we always let whether or not the pizza afternoon or evening continue depends on the moment. Ultimately, it always continues unless it rains.

Physically we are always very tired on Sunday evenings. But we always experience a huge feeling of happiness because it was such a special pizza afternoon or evening.

Our freedom

Freedom with a guest house in Italy

For us there is enough free time and especially freedom and that means that we do not regret the decision we made 22 years ago. And don't think we'll be doing nothing for the rest of the week. After all, there is always something to do when you have a guest house. We take all the time for a chat. If we feel like showing guests a special swimming spot in nature, we will. In the end, we do a lot on those other days, but in complete freedom. And we have all done it for that freedom!

Freedom and your guesthouse soon

How will that be for you in the future? Why or in what circumstances do you experience a feeling of freedom and do you become happy? Make sure you have that clear before you emigrate to Italy and set up your guest house there. It will be the key to a successful emigration and a successful guest business.

Next week I will tell you what is happening or should be happening behind the scenes, if you are running a guesthouse.

Do you not want to wait for next week and do you already have questions? Do not hesitate to contact me.

If this story does not apply to you, but you think it could benefit someone in your circle of friends, please share this message!


  1. Peter van Biljouw

    Dear Ms Swager,
    My compliments for your website and all the information you share !
    We are looking at the possibility of emigrating to Italy or France, so I accidentally came across your website during my search on the internet. We are not potential buyers of your project, but your information makes us more and more enthusiastic. We wish you every success with the sale.

  2. Richard Beemsterboer

    we are definitely interested and want to do whatever you do with eg other ideas such as making cheese and other things freedom appeals to us very much we do have questions about living in italy I'd love to hear from you

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