The very first thing I did after we found out our orders were cut for Aviano, Italy—you know, after I stopped dancing around the living room like a fool, and picked my jaw off the ground—was start the house hunt. It was still about five months before we’d actually be out there, but everyone on the Facebook spouse’s page for Aviano suggested we get an AHRN.com account as soon as possible so we could start searching for a house. Done!
I quickly noticed that — unlike in America — there was no base housing at Aviano. While this could be a little scary for some, it was really a dream come true. You have to live “on the economy” (a phrase you’ll here quite often during an OCONUS stay), which basically means you live amongst the locals and do as the locals do. My husband and I were all for living in an Italian community, but until we actually stepped foot in Italia, it would be hard to find a specific new home since you sort of need to be there to explore the structure, see the town, experience the drive to and from base, and make sure the home and area fits your needs (Italian homes are not like American homes, but that’s a story for another day).
Until that first day of actual house hunting could start, it was all about the virtual search. I browsed AHRN.com so many times during those five months of limbo that I’d wake up in the morning and cross my fingers a home I saw on there the day before would still be available—FIVE months before we even arrived! There’s a search feature that shows viewers when a home will be available, so I’d always start my search that way to see if any new homes popped up. Then I’d do a map search to get a feel for where the different towns were.
Those early days were spent daydreaming about what life would be like after moving to Italy. Some of the homes looked like little villas, situated on acres with orchards and grapevines in their backyard. Others were smack dab in the middle of a town, with the hustle and bustle right at your doorstep. By looking ahead of time, I also got a feel for the homes themselves. First, there weren’t any cookie-cutter homes for Italy; no two homes were the same. Most had kitchens the size of a closet — and closets were nonexistent in Europe! Some great homes didn’t accept pets (we were moving with our dog), while others allowed pets, but didn’t have a fence around the open back yard. I saw that multi-story homes were the norm, and noted that none had carpeting; we’d need to buy rugs. I quickly realized we would have to be patient once we got there as we searched for our Italian home.
Even though I knew the chances were extremely slim that we’d actually find a house based on those early days of searching for one online (since the good ones were there one day and off the site the next), I’m glad I was familiar with the site. Once we arrived, I knew it could turn into a fierce competition to find a home since we’d have our hat in the ring with everyone else who arrived at the same time we did, and with those who were there before us. But I felt much more confident knowing I could rely on AHRN.com.
The one thing I did know was that I was ready to get there and actually see those homes in person! Until then, I made a wish list of the things we’d like in a house and kept on house hunting from afar.
Jessica Lynn is an Air Force wife, work-at-home mom, and a former Italian expat. She and her husband recently moved back to America, per military orders, and currently live in Georgia. During their OCONUS tour, they spent their free time traveling around Europe and enjoying la dolce vita in their small town. Upon their return to the States, they brought back two new additions to the family: a baby girl named after the region where they lived, and more than two hundred bottles of wine! Jessica currently chronicles her life at Jessica Lynn Writes.