Firstperson: Moving Abroad - Sophia Loren Made All Our Dreams Come True; WE ALL HAVE THAT FEELING AT THE END OF A HOLIDAY WHEN THE LURE OF GOOD WEATHER AND A RELAXED LIFESTYLE MAKES US RELUCTANT TO RETURN HOME. HERE, ONE SCOTS COUPLE TELL HOW THEY GAVE UP BRITAIN FOR LIFE IN ITALY AND WOUND UP WITH A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS

Article excerpt

FIONA McCardle and Jim Andrew have few opportunities these days to wear the knitwear they once designed for a living. That's largely due to the fact that woolly jumpers can be unpractical when you're running one of the most visited internet sites in the world, while relaxing by a pool under the baking Tuscan sun.

Fiona's family are originally from the Stirling area and Jim's are from Airdrie, but the couple moved to Italy 14 years ago, after their lives had been turned upside down at home.

Things had been good for Fiona and Jim in Britain, as they owned their own knitwear design studio, which they operated from a warehouse on the banks of the Thames in London.

After graduating in Textile Design from The Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels and Central St Martins art school in London, they were doing the job they had both dreamed of.

However, the good times weren't to last long with factories up and down the country going to the wall as the textile industry suffered a major crisis due to competition from abroad.

Fiona said: 'It was a very difficult time for the both of us as we really didn't know what to do, and with the way things were looking in the industry, we were seriously staring unemployment in the face.

'We had both fallen in love with Italy, through visiting the country with work and decided we had nothing to lose by uprooting and moving.'

The young couple moved to Milan during the 1990 World Cup and settled in a flat just a corner kick from the magnificent San Siro football stadium, which had just been built for the tournament.

Although they loved the cosmopolitan buzz of fashion capital Milan, the couple had always dreamt of living in the countryside and decided to move to Tuscany in 1992. In the early days they took a number of jobs so they could get by, but at this stage they certainly weren't living La Dolce Vita.

Jim said: 'My first job was teaching English to students in a local language school.

'I was told not to speak Italian during my classes which was lucky as at that stage I could only manage a couple of words. Through time we both learned the language which made settling into the country so much easier.

'From time to time we both talked about coming home to Scotland, but a particularly wet summer in Airdrie put that notion out of our heads.

'We had returned home for a few months during which time it rained horizontally non-stop and as much as we both love Scotland, it was the fantastic weather and relaxed lifestyle of Italy that made us return.'

Neither Fiona or Jim had really given much thought to long-term careers while in Italy until one day a friend asked them for advice on renting his newly restored farmhouse to tourists.

Jim laughed: 'We like to tell people that the success we are experiencing now with the website is, in a small way, thanks to Sophia Loren.

'Our friend Paolo was a childhood neighbour of Sophia Loren near Naples before he moved to Tuscany and it was him who wanted us to help him market his property towards tourists.

'If he hadn't asked us for advice our site, www.rent-a-villa-in-tuscany.com would never have been started.

'Like thousands of other people around the globe, we'd read all about the power of the web and how it was possible to run a totally flexible international business from a computer in your front room. …