A Post-Contagion Escape to the Countryside | Voice of America


Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio’s classic book “The Decameron,” completed by the author shortly after the 14th century Black Death, seven young women and three young men escape the bubonic plague and seclude themselves in a countryside villa outside Florence. 

There they narrate a hundred tales to occupy their self-quarantine.

The book concludes with the group returning happily to the city of Florence on the passing of the plague, to resume their previous pre-contagion lives. Today, many affluent city dwellers in Britain and elsewhere in Europe appear determined to head in the opposite direction in the coronavirus era, with four out of 10 city-based house-hunters seriously considering an escape to the countryside for good, according to a recent survey.

For many it is a relocation they hadn’t thought of prior to the pandemic, but having grown accustomed to working from home during the lockdown, and skeptical that city life will return to anything like the pre-pandemic “normal” in the foreseeable future, they see advantages in embracing a rural life.

Real estate agents say they’re fielding a surge of inquiries from city-dwellers wanting to relocate. “They now realize they can work from home very happily,” says Jamie Jamieson, a property-search specialist in the eastern English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. He says inquiries have increased by 60 percent from urbanites wanting his help with a house search. Prior to the pandemic there used to be a lag between talking with a potential client and them signing on for his assistance. Now they’re much more motivated. “There is no lag at all,” he told VOA.

Jamieson is not alone among Britain’s real estate agents and property search companies seeing a surge of interest in moving away from London and the big cities. Property is more affordable and for the price of an apartment in parts of the British capital, buyers can secure a substantial six-bedroom house in Norfolk. “They can get more space, a garden, more light and go for walks in the evening along the seashore rather than having a difficult commute on the underground in the evening,” says Jamieson.

FILE – Autumn mists hang over villages and the countryside in the South Downs National Park near Amberley in Southern England.

Lucian Cook of Savills, one of Britain’s biggest real estate agencies, is seeing a similar increase. His company conducted a survey last month of buyers and sellers across Britain who had registered with Savills. Thirty percent of the Londoners questioned said they are more likely to consider a village or rural location now for their next house purchase, “a reflection,” he says, “of a change in thinking about work-life balance.” 

Cook says he noticed a lot of “window-shopping” on Savills’ website as the nine-week coronavirus…



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