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Maria and her husband Luigi have always been keen travellers. They live together in their family home Gualdo Tadino, an ancient hillside town in the province of Perugia in Umbria, Italy. With their children all grown up and flown the nest, Maria and Luigi have taken up home swapping as a way to make the most of their home to travel.

“We both think that house swaps are a great way to save money for sure but there are so many other aspects and advantages from both sides. You get to stay in houses of all different styles and sizes and in different positions. On a beautiful beach, in stunning countryside, in the middle of a city, on a beautiful lagoon where flocks of flamingos come to feed.”

Family meals in one of Maria's South African home swaps, and the increbile sea view from their home in KwaDukuza

 Maria also mentioned the sense of security that comes with how home swapping works, “in this money obsessed world is that no money changes hands. That in turn made us more relaxed, delighted to be staying in other people’s homes. We had talked to some of them on WhatsApp and understood a bit about them and looking at some of their pictures and artefacts in their homes, also gave us an insight into their families and their world. There was a totally natural respect for the houses we stayed in. Some looked as if the owners had just left with very personal touches everywhere! Some houses are main homes and others are holiday homes.”

Using points to swap their homes in Umbria, Maria and Luigi have been able to swap for a beachside homes in Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth in South Africa, and have planned two holidays to a county home in Provence and a stunning apartment in Kew, London for this Summer.

South Africa is a firm favourite for the couple, having spent the first part of 2018 touring the country using home swapping. Over the month of February, the two  stayed in a total of five homes to explore this vast country, swapping homes in Cape Town, KwaDukuza on the Durban coastline, McGregor in the stunning wine region, Mossel Bay and Port Elizabeth.

Maria and family enjoying a safari in Port Elizabeth during their three week long trip to South Africa this February

“South Africa is a great country for its variety of things to see and do. We may well go back next year as it's so easy to be an independent traveller there.”

When we asked Maria what the highlights were from their trip, she replied “too many to mention! Dolphins passing by while you’re having breakfast, sitting with a glass of wine looking at a stunning view, birdwatching, walking on a windswept beaches with friends, eating fresh seafood...” 

When asked how home swapping made a difference to the way the couple holiday, Maria mentioned it was less about money and more about home comforts.

“Obviously we saved money which enabled us to stay longer as my husband can no longer tolerate the cold European winters. The houses had comfortable furniture and beds and some had better equipped kitchens than others. That wasn’t a problem as you could buy really good fresh food that didn’t require much cooking. It was great to have a washing machine too.”

Maria enjoying the seaside in Port Elizabeth and their home swap with incredible poolside view in KwaDukuza, just north of Durban.

“Last year we had some very interesting people to stay and this year promises to be even better! I think the idea of no money exchanging hands appealed to us. I am a teacher and I do swaps even for my lessons!”


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