Love and Renovation Italian Style!

Our lady's generous back side

 

Our grand old lady
Our grand old lady

Ciao Everyone!

Who hasn’t wanted to rescue an ancient house that was once filled with families, honor, fine food and love?

Millions of us have watched “Under the Tuscan Sun”, some of us many times (that would be me!) and as we did so we dreamed of perhaps one day, finding a house that speaks to us and begs us to give it a second chance at glory.

As you may know, my husband and I purchased a house in the Calabrian hill town of Santa Domenica Talao, Italy.  Our village, like so many others in the area, has a lot of abandoned ruins.

Ruined grand house
Ruined grand house

Back in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s many Italians fled Italy to America looking for a better life. Most of them were from Calabria and, although they have made great contributions to us in America in terms of food, family and culture, they left holes in their villages.  As a result the abandoned homes have been left to degenerate into a sad state of disrepair.

As you wander through our village you see these empty old beauties and you can’t help but think about how they might look all done up like new. But many of them have been salvaged and brought back to life, once again filled with love and family.

Houses lining the street leading to the piazza
Houses lining the street leading to the piazza

The street leading to the piazza is lined with beautifully renovated houses, all except for the ancient beauty that rises up over the street like a grand old lady, the only house on the block that needs a redo.

And, ever since my husband and I looked at her when we were in the market for our current house, we have never gotten free of her mysterious pull and finally after 9 years, we decided to purchase her and turn her into a BNB.

This lovely lady standing at Via XXIV Maggio, is ours at last.

Not the new one, the pink building next to it
Not the new one, the pink one next to it.

This was not a simple Italian property transaction. My husband and I decided to use some retirement money to set up a self directed IRA and purchase, renovate and run the BNB through this company. This means that we had to set up a separate company and deal with all of the tax and bureaucratic infrastructure that goes along with it.

Add to that the trouble we ran into getting the tax ID number and some other assorted bits of trouble and, well it took a bit to get it done.

View from the roof terrace
View from the roof terrace

Happily we had some big hitters and “get it done” people on our side. I want to take the opportunity to send out massive kudos to Antonello Lucchesi, our architect and Ivan De Luca, our estate agent and all around get it done guy. These two ran into so many obstacles and found ways around them all. It was really epic!

OMG! Where do we start?
OMG! Where do we start?

I also have to thank our seller Anne for being to gosh darned patient with our bits of trouble and hanging in with it all.

At Last it is Time to Renovate!

Ok, lots to do
OK, lots to do.

While Pete and I were in Santa Domenica last time, we had the opportunity to sit down with Antonello and his staff and go over the layout of all the rooms.

From the front, the house looks a lot smaller than it is. She has a ground floor and another floor above it however her generous backside rolls down the hill giving two more good sized floors that can be turned into accommodations.

Our lady's generous back side
Our lady’s generous back side

In the end we will have four “studiette” apartments with ensuite bath and coffee and fridge facilities and a full sized, one bedroom apartment.

Most of the apartments will have views of the mountains and the sea and one will have a balcony overlooking the street. We also have a large roof terrace where residents can enjoy sweeping views of the mountains and the sea from high above the village.

Balcony view
Balcony View of the mountains and sea

We have decided that we wanted a communal kitchen and eating area where breakfast will be served daily and where we can have events and classes.

And the best news we received while we were there? The cooking school that our mayor has been wooing is finally going to arrive!

As our renovations progress we plan to be in conversations with the cooking school to see about putting together vacation packages for those who want to learn real Calabrian cooking from the masters. In addition we will have ladies from our village teaching classes on everything from pasta making to meats to all of the seemingly millions of appetizers that one finds here.

We will have morning field trips down to the world famous Pasticceria Arrone for coffee and to die for cakes, beach trips, photography tours and whatever else we can think of.

So with the final signatures on all the documents and the money having changed hands, we are ready to start phase 2, renovations!

And a one bedroom apartment
And a one bedroom apartment

Stay with us along the way and watch as this beauty regains her past glory and takes her rightful place as one of Santa Domenica’s leading ladies of the piazza.

The Piazza
Our Piazza

 

 

 

 

 

Sending Love From California to Calabria

Santa Domenica Talao in Springtime
Chris in Santa Domenica Talao
Chris in Santa Domenica Talao

I have written much about our magical village of Santa Domenica Talao and its warm and loving people. When we arrived there we suddenly became a part of something much bigger than ourselves and our world expanded greatly.

We were now a part of this beautiful place and part of the lives of our neighbors. We love them and we feel loved very much in return.

And this creates a bit of a double edged sword personally speaking, especially when we are so far away for so much of the time.

My Beautiful Friends Nunzia
My Beautiful Friend Nunzia

When you love someone, you feel their joys, their wonders, their loves and their losses. You feel their pain every bit as intensely as if it were your own.

I have noticed this as I have gotten closer to our neighbors in Santa Domenica Talao. This has been a very tough year for some of our closest friends.

Santa Domenica Talao in Springtime
Santa Domenica Talao in Springtime

And it takes a bit to understand all that that entails.  We now have a sense of responsibility for each one of them and for their happiness and protection. We have a responsibility to promote our beautiful village and its people. We have a responsibility to stand up for it when someone might say something mean against it. It is a part of us and we are a part of it now and forever.

Santa Domenica Talao

And with that knowledge is the certainty that when we lose someone, we will feel it keenly and we will grieve with the families and the loved ones left behind.

That said, we want to send our special love and care to our friends in Santa Domenica who have suffered recent losses.

Our Beautiful Church
Our Beautiful Church

Even when we are in California we think of you often and always wish we could be with you, especially in the rough times.

We will be back among you soon.

XO Chris

Ruin Flippers! From Medieval to MAGNIFICENT!

The ruined palace
The road to ruin; Santa Domenica Talao
Road leading to the palace

 

Hi Everyone!

I have been in Santa Domenica Talao all week and if you have been following me on Facebook and Youtube, you know I have been up to some really fun and cool things and I am designating a portion of this blog  “Ruin Flippers”.

To start off with, I have been working with our village architect and contractor on renovations for the house my husband and I purchased in 2011.

When we bought our place here in Santa Domenica, it was a good sized apartment but we needed more bedrooms. So we purchased the ruin that is attached to our place with the idea that one day we would fix it up.

Initially we were thinking of making the ruin into a separate apartment but then we decided that it would be much more practical if we opened up the wall between our living room and the ruin and expanded our current living space.

This gives us an open plan living area and a new kitchen while freeing up the existing kitchen to be a good sized bedroom. Ultimately we will have two more bedrooms, another bathroom and another  balcony with sweeping views of the sea.

Soooo I met with Antonello the architect and one thing led to another. In the end we are getting a roof terrace as well and another storage and laundry room up top.

For a better picture of how this will roll out, please see my Youtube video as I walk you through the house and explain the changes.

Ruined Palace Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
The ruined palace

Knowing that we are renovating our house, Antonello, the village architect and incredibly smart historian insisted that I see the inside of the massive ruined palace that sits at the top of the village overlooking what used to be the original piazza.

Our village is actually upside down from what it used to be. The old piazza used to be at the top back of the village and overlooked the mountains. The newer one is in the front and overlooks the Mediterranean.

Ruin Flipper Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
The courtyard entrance. The stables are on your right

In its heyday, the ruined palace overlooked the piazza and the little alleyway that ran down from the upper piazza to the church. The alleyway was filled with shops and stalls all the way down and as you walk down from the top today following it, you can see how it might have looked.

The front door of this ruin is actually located on the opposite side from the road leading up to it and half way down a little alleyway.

The palace is a block long, multiple levels and God knows how many square meters.

Antonello took us in through the locked door that opened onto a small courtyard. On your right were the old stables (The stables were placed under the residences so that the body heat from the animals rose and helped keep the upper floors warm in Winter. One can imagine that the smell also rose with it which gives you a slightly unwelcome glimpse into what life there might have been like back then)

Ruin Flipper, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
The entry way with the beautiful terrazzo floors.

Going up the from steps, the front door opened into a large entryway with a huge hallway/living space beyond it. And as you walk in, you step back in time to the late 1890’s when this palace was in its original grandeur.

For now, the beautiful terrazzo floors are covered with dust. The original furniture remains along with the teapots and dishes.

Ruin Flipper Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
Midcentury sofa in a medieval ruin

A sofa that was new in the 1950;s looks oddly out of place next to the walls that have been standing since the medieval period.

As you walk through the grand hall to the front of the house, you enter a huge drawing room big enough to be a ball room.

Ruin Flipper, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
A little TLC and she could be as grand as she once was.
Ruin Flipper. SantaDomenica, Talao, Calabria, Italy
Soggiorno

In front are two large balconies overlooking what used to the the main piazza and the center point of the village.

The walls are covered with bright red wallpaper which, upon close inspection of the newspaper backing it, reveals a date of 1960’s when the wall paper was added to dress up the space.

The floors however were the most beautiful part of this huge room. Again covered with decades of dust, the tile floor is a complex pattern of painted tiled put together to look like a fine carpet.

Ruin Flipper, Santa Domenica Talao,Calabria, Italy
Dishes and furniture, untouched

Although the floor is covered with dust, you can look at the walls, the furniture left in the other rooms, the chandelier that has been promised to the church in the new piazza, and see exactly what this room once looked like. It was grand and beautiful.

As Antonello took us on a walking tour through the house he pointed out pictures on the wall.

Ruin Flipper Santa Domenica Talao Calabria Italy
A snapshot in time

One picture was a daughter of the owner. Antonello told us her sad history and her photo shows a sadness that is frozen in time here on a wall in the corner of the hallway.

Ruin Flipper, Santa Domenica Tavola, Calabria, Italy
Old kitchen
Ruin Flipper, San ta Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
Kitchen

As we made our way through, more photos were revealed, again frozen in time and miraculously still attached to the walls waiting for someone to collect them.

According to Antonello, the owners of the house want to sell it and sell it for cheap. They understand the amount of work it would take to repair and restore this beauty and it is a labor of love that Antonello showed it to me in the hopes that I might help him find the perfect someone who wants to restore a beautiful place in the a perfect little hill town in Santa Domenica Talao, Italy and live there.

Ruin Flipper, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
View from window

This place would make a stunningly beautiful home for someone who wants to live in a place where life is piano, piano, love and community are still important and where food, art, architecture and beauty reign supreme.

If you are that special person, please contact me. The asking price is peanuts and I know the local builder. Antonello would love to set his considerable talents to work redesigning the spaces so that they work for a modern lifestyle.

Ruin Flippers, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria, Italy
Old treasures

In the end you could own a palace that takes up an entire block at the top of a stunningly beautiful village in Calabria for less than you would pay for a crappy condo in San Jose, California.

And if you want to join the ranks of Ruin Flippers, you could live here in Santa Domenica Talao, in the most beautiful village in the world.

For detailed video descriptions of the village and the ruin click here and here.

Santa_Domenica_Talao
Santa Domenica Talao

If you are interested in purchasing any property (And there are many) I am offering a consulting package. Your flight, your accommodations, your train tickets, your rental car, your real estate agents and tours and translation in Calabria with architects, builders and legal counsel will be included.  I will personally show you around and arrange everything. Most of the amazing properties I have seen recently in our village are not on the Italian multiple listing service

If ruins do not appeal to you, there are renovated properties available that are so cheap you could almost put them on a credit card. .

They are very affordable and have magnificent views of mountains or the sea. It is a buyer’a market right now so a great time to buy.

For advice on moving to Italy, please check out my interview with Bonnie Gale Oliver. She gives you a glimpse of life in the village and valuable advice on how to make the move.

And stay tuned for detailed pictures and videos of our own renovation projects. We are renovating our house and eyeing a property that would make fabulous BNB. We are ironing out the details right now but we will soon be in full swing.

See you there!

XO Chris

PS for more photos and reasons to chuck your life and move to Italy, check out my blog post on why Calabria is such a great retirement destination.