So! If you have a thought about purchasing property in Italy, how about our little village?
On my last visit, our village architect, Antonello gave me a gorgeous tour of several properties because my friend was looking to buy there. And honestly there is so much available.
If you have ever thought of moving to Italy but wondered how to do it, go see my interview with Bonnie Gale Oliver, an expat in our village.
At the top of the village is a gorgeous two bedroom apartment that has recently been fully restored. Everything has been removed and replaced down to the windows. It features a cute little terrace where you can have coffee or hang your clothes.
It also has large windows that open to sweeping views of the Mediterranean from the lounge area and the bedroom. The asking prices was $80,000
Another apartment featured a one bedroom, one bath apartment above and another bed and small bath below. This was listed at $55,000
And yet another was a cute one bed one bath with views of the sea for $40,000.
In addition to these finished apartments, there is a seemingly endless supply of ruins that could be renovated to your specifications. Some are pretty crumbly but others only need finishes to be beautiful and very comfortable once again.
Pete and I have gotten to know the village architect very well and he loves designing spaces in keeping with the Italian flair and making them stunningly pretty.
If you are interested in our little corner of paradise, please let me know. I can line up a trip for you and assist in the translation and introductions.
Lining up your future home and dreaming about your own personal House Hunters International success is something to think about on these long, cold evenings while we wait for the sun.
So what do you think? Maybe this will change your mind:
Or how about this?:
And if that doesn’t take you over the top. I know the best bakery in all of Calabria and will clue you in.
If you are like me, you are hooked on House Hunters International. I watch every episode on Europe and I love trying to figure out which house the buyers will get and what kind of life they will create there. The episodes on Italy are always my favorite.
Back in 2011, my husband Pete and I made our House Hunters International dream come true by purchasing a medieval house on the top of a 300 year old building in an ancient hill town in Calabria, Southern Italy.
Back then not many people had heard of Calabria. Guidebooks ignored it despite the fact that Calabria boasts of some of the most dramatic landscapes and some of the most stunning beaches on the planet.
So we had very little competition buying our house with its sparking white tile and sweeping view of the sea.
And we have been visiting there as much as we possibly can since we bought it. We love it there and miss it sorely when we are away..
Last Summer I was there with a friend who was looking at purchasing a property there. As we wandered though the piazza toward the back of the village, my eyes fell on a ruin that Pete and I had fallen in love with when we were looking for our house. It had been on the market then but was too expensive and needed extensive renovations.
This ruin, I had heard, had been purchased and yet here it was, still sitting in a state of partial renovation as it had for the last seven years.
So I asked my friend Antonello (Who you remember from my previous post about the ruined palace in the back of the village) about it.
Antonello told me that a lady had purchased the building with the intention of renovating it but that she had found another house and had moved in. He stated that the lady wanted to sell it and I asked him to find out how much.
In 2011 when we were initially looking to purchase, the property market was strong. People from America and various parts of the UK had come over and purchased holiday homes. Since then the market and gone pretty soft so the price was right and we are now in the process of purchasing the “Pink House” steps away from the piazza.
The house itself looks like a two story house from the front however it is built on a hill and all together it is four stories.
We have figured that if we are judicious with the space, we can create five studio apartments, a communal kitchen, communal laundry facilities and a huge roof terrace with sweeping views of the Pollino mountains and the Mediterranean.
A few months ago we agreed on the price and now we are waiting for the contracts to be translated and the date set with the notaio who will meet with us and go over the contract, line by line to ensure that all T’s are dotted and eyes crossed.
Then it will be ours.
Right now it is looking like early February 2019 and then the renovations can start.
This is going to be a magnificent project. the architect has an amazing sense of aesthetics and loves to make things beautiful.
We are so excited. The village has been changing and gearing up for tourism. The village leaders seem to want this beautiful place to be a destination for tourists rather than a place you stumble upon if you are lucky.
And Pete and I have a purpose to introduce this amazing place to the people we come into contact with.
The grand opening for the BNB is tentatively set for May 2020. Please stay tuned here for updates, photos and announcements.
I will write more and post more photos when we visit in February.
It is with light hearted and educated finger that I take to my keyboard today to tell you I have been taking a class on essay writing through The Great Courses.
I love these courses and I can study everything from mental math (Still haven’t cracked the cellophane on that one) to Latin 101 (Its coming along but I have a ways to go) and Renaissance Italy which I lap up like a St. Bernard with a bowl of ice cream.
Our first assignment is to write about a place we know intimately.
Of course our village, Santa Domenica Talao, Calabria comes instantly to mind.
Our village, perched on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean has been, until recently, somewhat sequestered.
Back in the day when it was not as easy to get around, most everyone stuck around the villages and unique personalities and cultures emerged in the minds and lives of the people.
When you go to Southern Italy and visit the hill towns, you will be struck by the fact that each one has its own unique character.
Maiera, which is close by, clinging to the hilltop like mushrooms on a tree trunk, is humble and reverent.
Grisolia, high above the clouds overlooking the shimmering Mediterranean is warm and friendly.
The beach resort of Scalea is untamed and a mix of cultures and colors, and our village is aesthetically beautiful, loving and playful.
One thing however, that is taken seriously by all of these different villages, is faith.
As any Italophile can tell you, the predominant religion in Italy is Catholicism. And although it is one religion, it has many expressions and runs deep in the culture of the tiny towns and villages all over Italy.
Our village piazza is dominated by a thirteenth century stone church that rises up in the middle of the village and, like a pin, holds the village together.
Babies are blessed there, young couples are married there and when someone’s journey ends for whatever reason, they are given over to God there in a solemn ceremony and then a sad procession up the steep road to the cemetery that overlooks the village on the hill just above it.
A villager has perished and the village is sadly diminished by one.
In the church, from a special niche, the patron saint of the village, San Giuseppe, watches over his flock.
Every year, in celebration of his day, the statue of San Giuseppe is taken from the church and in a loving procession is carried through the tiny vias and alleyways of the village.
The villagers hang their best linens out the window as he passes and the medieval windows are dressed up in their finest clothes for a celebration.
The statue of San Giuseppe is quite heavy and although he is carried by several strong men and jostled about as they make their way up and down stairs and steep alleys, winding through the village, he remains calm and unmolested.
He seems grateful that they are willing to take him out on a tour so he can see what has elapsed since his last sojourn, and happy despite the villagers thwarted best efforts to carry him gracefully.
When I arrived to Santa Domenica this trip, I had no idea it was patron saint day.
Nonetheless, my beautiful house looked pretty neglected when I first walked up after a year of being gone. So I got out a broom and a trash bag and started cleaning her up.
After much sweeping and digging the weeds out of the cracks in the stairs, I had her looking pretty spiffy. She looked like someone cared about her again and we were both happy.
My neighbor, a sweet lady, paid me a compliment about what a nice job I had done on the walkway, porch and stairs.
I accepted it and apparently had unthinkingly ingratiated myself to her as she thought I was doing it for San Giuseppe.
Later that day I was on my balcony breathing in the crystal blue Mediterranean when I heard someone yelling.
This person was obviously outraged and I wondered what could make any of our peaceful, loving neighbors so angry.
I came out on the porch and looked. The medieval houses across the via from me rose up to the sky.
The windows thrust open and heads thrust themselves out like a giant advent calendar.
I looked at the stair leading to my house and there, perched on the top one was a perfectly shaped dog turd.
Not just any dog turd this, but obviously one that this particular dog had put some thought into.
Not a dog to just crank out something and call it art, he went the extra mile.
It looked more like a perfect chocolate custard than a real turd but its placement gave away its true identity.
Yep, It was a turd, still wet and stinky in its freshness and it had been just recently been deposited
My neighbor was livid and I secretly felt that she was vindicating me. How dare this dog defile my perfectly manicured steps! How dare he thumb his nose at my back breaking labor!
Although, I thought, she is being a little excessive. I mean, I could just get a dustpan and handle it right there.
Every head that was thrust out of a window had something vital to add to the conversation.
My tiny neighbor stood yelling in outraged Italian, her shawl shaking in indignation and the Greek chorus of disembodied heads from the advent calendar were all singing in unison that yes, indeed it was a disgrace! Yes, an outrage even and how could anyone, even a dog (vile beast that this one obviously was) be so disrespectful?
The cacophony went on for quite a while and finally died down. The advent calendar lost interest and one by one the windows closed against the heat of the Calabrian sun.
My neighbor, still muttering went inside to nurse her grievance.
I snuck out and retrieved the turd and relegated it to the trash.
As I was idly chatting with Nunzia who holds court from her little market in the piazza, I learned that today was San Giuseppe’s day.
A tiny lady in the doorway took my hand in both of hers and talked excitedly about the procession, the music and the lights. Her eyes lit up like a child’s talking about an upcoming birthday party.
I had seen the procession of the Madonna Festival in Scalea just the week before and I learned that it was out of respect that you hung your prettiest linens out of the window as she passed, in her honor.
Later in the day I went onto the trunk of linens that had come with the house. The lady who sold it to us had left us all the bedding and linens when we bought the place.
I found a pretty bedspread and hung it from my kitchen window which could be seen by the villagers and San Giuseppe as they walked by.
As the procession began my husband and I went up to the church to watch the faithful spill out. The villagers had spent hours making special baskets with flowers and ribbons that they carried on their heads in front of San Giuseppe as he made his way through the village.
Then we raced back to our house and met our neighbors who were sitting on their porch watching the parade as it looped and wound its way through every tiny or forgotten via in Santa Domenica.
The women were crying with love and gratitude. It was quite moving.
And then I understood why my neighbor was so upset.
This was her saint, the one who watched over the village and whom every villager loved with all their hearts. This calm and beautiful wooden statue was a symbol of perfect love, peace and harmony. And they adored him.
Later there was music. Men, women and children were dancing the Tarantella in the piazza, the giant flowered tiles under their feet acting as their dance floor.
The steps of the church became seating for those watching the spectacle and the giant bell tower that wakes me every morning to the heavenly sounds of church bells watched over the village while San Giuseppe watched over the church once again from his perch.
I am sure he was smiling calmly as he always does.
Admit it. You have been watching House Hunters International and a part of you is yearning for the golden hills, the ecstasy-inducing food and the and glorious beaches of Italy.
And you feel yourself inching closer to the big plunge but are afraid because you could make a huge and costly mistake.
If you have mentioned this idea to friends or relatives, I am sure you have been told that you are crazy to even think about it.
And yet you continue to dream.
Seven years ago my husband and I bought a house in a small medieval hill town in Calabria, Southern Italy.
An entire year before we purchased, I researched the crap out of the project and the result was a smooth transition of property and good feelings on all sides.
And we have been loving it beyond our wildest dreams each time we go.
There is nothing like the sound of church bells waking you up in the morning with the sun slanting in your window and the smell of cafe coming from the bar in the piazza to make you realize how lucky you are to be in Italy.
But there are several things you should know and do before taking diving in.
Additionally I sought out and got onto several forums written and administered by people who had purchased in Italy and many of whom also lived there full time.
The forum was the most important research tool. I learned about some shady deals that I was able to steer clear of because I read the unfortunate stories about people who had purchased off plan houses (to be built) and once the money was paid, no work was ever done.
One off plan project that was offered to us when we were looking to purchase seven years ago still has not been built. Had I trusted someone and bought one I would have sunk a lot of money and likely never had anything to show for it but expensive legal bills.
I have read horror stories not only about property purchases in Italy but also Spain that would curl your toes.
My most important piece of advice is never buy anything that you can’t see in front of you. If is to be built or is a ruin with a renovation package, don’t buy it.
2. Visit different areas before you make your choice
Unless you have already visited a town or village and fallen in love with it, I recommend that you visit several areas and rent Air BNB’s there for a few weeks.
Fall into the rhythm of the town and decide whether you can see yourself living there.
3. Once you have found your dream town, research the crap out of that too
There is so much you have to find out. Our trash pickup is so complicated we need a special calendar to keep track of what is picked up when.
Additionally Italy has earthquakes as we have seen recently. Research where the faults are and find data on the strength of your building.
Ironically, in the 1980’s when there was a massive earthquake in Southern Italy, the newer buildings fell down and the medieval buildings are still standing.
The buildings in the historic centers are built all shoved together so they support each other.
The buildings that fell had large parking structures underneath and therefore were not structurally sound in an earthquake zone which much of Italy is.
Our area near Scalea, Calabria, Italy is one of the few areas that is between faults so the danger of a catastrophic earthquake is relatively small.
4. Understand that property purchases there are not like they are here
It is not unheard of to make an offer, have it accepted and then find out that the downstairs storage area is actually owned by someone else or that the fixtures are not included.
Many times in Italy, the kitchen is considered personal property and does not stay when you purchase. The owners simply pack it up and take it with them.
In Italy the inheritences are such that you may want to buy a property that is listed for sale but then have to convince 20 cousins that they want to sell.
This can make certain properties almost impossible to purchase and you may not know that until you have fallen in love with it.
5. Know that there will be delays
Purchasing property in Italy is a process and it goes how it goes. That said, I was very impressed by the time and care the local Notiao took to ensure that everything was fair and equitable.
The Notaio is charged with the task of ensuring that no one is getting hoodwinked. Ours was extremely careful and took great pains to ensure that we understood everything about the contract.
However an illness may cause delays as your Notaio may be the only one for miles.
6. Understand that renovation estimates can be wild guesses
My friend Clive who owns Casa Cielo BnB in Scalea, Italy has become the resident counselor to those who have purchased and seen their renovations go wrong and spiral out of control.
A ruin in Italy is likely several centuries old and those of us who live in America which has very few old buildings don’t always understand the true meaning of the word “ruin”.
I have heard of properties having to be taken apart brick by brick and rebuilt.
My advice if you don’t know a contractor, is to purchase something habitable that perhaps needs floors and finishes.
We purchased our house and the attached ruin. We are willing to take it on as we have worked with the builder on several other house projects and he is good and trustworthy.
Additionally the structural work had already been done so it is just the interior that needs finishing.
Meanwhile, we have the house which is habitable and very nice and were able to enjoy it right away without waiting for renovations.
If you have your heart set on a total ruin renovation project, go ahead but budget twice the amount you are quoted.
7. Treat everyone with courtesy and respect
There is no nightmare quite as complete as buying a property somewhere and being ostrasized by everyone in the town.
These villages and towns have survived because they are like a large family. Courtesy goes a very long way and an effort to get along and become a part of the community is well rewarded with true and loyal friends.
Additionally, when you make the effort to speak and be understood in their language, you earn the respect of your new neighbors. They are way more willing to overlook any social gaffs made out of ignorance of local customs.
8. Don’t consider it an investment in anything but experience
When I was getting ready to make my purchase, several people asked me with horror in their voices, “Aren’t you afraid you will lose money?” as if that were the greatest sin I could ever commit.
The answer was, who cares what the market does after I buy? If I buy a property and I love it and it gives me joy and I can afford it, it is a good purchase. End of story. The property market gyrations would never make it worth any less in my eyes.
You are buying a dream. Dreams do not come with a price tag. It is whatever you are willing to pay for it that gives it its value.
There is a person who was looking at buying at the same time we were. She asked me all manner of questions like the above. She had so many “What if’s” that I gave up answering them.
Needless to say, she has not purchased and we have been enjoying our property for seven years now.
9. Once you have purchased don’t let anyone kill the love you have for your beautiful new home.
I don’t know why people do this but some have to tell you what a huge mistake you have made.
They have to prove to you that you have been foolish and normally it comes down to money that in their opinion you should not have spent.
These are the people who never do anything big in their lives. Listening to them is destructive.
In the end you will have done your homework, you will have experienced the ins and outs of a foreign property purchase and will have many, many years of beautiful experiences to enjoy as a result.
Buying property in Italy is absolutely worth the effort and the money.
If money is tight, look in Southern Italy. Calabria is stunning and the prices are so good you could almost put it on a credit card.
Ape means “bee” in Italian and an Ape (pronounced Ah-pay) is one of those little trucks that come in various colors and that you see chugging slowly up the winding hill roads and motorways all over Italy.
They seem to be especially prevalent in the South where the high pitched whining of a two stroke motor is almost as ubiquitous as the incessant chirping of the cicadas.
You see them as you drive past, loaded with fruits, vegetables or farm tools on their way somewhere important.
Don’t confuse the Ape with the Vespa as “Vespa” means “Wasp” and the scooter that it is named for.
The reason I bring this up is that I ran into what a paranoid person might have thought was an alarming trend.
Seemingly every time I went out wearing a different outfit, I ran into an ape that matched.
Secretly I am highly flattered that someone somewhere placed these iconic little trucks all over Santa Domenica Talao Just to match my outfits.
I love Apes! They scream Italy even as they are screaming up the hills.
There is so much to love about Italy. Apes are only one small part.
Contact me to plan your next trip in Super Savvy Style.
Also check out these tips on what to pack when traveling overseas.