dinsdag 11 juli 2017


(Happy are those who dream) Dreams!

… and are willing to pay the price to see them come true!

Chapter I

For some 45 years by now – give or take – I have had, deep in the back of my mind, a dream to “one day” own an old house or farm or something, to restore and enjoy as a holiday place…. somewhere Pleasantly Sunny of course, especially in Winter(s)!

Naturally France has always been high on that list, as most of Spain is too hot and too dry to be of serious consideration. Lately the Atlantic coast of the Algarve had been under serious consideration and investigation… Also The Balcans: Greece. Macedonia, Croatia etc were looked into in the past as well. Even places like Sarangani Province in the Philippines briefly passed my mind. But for some reason I have had a massive Blind Spot: somehow Italy never seriously figured into the equation.

More recently – reluctantly and slowly – I reluctantly came to the conclusion I was just about “getting too old for that shit” and restorations would be beyond my physical capacity. Ideas of living abroad (semi-)permanently in the near future also are a thing of the past. Anica will need my attention and that will take three more years at the very least, maybe even as many as another 8 or 10 years?! But then, just as I was ready to concede the dream was no longer obtainable, things changed, maybe….??!!

Hans has been dreaming the same kind of thing as I did (with one major difference: he never intends to do any of the labor himself!), we even discussed ideas, options, locations etc etc. BUT… Hans has “a thing” for Italy and has always looked at his options there! Last spring (2017) he has been out, scouting a few objects that might fit the bill for him! Some of the objects even were places I found and passed on to him! :)  But while he was looking around out there – disappointed with the object he went to inspect – he was one lucky day directed by some locals to another house and quietly fell in love with it!

This being in Italy, and the object being owned by a whole family, negotiations will take time: all members need to agree and the paperwork there…. Well, if you ever read Asterix and Obelix on Roman Bureaucracy, you will know what I’m saying :)  At best it might take “a few” months to complete. (Actually the sale was completed early 2018)

Unlike all the other objects I found and passed on, and all the other objects Hans has found and considered, *this* one has one very different feature! A separate “ruin” well away from the main buildings; about 150 meters away and 15 meters below, in fact.

Reasoning “it is now or never, Italy or nothing”, I suggested to Hans *I* might be interested, *if* he considered selling the separate building, to buy it, depending on Italian bureaucracy, the sellers’ terms, etc etc…

Chapter II

Things were looking up: Anica and I had a 2-week holiday there and inspected the ruin. It was big, much bigger than we expected, or needed. It already is connected to water which is a big plus. And to our surprise, it has already been approved to be converted & reconstructed as Living quarters, it no longer has an agricultural function in the registers. 
So, by way of the commercial resale value, it became unobtainable for us. Finding *the* place went on the back burner once again…. 

But these searches are wont to have more twists & turns than the highest of mountain passes! And so it was here! One of the last days of April 2018 we took a dirt-road from Hans’ place into the mountains. The road most closely resembled a dry river bed, not a road at all, but that did not stop me. A beautiful view, higher up the mountain did stop us however. We enjoyed it, got back into the car and drove on…

… and spotted a ruin in the distance. I got curious and as we got closer, then we noticed an artificial lake “just” below it. We looked around and took pictures and by now *I* was really keen to have a look at the ruin as well! What we discovered was indeed a total ruin: complete with a collapsed roof and collapsed wall and a tree growing inside it. It is set half into the mountainside so it has a door on the front / ground floor as well as on the back (the side facing the “road”) on the first floor. 

It is facing almost due East and has the most spectacular views! The highest extinguished volcano in Tuscany – which happens to be the biggest skiing area of all central Italy as well – is standing smack in the middle of the views!

It used to be a farm building, maybe used as stables? First floor may have been the hay loft, no telling yet…. But that means that for instance at present there is no electricity, no water, no sewage system, no showers & toilets and another little chestnut: no permission to live there or use it as a (holiday?) home, presently.

I know very little for certain, yet, but it is built of natural rock, the standard wall thickness there being 55 cm. It has two floors, and measured 7,1 by 7,1 meters on the outside; so maybe it has 36 M² floor surface inside. But looking closely at Google Earth satellite pictures I can see the outlines of what looks like another foundation. The top floor alone would possibly be already big enough for a half-decent sized Studio for 2 to be made of it. But this is Italy and there are a few regulations regarding construction that are interesting! If that foundation is listed in the registries we can use it all. Also, we will be allowed to re-position it anywhere on our land… once we acquire it! Any spaces that are open to the outside are not counted as built-up square meters. Ideas, creative solutions, I can come up with lots of those!

To make the best of those breathtaking views, an inverted floor plan (living area on the top floor, not on the ground floor!) seems almost mandated! In future any bedrooms can be constructed on the ground floor; phase 2 or 3?! On top of the ground floor we can have maybe a roof-terrace or better yet, a loggia?

The hillside the building is on/in is facing East and the ruin stands 1005 meter above Sea Level, so it may get quite cold there in Winter: even in Spring or Autumn nights will be chilly! 

Heating of some sort is just one of many challenges to conquer… Water is still an open question, but electricity seems not too far away. The ruin sits just 100 meter below the summit of Monte Aquilaia, and borders on a pine forest. We decided to follow the road to see where it goes and I’m extremely happy: maybe it is because of the transmitter park on top of the mountain, but that part of the road has been much better maintained… in fact they seem to have pored concrete all over it. Who knows, they may even clean it of snow in winter?

Exactly 4 Km down the road there is a tiny village, but it does have a post office, a bus stop, a separate restaurant as well as a hotel and best of all; a small shop / supermarket!

With the invaluable help of GretaPhlix – who I recommended to Hans and who was the one who guided him in buying his dream property – we now know a few basic facts: it is owned by an agricultural business, not an extended family, which is a stroke of luck. And they seem willing to sell it: the initial question was how much land we want with it?

There is a catch to that: in Italy land listed with agricultural functions gives other local farmers first option to buy once it is on sale or even after completion. There are at least 2 farms within a Km as the crow flies. If listed as forest or something like that it may cost € 8000 per hectare… but what would I need a huge plot of land for? Perhaps to give all sorts of animals access to the little lake? Anica is dreaming of a large plot with (a few?) horses!

Chapter III

The project / house now has a name, to make it more tangible. When staying in Hans' place I found very old weighing scales. In Italian: 


Bilancia formata da un'asta metallica graduata su cui scorre un peso costante, da un gancio per il quale deve essere tenuta al momento della pesata e da un piatto, appeso a un'estremità dell'asta, in cui va posto l'oggetto da pesare

…  I just LOVE brooding on the potential, the work, the challenges, the headaches, the possible solutions, every last bit of it! To be continued!!

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