Moving to Italy; thinking of buying a property?
There I was, night after night, during the wet Galway winters; a glass of red wine (Italian, of course) and a few crisps for company, hunched over my computer scanning the various property websites in Italy.
Any of you who has found, or is looking for, a property at long distance will empathise. It is a long struggle, fraught with disappointment and frustration. Photographs of houses that look so charming on the Internet are not always quite so beautiful when you get up close and personal.
For three years I looked for a new home for myself in Italy. After initial Internet searches to get my bearings, I began by visiting La Dolce Vita exhibition in London in 2010. This was a lot of fun, to be honest. Several estate agents from various parts of Italy were ranged over a multitude of stands displaying posters and leaflets of the houses they had on their books and promoting their own regions. It was quite a lot to take in. From Puglia to Liguria, they were all there touting their wares. Quite apart from the myriad of estate agents, the remainder of the stands consisted, mainly, of regional fare and culinary happenings: celebrity chefs showed off their skills; the latest coffee machines were demonstrated; wine and olive oil tastings were well attended and meats and cheeses were being greedily consumed by the hordes of visitors to the Business Design Centre in Islington.
I wandered around tasting various salamis and picking up estate agency brochures for quite some time before I spotted a red-haired lady standing alone beside her property display. We fell to talking and the upshot was that I agreed to fly out and look at homes in Lunigiana. No, I hadn’t heard of it before either, but it is a beautiful part of northern Tuscany just behind eastern Liguria with the Apuan Alps in the background.
Unfortunately, despite three forays into Lunigiana, there was nothing available that fitted the bill; everything was either too expensive or too remote. The only house I saw that I really liked, a Liberty-style villa, needed too much work done for the price and was too far off the beaten track for me.
Next I tried Liguria, both east and west. Here I found that property prices had remained very high, despite having fallen throughout Italy over this period. The only properties I could have afforded would have seen me on the top floor of an anonymous apartment block. So, I continued my search, red wine and crisps to hand.
My main problems, regarding the houses I saw, were lack of light (we Irish need the light!), very steep stairs and lack of parking. I struggled to envisage myself carrying my weekly groceries up hundreds of steps from a distant car park to a house, often on three levels, already full of steps. As I was planning for my retirement years, this was unthinkable. But to live in a Centro Storico (historical centre), which was my original dream, usually meant taking on these problems about which I had never thought before.
In the summer of 2012, I very nearly bought a beautiful property in Tuscany. A heavenly apartment in the centro storico of a small town about forty minutes from Pisa. It even had parking just a few steps away and was, unusually, all on one level, up one short flight of stairs. My hopes soared. I could imagine my furniture and paintings installed. I was in love. I had, mentally, moved in. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed when, because of a family dispute, the property was withdrawn from the market at the eleventh hour. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. This was the view from the terrace. I rest my case.
In between all my comings and goings, I decided to have a quick look in Puglia. Everybody kept telling me that property there was nothing like the price of property in Tuscany, so I hopped on a flight to Brindisi and went looking. I will only say that, though Puglia is beautiful and I will return there for a holiday as soon as possible, it was not where I had pictured myself in the long term. And the house prices were surprisingly high too. This is a property I viewed: all those steps!
Tuscany was really my goal at the time, but I kept a reasonably open mind on the subject, which was sensible, as it turned out eventually. However, I was continually frustrated by my inability to find the perfect property and I kept up my nightly vigil on the Internet with my wine and crisps until – suddenly – there it was. Small and perfectly formed, fitting my wish-list perfectly, my new home near Padova in The Euganean Hills. These hills are such an amazing sight when you see them first.
I flew out to Venice immediately and met with the estate agent, Andrea, who was extremely professional. We came straight to the house and I knew I had not been wrong. It was – and is – perfect for my needs.
So keep on searching. Your ideal home in Italy is out there just waiting for you. Make a list of your requirements and know that everything will fall into place when the time is right.