Italy. What’s not to like? Love the shoes, love the bags, love the food, the weather….love it all! I had been obsessed with Italy since watching Roman Holiday when I was a little girl then the Godfather 2 and Italian designers when I was eighteen. I knew I would marry someone Italian or who looked Italian and I knew my life would take me to Italy in some way. My friends didn’t really understand and nodded their heads as if indulging a batty aunt’s crazy conversations. Luckily, I met Will when I was 26 and not only did he look Italian, but he loved Italy too. This is my first blog post so I thought I would tell you how Will and I ended up with a house in Abruzzo, Italy. We’ve all seen those tv shows where a couple buy a property in France or Italy, on the basis of one or two visits. The property is usually a grand villa or farmhouse and a major project and said couple move out there whilst renovating with ensuing problems….that isn’t us, although we have had trying times. Our Abruzzo story starts in 2003, so I will write a blog each week until I bring you up-to-date to where we are today.
Our first holiday together was in 2002 on a Milan/Como combined trip. Milan is a fantastic city for fashion and food lovers. We ate in some amazing restaurants, our favourite being La Risacca for its excellent seafood, ambience and attentive staff. Milan has a buzz about it, like Rome and we loved wandering around the Duomo and the surrounding area. Then Will hired a car and we drove to Como for a short visit. It was love at first sight.
Will and I spent that year visiting the Valtellina region in Northern Italy. We had the intention of moving to Italy as Will had work out there and I had always wanted to live in Italy. We had really fallen in love with Como, but it was so expensive. During our visits we either stayed in a lovely little town called Morbegno in Hotel Margna or near Sondrio at Hotel La Brace both charming places to stay. Como is the lake the Italians consider the most beautiful with good reason, it is vibrant, lush and green. We spent a year looking and whilst thoroughly enjoying ourselves, the only properties that we could afford were too small, or needed too much work.
In February 2003, I was at work when Will called me to say he had found a company called House Around Italy. They had a wide range of properties, new, needing modernisation or complete restoration, within our budget. The only thing was, they were in Abruzzo. Where is that I asked Will. Will said look at a map of Italy, see where Rome is….well the region of Abruzzo is parallel to Lazio region, we would fly in to Pescara, on the coast. I was intrigued to discover a new part of Italy, although my heart sunk a little knowing in reality that Como was out of the picture. I had dropped my camera in Lake Como on our last visit, I think it was a sign!
We flew to Pescara in March 2003. It was certainly hot, something that we had not encountered before in Como (beautiful, but boy does it rain there!) and it was definitely Southern Italy in appearance (even though Abruzzo is actually Central Italy). I would describe Como as chocolate box in appearance whereas Abruzzo has a rough, wild beauty (see photo below, this view is from our house). We spent a whole day looking at properties, ten to be exact. They were certainly diverse. At each viewing, the owners and/or neighbours would come and chat and offer a cold expresso, mint tea, beer or ‘vino cotto’ (cooked wine, an Abruzzen specialty). I liked the first house we saw which was a town house in a village called Mannopello, but, although Will liked it, he was adamant that we wanted detached with some land (he occasionally regrets that, more on that later!). We were getting hot and tired and were on our way to our final viewing, not sure if we would find the one that day. As soon as we reached the house, Will had a renewed enthusiasm and we had a funny feeling in our tummies about this place. Piana Domini was on the edge of a village, it had stunning views and was peaceful. Will wandered about in the overgrown olive grove and dragged me around excitedly. He certainly had a vision for this old shepherd’s house (pic below), which I may have missed by myself (that is the Engineer side of him coming out). He then found a snake skin in the house. Apparently, this is lucky in Italy. Little did I know how our plans would evolve over the next few years with a few ups and downs on the way…..