Added on Tuesday 23 Mar 2010
David Thom and Tanya Starrett -Living The Dream/Surviving The Nightmare!
I had worked as a criminal solicitor and my husband had his own consultancy business in Glasgow. My maternal grandparents (nonni) were originally from the small town of `Picinisco' in the Abruzzi Mountains - now in the Lazio region of Italy. They had moved to the UK for economic reasons and had built a successful cafe business in Glasgow.
I had lived in Morrovalle in Le Marche region of Italy for two and half years when I was a youngster; I attended the local village school and spoke fluent Italian. I absolutely loved the place with its open countryside but unfortunately my father could not settle so my mother and I, to my disgust, were forced to return to Glasgow. My husband, David, always says how I have been desperately trying to return ever since; it has only taken me 30 years!
We love Italy and had holidayed there on many occasions visiting many places from Milan to Florence, to Assisi and Venice. Our intention was always to retire there; however with both our mothers dying within a two year period, these personal experiences refocused our life goals so we said: 'lets embrace the challenge and do it now!'.
In the Winter of 2005 we started our search. David viewed lots of properties online, all quite expensive and in various states of disrepair. One property, however, did stand out. Listed on the website as `campogrande'
Campgrande looked like a happy home, appeared not too dilapidated (more on that later!), within budget and in a good area of Umbria 10 minutes from the Tuscan Border. It was also convenient for rail links to Rome and Florence - OK sales pitch over!
Obviously we were looking for specific elements from the Italian property - contrary to popular belief we were not RETIRED! We wanted or indeed needed to continue to work. We required a business that could easily be established with no overheads, no bureaucracy, or less of, and where our Italian language skills would not be so crucial. That's why we decided to purchase this particular property to renovate to open our bed and breakfast. The plan was that the venture would generate enough income for us to live on while concentrating on other projects.
We viewed the property in December 2005 and completed purchase in June 2006 (6 month time frame is normal in purchasing in Italy). We used an American computer package `room arranger' to design the layout of the house the way we wanted. We gave this to our geometra' (a cross between a surveyor and a clerk of works) who basically submits planning permissions to the local council on your behalf. The plans were drawn up in August of that year but of course this being Italy-some `irregularities' had occurred which the `notaio' (notary/solicitor) had missed. The previous owner had not sought local planning permission for his illegal building structures i.e. a window! As a consequence, this put our build on hold for a whole YEAR! It was only sorted once I threatened the council to appear at their office all day, every day!
The date was set! we organized a rental apartment (I use the term in its loosest sense) in our local town to live in so that we could oversee our build. We got the keys and the landlord showed us around our new place which we had to call `home' for what we thought would only be for a couple of months. Little did we know that it would be exactly a year before we would be able to move to our finished Villa. Apartment, it wasn't, but a one room and kitchen. The room only had a double bed and a table, no television, internet or phone and no separate sitting area. The kitchen had a hob and a fridge but no freezer or oven. Thankfully we had a washing machine in the bathroom and bizarrely we shared our central heating with the family upstairs. But we had a large terrazzo and it was summer, so all was well...............or so we thought.....
We were taking our evening `pasaggare' when we spotted the headlines on one of the English papers-`Bank Run on Northern Rock'. David said that can't be right, can it? Indeed it was, and this was the catalyst that was to send the global banking system and world economy into a downward spiral taking us with it albeit remotely at every stage.
Next Month............Let The Build Commence!
Or Alternatively Throwing All Our Sterling Into A Wheelbarrow Just To Buy The Local Vino!