Tag Archives: Travel

The long and winding road to buy a property in Italy….

If a year ago someone had told me that it would have taken us (my boyfriend and I) a full year to buy a property in Italy, I think we would have probably walked away – and choose another country. A year. In the same period of time I had plenty of friends that got engaged and married, others planning children and actually giving birth to them.

But I suppose that – at the end of the day – buying a property in Italy is probably something like having a baby: painful and rewarding at the same time.

Now that we have finally completed, we don’t even have time to stop and think about the whole process itself but I am pretty sure we won’t never forget the experience: extremely slow, stressful and – for most of it – terribly frustrating. So, if you are thinking about buying down here, make sure you have plenty of patience and you are truly committed to get to the end. And in the not too distant future if you need a place to stay while looking around for the right property (which it can take a while!)…you can stay with us – keep reading! 🙂

Every single person that we met throughout the process (agents, consultants, builders etc) promptly reminded us “This is Italy!”, which basically means:

  • Bureaucracy is a nightmare. Sadly Italy lives up to its name and it doesn’t seem it will make procedures easier any time soon. From the very first moment you land in Italy you will soon realize that literally everything needs a stamp and someone’s signature in order to go ahead…Plenty more to be said on this topic!
  • If you don’t speak Italian, language is clearly an obstacle because you  will necessarily have to rely on someone else for the whole buying process. To find someone you can rely on it’s a whole different story (and that will deserve a separate post too!). Being an Italian speaker, I still had my difficulties throughout the whole process.
  • We have bought a property made up of an old farmhouse and a former hay-barn dated XVI century. Pretty old eh? Well, if you are looking to buy something similar just bear in mind that there is a huge number of countryside properties (at least in Tuscany, but I am pretty sure that the further south you go in Italy and the worse it will be) that to some extent does not comply with the current building/landscape regulations. I can easily say that out of the over 30 properties that we viewed in Tuscany before falling for this one, NONE was actually 100% compliant at the time of visiting. Again, plenty more to be said on this point but generally the bigger the house and the more likely it is there might something not fully legal or that needs to be fixed in order to be fully compliant. It can takes days or it can take months or – worst case scenario – it can’t be fixed. As long as you are prepared, no problem.
  • Plenty should be said on the quality of real estate agents – and we met quite a few in the last couple of year. Sorry to say that – and I am pretty sure it does not apply to everyone of course – but I don’t need a realtor to enter a kitchen and tell me “this is the kitchen” or to enter a bathroom and tell me “this is the bathroom” (YES, I am still frustrated about this). What about giving away some more basic but constructive information that can truly help the purchase? With the commissions they get (from both sides!), they should definitely provide a far better service.

Other than that, it has been definitely a fun ride with plenty of ups and downs, a lot of people that have crossed our path (some of them truly amazing that made and still make our days) and a whole bunch of new experiences that will definitely help us in the upcoming challenges – there will be plenty!

For us, completing on this property is just a step closer to the final goal that is not only converting it into our “home” but also into a bed and breakfast. Definitely a big challenge that will take a few more months of hard work but we are so looking forward to literally open our doors to our future guests and sharing with them our love for Tuscany, Italy, travels and plenty more that all the efforts will be absolutely worth it.

And the bottom line is: if you are planning a trip to Tuscany in the upcoming year(s), we would definitely love to host you! We expect to be up and running for the next season so, if you wish, follow us along this path: we will launch a webpage and an Instagram account so you can follow our progress (and give some advice too, why not?).

*              *              *

In the meantime, before we disclose our location here are some of the most beautiful places in Tuscany that would deserve a visit and that are very close to where we live:

CERTALDO (10 minutes)

IMG_6737
Often overlooked but definitely worth a stop as one of the prettiest hill-top towns in the area. Every summer it hosts Mercantia, an amazing street-art festival that shouldn’t be missed. Another very well organized event is the Boccaccesca, a truly Italian food fair (with plenty of very good wine too!) in a lovely setting!

SAN GIMIGNANO (15 minutes)

IMG_6812
Possibly the most famous hill-top town in Tuscany, boasting gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, stunning architecture and plenty of excellent restaurants. Get there early in the morning or late afternoon to beat the crowds and enjoy the town at its best.

MONTERIGGIONI (20 minutes)

img_7560
On route to Siena, this tiny little castle-town is definitely worth a stop – far less crowded than San Gimignano. It can make a great stop for a couple of hours to enjoy an aperitivo in its lovely square or a walk around its walls.

CHIANTI (from 20 minutes)

IMG_8749.JPG
We are literally on the doorstep to Chianti, the land of olives and vineyards. Take a full day to drive around the charming towns of Radda, Greve and Gaiole in Chianti, tasting some of the best wines in a stunning setting.

SIENA (30 minutes)

IMG_0087
Home to the most famous horse races in Italy (the Palio, held twice a year), there is plenty to visit and explore in Siena to keep you busy for a couple of days. Despite the number of tourists visiting (particularly during the summer months), it still retains a truly Italian atmosphere.  

FLORENCE (45 minutes)

dsc_1523
Does it really need an introduction? Florence is a “wow” for the eyes and the soul and every single corner, church, square, alley etc is worth a stop. If you are planning to visit, make sure to plan ahead what to do and see so you don’t miss anything: even  only 24 hours can be an absolute blast!

SAN MINIATO (45 minutes)

DSC_0420.JPG
Another one of those pretty hill-top towns that can make a perfect stop on the way to Pisa Airport (if that’s the airport you will use), particularly if you come here during November/December, when it hosts the Truffle Market Fair (check dates), definitely the best place to eat and buy white truffle!

CRETE SENESI (50 minutes)

DSC_1006.JPG
Rolling hills and some of the most stunning lunar landscape in Tuscany. Plus, home to a couple of stunning Abbeys (including Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore). Great for scenery and sunsets.

PISA (1,15 h minutes)

DSC_8479.JPG
Though it is definitely the Leaning Tower that made Pisa famous, the whole city deserves a visit. Crossed by the Arno river, there is plenty to discover on both banks. If you don’t plan to sleep in, it’s definitely worth spending a few hours in the city before flying back….wherever you are flying back to! 🙂

 

Plenty more to discover so keep following!

Advertisements

The Cotswolds: the very English answer to Tuscany

 

If there is a place in England that I particularly love, it is definitely the Cotswolds. Designated as one of the 46 AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) in the United Kingdom, if you choose to visit you will soon understand why: lovely and charming villages, stunning rolling hills and beautiful countryside views, amazing local pubs with even more amazing food and, above all, that feeling of being in the true heart England, which is somewhat lost in many big towns/cities in the UK.

IMG_7746
Views near Stow on the Wold
IMG_7626.JPG
Countryside near Lower Slaughter
IMG_7769
Windrush

Where: The Cotswolds area is located in South Central England and it stretches from the south of Stratford upon Avon down to Bath, covering 5 counties (Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire) over nearly 800 square miles.

See Cotswold Area of Outstanding Beauty Official website for a detailed map of the area.

How to visit: The best and easiest way to visit the region is undoubtedly by car, allowing you to make detours and longer stops according to your tastes. Some tourist spots are also linked by public transport but, as always, if you want to explore more, having your own means of transport would be the best bet. Of course, since walking in this beautiful area is a must, you should allow yourself enough time to explore the countryside near the most visited towns to get the real feel of the Cotswolds. Trails and paths are well posted and easy to follow, even for someone with no orienteering sense like me!

When to go: English weather is quite unpredictable by definition but a great moment to visit would be Spring/Summer, when you will definitely have more chances to enjoy the Cotswolds in the sun. The downside is that you will not be on your own, since plenty of other fellow tourists will have your same idea. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, choose the late part of Summer/early Autumn when the colours are great and you will be able to enjoy the area more peacefully. Even winter has its very own charm and a cozy gastro-pub with rooms may be the perfect solution. I have visited on several occasions and in one of them the weather was absolutely miserable but while you wait until it turns, you can always indulge in a rich pub lunch in one of its lovely towns!

IMG_3469.JPG
Chicken, ham and leeks pie….while waiting for the day to turn!

Which town to visit: Every town of the Cotswolds has its very own features and charm but if I have to choose a few I would definitely go for the followings:

  • Bourton-on-the-Water: the perfect town to start exploring the Cotswolds: don’t miss a stroll by the river and an afternoon tea in one of the cafes nearby. Once here, it’s also worth to visit Lower Slaughter and Upper Slaughter, both a short walk in the countryside from Bourton.
IMG_7620
Cooling off in Bourton-on-the-Water
IMG_7632.JPG
Lower Slaughter
  • Bibury: a charming English picture town! This extremely picturesque place may look familiar since it has been the setting for many UK films. It is very popular among tourists so do not expect a solitary stroll 🙂 but absolutely worth.
IMG_7832
Arlington Row in Bibury
  • Castle Combe: it will feel you have gone back in time in this small and very well preserved town that has also been called “The Prettiest Town in England”. Worth having a stroll in the grounds of the exclusive Manor House, a wonderful 5 star hotel in an absolute enchanting setting. Though choosing to sleep here may come out quite expensive, a stroll comes for free!
IMG_8060.JPG
Manor House, Castle Comb
  • Burford: probably one of the prettiest medieval towns in the Cotswolds with plenty of places to sleep, eat and drink. In summer it gets particularly lively and its high street extremely busy for being such a small town.
IMG_7779.JPG
A windy afternoon outside Burford Church

There are plenty more of course and they are all worth a visit: Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, Windrush, Tetbury…..the list is long! 🙂 Just get in the car and get lost in this stunning corner of England.

Want a couple of suggestions on where to eat once in the area? Conde Nast Traveller and Time Out have some of the best.

I had already visited Tuscany before touring around the Cotswolds and in more than one occasion this wonderful corner of England reminded me of the central Italian region; they may not have the same glorious sunshine nor the ultra famous wines that Tuscany boasts but there are plenty of excellent locally source produce including delicious cheeses, meats, amazing artisan brews, delicious ice-creams…that paired with a stunning countryside scenery makes it really tough to prefer one or the other.

Why choose…? Visit both and I am sure you will love both! 🙂