Jamie and I spent two years trying to buy a house in Italy. Our first attempt fell through after the bank spent over a year processing paperwork during a failing economy. This lead us to renew our search, finally falling in love with a couple of stone buildings on 8.5 acres in a remote section of Tuscany. Less than ten minutes from Pieve Fosciana, the nearest town, our property had been abandoned for three years. A smaller stone house is reasonably livable, while a larger stone farmhouse will need a tremendous amount of time, money and effort to restore. The land is quite steep, and includes nearly eight acres of terraced hillside on which we hope to grow grapes and olives.
We're not yet living in the house, as we decided to have it sprayed for bugs before moving in -- sitting in the woods alone for three years a variety of spiders, ants and scorpions had moved in. While treating them, we learned woodworms had also taken an interest in the chestnut beams holding up the roof, treatment for which is further delaying moving in. The current theory is that the house will be clean and ready for us to move in by the end of next week...
Neither Jamie nor I are remotely fluent in Italian. Jamie gained a decent vocabulary from using the Rosetta Stone software for a couple of years, and gained some basic conversation skills during Italian classes this summer in Portland, Oregon. I was lazy and only started learning the language recently, but I try and make up for it by shamelessly throwing myself into hopeless situations and communicating with gestures, drawings, grunts, translators, and random appropriate and inappropriate words I've learned in half a dozen foreign languages over the years. Perhaps it's not surprising it took us three days simply to open a post office box! Lucky for us our friend Marco is ever helpful in too many ways to count, likely often regretting helping two hapless Americans move to Italy.
We're currently focusing our time on a few essentials: buying a bed, couch and chairs, and getting them delivered (an added challenge being that we're just remote enough no-one seems to recognize what we believe is our physical address); hiring a carpenter to build us a kitchen (we have no counters, no sink, no table and chairs, nothing but a wood heating/cooking stove and an old beat up refrigerator); discussing our dreams and plans with a local architect to understand what's possible (affordable), and what's not; getting Internet so I can work from home (the valley our house is positioned in barely gets two bars of Edge cellphone signal -- not much -- but apparently there's still hope for getting "wireless DSL", a technician is scheduled to visit our property Thursday to decide); and generally making our house livable so we can enjoy it this winter and into the future.
Also in the short term plans is diving into a two week intensive Italian language course -- life will be easier and fuller once we can better communicate! There's no shortage of plans and challenges to deal with in this first visit to our house. We can only stay in Europe for three months, so we'll be returning to the United States shortly after the new year. In the future we'll complete the necessary paperwork which will allow us to stay as long as we want, aiming to stay six months each year.