“Wow, the Euro’s really weak. If ever there was a good time to buy a house in Italy, now would be it,” said my husband, Ed, completely out of the blue one morning as he was reading the news on his iPad.
And so began our Big Italian Adventure. Within a month, Ed was on a plane to Italy in search of a house. Over a two week period he saw a total of 39 houses spread across the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo and Le Marche.
He came home empty-handed, having seen only one house that seemed to be a legitimate possibility. The one clear decision coming out of that first trip was that we should concentrate our search on Le Marche. It was beautiful and, while not undiscovered, it certainly was not overrun with foreigners as Tuscany and Umbria seemed to be. And it was definitely more affordable.
After that, we were so consumed with work, our daughter’s hockey schedule and other commitments that a whole year passed before we could find the time to go back to Italy to continue our house hunt. But we still were getting property alerts from various web sites in Italy and we would pour over the photos and descriptions looking for our dream house.
Finally it looked like we had 10 days open for a trip, so we booked our flights and scheduled a house hunting tour with our agent, and some sightseeing for our daughter’s benefit.
A Little Back Story
Ed and I first fell in love with Italy way back before we had kids. Originally Ed had no burning desire to go to Italy, but I wanted an Italian vacation, so he agreed to go if I planned the trip. On that first trip we visited Tuscany (Florence, Siena, Lucca, Pisa and San Gimignano) as well as Positano and Paestum on the Amalfi Coast.
Ed, who had never been to Italy before, was smitten immediately. As soon as we returned home he wanted to learn to speak Italian. We signed up for a class at the New Trier Extension and listened to Berlitz tapes in the car as we drove around town doing errands on Saturdays.
The Italian class turned out to be pretty lame. The teacher was living proof that just because you can do something (i.e. speak Italian) doesn’t mean you can teach someone else to do it. If any of her students didn’t understand something the first time she explained it, she would just repeat it louder and in a more annoyed tone until people just gave up asking questions.
After the course ended Ed carried on by himself, studying grammar books and listening to tapes. I kind of lost interest and decided to rely on my Spanish to get by on the next trip.
That next time we went to Rome and Umbria. I had a business trip – we were shooting three commercials in Rome for my job, so Ed decided to join me. I’d be busy working the first week but we would stay a second week as vacation.
Since I was working long days and nights, Ed was left to his own devices, sightseeing by himself and trying to practice his Italian on impatient Roman waiters.
Once our shoot was over (disastrous, as it turned out, since it rained every day), Ed and I left Rome and spent another week touring around the hill towns of Umbria: Orvieto, Perugia, Spoleto, Todi.
We went on our third trip with another couple while I was pregnant with Jack and our friend was pregnant with her youngest daughter. This time we flew into Milan and visited the Lombardy region (Bergamo, Lake Como, Lake Garda, Verona) and Venice, and then continued down to Emilia-Romagna (Ravenna, Forli, Bologna and Parma).
By this time, Ed was fairly proficient with his Italian and would take every opportunity to converse with the natives. They, in turn, really appreciated his efforts, since it is fairly unusual to find an American tourist who can do more than order pasta and wine and ask for the bathroom. The fact that I was pregnant seemed to make us even more attractive to the locals, and we were adopted by strangers everywhere we went, with offers to show us around their village and invitations to join them for a drink in their wine cellars. (Italians don’t seem to think a little wine enjoyed by a pregnant woman is at all harmful to a baby).
Until Ed’s first house hunting trip in 2015 we had not been back to Italy since 1997 when we visited Sicily to celebrate our 10th anniversary. But all that time we had fantasized about buying a place in Central or Northern Italy one day.
Ed’s comment about the Euro initiated a discussion about life being short and if we really wanted to do this Italy thing, we’d better go ahead and do it before it was too late. “One day” was here.
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