Renovating Italy ? More Like Rebuilding Italy…

As will become apparent soon enough, this isn’t about yet another renovation project in Italy. In fact, even the rebuilding element is kind-of peripheral, because this isn’t really about bricks’n’mortar at all.

It’s about land.

And also about running the sort of business that I know a great many of you are thinking about running in La Bella Italia.

But that’ll have to wait, because there’s way too much info to deal with and digest in the course of a single blog.

It’ll take several.

But to get the ball rolling – and to satisfy the building buffs amongst you – here’s how our own particular Italian adventure took shape…

First of all, back in early 2008, we bought this…

Our original house - the day before we demolished it

 

And on the same patch of land was this…

 

This is the barn that was earmarked t becime our three rental villas

 

So without further ado, we did this…

 

Demolition day !

 

And this…

 

Halfway through the destruction !

 

And when we’d finished, it all looked a bit like this…

 

Back to bare earth...

 

Then we started doing this…

 

The build begins...

 

And after a few months, it began to look like this…

 

Our house takes shape...

 

And in March 2009, it finished up like this…

 

Nice house - shame about the garden...

 

This is how it looks now…

 

Six years later...

 

Before…

 

Bare earth - 2009

 

And after…

 

The finished gardem - 2015

But that wasn’t all.

Far from it.

Because – as we were starting a holiday rental business – we really needed one of these…

How the pool was imagined...

 

So…enter the pool guys. Who began by doing this…

 

The start of the pool project...

 

And progressed to this…

 

Halfway through the pool build...

 

And eventually – to this…

 

The finished article - but not quite what it seems...

Except all’s not quite what it seems in this photo. Can you guess what that might be ?

It’s like this…

We knew we’d be ready to accept Villasfor2 bookings from August 2009 – but of course we couldn’t really wait until then for everything to be ready and then announce it to the world.

Because by August, everyone planning to go on holiday in August would already be fixed up.

So we began actually taking bookings in February 2009 – but there was one slight snag…

When you’ve begun looking for places you might like to go for your hols, you want to see what they have to offer. Trouble was, in early 2009, our rental villas and surroundings weren’t in any real state to be photographed and put on the Vf2 website.

So we had to be a little bit…creative…

Take another look at the pool picture above. View ? 100% genuine. Sunbeds and umbrella as shown ? Yes, and yes again. Sun terrace ? Tick. Weather ? Well…a lovely sunny February day doesn’t look that different from a lovely sunny summer day. Pool ? Er…

The pool itself was there of course. The one tiny hitch was that it didn’t actually have any water in it. (Because the pump – artfully out-of-shot in a big hole in the ground – hadn’t yet been installed).

I tried taking photos as if there was water – and they came out looking like a big empty swimming pool.

So crouching on the terrace, I took as low an angle a photo as I possibly could to show a bit of pool – but not enough to reveal it was missing one vital key ingredient for swimming and splashing about.

And it worked rather nicely. So much so, we used it on the website for quite a while…

Funnily enough, on the low angle shot we use now, it’s still quite difficult to tell if there is/isn’t water in the pool…

Pool. Plus water...

(There is ! And it’s summer too – nb the flowers !)

Meanwhile…Back At The Build…

When people see the picture of the main house we bought – and then learn we knocked it down – the reaction’s always the same.

“Are you INSANE ? That lovely old stone house ! Why didn’t you RENOVATE ???”

The response is always the same too.

– The house was huge. Over 350sqm – far too big just for the two of us.

– It had been abandoned for 40-odd years and was in a desperately bad condition. The pretty picture hid a multitude of faults…

A less flattering view of the house we knocked down

– Here’s a less flattering view. Note the settlement cracks big enough to put your arm through between an original stone portion of the building and a later addition…

– Even if we’d wanted to renovate, bearing in mind we needed somewhere to live – and get our holiday rental business up/running as quickly as possible – it was way faster to knock it all down and start again than to renovate.

From demolition in May 2008; to moving into our house at the end of March 2009 and welcoming our first guests in August 2009 was a schedule that simply couldn’t have been beaten.

– And it was a lot cheaper.

And having previously completed a much, much more modest renovation project on a 17th century thatched cottage where we lived in England before moving to Italy, we knew from experience that the one massive intangible that can blow budgets and schedules out of the water is what nasty surprises you’ll uncover when you start to renovate.

Demolition and rebuild – though we did save bits of the old 19th century barn that was to become our rental units – was the only way for us to go.

So far – so relatively normal. Our own variation on an Italian property theme that’s been repeated and retold a zillion times.

But in all the renovation/rebuilding stories I’ve read, what nobody ever seems to mention is the land on which their property stands. How much is there ? And what are you actually going to do with it ?

And that, cari amici, is what we’ll be discussing next…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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