Doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself ?

Seems hard to believe that it’s now exactly five years since we arrived in Abruzzo, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and filled with a certain amount of naive optimism that (happily) still hasn’t been entirely kicked out of us.

Now…where did it all start ? On something like the fourth or fifth bottle of champagne on Millennium Night. Just the right moment to lay the foundations for a mid-fifties change-of-life plan…

Here was the hunch. How could there not be a niche market out there for tranquil villa rental holidays just for couples, in a gorgeous location, without having to share it with other people’s kids ?

We could call it…Villasfor2 ! Where ? France ? No. Spain  No. Italy ? Great idea ! Who needs market research ?

That the sale of our UK property fell through the week before we we left; and that we’d found – but not actually bought – our Abruzzo property before we got here, should’ve warned us this wasn’t all going quite according to plan.

Especially so when you consider we’d carefully placed all our eggs in one basket marked Plan A – and that there was no Plan B.

As an exercise in bridge-burning, it was either incredibly brave, or incredibly stupid.

Ignorance is indeed bliss. By the time we’d discovered just what a monumental task we’d set ourselves; to what depths we could be plummeted by a handful of really, really, really bad moments; and how inadequate some of our financial planning had been, we were way too far in to go anywhere else but forward.

We had an acre of Abruzzo; two ruins; three cats; a rented house; and all our worldly goods and chattels crammed into a leaky shed.

Did I mention the goods and chattels were also piled up on bricks because the leaky shed also flooded whenever it rained ?

Then. On the left - the barn that became our villas. On the right - the ruin we demolished to build our house


But on the plus side, we also had the designs for our own house and our rental villas, (signed-off on the eleventh set of drawings), and the world’s greatest project management team, (take a bow Gianmarco and Martina).

The build process was so record-breakingly quick, it deserves a mention:
– in November 07, we signed the Compromesso – the no-going-back intent to buy – on our property
– in March 08, we signed the Rogito – the final purchase contract. In the interim, we’d worked with Gianmarco finalising and costing the building plans. As soon as the purchase had been completed, we submitted our Planning Application to the local comune.
– in April 08, our Planning Application was approved.
– in May 08, the ruin that was to become our house was completely demolished. The old barn that was to be turned into our rental villas was taken back to a sound and salvageable level.
– then it rained for pretty much all of June, so the builders couldn’t get on-site.
– but towards the end of June 08, work started in earnest.
– in March 09, our house was finished and we moved in.
– in July 09, the villas were completed.
– in August 09, we opened for business and welcomed our first guests.

I’m glossing-over the landscaping; the car-park that for the first couple of seasons was more of a gravel-trap; and installing the swimming pool. They just kind-of happened along the way.

 Now. Just a little bit different...


Not to mention tossing around rocks to edge all our garden paths like they were ping-pong balls (Rocco); drinking my beer (Rocco); guzzling my grappa (Rocco); a lot of planting and gardening (me); pruning and harvesting our olives (Rocco); digging us out when we were snowbound (Rocco); fitting-out all the villas (Pauline); bringing us cheese and assorted bits of dead animal (Rocco); much more besides – and making us laugh a lot (Rocco).

Grazie Rocco.

Memo to self: There’s probably a basic law of physics somewhere that states if you’re digging a hole for an 80,000 litre pool, a corresponding amount of earth has to come out. It’s an awful lot. And it has to go somewhere.

Another memo to self: When the washing machine and the car both break down on the same day, you realise the pride you take in ordering a pizza in Italian is hopelessly misplaced and that in fact, you don’t really know any Italian at all.

So that’s the Villasfor2 story. Next Millennium stop me after one bottle before I have any more bright ideas.