The Story So Far
David and Pauline Brenner – he a former television sports presenter, she an IT-specialist-turned-part-time-barmaid – are quitting their home in Somerset, south-west England, for a permanent move to the Abruzzo region of Italy where they’re starting up a small-scale villa rental business providing select vacations for two.
But There’s One Small Problem
Thanks to the fragile nature of the British property market, the last few months have been tale of ‘Great ! There’s a buyer for our house; oh dear, that’s fallen through; Yippee ! There’s another buyer for the house; oh no, that’s fallen through too’ ad naus until, strangely, you pass through stress to a state of Zen-like acceptance of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Eventually it comes down to a choice between:
- leaving outrageous fortune to come up with a buyer sooner or later. (Preferably much, much sooner)
- loading up the car heading off to Abruzzo and the hamlet of Ascigno, about 4 miles from the medieval hilltop town of Casoli
- house in Somerset
- Abruzzo villa rental
In a nutshell, we have a choice of venue for remaining stoical and Zen-like in Somerset or stoical and Zen-like – and a bit more pro-active – in Abruzzo.
We’ve placated the cats; made it through the Channel Tunnel; reached Italy via Lens, Macon and the Frejus Tunnel; skirted Turin; seen some genuinely epic traffic jams on the A14 outside Bologna – all thankfully going the other way – got our first glimpse of the Adriatic at Rimini; plunged on south and now we’ve reached Ascigno and our rental house about 500m from the two houses we’re going to buy.
Sorry, didn’t mention the rental house. Nor that we’re buying two houses, which are on the same plot about 35m apart. One for us; one to be turned into the rental villas for our vacations for two. And they’re both uninhabitable, unrestorable ruins which’ll have to be demolished and rebuilt. And we haven’t actually bought them yet. And we still haven’t sold our house in England.
And What’s More…
- the cooker’s unconnected and standing in the middle of the kitchen floor. But that’s sort-of OK, because the gas has been cut-off, so we couldn’t use it anyway
- the central heating is jammed-on 25C day and night
- after 1400 trouble-free motoring miles, the car’s decided it needs a rest and one of its warning lights has come on. It’s the one that shows a pictogram of an engine, but I don’t know what it means because the car handbook is in the removal van and the removal van doesn’t arrive until tomorrow
- good news: the cats have plenty to eat. Bad news: we have nothing except bottled water and peppermints
- the nearest taxi in which to go to the supermarket to buy food is 40kms away
- and it’s now 8pm, so the supermarket’s just closed
But this is when we discover first-hand the true meaning of simpatico. Local gas-fitter and plumbing supremo Casimiro thunders round within the hour to hook-up the cooker and fix the heating. And bearing in mind this is Italy and everyone’s related to someone who can help in any given situation, the parents of Martina, who’s the wife of our indispensible local friend Gianmarco, just happen to own a farm 100m up the road.
Fifteen minutes after we call bemoaning our tragic Brit refugee status, Gianmarco and Martina are knocking on the door laden with freshly-made ricotta, salami, pecorino, bread, fruit, wine from their own vineyard and, best of all, a litre of the most drippingly delicious olive oil we’ve ever tasted. Organic and unfiltered, it’s so staggeringly good that top London restaurants would charge you a tenner just to look at the bottle and Harrods and Fortnums would duel it out at dawn for the right to sell it. No chance. As of now, it’s our official ‘house oil’ and you’ll find a bottle waiting in your villa rental when you arrive !
ps. And Martina’s cousin the mechanic reckoned there wasn’t anything wrong with the car after all.
(Click on pictures in text for larger images)