I'm about to tell you the story of our adventure of searching for and eventually purchasing a property in Tuscany. It won't be quite as romantic as Under the Tuscan Sun but it has nevertheless been an adventure and has its own right to be told.
Getting a "place" in Tuscany has always been an unexpressed dream. After all, who wouldn't want that if the opportunity magically presented itself? Over the years we had played with the idea several times and occasionally we would test it by picking a property for sale that we had eyed. But as we tested the market we were always surprised either by the steep prices or by the poor state of repair of most of the properties. If the asking price was decent, the conditions of the house certainly weren't (total renovation needed in most cases), or vice versa. And renovations of old houses in Tuscany are not just expensive but entirely unpredictable, hence not an option for us. After having seen a property, we would usually turn off the mental button and put the dream back in the dusty drawer.
The trauma of Covid and feeling barred into a small apartment in the city for months really pushed that dream back into the open. It would certainly have been nice to have been tucked into the hills or the woods during that time with some open space for the boys to run around instead of a half-hour forced daily exercise in front of YouTube.
In the spring of 2021, despite the horrific times, we had opened the small Cheese & Wine shop in Florence and with that, the fascinating world of cheese opened before us. Ideally, we would need more space to perhaps age cheeses and wines. And so the old dream got combined with a new one. It felt like it made a lot of sense now. A small countryside retreat to share with people who love good food and wine where we would be able to host events and eventually have housing for small groups who want to enjoy the uncontaminated Tuscan countryside. Perfect!
So in the early summer of 2021, we started looking. There are several websites you can browse, ask for more info or simply request to visit a house. A fun fact about Italian real estate ads is that the photos are mostly crappy and the descriptions super vague with few actual facts. We set up appointments and went to see quite a few places without ever having an idea of what we were going to see. And then there was always a super big negative (if not more) about all the places.
For every visit, we would be met by a real estate agent close by the house we were going to see, then drive together to the house (they don't usually give you the exact address beforehand) and then you visit the house, usually with the owner present (who sometimes follows you around as you see the house). All quite bizarre as you feel obliged to say you like it even when you really don't. You couldn't talk about the negatives until after the visit. I would know when Pierre hated it because he would be completely quiet! Some places had unaccessible driveways, others were damp with tiny windows, or were next to the highway, or had walls shared with an unknown neighbour, barking dogs cages a few yards from the house, and most of the time just in a generally bad state of care.
Now, this is not how it would be if one had an unlimited budget, of course. There are some mighty fine properties to be had but the budget doubles or triples or quadruples or...
One morning we were heading into the countryside with yet some house viewings ahead of us. I had once again seen an ad on casa.it and sent in one of my many requests to see it. The real estate agent had called and said she would like to show us 3 places since they were all quite close to each other. That was efficient, we thought, and the first time someone had cared to suggest that, so off we went hoping to see something nice.
The very first place was a house we had not seen an ad for. It was an old Podere consisting of the main house and a converted barn both in beautiful stone, typical Tuscan style. According to Wikipedia, a Podere is the land unit of a rural society, which includes all the structures necessary for the settlement and the creation of a sufficient income to guarantee the livelihood of a peasant family. The term Podere has meant the cultivable extension in proportion to the working power of the peasant family settled on the land.
Tuscany's countryside is packed with Poderi (plural) since it was agriculturally organized by sharecropping until the mid 20th century.
To our surprise, this Podere was quite well kept, both the houses and the land. For the first time, we actually looked through the place twice (also since the owner wasn't there to see if we would steal an invaluable object) and couldn't find a huge amount of negatives about it. As we left, we both had a few butterflies in our stomachs. We couldn't even concentrate on the next two properties. Our thoughts kept going back to that first one we had seen.
As you can imagine, we embraced this real estate agent and shortly after examining the papers we sent in an offer. The negotiations went back and forth for quite a while and we actually had to wait until January 2022 before finally signing an agreement and then April for the final takeover. But somehow, we had faith that all things would work out in the end as nerve-racking as it was at times. In October 2021 we had even gotten a super active Australian Sheppard, named Frisbee, because we were going to have a farm he could run around on. In the meanwhile, he's tried to eat pretty much everything in our city apartment, including multiple shoes, clothes, chairs, walls and a pair of EarPods!
Things take time here, and we know that but there was a lot of (what felt like wasted) time on the bureaucracy of the Comune (the township a property belongs to) giving all the right paperwork, and the banks giving a mortgage (we actually didn't know if it was coming through until one week before signing the final deal). There's even a time frame when a neighbour farmer can claim the land to cultivate it!
But we made it! Podere Camposasso is the new project that we will hopefully see come to life over the next few years. Camposasso is the historical placename and we love it. It means a field of stone and has a lot of parallels (perhaps a little feeble) that we interpreted as signs that this was the right place for us. Pierre's name means stone. And he was born close to Roquefort in France, again referring to stone/rock. Yeah, totally signs – LOL! So, step by step, we intend to bring this place back to life by preserving its history, cultivating its land and making it accessible for others to enjoy – with great food & wine.
So there you go, this is our story of buying a place in Tuscany. Do you love the project, too? Follow our trials and errors but hopefully successful outcome on @camposasso where we will post future stories and pictures from this beautiful piece of paradise in Tuscany. And hopefully someday in the future, you can come to visit!