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My House in Umbria

My house in Umbria: there is a film with this title starring Maggie Smith as an ex-pat writer with a gift for hospitality, but this page is about my own position as one half of a joint venture.

First of all: why Italy? I'm a graduate in two Modern Languages but neither of these languages is Italian. I visited Venice, Bordighera and Rovereto over twenty years ago, liked the country but didn't do anything more about it. I only started learning the language in the year before our move and life could have been a lot easier in another European country where I would have had a head start.

However Italy was the place I wanted to live, as noted on an old personal website long before we made the move. It is a very beautiful country. The light is extraordinary; its clarity gives an impression of living inside a stained glass window. The people are for the most part deeply civilized: humane, compassionate as well as passionate, balanced.

Then - why a house in Umbria? Why not Tuscany, Puglia, Abruzzo ...? Well, Tuscany was too expensive, Puglia too dry and Abruzzo too remote, but really it's just how it happened. With no intentions of a permanent move but only, at that stage, a holiday, we found accommodation on the Internet with a hospitable-sounding American lady on a farm in a beautiful-sounding rural spot just outside Assisi.

We were smitten by the lushness of the countryside, the variety and profusion of the wild flowers, the church bells, the brief thunderstorms, the tomatoes and (in my case) the strangely umbilical spirituality of Assisi, and wanted to stay. We viewed half a dozen houses and after twenty-four hours to think about it put down a deposit on one of them. We planned to let it out for a few years before we moved but then, with a rush of blood to the head, decided to move straight away.

Go to 'First Home' on the right-hand index bar to see the place we bought. Half of a villa with one of the best views in the world over 700 square miles of valley ringed by mountains. We can see churches, olive groves, vineyards, medieval hill-top villages, cars like insects on the winding roads...

When we first lived there I would wake up to sun streaming into the bedroom through the open door from the balcony and think - this is my house in Umbria!

However my husband's health grew worse and he was unable to visit let alone enjoy either the 'cantina' at the bottom of the house or the 'soffita' at the top and the open-tread marble staircase was a trial. Also we needed somewhere we could let our dogs roam without receiving sighting reports back from the neighbours - amused for the most part but veiling annoyance if their own animals' meals had been filched.

So, almost exactly a year after our first viewing of it, we committed to purchase of an eccentric 'casale' (country house) set in its own nine hectares of wooded hills and dells, and completed the acquisition 6 months later. The place is not habitable and we are years away from being able to live there, but it is a place to fall in love with. It has inspired in me a desire to explore every inch of the surroundings, and a fierce loyalty as if it were a terrestrial paradise beyond compare - which in my eyes it is.

A large part of this site is about the new house in Umbria.

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All material copyright of Clive West and Damaris West 2007 - 2017 and not to be used or reproduced without written permission.

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