Our Second Home - the Pink Palace
'Second home' here does not mean that the house we bought in
Valtopina was intended as a holiday home for intermittent habitation. We
mean to inhabit it full time as soon as we can. However it will be the
second home we have had in Italy. Moreover, since its ownership overlaps
with that of our first home, the Italian term 'seconda casa' (a second
property that you own but in which you do not reside permanently) applies
and has a particular significance since it means we must pay a very much
higher rate of purchase tax.
When we decided we could not stay indefinitely in our house in Gualdo
Cattaneo, we brain-stormed about where we might go. Clive finds the winters
colder than he expected and we had not given much time to learning the
language. Should we leave Umbria altogether despite the fact that we were
settled? All the while dreaming of distant lands, we looked in brochures and
in the countryside around us.
"The Pink Palace
Click on picture to enlarge
The noble shape of a faded pink building nestling among trees caught our eye
in a magazine. We went to view it and found that it had been completely
rebuilt after the 1997 earthquake and planned with acceptance as an
Agriturismo in mind. When permission was denied or the money ran out or
both, the project was abandoned and the building left in a very inconsistent
state. Walls, roof and windows are complete, there are garish tiles in one
of the five bathrooms and a frieze round the downstairs walls, but there is
no drainage system and the ground around the house is half a metre below
what will need to be the finished level. There is a 'colombaia', a
dovecot-resembling tower which gives elegance to the building, but its
interior is dominated by a chunky staircase that leaves virtually no scope
for use of the space. The en-suite bedrooms are fitted round each other with
a puzzle-maker's ingenuity. Renovation will be a matter of judicious undoing
as well as finishing.
This would not be a project for the faint-hearted, but Clive is an engineer
and fancied taking a hand in decisions on the plumbing, the energy sources
and the over-all comfort. I meantime had caught sight of the ground sloping
away behind the house into a green dell where there were apple trees with
bright fruit... In the car as we negotiated the descent down the rough
track, I expressed my enthusiasm for the place. The bug had bitten. Talking
about it afterwards, we christened it the Pink Palace.
The green dell
Click on picture to enlarge
A year later our plans were still up in the air. However we were in the
throes of selling our former home in Britain; with a partial mortgage we
should be able to make the price without selling the Gualdo Cattaneo
property. So we put down the small and then the large deposit.
Shortly after, the house-sale in Britain fell through and we had to start
again. Our income was not conventional enough to satisfy Italian banks for
mortgage purposes; most British banks would not lend for purchase of
property in Italy and if they did, they followed the Italian lead. So we
emptied every last bit of savings we possessed and we scraped the sum
together just in time - only for the exchange rate to drop to the year's
lowest point on the very day of the transfer of funds to Italy...
We signed the final contract and the vendors almost departed without giving
us the keys. But that evening, even though we knew that the hardest part was
yet to come, we drank a toast to our second home.
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