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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.

Pink Palace

"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.

Green dell - click to enlarge

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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