Why we chose to live in Piemonte is simple enough. I have, to date, lived in 4 countries, the UK until 23, Singapore for a brief number of months at 23, Australia for 2 years from 24-26 and Ireland from 27 to 40. In between, and throughout, these moves I have visited countless countries and cities and like to think of myself as ‘well travelled’. I’m not naïve or foolish to think that a new country equals a new life, we carry our heads and our hearts wherever we go in this world. I did, however, know that I am over city living.
Writing this, I can hear the busy main road outside my Dublin office, teeming with diesel lorries, buses, roaring motorbikes and endless cars. I walk the back route from my Dublin house to my office, via the quieter back roads, to escape the pollution and get some mental solace before arriving at work, or at home. Around my office in town is a mish mash of cultures, ages, noise from the regeneration of some inner city flats, grime, graffiti, overflowing bins, useless pedestrian crossings at busy junctions, chewing gum littered pavements, the smell of stale beer from dirty pubs pretending to be trendy, and people everywhere, walking in to each other in their ‘don’t mess with me’ city body language, or just hypnotically looking at their phones, regardless of on-comers. Yes, I have had enough of city living.
When we went on our first trip to France in search of a new life we had a checklist, which read:
What we hadn’t expected on arriving, in The Langhe region of Piemonte, was to fall head over heels in love with the place, and all within a day of arriving. It hadn’t happened in France, we never got the ‘wow’ feeling there, and I know we had been moderating our enthusiasm since that disappointing trip to France. We knew a lot about Italy and had spent multiple weeks in various locations in Italy before but never in North West Italy. None of our Google research had prepared us for the mutual bolt of cupids arrow into our hearts from this magical place. Many web sites, I have read since, often mention Piemonte as Italy’s best kept secret. I’m not sure that it is being kept a secret, as there are multiple tourists here, it’s just that they are from other European countries, such as Switzerland, Germany and France. It’s not marketed that well to those in the UK and Ireland, that’s for sure, but then they are targeted with the romance of Rome, Tuscany, Puglia and Amalfi instead.
We hadn’t even travelled in the glorious heat of summer to this region, it was November when we arrived and all the 'tourist romantic trap' grapes were long gone, and there was no vibrant greenery of a summers day. Yet, this place was still glorious, the people we met on our visits to view property were the friendliest, compared to France, and very welcoming, the people in the local restaurants were happy to see us and talk to us about the area. There were no tourist tat shops, like in Tuscany, just small independently owned shops catering to the locals, all at local prices. There was heat a plenty in November, which our winter packed wardrobe hadn’t accounted for and we sweated our way around the land in rolled up sleeves wishing we had packed shorts! The produce though was the winner, all around, everywhere we went, was land being used to grow vast amounts of food and wine. We wanted to live somewhere where people were proud of their produce and where it was renowned, well we couldn’t have been more successful if we tried. The heart of The Langhe is award winning wine, artisanal food and IGP status hazelnuts, the best hazelnuts in the world were hiding out in this quiet spot, waiting for us to find them.
The villages were pristine with flower baskets adorning lamp posts, bridges and window sills, there were no over flowing bins or graffiti. A civic pride in their public living areas was clear to see. The landscapes with their curvy hills and winding roads and forests of hazelnut trees were all part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we didn’t even know it was part of that famed list before we arrived.
Through our property search in The Langhe region of Piemonte, we made compromise after compromise, to ensure we could start living in Piemonte, our planned list of ‘must haves’ was scrapped, we didn’t care anymore, we just wanted to be here and live here.
No, there was no competition. Piemonte had won, not that it cared to be in a competition, I am sure.
Next chapter in our Piemonte Italy adventure
2015 was indeed one of the worst years on record in Ireland for abysmal wet weather. Now, I know there is a conception of Ireland being wet, after all it is so green and full of cows and fields. But the Ireland I had lived in for the last 13 years had been, on the whole, not bad until 2015. I didn't even know where my umbrella was, it had hardly been used. Now I have multiple umbrellas. I had suffered a year of moaning, people moaning to me, moaning to myself, by me and all around me, 'I hate this weather', 'it's so depressing', 'will it ever stop raining' etc. etc. The clouds were relentlessly grey and very low hanging in a mass that drained the life out of most sane dwellers in Dublin (there are the strange exceptions who like rain of course but that is certainly not true of me).
To compound this situation there was the very fast approaching 40th Birthday in August. Why is it that as we get older the year's seem to keep speeding up? Sometimes I feel I am living in a vintage VHS video cassette with the setting on fast forward. I suddenly had a ball of tension in my chest, like something large and unwielding was pressing into my ribcage from within. Was it doubt, fear, worry, illness, had I swallowed the grey clouds? I was so out of sorts I went to the GP to get a full health diagnosis, and got the all clear, thank goodness. All I can say is that it was a general unease, a feeling that something was not right. I wasn't living the life I was supposed to be living, but what was I to do about that whilst sat in my office looking out at the relentless rain with a business to run and bills to pay?
I have as an adult always had a hankering for a farm, a vision of chickens (I love chickens), pigs, sheep, cows and a massive veg patch, a self-sufficient idyll. I can only put this down to genes from my grandmother's parents who had a farm in Galway, Ireland, and many of my Irish relatives indeed do live on farms to this day. We had many a family holiday in County Clare, when I was a child, (and yes I am named after County Clare). We used to have house swaps with my father's cousin who had fields all around his house. Making mud castles with my sister, Kerry (named after County Kerry of course), on the boggy fields and running about in wellies will be enduring happy memories. And so it has come to pass that I too have a strong pull towards fields and the promise of collecting my own eggs and chopping hand pulled onions...but not in Ireland, there are too many puddles!
Read the next chapter
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