Did you think we would let a bruising encounter with France put us off the challenge? Of course you didn’t think that, after all what would be the point of this story. Okay, so on landing back in grey Dublin at the end of September we did feel down for about a day until I started to broaden the house hunting search. One thing Andrew and I love and share a passion for is good food and wine. I started to muck about with searching for houses near famous wine areas, after all we had looked in Burgundy and Champagne in France, why not Barolo in Italy?
We had been to Italy once to twice a year for the previous 11 years. Andrew had taken me to Italy for my 30th Birthday knowing my love for Italian food and sunshine. We had the most romantic two weeks of my life, to that date, staying on an agritourismo near Certaldo and San Gimignano in Tuscany called Casse alle Vacche. I fell in love with Italy instantly, just by looking out of the car window on our trip from the airport to the beautiful Casse Alle Vacche vineyard. The vineyards lining our route and olive groves rolling and tumbling their way over every inch of land took my breath away. The heat and the smell of the warm earth on the vineyard added to the magic and I was caught hook, line and sinker. So we returned once more to Casse Alle Vacche and then emboldened with a basic grasp of Italian we took braver self-catering holidays throughout Italy, to Puglia, Umbria, La Marche, Rome numerous times, and each time we vowed that one day we would live in Italy, the usual tourist dream I am sure, but I also knew this had to happen. Even when we were considering a business in France we had spoken of how we would grow it and eventually set up in Italy.
So, I opened trusty Google maps, entered Barolo and viewed my first sighting of where Barolo actually is, because though I had heard of it, and had the odd couple of bottles of it, I had absolutely no idea where it was. Google is great for maps, it opened in a micro view of Barolo, close up so I couldn’t actually see where it was in Italy and as I gradually increased the map perspective, and it inched out slowly, I still didn’t recognise any names around and kept going wondering where the sea was, sea always seemed to be close by in Italy in our trips there. It just kept expanding until I saw Turin, I knew that, and eventually Milan. I was staggered, I truly thought Barolo would be further South, near Chianti, or somewhere warm like that, not way up North near Switzerland! My heart sank a little, I had always thought of that region as snowy and cold and mountainous. But it had piqued my curiosity, after all if they can grow the most prestigious wine in Italy there it must get some good sun. I started to research Barolo and found a few websites extolling the virtues of the area of ‘Piedmont’ that totally threw me. as though I had heard of Piedmont I had assumed it was in France. Bit by bit the area started to awaken in front of me on my computer screen. It felt like a game of ‘pass the parcel’, every new page I opened more glorious prizes were unwrapped. Bra, the slow food movement HQ of Italy and the world, I had been a fan of slow food but again not knowing the origin of slow food, and here it was, down the road from Barolo. The white truffles of Alba, world renowned and as good as the French, some say better. The famed Barbera and Barbaresco wine all in this small radius. Why didn’t I know of this before? For fun I thought to look at properties in the area, some seemed to be on the pricey side, it figured, I sighed a lot during this search, of course properties near Barolo and Alba would be out of our measly price range. I couldn’t seem to find any suitable properties with lots of land. Then I thought to expand the search, in France we had looked at a radius of 2 hours from an airport and here was Milan with three international airports and Turin and Genova all up in the North. I kept widening until, finally, one day up came about 5 properties all in the same town, all in our price range, and with lots and lots of land. Now, of course there were some cynical alarm bells ringing in the back of my head, why all of a sudden were 5 properties, meeting our needs, coming up in one town, what was wrong with the place? It was bang on our limit at 2 hours from Milan, and coming from Ireland was a hindrance, as there were no flights to Genova, and Turin was very infrequent. Yet, here it was, a solution. Yet the cynic came to the fore, no doubt due to being burnt in the French shambles, I feared the worst, perhaps a motorway, or plans to build one next door, factories galore perhaps, as Andrew thought the industrial North was just that – industrial. I started researching but got stumped, as nothing came up for this town in Piedmont, only a place in Piemonte, what was that about? It was rather confusing, there was also a Piedmont in the US, as I kept stumbling across it in the searches. But no, Piemonte was the correct name, the Italian name for ‘Piedmont’, another twist, entering Piemonte Italy into Google search, up came more pages of goodies and amongst them, our town. Our town, which read like a dream, loads of restaurants, bars, a weekly market and some industry but no motorway plans, thank goodness. Just lots of lovely Trip Advisor reviews of how great the place is.
Our house hunting in Piemonte took off like a rocket. Andrew and I started firing off houses to each other found on-line, with subjects: “look at this one”, “this is the one”, “wow” etc. I admit I had a favourite and Andrew had a favourite too, but I thought his too modern, mine looked more Italian, you know that vision of a house in Italy, though ours weren’t quite like that, they didn’t seem to have large stone houses like those in Tuscany, or Puglia’s Masserias. These had plenty of land though, only, instead of fields, they were all on terraces, long hillside grass terraces, stepping elegantly down into their respective tree filled valleys. I knew in my heart that Hemp had been left in France, and a short four weeks after returning from France we booked our flights to Piemonte.
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