Awakening on our 2nd day of house hunting in Piemonte, particularly in the Langhe hills, Andrew was bounding around the hotel room like a Labrador puppy, full of excitement, as today was the day we were going to see his number one choice. We had also one other house to see but there were a few questions on that one in our minds already. I, in contrast, was still trying to recover from the let-down of my first pick on the previous day’s viewings, and not as optimistic about the day ahead, as I wasn’t really enamoured with either house on the itinerary.
Returning, again, to the local bar we met yesterday’s agent in, we also had agreed to meet a second, different agent for Andrew’s property. It turns out the bar is a well-known landmark location for meeting up with people in town, this agent was coming in from Acqui Terme, a good size Roman town, half an hour away. Natascia and Marco, a glamorous husband and wife estate agent team, were waiting for us outside the bar and even though Andrew was ‘chomping at the bit’, keen to see his property, he didn’t refuse the invite of a ‘café’ in the bar, which is a must do for all business meetings in Italy, and it would be a very poor show indeed if you decline a coffee before business; saying that, the tiny espresso’s were knocked back with the speed of a tequila slammer and off we buzzed in convoy, this time up a different uphill road. Looking out of the window there was lots to take in, a beautiful palazzo styled house with wrap around vineyards, other smaller elegant stone houses with reams of long sloping terraces, all with the trimmings of this seasons grape leaves, all crisp and russet and golden, empty of the bursting, flavour filled, grapes that had been recently harvested, the proud beauty of these hard working vines was a wondrous sight, as we weaved our way up a lovely wide road. Yes, a lovely wide road, we had had many a discussion on the pro’s and con’s of a road’s width the night before over dinner. Having survived the drive back down from the ‘little house’ we were having serious doubts about revisiting it, and though a 2nd viewing was on the cards it wasn’t filling us with any joy, just the thought of having to test our nerves again, hoping and praying a tractor wasn’t coming round the next bend…well it just didn’t seem like a possibility, and that, with Andrew’s immense driving skills, was quite something, as in the 14 years we have been together he has always been a sound and fearless driver, so if he was unsure, I was positively quaking in my walking boots at the idea of driving up there again. But back to the viewings today.
Finally, we abruptly turned off the road and up a private drive lined with huge imperial fir trees, a good start, at least it wasn’t overgrown grass, like yesterday’s drive, this was well maintained concrete, turning after 70mtrs up this drive and to the right, we drove into a long driveway of crunching pebbles through cast iron gates with 2 lion statues on top at either side of the gate posts, a Leo’s delight! I as a Leo, was truly delighted, I had forgotten about the description of this house to be honest, after all, this was Andrew’s favourite and truth be told I had neglected it in my mind. Pulling up at the end of the pebble drive I could see a beautifully wide maintained garden, sloping upwards with all sorts of fruit trees speckling the lawn and a neat raised flower bed, with ornamental trees in it, ran down the edge of the drive. And there were three further empty slopes, flat and clean, below the house. But there was no time for taking this in, for out of the house, with a big beaming smile and 'buongiorno - ing' for all he was worth, wearing worker overalls and carrying a witch’s broomstick, of all things, was the vendor, Giovanni.
Ahh, Giovanni, all of 5ft 6” and only like a Sardinian Italian man of 70 can be, escorted us like the conductor of the Royal Philharmonic orchestra, all arms, waving this way and that in the air, as with a flourish he guided us into each furniture bedecked, white wall gleaming, pristine room, like a proud father, beaming nonstop and talking away, at a rapid pace, with wild enthusiasm, Andrew had truly met his match in the enthusiasm stakes. He was so proud and happy to have us there, it was most infectious. This lovely little white house; see I used the word ‘lovely’ for the house, which at the beginning of the day was towards the bottom of my personal preferences; this man was weaving a spell on us, whether it had been the witch’s broomstick and its magical connotations, or his twinkly eyes, whatever it was, it was then surpassed by something more than magical, it was the view that really did it. I think I had been so swept away by Giovanni, as he ushered us into the house, that I hadn’t stopped to look at the view. We had climbed quite high up the hill to get there and as Giovanni led me over to the stately, wide, veranda edged, balustrade, we rested against the wall, and took a quiet moment of reflection, just the two of us, as the others had gone up into the attic. Giovanni and I looked out in silence at the view, an astonishing view, eye watering and sigh inducing, a ‘bella vista’, I said, quietly, to Giovanni, ‘si, bella vista’ he murmured in reply, both massive understatements. We looked out over an expanse of canyon like valley, with slumbering giant hills lined up, going into the far distance, each hill overlapping each other in a distance descending row, all covered in green pines and hazelnut plantations. To the right about ¼ mile away a little house, with more plantations, and a farm, down the hill below but again about ¼ mile away, Giovanni’s house, he gestured more softly, as he pointed to it, I think he had run out of steam after all his earlier excitement.
The quiet moment, that will forever be in my memory now, passed, as the others joined up, Andrew’s face was lit up like he had opened the best ever Christmas present. We knew there would be a second viewing and, via Natascia, we asked Giovanni if we could return tomorrow. What he said was pure, astonishing, alchemy, he said he doesn’t lock the door anyway, so we could come and go, as much as we liked and even have a picnic under the house’s portico! What the dickens!!! Now, coming from inner city Dublin, with our multi lock door and windows and house alarm, that we even turn on at night, not to mention the very attentive, curtain twitching, neighbourhood watch, this was truly staggering. The house was fully furnished, there were things to steal, if you were a nasty villain with evil intentions, which of course we weren’t, but we could come and go as we please! I love this place, I said, once I got back in the car, let’s never leave.
Next chapter in our Piedmont Italy adventure
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