Last Updated on June 17, 2022
Our Tuscan Holiday Cottage renovation is now properly underway, and should be ready for you to stay in Spring 2020!
Owning a Tuscan Holiday Cottage has been a dream of mine for many years, and finally I can see it happening!
As you may know from our previous posts, we have a Tuscan Holiday Cottage that you will be able to enjoy from 2020. You can read all about it in my launch Blog Post.
‘Trebbio’ will sleep 2-4 and has breathtaking views across the Garfagnana, which is the upper valley of the river Serchio, just 20 minutes North-West of Lucca. It’s just 45 minutes from Pisa, which is only a couple of hours from the UK. So now we have your staycation covered, as well as short breaks or holidays in Italy!
‘Trebbio’ forms part of a tiny hamlet near a tiny village called Piazza Di Brancoli, on a hillside overlooking the Garfagnana Valley towards Lucca. This is a hilly region, and ‘Trebbio’ is a ten minute drive up from the bottom of the valley.
As I write this in the middle of October 2019, the purpose of this post is to bring you an update on progress. The easiest way to describe the ‘journey’ so far is that it has been both interesting and challenging! I bought my little Tuscan Holiday Cottage for the location and its stunning views. It required a full renovation, which is nothing new to me having done this sort of thing for many years in England. But they work a little differently out there!
The legal side of things
The legal side of buying and renovating in Italy is very tight and the purchase was really efficient! I actually enjoyed the process; I viewed the property in November 2018 and did the equivalent of exchange of contracts just one month later, on my birthday in December, a week before Christmas. I hadn’t told any of the people that it was my birthday, so there was some confusion and head-scratching in the room when we were going through the contract and tying up dates!
Present with me at that meeting, I had my estate agent, an interpreter, the architect, the solicitor, a paralegal, and the vendor! You all sit around, go through the contract, iron out any queries and then sign it! Similarly at completion you have the same process, with the addition of a bank manager coming in to take a cheque from me to clear the outstanding vendor’s mortgage as part of the purchase price. They don’t trust anyone!
I then engaged the estate agent to act as project manager because I have to steer the ship over in the UK. The usual shenanigans then ensued, with getting quotes from three builders, which all took some considerable time as it is a very formal process. I ended with detailed quotes on an excel spreadsheet that they call a ‘Preventivo’. This is the foundation of the contract with the builder.
A stubborn Englishman
I shan’t bore you with all the details here, as my friends have all had that, but it has taken months of me making it very clear, that despite all efforts to the contrary, that I am not prepared to pay more than I should for any part of the work. I made it pretty apparent that I have renovated a lot of properties in the UK and that I was not some wealthy foreign developer with bottomless pockets. But this didn’t seem to have any impact.
Anyway, we finally agreed on things and engaged a builder, whose work I have seen, and it is excellent!
A well-meaning mate
In July I was moaning to my mate Steve over a curry that things were dragging on and on and that they want so much money for everything. They wanted €2,500 just to take the tiles up, which is not the most skilled of jobs on a renovation! Being retired and an all-round thoroughly decent egg, he said “I’ll go over and give you a hand if you like”.
A week later, the poor unsuspecting man was sat with his eyes wide open, looking like a rabbit in the headlights, on a Pisa-bound plane, regretting ever opening his mouth!
With suitcases packed full of knee pads, gloves, masks and goggles we got cracking. Literally!
Three days of smashing up floor and wall tiles in the full heat of the Italian Summer is quite tiring I can tell you! We got through about 5 or 6 litres of water each per day just to keep hydrated! We got a lot of cuts and bruises from flying tiles but I’ll spare you those photos!
At least we created a nice piece of modern art in the garden! I’ve had the Saatchi Gallery on the phone asking if we’d part with it but I’m holding out for a better price! Maybe I should approach the ‘Loo-uvre’? Sorry, couldn’t resist!
On our first night there, Sting was playing as part of the Lucca Festival. We tried to get tickets but it was completely sold out. However, we got the best seats right outside the nearest restaurant to the town square and listened to the whole set over dinner, watching Sting’s head bobbing up and down when we craned our necks! It’s quite an experience having dinner, whilst singing “Just a castaway, an island lost at sea-oh”, with a bunch of complete strangers!
You’d have thought that I could have called Sting for tickets as we are now neighbours. Mind you, his Tuscan house is a little grander than mine!
During our time there, we got adopted by a local cat who hung around every day to ‘help’. The only thing he helped us with was eating our lunch! We named him ‘Gordon’, in honour of our Sting experience.
After three days of toil and sweat (and the aforementioned blood) we had removed all the tiles, ready for the builders to begin their bit! As a reward on day four I let Steve have the afternoon off so I could show him around the area!
Roll on to the middle of October 2019, and more malarkey with overquoting on tiling as well as a few other things, we finally agreed everything. The builders started work on the Woodfarm Tuscan Holiday Cottage on Wednesday 9th October, just 8 months after I took ownership! I decided from the start to adopt a very Italian philosophy to the project in order to avoid unnecessary stress. Couple this with my determination not to pay over the odds for everything, it has certainly taken longer to get to this point than I’d anticipated! First world problems and all that!
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Anyway, all being well, we should be able to open the doors for you in the Spring of 2020. I’ll have to keep popping over in the meantime to make sure it’s all going well for you. Not sure Steve will want to join me again in a hurry though!
If you’d like to be amongst the first to hear when we release availability, then sign up to our Tuscany VIP group.