What a wonderful world we live in when we can maintain a career in London but spend a third of the year in Italy. I caught up with one of our readers who ‘trulli’ has the best of both worlds!
Sara (54) lives and works most of the time in West London with her partner Claudio and an African Grey parrot called Frank. However, thanks to mobile working and frequency of all year-round flights to Puglia they are able to spend over four months a year in Italy.
When in Puglia, Sara is able to work from her home office overlooking olive trees. She has actually found that the internet connection is better than she gets in London. Sara and Claudio run an exhibition services company which stages over 20 events at premier UK venues, including the Luxury Property Show.
But they are looking forward to the day when they can retire and make their villa near Ceglie Messapica their main home.
Why did you decide to buy a property in Italy?
Claudio is originally from Abruzzo. He has lived in London for 55 years from the age of six. We love everything Italian so buying a property in his homeland was the obvious choice.
Why did you decide to buy a property in Puglia?
At first, we were looking for a property in Abruzzo, where Claudio has family. Then, we found a farmhouse property in Le Marche that we liked and were going to meet the “immobiliare” the following day to make an offer. That night we were awoken at 3am by the earthquake that rocked the region, and quite frankly it terrified us. We decided after this experience that it was a priority for us to find a property in a region not prone to earthquakes.
We investigated Puglia as a possibility via the internet and were astounded by the beauty of the region, the climate and the great value for money. One trip to look at properties and we were hooked on living there. We have had a lot of good fortune in our search for the perfect property in Puglia, including finding Ceglie Messapica.
How was the property buying process?
I won’t be the first to say, we could probably write a book about our experience of buying property in Italy. It has been a roller coaster of emotions (not all good), time consuming and expensive. Venturing into the property market in Italy is most definitely not for the faint hearted even if, like Claudio, you speak the language!
There are however many positives we can take away from our buying process voyage of discovery. We have met people who have given their time and valuable expertise to help us, and who will be our friends for life. Via the buying process we have gained a vital semi understanding of how legal and administrative procedures in Puglia work. We are on first name terms with our advocate (solicitor) and his family, the local bank manager and the key people in the council offices.
Our frustrations have gradually subsided as we have reached an understanding and acceptance that virtually everything works differently and more slowly than in the UK. It may not be the way we want it to work, but it seems to work for them. Without our friends we could not have bought our properties. To find an ‘on the ground’ trustworthy agent is the most valuable asset you can have.
Why would you recommend buying a property in Italy?
Value for money, culture, architecture, pace of life, food, wine and very nice people.
What type of property did you buy?
When I first came to Puglia I fell in love with the trulli (traditional dry stone houses with conical roofs) I let my heart rule my head, threw the ‘buying property in Italy’ rule book out of the window. I persuaded Claudio that buying coned houses was a great investment and the perfect setting for our retirement home. In reality the cost of the renovation and council permissions far exceeded the return we would ever get back on our investment.
Then, I heard that the large 18th century villa next to our Trulli had come onto the market. Throwing caution to the wind and hell bent on buying our dream home, we bought the Villa with a view to making it our main home whilst keeping the Trulli as a guest/rental property. Three years later, we now have 50 olive trees, three acres of beautiful countryside, the original two Trulli and a beautiful Villa with a further three Trulli in the courtyard we hope to convert into guest houses.
Where did you find useful contacts and information?
After ignoring all advice that I’d found on the internet when buying property one, I religiously read the Italy Property guides before we bought our Villa. The guides cover everything you need to know about buying in Italy together with, and most helpfully, the things to watch out for and avoid. I would strongly recommend that anyone buying in Italy reads and digests all the information contained in the guides before even looking at a property. I also went to The Luxury Property Show, where one of the exhibitors, a restoration company based in Puglia, provided a lot of free advice on restoring our Trulli.
What work are you doing to the properties?
Our main priority has been to develop access to the properties via a new road and to make the entire area secure by building walls and installing gates. The Villa’s first floor living accommodation is finished. The ground floor Summer kitchen is our next project, together with the courtyard and guest Trulli. By the summer we were hoping to have the swimming pool complete and the restoration of the Trulli rental property underway.
How do you like to spend your time when you’re there?
The climate in Puglia is conducive to spending time outdoors. In Summer, which lasts from May to the end of October, we head to one of the many beach clubs on the unspoilt coastline. We also discover beautiful towns such as Ostuni, with its white houses and narrow cobbled streets. Food plays a central role in most of our activities. The Puglian cuisine revolves around great produce cooked simply. The choice of great restaurants is vast. All are frequented by locals, who are passionate about their regional cuisine. Ceglie Messapica is also known as the food capital of Puglia. We have many acres of land which requires upkeep. Fortunately, I love gardening so long days are spent in the shade of the olive trees, planting in the main gardens or growing our own vegetables.
What do you love about your local town?
There are several things that set Ceglie Messapica apart from other Puglian towns. Firstly, the food. In Summer it seems like every cobbled street is occupied with small tables and chairs. Restaurants pop up from behind doors normally bolted shut, serving amazing local food into the early hours of the morning. It is not unusual for tables to still be full at 2am. This food extravaganza culminates in the Ceglie Food Festival held every August.
Secondly, Ceglie Messapica is first and foremost a local town and a meeting place for local people from the surrounding areas. Over the past few years, it has become more of a tourist attraction due to the amount of new Summer restaurants and concerts featuring world renowned artists in the main Piazza. But it has also retained its local appeal as a community town proud of its heritage.
What other places do you like in the region?
The coastline of Puglia is staggeringly beautiful. We have the benefit of two seas, the Adriatic and the Ionian (also known as the Maldives of the South due to the fabulous aquamarine shade of the sea and white sands) We have explored both sides of the coastline taking in well-known towns such as Polignano a Mare on the Adriatic and Punta Prosciutto beach on the Ionian coast. My greatest pleasure comes from taking recommendations from our local friends on seaside towns and beaches to visit. Many of these are off the beaten track and in designated nature reserves.
What do you love about Italy?
I call Italy my rehab. The pace of life is slow, the climate is uplifting, the scenery is great for the soul and the diet is healthy.
Thank you to Sara for sharing her experience of buying a property in Italy. You can start your own search for a property in Ceglie Messapica or Puglia here on Italy Property Guides. You can currently find apartments in Ceglie Messapica from €50,000, countryside villas from €70,000 and a trullo from €100,000. I hope to see you in Puglia soon.