It was September 2009 when we were first introduced to Puglia. Maria had been working in London and speaking to someone who had honeymooned in Puglia, by the time they had returned they had fallen in love with the area so much that they had bought a small holiday home. On the back of that, Maria decided to book a long weekend in Italy and got in touch with an Englishman who introduced us to two Estate Agents, one in the North and one in the South of Puglia. The two parts are quite different with the southern part being quite flat and filled with Olives. We found that Northern Puglia was served very well by Bari Airport, easily reached from the UK and the southern part by Brindisi airport, accessible from Stansted for us.
We stayed at Alberobello which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and features architecture unique to this part of the world – the Trullo. This type of building is built of stone and has a stone conical roof. Made of limestone they start a light brown colour but then turn to grey over time. Alberobello was a “must see” for us but it is a tourist centre and not somewhere that we would consider living despite its beauty.
So having seen some properties in the North and not having been inspired, we drove south to San Michele Salentino. Here we met an amazing man called Angelo Epifani who works at SEFIM. At this stage we hadn’t started Italian lessons and Maria’s Italian was limited to saying that someone had nice eyes or a nice rear end! That wasn’t going to get us too far! Angelo showed us a number of properties from aderelict 100 year old Trullo to more modern villas. Our hearts were set on a Trullo and so we refined the search.
There were a number of trips to Puglia over the coming months and we are proud to count Angelo as a friend. Within a year we had decided on a renovation project, the building had been on sale for three years. Before buying we wanted to have some plans for what we would do for the renovation. We spoke to Pino from TrulliDream who helped us formalise our ideas for the property. Once we had our plans in place and we knew we could afford the project we moved forward with the offer. This was accepted but before we could pay our deposit, which in Italy makes the contract binding (or lose the 10% deposit), we were told somebody else had also put an offer in on the house and were asked to increase our offer. We agreed with Angelo that we weren’t prepared to get into a bidding war and pulled out.
We then decided that we hadn’t really seen a place that we felt that we could convert to be what we wanted and so took the unusual step of deciding to build a brand new home to be designed and built by TrulliDream. It took a lot of work with Pino to come up with a design that we were happy with (and could afford!). After a lot of viewings of different landscapes with Angelo and of course Lisa Jones one of very close and dearest friends who accompanied us, we had found some land, a beautiful plot of olives in 16,000 sq metres. However the buying process for this probably took nearly a year! The process of planning permission in Italy is very long winded too and we are indebted to Pino for his hard work and perseverance to make sure that the design was approved. This took the best part of two years, and I have the utmost respect for Pino and his patience to continue to ensure that the planning permission was successful. In August 2013, we finally had permission to build our dream home. Massimo Epifani at TrulliDream, Pino’s brother has been working hard with us to keep the build on track, which has mostly been delayed due to us or the weather – we have no complaints about Italian building companies or the builders themselves.
As you can see the construction is going really well and the next stage will be building the Trullo which will be at the right hand side of the picture above.
Our experience of building a home in Italy has taken time but has been a very positive experience with some great people. We would recommend it to anyone.
One word of caution though as someone from England buying in Italy. The Italian process is completely different and the people that we have known who have had trouble have invariably tried to force the Italians to work in an English way. We love Italy and the people so we have been happy to work with them and that has helped the success of our project to date. I would also add that it takes time and although the prices are good, if you want something fast you have to be prepared to spend a little more.