Wednesday 30 July 2008

Swimming pool construction Cortona

Thought you might enjoy seeing the before and after photos of a swimming pool in the Bramasole area of Cortona, Tuscany, that we oversaw the construction of on behalf of our clients. The permissions process for the pool, via the Comune (municipality) of Cortona, took a long time to be processed, but the final outcome was well worth it. Situated in one of the most sought after areas of exclusive real estate in Cortona, the pool enjoys spectacular views across the Tecognano valley towards the hills that back onto Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, just a few kilometres away. The pool company responsible was Norgiolini Sas based in Umbria who can organise the pool construction process from the first excavation to the grouting around the stone pool surround.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Italian Restorations

If your looking to restore your Italian dream, Abode can help you from planning to key in hand. Building your home in Italy can be mentally taxing. Our Italian professionals will guide you through even the most difficult planning and building issues. Our goal is to finish the project on time and on budget. I know you're laughing right now! My personal experience has always been double the time and double the money, and in a way this is true. What we try to do is to tell you at the beginning, not midway or towards the end what the costs will be. Building an Italian Property in Tuscany, Umbria or anywhere else in Italy for that matter can be a nightmare, but when you see the final product and wipe the tears from your eyes, it will all be worth it.

Italian living in Tuscany

The pioneers of Italian living

Published by the Sunday Times

Twenty years ago, the author Imogen Edwards-Jones was shocked when her parents moved to Tuscany but it turned out to be a great idea
Property in Italy

When my mother announced, 20 years ago, that she was selling up and moving to Italy, I thought she was joking. People just didn’t do that sort of thing in those days. There were no property programmes, no relocating shows, no glamorous presenters in flowered frocks poring over websites and telling us how to make the best of the burgeoning Spanish/Italian/Croatian markets. What on earth was she talking about? As far as I was concerned, she and my stepfather, then in their mid-forties, had a perfectly nice house in Dorset and were happy.

Apparently not. They’d been on holiday to Italy, they’d fallen in love with the art, the food, the wine, the people, the scenery and the life, and they wanted in. The south coast of England was “too crowded”, my mother kept saying. The traffic, the noise, the thousands of people who packed the place in the summer, licking ice creams, mooching around Corfe Castle, clogging the roads to the beach. They’d had enough, and were off.

I watched the two of them spend the next six months researching and writing to agents - no websites in those days - but still wasn’t convinced they were serious. They spent a couple of weeks looking around Lucca. Everyone said, in those preRyanair days, that you had to be near Pisa airport, but after finding nothing worth giving it all up for, they headed south to the Etruscan walled hilltop town of Cortona.

They arranged to meet Anthony Dun-kley, an agent who lived in Tuscany and was one of the pioneers of the British invasion, in a bar in the small village of Mercatale. My mother went off to try to get money from a bank, while my stepfather waited at the bar. Mother returned raving about some drop-dead handsome Greek god she had just seen in the bank, only for him to turn out to be the agent they were waiting for.

Several months later, my sister, then aged 18, and I, just turned 20, were sitting in the back of the car, eyes strained left and right, looking for our mother’s new house. My stepfather was at the wheel, spitting feathers as he drove up and down the hillside. My mother kept swearing - indeed, swearing blind - that the house was “really nearby somewhere”. After much huffing and puffing, we found an overgrown track nobody could quite believe was passable.

“It does need some work,” my mother finally admitted as we pulled up at the end of the half-mile drive.

“Work?” replied my sister, peering through the bushes. “There’s a tree growing through the roof.” “And no doors or windows,” I added. “The place is a wreck.”

“But the position,” my mother said, getting out of the car. “The position is to die for.” She was right. South-facing, 1,500ft or so up and sheltered against the side of a hill, Stoppiacce was - and still is - one of the most beautifully positioned houses I have ever seen. Cool in summer and warm in a dank Italian winter, it gets sun all day, all year round, and has uninterrupted views over the rolling hills of the Minimella valley – a protected no-build zone that, according to locals, is about to be designated a national park.

Yet as I stood there, with the sun sinking below the horizon, I couldn’t believe she was uprooting the family home and moving it here, to a ruin in the middle of nowhere. Little did I know that this hillside wreck would play such a huge part in my life. It would be a place I’d return to again and again for inspiration and solitude. Where I would write my novels, my articles, my bestsellers Hotel Babylon and Fashion Babylon; where I would eventually get married.

Back then, Stoppiacce had no roof, no water, no electricity and no telephone, and hadn’t been lived in for 30 years. The farmer who’d owned it had run the well dry and couldn’t afford to sink a new one. Old Cerrotti, who bought it from him, wanted the land and the timber: he discovered only later that crazy foreigners were willing to buy the ruined houses cluttering his fields. So, when he needed a new tractor or car, he sold a house.

Even in the dusk, we could appreciate that it was a pretty house. The walls were square and sound - some dated from the 13th century, others from the 17th and 19th. Accommodation was on the first floor, with animals and stores on the ground. There were beautiful stone slabs, which would eventually be used to build the terraces. There was a tall tobacco-drying tower and a small, fat chestnut barn, which would eventually become stunning bedrooms with ensuite bath-rooms and views to the valley floor. As my sister and I picked our way through the rubble, a skinny ginger cat shot out of the bread oven when we peered in. This was certainly “a project”.’ For the next few years, I spent university holidays chipping away at old plaster, shifting blocks of stone, painting, weeding, pruning, drinking wine, eating delicious food and laughing. My mother and stepfather moved into a smaller house close by, blew up their inflatable mattresses and, every day, reported for work at the house. The renovation took about 18 months. It could have been quicker had the British builders my mother found somewhere not suffered from such horrendous hangovers.

When they finished, though, the place was fantastic. Five bedrooms, five bath-rooms, five reception rooms – a library, a sitting room, a drawing room, a stunning hall, a large kitchen/dining room – as well as a swimming pool and a collection of terraces and various outside storage areas. It was 25 minutes from Cortona, where Frances Mayes came to write Under the Tuscan Sun, and where they filmed Life Is Beautiful.

Florence is two hours away, Perugia one. Most of Tuscany’s varied and beautiful sights are only a road trip away. My mother and stepfather said we were welcome to stay whenever we wanted, and my sister, brother and all our friends took them at their word.

We steamed in every summer, packing out the house, eating my mother’s delicious food, watching the fireflies on the terrace, chugging back the wine – which they, and sometimes we, bottled. Their village, San Pietro a Dame, was sleepy and small, and foreigners were few and far between. There was a documentary film-maker from London across the valley and a well-known thespian a few hills away, but that was it. The Chiantishire invasion was yet to happen and, as Brits abroad, my mother and stepfather kept a low profile, integrating slowly and politely into the society in which they lived. They went to the local mushroom-picking feast and the cheese-rolling competition, but, on the whole, they were quiet. The farmers got used to their red setters; my mother quickly became obsessed by the salt-covered baby broad beans served in the local restaurant; and my stepfather learnt from his literal close shave at the hairdressers that abbastanza doesn’t mean “a little bit of a trim”, but rather “sufficient” – that is, just enough hair to cover his head.

They always cite my wedding, nearly 10 years ago, to Kenton Allen, head of comedy talent at the BBC, as the time they became fully fledged members of the community. We had 120 guests crammed into the tiny, fresco-covered village church. We dined on roast sucking pig while a big band played around the swimming pool. Half the village drove the guest buses to and from Cortona; the other half did the flowers, the food, our hair or turned up to look at these foolish English in their big hats at the church. Old Cerrotti said: “Ah, so they do live here, after all.”

Soon after that, the world, his wife and their friends poured into Tuscany. Under the Tuscan Sun became a huge international bestseller and Cortona was captured from every angle on film and digicam. Stoppiacce, however, maintained its serene hillside calm and became a haven for resting actor friends recuperating from long filming schedules.

I was beginning to sense, though, that my mother and stepfather had had enough. They were getting itchy, looking for another project and, like every other foreign holiday-house purchaser, regularly surfing the net for a new place.

“We’re off to Gascony,” my mother declared over lunch a few months ago. “I’ve found this place,” she smiled. “It needs some work.”

This time, I took her seriously. Stoppiacce is for sale for £776,000 with Abode (00 39 075 573 3941, www. Pop Babylon by Imogen Edwards-Jones is published tomorrow by Bantam Press at £12.99 Tuscan idylls

Monday 28 July 2008

Under the Tuscan Sun

Frances Mayes experiences of buying and restoring an Italian Villa in the Tuscan countryside, originally a book and then in 2003 made into a film has helped to established Cortona and the Tuscan Sun Festival. Watch the trailer of the movie (Under the Tuscan Sun) and you will begin to understand what a magical and stunning beautiful area of Italy this is. The Tuscan Sun Festival starts next Saturday (2nd) until the 10th August. The excellent selection of events can be found in the program which one can download as a pdf from the Tuscan Sun Festival website. We will see you there...

Friday 25 July 2008

Italian Property purchasing guide

Buying Real Estate in Italy from Abode Italian Real Estate.

There are no restrictions placed upon a non-resident wishing to purchase a property in Italy, either from Europe or elsewhere.

When searching for a house in Italy it is strongly recommended that you use an estate agent (Realtor) fully licensed by the Chamber of Commerce. Abode International Real Estate is one such agency.

Step 1 – The offer

Your Italian agent will make the initial offer on your behalf. Once you identify the Italian property you want to buy you can immediately sign a Proposta irrevocabile d'acquisto – an irrevocable purchase agreement – which is signed by the buyer and seller once you have agreed on the price. The agreement identifies both parties and the property in question, and gives an expiry date for signing the preliminary contract of sale (“Compromesso”). When you sign, you can pay a small optional deposit. This is usually held by the Agency, and returned to you or given to the seller as part payment when you sign the Compromesso.

If you change your mind about purchasing the property you will forfeit this deposit, as the owner will have effectively taken the property off the market for a certain period of time. If the sale does not go ahead by the specified date through no fault of your own your deposit will be returned to you. During this time you should arrange for a qualified surveyor (Geometra) to organise a complete survey on the property and carry out the necessary title searches. The Geometra will ascertain that all of the structures on the property have proper planning permissions in addition to checking other important documentation on the property.

Step 2 – Preliminary Contract of Sale (“Compromesso”)

The preliminary contract of sale (Compromesso) commits both parties to the sale. This contract establishes the terms and conditions of the final contract (Rogito) and details the price, date for completion, the nature of the property and guarantees from the seller. It may also include any other relevant legal details.

You will be expected to pay a deposit at this stage (Caparra penitenziale) of between 10%-30% of the purchase price. It is important to note that if you withdraw from the sale after signing the Compromesso, you will lose your deposit. However, if the seller withdraws, he must pay you double your deposit.

Step 3 – Rogito

This is the final stage of the process and transfers ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer (usually 1-3 months after the Compromesso). The document is drawn up by the Notary (Notaio), who represents both parties. The buyer, seller and Italian registered estate agent are all required to be present for the signing of the contract at the Notary's office. You can sign the Rogito in person or you may appoint a special Power of Attorney to your solicitor or estate agent to represent you if you cannot be there in person. You will be expected to pay the balances to the vendor, the Notary and the estate agent and pay all taxes due at this stage.

In addition to the above fees, the buyer must also pay:

* Purchase tax – which is either 3% (replaced by 4% VAT if buying from a building company) if the buyer purchases the property as his first residential home in Italy and applies for residency in the local area, or 10% if the foreign buyer already owns property in Italy or does not wish to apply for residency. Please note that the tax is calculated on the “Valore Catastale” (assessed value) of the property and not the purchase price ie. on the value stated in the building registry.
* Surveyor fee – the Geometra will check all the documents for the house are up-to-date and legal, that buildings have fully registered title and that the house complies with planning regulations. This fee is also payable at the signing of the final contract. Some Notaries liaise with a Geometra directly and you will only pay one fee directly to the Notary.

The total expenses incurred in the purchase should not, on average, amount to more than 12% pf the purchase price.

Running costs of your property will include:

* Annual Tax– The Imposta Comunale sugli Immobili is an annual council tax calculated on the value of the property. It is payable twice a year in June and December even if it is possible to pay it once in December for non residents;
* Rubbish tax – it is payable in four instalments or all at once if you prefer;
* Utilities – electricity, water, gas, telephone;
* Condominium expenses – if you buy a property which is part of a group of properties which share some communal areas – gardens, driveway, swimming pool, tennis court etc. then you will be required to pay condominium expenses;

The easiest way to pay most of these is by direct debit, although some you will need to pay at the post office.

Abode Real Estate can guide you through the Italian buying process. When you confirm your commitment to purchase a property in Italy Abode’s professional team of experts will liaise with the Geometra and Notary to make sure your Italian dream is secured and free of problems. This is included in our fees. We also arrange for all the services to be changed to your name. We acquire your Italian Tax code and also open a bank account for you. All you need to do is to find Italian abode.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Tuscany Real Estate

If your looking for a real estate agency in Tuscany we have an excellent selection of Italian properties. Abode's goal is to identify the best Tuscany real estate and Italian property for sale in Tuscany, Umbria and the Amalfi coast, including Positano and Capri. Whether your looking for an luxury Italian villa, a Tuscan rustic farmhouse, a Palazzo in Umbria or a holiday home on the Island of Capri, Abode Italian real estate agency should be your first port of call. Our innovative website ( offers advice and information on such topics as, how to buy Italian property, a buyers guide to Italy, Italian maps and directions, details of purchasing costs, contracts and just about everything one needs to purchase property in Italy. In fact, if you don't find an answer to your Italian property question e-mail us or respond to our blog and we will help.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Global Italian property awareness.

We are pleased to announce the introduction of our new website Abode dealing exclusively with luxury real estate now offers it's clients the unique opportunity for their Italian properties to be found in in several languages. Nick Ferrand, founder of Abode said "We are committed to expand this facility over the coming months. Our clients expect the best and we will deliver".

Friday 18 July 2008

Italian Food

My friends Alberto and Elinor Chiappa have an agriturismo in the stunning beautiful Niccone valley near Umbertide called Calagrana in Umbria, on the border with Tuscany. In addition they have opened the Calagrana restaurant. I would regard myself as a regular and hand on heart would say the food is delicious. Alberto and Elinor have just produced their first book, Italian Farmhouse Kitchen, a must for any Italian food connoisseur. The book can be purchased direct from Elinor at Calagrana via e-mail. The pictures where taken by Martin Sullivan, who did an excellent job. Well done Martin.
If your ever in the area I would highly recommend a pit stop at Calagrana. Authentic organic Italian food with a twist. Don't forget to ask Patrick for his recommendation on local wines. He's the local wine guru. Enjoy...