Tuesday, February 9, 2010


The woman at the center of this picture, taken during a village chestnut roast on Monte Amiata, is Stefania Alboreti. She is an Irish ex-pat married to Antonio, the guy standing behind her. She helps stranieri (outsiders) find and maintain properties in the area. Because Momo would be traveling this winter, and because Sally and I have pitiful little Italian, Stefania would be our paid interpreter. And since her husband Antonio is a respected builder in the area, we'd get some good structural advice as well.

It turns out there were a few hitches in acquiring the property. For one, one of the owners of record had actually died in 1997, so her successor had to be officially registered. On top of that, there was a little issue of volume.

In Tuscany, restoration laws are strict. Basically, you cannot build where no structure has previously existed, and you can only restore the amount of volume that was originally there. In our case, Daniele said we'd be allowed to add the two chicken coops and the lean-to attached to the volume of little sharecropper's shack, plus we could dig an underground garage as long as it couldn't be seen from the road, for a total footprint of about 98 square meters. That would create a cottage of about 321 square feet. Not very big. But a nice livable love shack size if we ever got around to building. And besides, you don't go to Tuscany to stay inside.

The problem was that the chicken coops were not on the official platt registered in Siena. They would have to be added. There would be a fee to the commune of San Giovani d'Asso under whose jurisdiction the property falls. It would be about 6,000 Euro. 6,000 Euro no one in the selling family wanted to pay out of pocket before the sale.

After several months of round and round, I proposed that I would pay it and we could subtract it from the total paid at the time of sale. Everyone agreed. But there was a much harder issue to get them to agree to: When could all 10 owners the property converge from all corners of Italy in the notary's office for the sale?

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