Have you ever had a dream that you couldn't forget about when you woke up in the morning? For us, that was Italy. We fell in love with this country more than 10 years ago. The incredible scenery and (if possible) even more incredible food and drink, the people and the culture - the whole package. The Italian way of life is very different to ours in Northern Europe and was one of the reasons my beautiful wife and I decided to marry in Italy, in Monforte d'Alba, in 2010.
View of Rocchetta Palafea from our house - Photo: Anne Valeur
After spending many more wonderful holidays in Piemonte over the years that followed, on one particular visit to Villa d'Amelia in Benevello, we noticed an advertisement for a house on the market close by. As a spur of the moment decision, and with great curiosity we decided to call the agent. Although it was not a suitable property for us, from that day forward a passion flared within us. Like many, we had always dreamed of escaping the rat race, removing ourselves from the stress of a corporate career, really stripping back life and getting back to basics - strengthening our souls and happiness in the countryside. And after numerous viewings on a number of fantastic, though not quite "up there" properties, in June 2017 we made one of the most important decisions of our lives!
Entering Rocchetta Palafea - Photo: Private
After viewing a property in October 2016 and then spent many months that followed ensuring that we were making the right decision, we decided to take the opportunity of a lifetime. In June 2017 we placed our first offer. Long rounds of negotiations and investigations (that's another story) and soon after, the breathtaking property was finally ours! The place we have chosen to live our dream is Rocchetta Palafea, a pretty, little historical village of 250 inhabitants in the Province of Asti in the region of Piedmont (of course).
This whole area is protected by UNESCO as a testimony to Italian history and wine making, partly due to the harmony of man’s sensitive interaction with the land in the region. Although this made us feel privileged to be in such a location, it did of course add and extra layer of stress and complications to our planning permission. However, we are not the kind of family to shy away from a challenge! If you have ever had to deal with a planning department you will sympathise with this process.
Palmo Tardito, the former owner of the property, signing the contract - Photo: Private
To get permission from UNESCO is a great relief due to the protected status of buildings in this area. Our plans were approved in January 2018 by UNESCO but declined by the local village council as they were unhappy with our placement of a dormer. However, three days later (which felt like far longer!) they made the decision to grant us permission after all. We owe a lot to our geometra, whom after one meeting, convinced the council to change their verdict. A good geometra is essential in Italy - it actually took us over six months to find our guy!
We are on schedule to break ground in mid-February overseen by our geometra. We have a property stretching over almost 5-hectares, with a soon-to-be vineyard, a few hundred hazelnut trees and with two buildings – one of those will be our cherished family home and the other will be an equally stunning luxury, 3 storey Villa which we will marketed as a holiday rental property. The Villa will sleep up to 12 people, allowing them to escape into tranquillity. Offering a place to recharge with energy, to connect with nature and relax, a world away from the stress of working life.
And so here we are. Myself, Marianne, our 2 1/2 -year-old daughter Ida - who will love growing up in the countryside, and our English Cocker Spaniel, Indie. Soon, in a new country with very new ambitions. We hope to inspire even more people to visit this area, fall in love with it and consider the possibility that they too could enjoy a life such as we hopefully
will make for ourselves. We started with a dream of Italian country life, enjoying our passions of eating fine food and sampling fine wine, and now that dream is soon becoming a reality. We are here to prove to others that it is possible to follow this dream.
Marianne out walking Ida amongst the beautiful rolling vineyards - Photo: Private
This is only the beginning. We hope to have finished the renovations on our guest villa by August 2018. We are already receiving keen interest regarding bookings so sign up to our newsletter now, keep reading for more updates, and I hope you will join us on our journey.
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