Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sogni d’oro of a casa toscana

Friday, March 25
Talk about scope for the imagination! Today we find out that two abandoned two-story houses on via Mattonaia are for sale. Both are right on the river and are within easy walking distance of our agriturismo.  They are set back from the main road, so they would have long driveways but would also have privacy. They have fields for planting vegetables and fruit trees and whatever else we could think of to plant.

We see the upstream house from a distance nearly every day when we ride to the station, but we have not looked at it up close until today, when by an interesting coincidence, we find out it is for sale. This all comes about because this morning we ask a real estate agent, Roberto, to show us an apartment that is for sale up the hill in Montecarlo. The apartment is advertised as very near Montecarlo and recently refurbished. The asking price is 200,000 euro, which would be in our price range if we ever decided to sell one of our properties in the states. We are not seriously looking, but it never hurts to have more information.

After he show us the apartment, which is really very nice, he mentions that he has the listing on a rustico in San Salvatore, and we ask to see it, not realizing it is the old house we have passed so many times on our bikes. It is about 2,600 square feet and sits on a little less than an acre of very flat farmland. No one has lived in it for forty years, and it is locked up, so we can only peak inside and see a large fireplace with an ancient pot hanging in the middle. We can also see some boxes and old farming supplies. It is made of brick and stone and then coated with stucco, but most of the stucco has fallen off.

Roberto tells us it is owned by two brothers who live nearby and that it is the old family house. He says we would have to run utilities underground from via Mattonaia and then put in a new driveway, because the existing driveway runs right between the two Lari houses. We know it would be very costly to put in the driveway and even more costly to renovate the house, but Roberto says we could finish the house a few rooms at a time. We ask why there is no for sale sign, and he tells us that such signs are rare in this area.

 Back home at the Casolare dei Fiori, Lucy asks our padrone Enzo what he thinks about this house. It is old and far from the road, he says. Do we know there is another rustico for sale that is newer and closer? We walk into his garden area and he points to a house a couple of fields away. It is owned by some Seghieris and has been for sale in the past. He doesn’t know if it is currently for sale, but it has been empty for some time and the owners are probably still interested in selling.

Lucy and I walk there and peak inside what we decide to call the downstream house. It seems slightly newer and looks as if has been unoccupied for maybe only twenty years. However, it has no trees and the nearby houses seem a little closer. We stand up on the river levy to see what view the home would have from the second floor. We can see Montecatini Alto and Uzzano Castello, but we also see a lot of electrical towers that are quite near. And what’s that faint hum we hear? It seems to be coming from an electrical substation across the river.

Now we ride our bikes back to the upstream house. It has a walnut tree shading it, and it is set back farther from the road so it has more privacy. It is only 60 feet from the river, so no one is ever going to build another house in its backyard. Across the river is a hill with a forest, and the train runs through the pine trees on the hillside. Some might say that would create unwelcome noise, but trains here run on electricity and are relatively quiet, and perhaps because we are fond of traveling, to us the sound of trains makes us think of adventure. To get to the river, we must scale a levy that is about twenty feet tall. Atop the levy, it is flat and broad, and we can imagine taking our lawn chairs, books and lunches up here and enjoying the breeze, the view and the sound of the murmuring stream. We also see a couple of fishermen on the other side. We love it!

“Sogni d’oro” is a thing that Italians sometimes say when bidding someone goodnight. It means, “Dreams of gold.” We love to dream, but we also are fully aware of reality. The asking price is 220,000 euro, about $310,000. Then it might cost another $300,000 to make it habitable. If I had $510,000, which I definitely don’t, I would be better to invest it (or pay off my current debts). $510,000 invested at five percent interest would earn more than $25,000 a year, and for that I could rent an entire villa for three months and still have money left over to buy a car. Still, there a strong inherent appeal in the thought of having one’s own estate, and we know we will now be destined to stare longingly at this enchanting rustico every time we pass it.

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