Thursday, March 12, 2015

Are we ready to take the plunge off the deep end into home ownership?

Mamma mia! Che cosa stiamo facendo? Lucy and I are planning to buy a house in Montecarlo, something we previously considered a romantic but impractical idea. In fact, I wrote just two years ago about how unwise it would be for us to buy a house in Italy (Pros and cons of home ownership . . .). So what kind of fool doesn’t take his own advice?

Probably a romantic and sentimental one who wants to eventually become more than just a tourist in Italy, who wants to become more involved in the community and the culture. We still don’t plan to come to Italy for more than a few months a year, at least not while we are still working in the summers. Our emotional and financial ties to Gig Harbor and our family are too strong for us to pack up and move to Italy, but the idea of having a place to call home in Italy is also very compelling. We resisted this urge successfully for four years and one month, but in the past couple of weeks, we weakened and now have completely given in.

This shows via Roma, Montecarlo's main street, from the fortress. The house we want is at the end on the right, just before the Porta Nuova, which can be seen at the end of the street.
It was a visit with Kurt and Lauren Newcomer at their house in Guardiagrele in late February that pushed us over the edge. We saw how convenient and yet beautiful it was to live in the historical centro of a small- or medium-sized city. Suddenly I remembered that we had first chosen to live in the comune of Montecarlo because the city itself appealed to us. It was just large enough to have most of the services we would need within walking distance and yet small enough that we would not be anonymous faces in the crowd. If we bought a home in Montecarlo, it surely wouldn’t take long before every resident knew that una coppia americani had moved in.

We have been living instead in San Salvatore, at the base of the hill, because it is easier to ride our bikes on the flat terrain, and the train station is there. We also wanted to meet my Seghieri relatives on via Mattonaia and find out how I am related to them, which we have done.

The moment I suggested that we should start looking at homes in Montecarlo, Lucy jumped on the computer and spent several hours searching for homes that met our criteria and price range. She found four and sent the real estate agents our names and phone numbers, and we have since looked at four houses within the city walls and one just outside. We will see two more on Monday. However, the very first one we looked at we have fallen for hard; it is head and shoulders above the others.

It is an apartment on the top story of a three-level house located on the main street, via Roma. Montecarlo really has only about five streets, and that’s being generous.
Porta Nuova viewed from one of the bedroom windows.
We would have a street-side view to the south of Porta Nuova, the city’s newest stone-framed entrance, which was rebuilt and re-opened in 1598. It is only about 100 feet away. If we stick our heads out the windows just a little and look north, we can see all the way to the opposite end of via Roma and gaze at the Fortezza, the fortress of Montecarlo. But it’s the view on the opposite side that is really spectacular. The apartment has a terrazza from where we can see the Alpi Apuane mountains to the north and watch the sun set over the plains of Lucca to the west.

The apartment has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen/dining room.
View from the terazza just before dusk.
It also has a storage room on the street level where we can securely store our bikes. It was remodeled around 1965, not that long ago in Italian time, but it is definitely looking a bit worn and would need a few adjustments. The former occupant was an older lady who died a couple of years ago, and all her furniture is still in place. The real estate agent said we can also make an offer on the furniture, and if we can reach a deal on that, it would save us a lot of time.

So now we are looking into selling a rental house we have in Gig Harbor, and we are hoping to work out a deal with the current renter, who has shown some interest. If he doesn’t want it, we will list it and make an offer on the Italy house conditional on the sale of our Gig Harbor house.

If all goes well, when we come back to Italy next winter, we will be home owners in Montecarlo instead of renting an apartment in San Salvatore. It’s exciting, but still a frightening thought, because I am pretty conservative when it comes to personal finances. On paper, renting may make more sense than buying. But we don’t live our lives on paper.


  1. I am so excited for you two! I understand the pull of a dream and also the tipping points that lead to action to pursue it. Owning a second place doesn't usually make make finacial sense (we know from our own place) but then living a life based on "finacial sense" is usually a life lived for "some day" which may never come. The apartment looks perfect for you guys.

  2. Awww yayyy! What a beautiful house! Can't wait to come see it in person <3


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