Last year, after travelling to Italy to sign a shedload of paperwork, my wife and I took on my late great-aunt’s house in Emilia Romagna, Italy. Built by my great-grandfather (a man called Bartolomeo) over 120 years ago, the house is located in a tiny, mountainous village in the hills of northern Italy.
House buying / selling in Italy has been stagnant for years, and there are thousands of abandoned villages and towns across Italy, known as ‘citta morte’. Just type ‘ghost towns Italy’ into any search engine and you’ll see plenty of pictures and articles about them. So we knew if we didn’t take this on now, it would eventually fall into disrepair before being reclaimed by nature. And whilst I’m all for re-wilding, we thought this little homestead deserved better than that – well, at least while we’re still alive. Nature will get its way in the end anyway, so I guess we’re just delaying the inevitable.
Anyway, last week my cousin Paul and I headed over in his VW van to take a load of stuff over: paint, mattresses, kitchen equipment, bedding etc. This was the first official trip to the house as its owner which was pretty cool, but it was also an excuse for a boys road-trip! Door to door, Cardiff to Bardi is about 19-20 hours of driving. Sensibly, we stopped in Zurich on the way over to stay with my cousin’s family. And this meant driving through Switzerland en-route which is no hardship, as you can see from the photos below:
With 2 days driving there and 2 days driving back, we only had 3 days to spend at the house. But on the plus side, both mine and Paul’s fathers decided to fly out for a week and join us there. So a boys road adventure turned into a proper lads trip! As you can see from the photo below, we really got stuck in:
Prosecco, prosciutto and parmigiano aside, we did put a shift in for three days. The main reason for the trip was to get some basics over there in the house, but we took a load of tools, paint brushes and rollers etc and got stuck in. For 3 days, I scraped whitewash from ceilings and my neck and shoulders are still wrecked. Below is a photo of Paul unloading the van, which was surprisingly thirsty work:
So if you’ve made it this far, you may well be wondering why the hell I’m writing about this when my other posts have been about exploring the Welsh outdoors. And more to the point, what does it have to do with adventure? Well, I don’t think anyone would argue that taking on a rickety old house built by your great grandfather, located in a tiny village in another country is in itself, an adventure. But that aside, I’m hoping it’ll be a great base to explore the nearby hills and mountains. This is the view from the village:
Italy has been fairly progressive in re-wilding, so these hills are home to wolves, wild boars and further north, bears! The region the village is in, Emilia Romagna, is also one of the greatest in Italy for food. It’s the home of Parma ham and parmesan, and in the late summer / early autumn, the hills are teeming with porcini which are the envy of the world. Apparently you need a licence in this area to pick porcini, so I’ll have to look into that. In Wales, I just visit my go-to spots and pick a few when they’re in season.
My last photo below is of the incredible castle in Bardi, a town just 5km from the village our house is in, and the ancestral home for thousands of Welsh-Italians. Loads of us make the journey back every summer to spend time with family, and generally eat and drink way too much. My wife and I will be back there in June and I can’t wait to spend more time in these hills.