So, once we settle on a price for the property we must hire a “notaio”, a sort of para-legal professional, who handles the creation and filing of contracts between the buyer and seller. Bruno was a handsome, shy Italian man in his late thirties with an office in the center of Bagnoregio. He spoke about as much English as I spoke Italian which meant we needed my friend Carlo to interpret for us. That worked well up until the day I was to meet with the farmer and his wife, to sign documents for the first of the two contracts needed for completing the deal. Carlo had his own business to conduct that day and was not available so I joined Bruno and the sellers at Bruno’s office.
This couple who looked quite ancient to me, were probably not much more than 65 years old. But they had not lived an easy life. In fact, the husband had come from a family noted to be the last “cave dwellers” of this little town because during the second world war they were so poor they had lived in one of the numerous Etruscan caves in the valley. Had he not married up, so to speak, he would not have had any land for sale to begin with. Neither the farmer or his wife spoke any English and they were a bit indignant that my Italian was so poor, saying (through Bruno’s struggling English interpretation and many hand gestures) that it was imperative for me to learn their language if I was to be a landowner in Bagnoregio. I smiled, nodded and promised to do just that, but for the moment I wanted to get through this torturous meeting, sign documents and hand over the enormous stack of lire I had stashed in my bag.
When Bruno brought out the city plans that showed the property and its boundaries we discovered that there was also another detached piece of the sale in a different part of town that went with the package (it took half an hour with much hand and arm waving to convey all this to me), which to this day I’ve not seen. However, I do know that it has quite a few very old chestnut trees on it and it’s not much bigger than a good sized RV. Oh well, finding that is on my bucket list as I’m sure it’s just another small adventure.
After about an hour of me listening to the Italians speak Italian and catching maybe 1% of what was being said, my paranoia set in. What the hell was I doing here, trying to buy property so far from home? In a language I couldn’t really speak or understand? And what if I had missed some important details or what if they were all just conspiring to rip me off? No, no, no, I told myself, that is not the case and I have $6000 in Lire in my bag so just do it, as Nike prompts. When it came time to hand over the loot, I counted out pile after pile of tiny lire. Do you know how many lire it takes to make $6000? And then, the farmer, his wife and I sign documents and he proceeds to pack all the money into his vintage sport jacket, circa 1952. Yes, the couple had come dressed to the nines in their very best Sunday clothes, clean, perfectly pressed and from another era altogether. I failed to mention that I felt as though I had stepped into a Fellini film, which continued to be fun for another year or so.
The next step in the process of signing the “first” as the contract was referred to and after handing over the money, was to walk over to the farmer’s town home and have a celebratory drink, though it was only 11:30 in the morning. Hey, what the heck, I’m in Italy and I just bought property. And yes, the farmer’s jacket was bulging with my lire but he didn’t seem the least bit concerned as we walked through the little village to their home for a little mid-day apertivo and toast to ourselves. Little did I realize that this was only the beginning of a story that is unfinished today, eight years later! Stay tuned for another chapter in June.