1 Euro Italian Villa is part of the Punxsutawney TPOL Trip Report.
Once upon a time, TPOL was stuck in his basement thanks to a mysterious virus (see The Lost & Found Year(s): COVID Trip Report). Believing the lockdown would never end, I began inventing ways to occupy my time (see COVID 2020: TPOL’s Most Productive Year). Frustrated with the idiocy of Puerto Rico’s Covid response (see No Alcohol Sales on the Weekend, No Golf on Sunday: Another Stupid Lockdown Measure), but unwilling to go on vacation (see 11 Reasons Why I Still Don’t Want to Travel), I decided that buying a second home in a different country was a prudent way to plan for the next pandemic.
For months, I had been reading about Italy’s 1 Euro houses and found villas for sale in Castiglione, a town in an area that I had visited and thoroughly enjoyed (see Mount Etna, Sicily Wine Tour: Fun & Games Until Police Stop). What’s more, the town had the second-best golf course in Sicily. Imagine living on a golf course in Puerto Rico and having another property near a golf course in the heart of Europe.
I tried reaching out through the website and never received a response (see Nothing to Rent in Tuscany, But Maybe I’ll Buy a House in Italy). Fed up with the basement, I decided if I wanted to make this happen, I would have to go there in person. Accordingly, I booked a one-way ticket to Madrid with the expectation that when I returned to Puerto Rico, it would be as a dual property owner.
When I landed in Madrid, I had difficulty finding a flight to Sicily. As a descendant of the ‘Frugal Travel Guy,’ I refused to overpay for a flight and thought it best that the next decision should be made under the influence (see Guns & Butter: Ribera Del Duero, Madrid Travel Guide (Vino Edition)). Three days into my wine exploration, I checked for flights to Italy. Once again, there was nothing cheap. However, I did find a nice Avios redemption to Copenhagen and decided to go there instead. That ended up being a smart choice (see Guns & Butter: Copenhagen Travel Guide).
The ‘frugal’ road to Italy continued from Copenhagen onto Belfast, onto Edinburgh, and concluding in Manchester. Reminded of how much fun travel is and reminded of how much I like big cities, the idea of moving to another remote island for more of the same did not sound appealing. Exhausted from Covid tests, (Scam Covid Test #1: Entering the UK & Scam Covid Test #2: Leaving the UK), I almost decided to go home. While in Conwy (see Guns & Butter: Conwy, Wales Travel Guide), I finally found a cheap flight to Sicily. I figured since I had come this far, I should, a la Forrest Gump, see it through until the end versus giving up on the idea entirely (see Canceled! TPOL’s Move to Albania).
The next stop was Milan to see my Italian lawyer and friend (see 1 Euro Italian Villa: Would She Be Mine?). From the beginning of the process, he was an indispensable part of the purchase process. He too called the town to see if he could find out more information about what properties were available. He too was told all the information was on the website. When I unearthed the contact information for the mayor of Castiglione, he called on my behalf and set up a meeting for when I arrived. While he was of great assistance, he was also blunt in his assessment of this idea. Simply put, he found it stupid. He and my other Italian friend found the entire 1 Euro housing concept amusing. They asked, “Have you thought if the prices are so cheap, why aren’t all Italians flocking to buy them?” Since everyone thought I was crazy when I moved to Puerto Rico (see Despacito! TPOL Is Moving to Puerto Rico! Effective Inmediatamente), I chose not to dignify their question with a response.
I arrived in Catania late in the night, pretending that this would be the same process I would undertake when Castiglione became my home. The first bad omen was when I went to the rental counter to discover that I had made my reservation for the following day. After canceling that one, I was forced to book one on the spot and pay a premium for doing so. The cold indifference of the rental agent was similar to the Park & Go in Puerto Rico. Appropriately, that experience did not tilt the scales into whether moving here was a good fit.
On the other hand, the drive from Catania did factor into the equation. The airport is one hour from Castiglione, and there is no convenient transportation. The allure of moving to Sicily included the ability to pop in and pop out at a moment’s notice. How could I do so without a ride to and from the airport? Putting aside that inconvenience, I can say that the drive itself was not difficult. Unlike Puerto Rico, there were lights on the freeway and no man-eating potholes.
At 12:30AM, I arrived at Il Picciolo Etna Golf Resort & Spa, located minutes away from my prospective new home.
Unlike Milan, no late-night restaurants were open (see Late Night Bite in Milan). Fortunately, Ms. TPOL had lifted a few goodies from the Priority Pass Lounge MXP (see In Search of the Priority Pass Milan Malpensa Airport).
The next morning, we made the drive from the hotel up the mountain, back down the mountain, and then back up the winding road for one, Castiglione.
Of course, the first test to see if I could live here was sampling an espresso. Next to alcohol, nothing leads to more impulsive decisions than caffeine.
Meeting the Mayor
My Italian lawyer arranged a meeting with the mayor at his office.
The mayor was a young, friendly guy. After exchanging pleasantries in Italian and after exhausting my well-rehearsed Italian phrases (see TPOL The Polyglot: A Better Way to Learn Multiple Languages), we went for a tour of Castiglione.
Meeting Other Buyers
Unfortunately, the mayor could not reach any of the sellers by phone. I was disappointed that I had come all this way and would not see the inside of any units. As luck would have it, we came across a realtor who was giving a tour to other prospective American buyers. They uneasily welcomed us into their group. I suspect that they were concerned that we would poach their dream 1 Euro villa.
Here’s What $40,000 Gets You
I had read online that 1 Euro gets you a pile of rubble. I read that $5,000 gets you something decent and $20,000 gets you something move-in ready. Imagine my horror when the realtor said $40,000 gets you this:
Instantly, our American competitors were no longer apprehensive of our presence. The realtor tried to justify the price saying that it included both the top floor and the bottom. I could not help but laugh. Even if the unit were 1 Euro, how could anyone renovate such a place? Where would they buy the supplies? Where would they find the labor? It was hard enough in Puerto Rico to upgrade my villa, and we have ten Home Depots! The realtor continued to show us around, but at this point everyone had tuned him out. We returned to the city center traumatized as to what we had seen. Collectively, we, the prospective buyers, uttered ‘goodbye’ to one another but our eyes screamed ‘get out!’
Requisite Castle Stop
Castiglione means castle of the lions. We couldn’t come this far and not visit the castle.
Doesn’t Mean We Can’t Drink And Be Merry
Barring some unseen circumstance, we began to accept the reality that Castiglione would not be our second home. The most commonly used phrase was, “It’s good for the blog.” Who else would have the determination to send in the application, meet with an Italian lawyer, and arrange a meeting with the mayor of a Sicilian town? That resilience was worth celebrating over wine and pasta followed by more espresso and gelato.
The wine was just as I had remembered (see Mount Etna, Sicily Wine Tour: Fun & Games Until Police Stop ). The food was simple but spectacular making me question the hundreds I spent in Milan going out to eat (see Food in Milan: Tourist Places But Great Nonetheless). The gelato was scrumptious and cheap, reigniting my anger over the scam gelato I had in the Amalfi Coast, the tourist Mecca of the world (see A Beautiful Tourist Trap).
For The Blog
The only thing left to do was get drunk. Of course, one does not say such things aloud. That’s why we continued with the go-to phrase, “It’s for the blog,” as our excuse to go from vineyard to vineyard. The first vineyard was Etna Nocciole. Because this was during Covid, the wine tasting was less formal.
Last Call for a 1 Euro Villa
With the sun going down, we went to the Tornatore vineyard. Here’s where the plot thickened.
We struck up a conversation with a German couple who had recently purchased a villa in Castiglione. They told us that the Jesus’s manger we were shown for 40k was outrageous and not representative of what was for sale. I asked how much move-in ready villas cost. They confirmed that they were not 5k or 20k, as I had read online, but ranged from 40k-100k. They offered to show us these villas the next day. Heartened, I wondered if my Italian villa dreams might be a reality.
After more wine, we were invited to join them for more drinks and experience the nightlife of Castiglione. Naturally, that meant going back to the town square where the handful of yutes met in a liquor store to have too much sambuca.
After dancing in a mini-mart with music blasting and bright lights glaring, it was time to head home.
Il Picciolo Golf Club
With the possibility of purchasing a villa slightly higher than it was half a day before, I needed to see what Italian country club life was like.
Before playing, I had lunch at the clubhouse. Sorry, Puerto Rico, but fresh pasta is better than fried pork.
While I was golfing, Ms. TPOL was out with the Germans house hunting. Now, I could focus on what was important- golf. But first, I needed to scope out my competition.
The club had a TrackMan, an indispensable tool to beat Leonardi.
Before teeing off, I inquired about membership. It’s $2,000 a year with a 10% discount on alcohol. Cart is not included.
TPOL has a rule. If I drink the night before, I do not golf the next day because I will lack the mental capacity to focus. It pains me to think about how I am supposed to hit a tiny ball hundreds of yards and then have the finesse to finish off the job with smooth putting. But for the fact that I needed to verify if I was a right fit at this club, I would’ve taken the day off. #sambuca
A Hole in One?
The 10th hole, a par 3, is the most magnificent hole on the course because it stares directly at Mt. Etna, an active volcano. I fired off a beauty with my hybrid and watched it sail right at the mountain.
Had it went in, I would’ve taken it as a sign. My ability to birdie not bogey, a rarity in Puerto Rico, gave me the will to keep playing, but it fell short of the divine intervention I was seeking to signify that this was the place for me. My drive to continue playing did not last long. As I came down to earth and as my hangover started settling in, I reverted to my old habit of losing balls every which way.
With no cart, I had plenty of time to walk and think about if I really wanted to move here. As I started skipping one hole after another, it became apparent that yesterday’s excitement to buy was due to the sambuca. I arrived at the 18th, parred the hole, then retired.
Should I Buy?
While waiting for Ms. TPOL to return, I thought about how far I had come in my quest to buy a 1 Euro Italian villa. Despite commending myself on getting this far, I had the following questions:
- Do you want to live on another island?
- Do you want to live in another community with no young people and no nightlife?
- Do you want to renovate another place?
- Do you want to live in another place where English is not the first language?
- Do you want to pay for two golf memberships?
- Is 40k for a villa a good deal?
- Do you like Italy?
- Do you like Europe?
Ms. TPOL Returns
Ms. TPOL returned with news I did not want to hear. She informed me that there were move-in-ready villas available from 40k-100k. She tried to show me the videos. Before she was able to hit play, I took her by the hand and led her to the Fiat.
Did TPOL buy a 1 euro villa in Italy?
This photo at the airport says it all:
If you are still unclear, let me say it in Italian: No!