Chianti. Peaceful one day, perfect the next.
For a number of years now we’ve had conversations about where we would want to set up our base in Italy for the 6 months that we are here each year to host our Italian cycling tours. Having always resided by the coast in various places along the eastern seaboard of Australia, the coast definitely stood out as our preference between a ‘coastal’ or ‘country’ life, and just as we’d agree on that, then the conversation would lead to ‘but where along the coast’? We love the Mediterranean, and in particular the Ligurian and Amalfi coasts, and then we visited the beautiful villages and beaches along the Tuscan coast, and thought that perhaps the area around Piombino might suit for its central position in Italy.
However, just as our hearts would settle on a coastal base rather than inland towns we’d considered across Tuscany, Emilia Romagna (for its incredible food, of course!) or Bergamo in Lombardia, as a fantastic cycling base, a niggle would always emerge for both of us. We weren’t quite sure ‘what’ or ‘why’ the niggle, other than it allowed us to decide that a) we were not really ready to buy a property, and b) in our usual manner of decision making, we would allow the right place and property to come to us…. in the right time. As it always does!
For a couple more years, conversations continued and places were explored as we found ourselves constantly in the windows of real estate agent offices across the country, particularly in places where we run our tours. The place that kept drawing us in was Chianti, and in particular, the town of Gaiole in Chianti. We weren’t sure whether it was because we started our journey here in 2014 with L’Eroica (arguably Damian’s favourite ride of the year!) or because we had developed friendships that helped us to feel very much ‘at home’, but at one point we realised that the ‘niggle’ we had been feeling for some years, was Chianti calling. The lure of the whole region is immense and is best described here by Forbes magazine, however it was only Gaiole in Chianti (not the more visited Radda, Castellina, Greve or Panzano) that drew us in.
To sum it up, coming back to Gaiole in-between our tours, always felt like we were coming home; a place that felt relaxed, non-touristy, beautiful and clean, where we could go for rides and walks and feel at peace in our surrounds, and also where we could work, eat and drink very well (maybe too well!). We felt connected.
However even though we felt all these feelings, it still took us some time to settle within ourselves whether it was ‘the place’ for us, or not. Our answer each time was to ‘just sit with it.’ We kept saying “it’s not the right time for us yet. We’ll know when it is.”
It was in Melbourne in January 2018 during a lunch meeting with a friend from Chianti where the essence or ‘soul of Chianti’, and what sits behind it, was described and quite simply, took our breath away. The actual description is for another blog (coming soon!) however it so eloquently summed up what we love about Chianti that following lunch, Damian and I looked at each other and synchronously said ‘it’s Chianti’.
So with that, we sent a text message that night to other friends who live in Gaiole in Chianti suggesting that we may consider buying a place in the coming years…. to which the reply was “we have an apartment style property in a 15th century palace with a large garden that we may consider selling to you, if you are interested?”. Our heart skipped a beat.
In May 2018, we came to Chianti and visited the property. It was nothing like we expected and quite honestly, our hearts fell through the floor. A possible dream shattered. Off we went on tour and for months as we returned in-between tours, visiting the property time and time again and talking to the owners, we just kept saying ‘let’s sit with it’. There was no need to make a rush decision. The place had been unoccupied for some years, in need of a complete renovation, and in typical Tuscan style, our friends would say ‘con calma’…take your time.
In one breath we kept thinking ‘how blessed are we that we don’t need to rush this’, and in another, we just kept questioning whether we were ‘up for this’ and whether ‘this was actually it?’. It was in sitting with it and talking it through with friends in Melbourne whose opinions we trust immensely, that we made the decision to ‘go for it’. It became clear that we had already arrived at that place, but to hear the words ‘we think you’re looking a gift horse in the mouth’, absolutely sealed the deal.
So here we are, 10 months on and we’ve just settled the purchase of our Italian property on Tuesday this week, 11th June 2019…and we couldn’t be happier….even with the AUD-Euro exchange rate the worst it has been in a long time!
With our restoration project about to begin, and a number of meetings with tradies of all descriptions, our approach is to take it ‘one step at a time’. We know we are in good hands with the people we have selected to restore our property to its 15th century Chianti glory, and in their wise counsel, we will take the time it needs, looking forward to every decision point along the journey to bring this next part of our dream to a reality.
We also look forward to sharing the journey with you.