ANDREW JACKNESS AND CANDICE DONNELLY
WE BOUGHT A HOUSE IN PUGLIA
This is a diary of our progress
April 2019 we traveled to Puglia to buy a house. I'm not sure that we really thought we would do it, but we did. Here's how it happened. And how a couple-married costume and film designers managed to agree that this was the right thing to do; and the right place to do it, while sharing our discoveries. Here's how it's going.
WE WERE LOOKING IN SOUTHERN LECCE
For months from New York Candy had tried to make appointments with realtors in various places; but aside from one, most respond when you're there and ready to look.
Just as common is the local rumor mill. When people find out that an outsider is in their neighborhood looking, everyone has a suggestion. The bar is the best place to start. Introducing yourself is the easiest way to become friends with the locals. It helps to speak Italian. We speak enough, but the three weeks in April that we spent in Puglia, were like an Italian immersion class.
Candice had gotten Italian citizenship in the late 90's, and through a convoluted and sometimes inexplicable process, I had finally become a citizen myself in 2018.
We had been to Puglia the year before staying outside of Otranto, and loved it. There was a consideration of going back; but when coincidently I heard from our friend Eve, who lives in Rome that she had bought, and was renovating a place in Marittima Del Diso, and that there was a small community of artists and filmmakers in the area, it helped us decide on where we were going to look.
April 6, 2019
PUGLIA IS NOT TUSCANY
The bay of Otranto
Alberobello, Oria, Francavilla, Monopoli, Putignano Al Mare, Polignano, Sava
Our real interest was farther south, down to Lecce the lower part of the heel of the Italian boot. The province is home to the beautiful city of Lecce, filled with baroque architecture and a large historic center, it's one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. The twisting streets follow no rule, and it's easy to get completely turned around and lost while gawking at the golden buildings constructed with "Leccese" stone, the most common of materials in Puglia.
Candy in May of 2018 with our elderly dog Pip being carted around in a carriage since his walking had been slowed down by an ACL tear, and he was feeling the effects of two bouts with Lyme disease. He would make it past the new year; but he thoroughly enjoyed this first trip to Puglia with us.
Our daughter Bronwen who had joined us in Otranto the first trip
Diso, Marittima, Spongano, Andrano, Castro, Poggiardo, and Maglie
We headed to Marittima Del Diso where Eve's architect was meeting us in a cafe he designed; which was the hippest place in town, but would also become a hot spot for most of the business we did. The Utopia.
Marcello Apa was supervising the crews working on Eve's house, and had arranged for our rental house in Marittima. His office is in this lovely tiny town. He knew everyone, and they all know each other.
Marcello would befriend and accompany us to each of the important houses and apartments we visited with a number of agents. He was invaluable in helping us to assess the viability of all the property we looked at. Most required extensive renovation, and although both of us are designers and have good imaginations, Marcello was able to help us visualize the possibilities each one had, and which walls we could remove and which might be structural.
April 10, 2019
MARITTIMA DEL DISO
Driving into Marittima we discovered a
small quiet town, after all it was April, and settled in to spend the next several weeks looking for a new home away from home.
For the second half of April we would drive between a large number of the towns in Lecce to try to define our goals and decide how we might want to live in this new and very different place. Each day a new experience helped teach us something about ourselves and what we were looking for.
Our trip was in April, so Easter featured prominently in every café and pasticceria.
Our search would take us to a variety of different kind of homes, and since we were looking for a place to fix up and renovate rather than one that was "move in" ready there were many commonalities. Most had two floors, the "volte a stella" we were looking for, gardens of differing sizes, and most needed lot's of work. Many looked as though they had been suspended in time the day that they became unoccupied.
As we looked, being near to the water became a clear choice
Moving around the countryside, it became obvious that the nearer to the sea, the better. Although the Adriatic coast is rocky and the sand beaches tiny, this was the side we liked the best and it was nearer to the communities where people that were in our orbit tended to be. The water is one of the many reasons we love this area.
The local bar in Marittima
Eve had found her house through a guy in a bar who knew of a place, so our first dinner in Marittima at La Vecchia: a bar/restaurant, we told Angela and Francesco, the owners that we were looking for a house. La Vecchia has a perpetual card game with a rotating group of local men, and an endless supply of rosé and beer. As our dinner was prepared, Angela adopted us and decided to help us find something.
Each town in Puglia has a Saint's Day for which thousands of lights are put up on wood structures redesigned every year for the special days. It takes weeks for them to be erected, and they are like wooden erector sets held by self support and wires. The frame goes up first, then all the interior pieces. We arrived to see the elaborate structures grow in each town, none in this area more complex and fantastical than Diso celebrating each year on May 1. We were shown several houses in Diso; but had no idea until later that they pay a special tax for the lights that are the pride of the town. Most are funded by contributions.