Northern European television has picked up on the possibilities which the European Union offers us all to go live in another country and realize a dream. In a big way – friends tell me that in the Netherlands alone four reality TV shows around that theme are aired. Almost invariably, it’s a dream of sunny landscapes and idyllic country houses. Brits in the Algarve, Belgians in the Peloponnesos and Dutch people in Tuscany.
Usually those dreams involve ‘starting a bed-and-breakfast’ and some derelict hovel which is to be transformed into a dream house. And invariably the program shows the hassle with unwilling local workers and authorities as a rather comical sidenote to that glorious goal they’re working towards. The typical dream starts during a holiday. Man and wife, having freshly rediscovered each other after months of rain, traffic jams, screaming kids and office drudgery, look out across a quiet, sunny landscape and one of them says ‘Wouldn’t it be fantastic if…?’
Take a look at this house. Isn’t it beautiful and isn’t that early morning sun (picture taken around 8:30 AM) something to die for? It’s not too big, it’s not too small and it doesn’t even require a lot of work. Just picture yourself there, under the back porch, enjoying a glass of Brunello di Montalcino in the evening, after you’ve driven home through village after deliciously romantic village in your vintage Italian sports car, listening to the Tarantella Napoletana. Mmmm… la dolce vita.
Well, look again. The first picture has some added camouflage, courtesy of Photoshop. Here’s the real deal. The owner of this charming little villa has fought tooth and nail against the haphazard construction of ugly flats around his house. However, the pictures were taken from our balcony on the seventh floor so obviously, he lost. In Northern Europe you already don’t stand much of a chance against city planning commissions, entrepreneurs’ lobby groups and builders – and here in the south there is no planning commission worth mentioning, so you’re up against the organized crime of construction companies all by yourself. You lose by default, unless perhaps you are very well connected – which, as a foreigner, you are not.
But don’t let me put you off of your dream. These things don’t happen to everyone and they won’t happen to you. Right? Of course they won’t. Did Santa or the Tooth Fairy ever let you down?