Living in Italy — Part One

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?



  1. Much the same situation here in Panama. Upper-middle class or outright wealthy political and economic refugees fleeing from unstable countries in the regions as well as growing influx of Europeans are fueling a construction boom beyond precedent. 207 apartment buildings are currently being built or are in preconstruction within the city limits destroying neighborhoods like a concrete plague.

    It’s really worse in the Banana Republics where sheer greed is rapidly destroying many of the integrated suburban / jungle / nature preserve aspects that make this country so attractive to those wishing to flee “drab” urban life. Instead, the local pols are paving everything over and replacing what was unique with bizarre Disneyesque fantasies.

    Our location actually is pretty safe from this, but the mentality behind it is getting under my skin.

    Caveat Emptor..

  2. As well happens the same thing here one La Palma. The island changed a lot over the past ten years, especially during the last building boom.

  3. And don’t you think that such things won’t happen in overregulated and mafia-free Holland. Plans abound to build ten thousands of (semi) detacheds and high rises never seen before in the last patches of green we have in de westernmost part of the country — adding again to horrible traffic congestion which for many years already has been unbearable. All the people who are yearning for those idyllic dwellings will experience a complete traffic jam every morning while trying to get to their jobs and as a result join the ‘party’ of a sinister lady whose ‘movement’ has only one issue: solving the traffic jams! Which of course is possible only if most of the population where to move to Andalusia, Tuscany, Norway or, for that matter, Calabria, Panama of La Palma

  4. Was his charming little villa built with planning permission? A lot of these villas were slapped up any which way on agricultural land in the 70s and 80s and then the owners took advantage of the sanatorie. I find it funny when these people want to: a) cash in on their exploitation of a lack of effective planning (especially those who built right along the seafront) by selling them on at a big profit and b) complain about newcomers to the area.

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