We didn’t go to Puglia with the intention of buying a trullo and looking back it seems quite amazing how things have developed.
This is ‘our’ story…
Searching for a holiday in Italy with my mother, we found photos of trulli, which reminded us of oast houses and the thought of staying in one was appealing.
We arrived in Puglia, but with it being my first time driving on the left, and with my mother and two children as passengers, I did fleetingly wonder, ‘What am I doing?’ At this point, it feels necessary to say that we had recently lost my eldest brother and my father, within months of each other and I think Mum and I were trying to carry on in a world that had suddenly changed for us.
We fell in love with Puglia and particularly Alberobello and one day whilst walking around, we came upon Ageniza dei Trulli. We looked at the photos displaying trulli for sale and couldn’t believe how cheap they were – this was before the financial crisis and the pound was very strong against the euro. In we walked and met Gabry! We didn’t find a property that time but the ‘seed had been sown’ and the plan to buy a trullo became my goal. The following year, the girls and I returned to Alberbello and the third property Gabry showed us became what is now known as ‘Trullo Stefano’. What really attracted me to it was the outdoor pizza oven – how fantastic to have a home with its own pizza oven!
The Italian system of selling property is very different to that of selling properties in England, in that it follows three stages. As each stage progresses the parties become more committed and ‘backing-out’ of the deal more expensive. At the final exchange of contracts, myself and a dear friend Miles, went with Gabry and met the vendors and the notaio (notary) in the nearby town of Locorotondo, with a translator, and painstakingly went through all the details before signing the contracts of sale. We finalised this deal by shaking hands with Signor and Signora De Carlo. The trullo had belonged to Signor De Carlo’s elder brother who had recently passed away, leaving the property to him. In further conversations I established that Signor De Carlo had actually been born in the trullo in 1933; there had been no electricity and the water came from the well; the family had worked the land, picking the fruit and olives, and a horse circled the aia (outside courtyard area), turning the wheels to grind the wheat to make flour for bread and pasta.
Eventually the family moved out, although they still farm the land today, and the trullo was left to gradually fall into a sorry state, being used only as an occasional shelter from the elements. Although it had been neglected for many years it still retained its charm with its beautiful fireplace, stone walls and floors and the stable at the end with the large manger.
So the fun began! Gabry and I met with Francesco the local geometra (building surveyor) and amazingly we all shared the same vision. We managed to communicate, with Gabry translating, and I loved the enthusiasm Francesco had for the renovation of the trullo. We have had many meetings since that first one and there have been compromises made by all parties, but there has been surprisingly very little disagreement between us. We have all wanted to restore the trullo to its’ former beauty and although we have put in many modern features – like electricity and toilets – the well still partially provides the water and the pizza oven is fuelled by wood. I did argue for the swimming pool, as the Italians go to the coast to swim, but that is one of the few times I had to argue and Gabry now agrees that it was the right decision. There are plans for a wood-burning stove to be fitted into the livingroom when Giovanni gets a free moment – he does most of the work in the trullo and is always in demand. In the future we hope to have a tennis court and to convert the old garage into a self-contained unit. The ideas keep flowing between us all.
I was delighted to have Signor and Signora De Carlo visit one Sunday. The Italians by nature are incredibly polite and ‘well-turned out’ and the De Carlo’s are no exception. They spoke to me outside the trullo and I almost had to drag them in to look round as they didn’t want to intrude! I was thrilled to find that they loved the renovations – Signora De Carlo went from room to room saying ‘Bellisimo!’ over and over again! Their son still farms the olives on my land and so they hear of the changes and developments, and it pleases me that they still have a connection with it.
It would be strange not to mention my beautiful friends and family who have supported and encouraged me with this venture. There are too many to list them all, but particular thanks go to Miles and Karl who have been with me right from the beginning and have helped in so many different ways (too many to mention!); my gorgeous daughters who are constant sources of inspiration and have endured many meetings, trips to the bank and furniture shops, when they thought they were meant to be having a holiday (sorry girls, soon we’ll have a holiday, I promise!); to my Mum, Shirley, and my late father, Peter, and of course my late brother Stephen who the trullo is now named after – this wouldn’t have happened without you all.
Please enjoy Trullo Stefano.